Deco’s Chris Van Vliet takes on the goliath grouper

DJ Irie’s not the only one hitting the high seas for a gigantic grouper. Chris threw his line into the water and found out it’s not as easy as it looks in this week’s Keeping Up With Chris.

If you follow me on Instagram, it’s no secret that I love fishing. And catching a goliath grouper has always been on my bucket list. I mean, have you seen how big these things get?

I headed out to the Gulf Coast with Captain James Marko, the best goliath grouper guide in all of Florida to see if we could cross this off the ol’ bucket list.

James Marko, captain: “We’re in beautiful Boca Grande, Florida. We’re about 6.5 miles off shore. It’s an aggressive fish, and it will hit you like a ton of bricks.”

Goliath grouper are big — like really big, growing up to 700 pounds.

Chris Van Vliet: “I don’t see any rods on this boat.”

James Marko: “No, we’re going to do traditional hand lining today. It sounds a little crazy, but it’s also the ultimate fishing challenge. You’re going hand-to-hand with a beast.”

And it’s a special beast.

In 1990, the State of Florida designated goliath groupers as a protected species because of a declining population. That means you can’t keep them or even take them out of the water.

When it comes to fishing for them, the set-up is pretty simple.

James Marko: “Big hook, some weight and this is my anchor rope.”

Chris Van Vliet: “To put things in perspective, the hook is almost the size of my hand. How will I know when I have one on?”

James Marko: “Oh, you’ll know.”

For bait, we rig up a 3-pound mullet.

Chris Van Vliet: “This is the size of fish I normally catch, and now this is just the bait.”

*Bait gets thrown overboard*

Chris Van Vliet: “Just a matter of time now.”

James Marko: “Just a matter of time.”

And it didn’t take long before we had one on!

James Marko: “Let’s go, man.”

Chris Van Vliet: “Dude! This is big.”

James Marko: “Yep! Turn that head.”

“Chris Van Vliet: “We got him. He’s coming up.”

James Marko: “Oh, he dropped the hook.”

Chris Van Vliet: “Ohhhh! Noooo!!! That was so big!”

But this isn’t a story about the one that got away, so we went right back at it and then we hooked a monster.

James Marko: “There you go.”

Chris Van Vliet: “Oh dude. Oh wow.”

James Marko: “Come on, big fish. Let’s go.”

Chris Van Vliet: “Big fish.”

James Marko: “Stud. Here’s your 400.”

Chris Van Vliet: “Ohhhh!”

James Marko: “There we go! Come on!”

Chris Van Vliet: “There she is. Oh my God! Oh my God!!”

*Chris and James high-five*

Chris Van Vliet: “Oh dude! Holy crap! Woahhhhh!!”

A 480-pound beast — the fish of a lifetime!

And since we can’t take her out of the water, I get in to help with the release.

Chris Van Vliet: “Look at the size of this thing!”

We snap a quick photo, then send her on her way.

Chris Van Vliet: “I want to give her a big kiss” *Chris kisses the fish* “Right there. Woo! Alright, there she goes!”

James Marko: “Swimming with dinosaurs, bud!” *Chris and James high-five again*

Oh man, I am still shaking from catching that monster. It’s so big it doesn’t even look real!

And yeah, I got some pretty serious rope burn from that. All worth it, of course!

To put things in perspective, that goliath grouper was about the size of your front door, so the next time you walk into or out of your house, just think about a fish that big and that wide.

Now if you have something you want to see me try or another bucket list item I can check off, shoot me an email at

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