With 2016’s fishing logs now history, locally it will be remembered as the year of huge grouper. From tournaments to fun fishing, hardcore anglers fishing deep were rewarded with a variety of grouper species that teammates and spectators won’t soon forget.
The big fish catching began early in the spring, when angler Trevor Flathman landed a Speckled Hind, better known as a Kitty Mitchell, that weighed more than 43 pounds while fishing in 600 feet of water with Capt. Jason Boyll.
At the time, Flathman didn’t even realize how big his grouper was until someone convinced him to weigh it. When he did, it was apparent the fish may be a state record, bettering the current 42-pound, 6-ounce hallmark, which Flathman submitted for.
A few weeks later team Jumbo Shrimp would land its own monster grouper from 600 feet of water during the Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament.
Paul Christie, the captain of team Jumbo Shrimp, wasn’t even sure his brother-in-law Anthony Panipinto had a fish hooked at first. When the 347-pound warsaw grouper hit, Christie thought it was the bottom.
Thirty minutes later, his team was trying to figure out a way to get the fish in the boat since it wouldn’t fit through the back door. When the giant was brought to the Bradenton Yacht Club to be weighed in, a crane was needed to pull it out of the boat. The resulting stories and videos went viral, making it perhaps one of the most viewed fish ever.
A few weeks later on June 1, most anglers were headed west into the Gulf of Mexico to get part of the short American red snapper season. Team Haulin’ Grass and Brian Turner were also out, fishing for red snapper in 200 feet of water when a gag grouper decided to eat their little piece of squid on 30-pound line.
The huge gag was one of the largest I’ve heard of caught on the west coast of Florida, and to get an estimate of its size, Turner brought the fish into a Publix where it weighed 75 pounds, just shy of the 80-pound, 6-ounce world record.
The year continued with more monster warsaw grouper caught like Team Seaveeche’s 290-pounder during the De Soto Fishing Tournament and team Sea Saw/Blenker Boatworks 226-pounder during the Sarasota Slam. It was truly the year of giants, and the best anglers and teams really seem to be dialing in the ways to catch monster fish.
I’m excited to see what 2017 has in store for anglers. With ever improving technology allowing anglers to fish deeper, more tactically, and for bigger fish, I’m sure there will be more stories to share.
Source: U.S. Naval Observatory data