Goliath grouper nearly swallows spearfisherman as he chases winning catch

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A lot can go wrong 87 miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico.

Even more can go wrong 87 miles from shore when you are diving to depths of 190 feet.

As Justin Moraine competed in the St. Pete Open spearfishing tournament last weekend, he had quite the scare while looking for big black grouper, commonly referred to as carbo. After coming up from his first dive, his teammates probably wondered why his 3-mm wetsuit was shredded and his arm bleeding.

“I told my crew what happened,” Moraine said. “They didn’t believe me until they saw my wetsuit.”

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What happened would prevent most people from ever going back in the water.

“I shot a carbo grouper and he booked it inside a ledge, bending my shaft up. As I was reloading, a 350-pound goliath grouper moved into the cave part of the ledge and blocked the fish I shot. It was all dusted up so I ascended 15 feet or so above the goliath to let the dust settle.

The goliath slowly backed out and turned his head up and looked at me. I looked at him, and in the blink of an eye I was getting attacked. He rolled me and then got my left arm all the way up to my shoulder and down to my left hip inside his mouth. I dropped my gun and used my right hand to push his head and eyes as hard as I could to get my arm out. I finally got it out and realized what had just happened.”

Diving that deep, Moraine only had about 8 minutes of bottom time. The resulting struggle sent him to the surface, where his teammates saw what had occurred.

That didn’t stop him from returning into the water.

Only 30 minutes later, Moraine was headed back down to finish what he started. “I boated the carbo grouper, which ended up being around 90 pounds in the boat and 82.35 when it was gutted and weighed in at the tournament.”

The monster carbo took first place in the grouper division and the overall champion, beating teammate Dan Sherraden’s 79.5-pound carbo shot at the same spot.

If you’re wondering, Moraine wasn’t wearing a GoPro to record the underwater action. “That’s one more thing to worry about when in a tournament!” he said.

Winning the St. Pete Open is quite an accomplishment. There were 323 registered shooters with 297 weighing in fish. It is considered the largest spearfishing tournament in the world.

The largest amberjack was shot by David Dauzat and weighed 84.85 pounds.

The largest hogfish weighed in at 19.7 pounds, shot by David Garrett.

The largest lobster went to Brian Franzen at 9.1 pounds, and the largest sheepshead was 9.55 pounds shot by Ritchie Zacker.

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