Deep in the Gulf of Mexico, massive Warsaw grouper consume the time and thoughts of angler Trever Flathman. These bottom dwelling monsters weigh hundreds of pounds, and Flathman is confident he knows of a world record waiting to be caught.
“It’s in about 650 feet of water, above a big rock,” said the deepwater loving angler. “On calm days you can see this big mark on the color machine, it’s bigger than anything else I’ve seen out there. It’s a fish that sits above the school of amberjack and it’s massive. I can’t even imagine how big, probably 500 pounds plus.”
Flathman believes that massive fish is a Warsaw grouper. Warsaw grouper are a resident of large offshore structures in the Gulf of Mexico that are deeper than 300 feet. The current world record is 436 pounds, caught in the Gulf off Destin.
“I want that record, and I know it’s out there,” Flathman said confidently.
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So far he’s landed seven Warsaw grouper this summer, and they’ve been getting progressively bigger.
Flathman planned another trip to once again get a chance at that monster with Roger Austermiller, Joe Smith, and Two Scoops Bait Company’s Trey Daugherty. After dealing with engine problems that delayed their start a day, they were off on a hot July evening with calm seas to a point in the Gulf of Mexico more than 150 miles offshore.
Once again it was apparent monsters were home below, and the crew readied big tackle on big baits. It’s not uncommon for anglers to use something like a large blackfin tuna or bonita to target Warsaw groupers.
“Our baits were about 25 pounds. We had three or four bites on the big baits, but none big enough to make a solid commitment,” Flathman said, noting that bigger baits make it difficult to hook smaller fish that also frequent the spot.
After many drops Flathman was about to reel up to get another drift set up as they moved off the spot. Then about 500 feet off the mark, his bait was eaten, and a monster was on the other end.
“I knew it was big. The rod was an unlimited class custom bent butt in the rod holder, and I thought the rod holder was going to rip out. I was doing everything I could to lift up on the rod and keep the pressure off the holder while this fish dug down.”
The strain on the 250-pound power pro on Flathman’s twin-speed Accurate 30 was immense. At the other end of his line was a massive fish doing everything it could to reach structure below. After a 15-minute tug of war, the fight turned the angler’s way as Flathman and crew worked it up off the bottom. When it hit the surface, he knew it was the biggest Warsaw grouper of his life.
The monster was brought into the boat as the excited crew snapped plenty of pictures. When they returned home, the scales confirmed it was a true giant.
“317 pounds, gutted!,” the excited Flathman said.
With plenty of meat to go around, the tasty monster not only found its way into the freezer of plenty of family and friends, it also found its way into art. Flathman said he assisted artist Joey Mattay as he spent about five hours one day working on four gyotaku fish prints. The head of the fish was sent via UPS to the east coast where it will be preserved.
This is one fish that will not soon be forgotten, but knowing Flathman he will soon be back out for another shot at a Gulf of Mexico beast from the depths.
Source: U.S. Naval Observatory data