Farmington teen catches record-breaking 583-pound Goliath grouper off Florida coast

Farmington teen catches record-breaking 583-pound Goliath grouper off Florida coast

Lordy, what a fish!

Farmington teen Reegan Werner went deep-sea fishing with her brother, mother and stepfather near Marco Island in Florida on May 31 and hooked a world-record-breaking Goliath grouper.

The fish, which had been caught and released before, had the nickname “My Lord” because as Werner’s stepfather, Paul Hartman, said, “each time it showed up, all anyone could say is ‘My Lord! Look at that!’ ”

The fish was 83 inches long with a 75-inch girth and calculated weight of 583 pounds, the largest grouper ever caught by a female angler. According to the International Game Fish Association, the current all-tackle women’s world record is a 366-pound grouper caught by Betsy Walker near Panama in 1965. Werner’s grouper out-weighed the current record by 217 pounds.

“I was, like, in shock pretty much,” said the petite 16-year-old hockey, lacrosse and tennis player. “My biggest fish before that was a salmon. I was, like, dang, I want to catch another one.”

The Werners and Hartman headed to Florida to pick up a boat Hartman had purchased. He goes to the Gulf at least twice a year to fish. This was Werner’s second time deep-sea fishing.

The family started out fishing for amberjack and barracuda on the calm 90-degree day, and then used that fish as bait to catch something larger. About 50 miles off shore, Werner’s brother, Owen, snagged a hammerhead shark. Then, something big swallowed Werner’s bait in one gulp and began to put up a fight.

“These things have amazing power,” Hartman said. “A 115-pound girl catching a fish like that is beyond explanation just with the laws of physics.”

The battle lasted about 15 minutes as Werner fought to bring it closer to the boat. Once there, it was measured, photographed and released, drenching the family as it splashed back into the ocean.

Groupers were over-fished by the 1980s, which is why many of the size records are from the ’60s and ’70s. The largest grouper caught on record was in 1961 at 680 pounds by a man named Lynn Joyner. In the early 2000s, restrictions were enforced on fishing for groupers, which have helped them regain their large size.

“She had the greatest day ever,” said Hartman, who was proud, but also a bit jealous, since his biggest grouper was 470 pounds. “She’s got all the luck in the world.”


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