For Mike Crane and his two sons from Bedford, Indiana, it was another day in paradise with Capt. Tom Cushman’s Calmwater Charters. From redfish and speckled trout to an overwhelming number of ribbonfish, the fishing action was fast and furious aboard Cushman’s 21-foot Triton on Aug. 24. Then Crane reeled in a truly notable catch.  

Crane pulled in a jewfish, also known as a goliath grouper from the jetties at Little River, South Carolina. These fish are extremely rare in waters outside of the tropics.  

“I knew exactly what it was as soon as Mike brought it over the gunnels,” Cushman (843-997-5850) said. “It was a pleasant surprise to see one of these tropical species in our waters. I have seen hundreds and hundreds of these grouper in Florida while spear fishing over the years, but never in our waters here in South Carolina.”  

The goliath grouper fell for a finger mullet on a drop shot rig. While goliath grouper generally reach approximately 400 pounds as adults, Crane’s goliath grouper was just a juvenile specimen measuring in at 17.5 inches in length and 1.5 pounds in weight. 

Goliath grouper are a relatively shallow water grouper species that prefer tropical waters between 15 and 150 feet deep. They are commonly found from Florida to the Bahamas and all the way to the Brazilian shorelines. Relatively plentiful in tropical waters, they are considered critical endangered worldwide by the International Union of Conservation of Nature and extremely rare along the Carolina coastline. 

Since the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources doesn’t have a record size documented for this species in their saltwater fishing records listing, Mike Crane’s catch may be eligible as a new state record. 

Regardless, Cushman is very excited about seeing this species in South Carolina waters. 

“Having a juvenile jewfish showing up is good news for the species. Hopefully, we will have many more of these fish arriving in our waters where one day a new fishery may develop here with an opportunity to catch an adult,” Cushman said.