Surf casting can often seem like a fruitless pursuit. But the efforts of one Florida couple on Sanibel, Island paid off with an experience of a lifetime when they hooked a 300-pound goliath grouper.

The couple were filmed reeling in the fish by a woman passing by who sent the video to the local CBS affiliate. They brought the fish to shore just long enough to remove the hook, snap a picture and let it go, but now some are calling into question even the limited contact they had with the fish.

The fish, which can reach 8 feet in length and weigh more than 600 pounds, is so big that taking it out of the water can damage its internal organs, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision. Experts recommend you enter the water with the fish to take photos because it’s body cannot adequately support its weight out of water. Due to overfishing of the goliath grouper, harvesting the fish has been illegal in Florida since 1990. 

While Sanibel Island is a popular charter fishing destination, hooking a goliath grouper off the shore is extremely rare. A witness to the event, Taylor Buckley, told the news station that catching such a fish from shore is not heard of very often. 

“You would never expect that in a surf situation,” he said. “You don’t catch fish like that by casting into the surf.”

The goliath grouper is primarily a sedentary fish more prone to the effects of over fishing because of its slow growth and late sexual maturity. The goliath is also extremely territorial and can be more aggressive than a shark with incidents of goliath’s actually swallowing sharks whole rather common off the gulf coast.

Another video of a similar encounter in 2009:

© Peaty74 | Dreamstime.comGoliath Grouper Photo