Posted by: stiltsville | November 19, 2009

Warsaw grouper turns out to be a goliath grouper

An Alabama man faces a single misdemeanor charge after test results show the enormous grouper he and his fishing party landed off St. George Island was not a Warsaw grouper but a protected goliath grouper.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Investigator Eric Johnston said boat owner and operator Billy Daniels, Moody, Ala., has agreed to the terms of a “deferred prosecution agreement” with the state attorney’s office in Apalachicola, which stipulates he pay a $150 fine and contribute $150 to Florida’s Wildlife Alert Reward Program.  The agreement spells out the misdemeanor charge will be dismissed after 90 days, assuming Daniels is not charged with other fish or wildlife law violations in Florida.

Daniels (DOB 05/24/58), his son, Shawn of Stanley, Kan., and two fishing buddies from Kansas, caught the gargantuan grouper they believed was a legal Warsaw grouper June 25, while fishing 15 miles southeast of St. George Island in 80 feet of water.  Shawn Daniels actually caught the fish, which measured 82 inches long and 66 inches in girth and was estimated to weigh approximately 446 pounds.

They brought the grouper back to Bay City Lodge in Apalachicola, posed for photos and dressed the fish on the dock.  After the photos and stories ran in numerous newspapers and showed up on Web sites and blogs, the calls started coming in to the FWC from those who thought the fish was a goliath grouper.

Johnston said Daniels turned over a sample of meat for DNA testing.  He said Daniels has been nothing but cooperative during this period.

Daniels was cited rather than his son, who caught the fish, because as captain he is responsible for the fish being landed, Johnston said.

Goliath grouper numbers dropped precipitously in the 1970s and 1980s because of overfishing.  The species has been protected in Florida waters since 1990.

Experienced offshore anglers say Warsaw grouper are usually found in 300-400 feet of water.  Goliath grouper are typically found in more shallow coastal waters.

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