Fishing the Fifty

My Quest to Fish All 50 States

Florida - 2014

In keeping with my goal of returning to my favorite states upon nearing the completion of my quest, I returned to the Gulf Coast of Florida, but this time decided to try some saltwater fishing.  Aside from my trip with Chuck, I usually only fished in the local freshwater ponds when I was in Florida, and in general I only do saltwater fishing if it is for striped bass.  However, my research into shark fishing guides in North Carolina had gotten me interested in shark fishing, and searching for huge Florida sharks led me to Tom McLaughlin (  Tom catches a wide variety of fish, and I booked a trip for bull sharks and goliath grouper.  I had heard of goliath grouper and their fighting ability and the pictures on Tom’s site are simply unbelievable, so I was very happy that Tom was able to customize a trip to target both of these fish.


On an uncharacteristically cloudy and rough Florida morning, I caught a barracuda and a rudderfish before we settled into shark and goliath grouper fishing.  My first shark was a six-foot bull shark, estimated to be over 100 pounds.  I caught several more sharks between three and six feet, including some on light tackle spinning gear.  One of these fish was putting up a good fight before a goliath grouper swallowed it whole and snapped the line.  Fortunately, I was able to catch and land a goliath grouper on heavier tackle.  At 60 pounds, it was a baby but still made for a good fight and photo opportunity.  (Tom helps biologists with goliath grouper research and I was lucky enough to handle the goliath grouper, which ordinarily would have been prohibited.)  Overall, the fishing was slow by Florida standards (according to Tom), possibly because of the incoming extreme weather that resulted in tornado and flood warnings later in the day, but catching my first bull shark and goliath grouper made for a very memorable day.

45-inch barracuda

Six-pound rudderfish

Preparing to release the bull shark

The biggest of my bull sharks, a 6-foot, approximately 100-pound shark

Loggerhead sea turtle

60-pound baby goliath grouper

Beautiful Lido Key