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Anglers targeting small fish land 350-pound grouper

For The Win logo For The Win 7/9/2019 Pete Thomas

animal on the water: File Photo © File Photo File Photo A recent snapper-fishing expedition off Florida became far more thrilling after a massive goliath grouper devoured a hooked snapper.

"We hooked an 8- to 10-pound snapper and fought him for a while and then all of a sudden something ate it," Capt. Alex Hare of Silver King Charters told the Northwest Florida Daily News.

Capt. Alex Hare estimated the grouper's weight at 350-plus pounds. Photo: Silver King Charters

Hare and his charter group from Louisiana were fishing June 28 off Destin when the estimated 350-pound grouper struck.

The grouper released its grip on the snapper after 15 minutes and it was reeled up without any scales. So it was dropped back down and there was a second strike; this time the grouper was hooked.

After a 45-minute fight on light tackle, the massive fish came into view.

a man that is standing in the snow: File Photo © File Photo File Photo

Hunter Waneck and Becca Peisker pose alongside grouper. Photo: Silver King Charters of Destin

"I was absolutely shocked on how big it was, and I couldn't believe we caught him on such small tackle," Hare, 27, told For The Win Outdoors. "Fish of a lifetime for me here in Destin. I've only heard of 3-4 other goliath grouper ever being caught here."

Hare told Northwest Florida Daily News that the grouper ripped 100 to 200 yards of line from the spool during repeated runs, and that the photos do not do the fish justice in terms of its size.

a man holding a fish in the water: File Photo © File Photo File Photo

Hunter Waneck poses with grouper while Capt. Alex Hare (beige cap) works to release the fish. Photo: Silver King Charters

"You weren't going to get your arms around the whole fish, I'll tell you that," Hare said.

The lucky anglers were Hunter Waneck (pictured, blue shirt), Becca Peisker and Charlie Reagin.

Goliath grouper are critically endangered and have been protected in state and federal waters off Florida since 1990. (The Florida state record stands as 680 pounds, set in 1961 off Fernandina Beach.)

File Photo © File Photo File Photo

Goliath grouper are endangered and must be released. Photo: Silver King Charters

Anglers are not even allowed to remove them from the water for photos. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission states that photos should be taken only "during an active act of release."

Hare said his each member of his group gently touched the giant fish as Hare was setting it free.

"We got the hook out of him and then pushed his head down," he explained. "He flipped his tail and splashed us all, whacked the side of the boat with his tail and then swam straight down. He was healthy. We watched him swim down as far as we could see."

-Images showing goliath grouper and angler Hunter Waneck (blue shirt) are courtesy of Silver King Charters of Destin

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