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71 & 101-Pound Grouper Highlight Epic 6-Minute Dive

Ritchie Zacker is known as TGO (The Great One) because of his spearfishing success recreationally, commercially, and in tournaments. We’re proud to have him on Team Outdoors360, and we wanted to get the true story behind the greatest 6-minute dive in his spearfishing history. Below is the true story in Ritchie’s words from one epic stringer that included grouper weighing 101 lbs, 71 lbs, 19 and 12 lbs (gutted).

I was on a two day commercial trip with John Schmidt and Jason Wetmore about 50 miles off Naples in 123ft of water. The conditions were flat calm, and the visibility was around 80ft. We had scouted this area the month prior for the St.Pete Open, but it wasn’t holding the big fish we were looking for. We had run over this spot the month prior but did not dive it but still kept it. Two weeks after the SPO we were in this area, and it was my turn up to dive. We were not really killing it but picking up a good mix of red grouper, scamp, and mutton snapper.

When we came up to this spot John and said it’s your turn to get the red grouper down there but it had a small show on it. I rolled over and on my way down there was a small school of aj’s high up in the water column followed by two nice gags under them. I thought to myself hey something besides red grouper. Lol. The gags were still very high up, and I started to angle at them and push them closer to the bottom for a good shot. As I started pushing them down, I saw a solid 30 lb black grouper coming up to check out what was happening. Hey, it’s getting better!

A photo posted by Outdoors360 (@outdoors360) on

Now I’m focused on three nice fish when I notice a really nice black sitting in the sand that is pure white in color except the black hershey bar on its tail. Holy s*&# this dive is getting really good now. I angle towards the black in the sand for a good shot as it starts swimming towards a dark spot engulfed with a bait ball. I let the free shaft fly and nailed it right behind the head and hurt it really bad. Having never dived the spot before I had no idea what to expect. The black is hurt really bad and its swimming slow to the dark spot. I had already reloaded my second freeshaft and was just about to shoot it again when all of a sudden the bait parted and holy sh#@!!

Big daddy black grouper that is midnight black is sitting there looking at the black I had just speared. I knew the first fish was just about done and hurt really bad, so I let the steel fly on big and nasty rolling it right over. Sweet!! I instantly loaded my 3rd freeshaft and stoned the first grouper I had shot. Awesome feeling shooting two giant black grouper and stoning big daddy and hurting and stoning the other black at the same time.

I strung up the blacks and looked at my computer to see – I had done all this is the first two minutes of my dive.

A photo posted by Outdoors360 (@outdoors360) on

Most people would be like I’m out of here with two trophy fish but as a commercial spearfisherman, I knew I still had work to do. I sat there for a second to evaluate the situation on were the other grouper I had seen went? One gag came in to check me out, and I shot and stoned it quick and reloaded fast because I could see the gag also. It gives me a shot, and I drill it – not killing it, but good shot. I collect my two gags and add them to the stringer and finally get to check out the mystery spot. It was a pot hole with a small cave on the side of it. Nothing inside of it except a jewfish but no other grouper. The first black I had seen took off not to be seen again, and there was nothing else to shoot so I headed up. As I left the bottom, my computer just clicked over the 6th minute of my dive. Wow! That might be the best 6-minute dive I’ve ever had 🙂

At about 40ft I had to let the fish go cause of their bladders expanding and dragging me up. When I was at around 20ft from the surface, I heard the boat coming. I hit the surface and grabbed my stringer, and both John and Jason were like that’s all you got? Joking 🙂 After a few pics on the surface we dragged the fish in the boat, and John says damn buddy I guess we $%@#ed up by not diving that spot a few weeks ago for the tourney. Yep and the rest is history. When I first put up the pic the reaction was photoshopped from a lot but I didn’t have to say much since this isn’t my first big grouper I had shot before. The four grouper I shot weighed in at 101 lbs, 71 lbs, 19 and 12 lbs all gutted. The 101lber was the third black grouper I have shot in my spearfishing career over 100 lbs. For sure not a fish story.

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