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Texas Kid’s First Ever Fish Is a State Record Grouper

Dace D'Onofrio caught the new record black grouper while fishing off the coast with his dad
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texas first fish record grouper
Dace D'Onofrio (center) and his father Michael (left) hold up the giant black grouper. Courtesy of TPWD

Texas angler Dace D’Onofrio caught his first fish in May while out in the Gulf with his father Michael. It was a black grouper, and the fish was recently certified as a new state record in the Junior Angler Division by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

TPWD Angling Recognition Coordinator Grace Simms tells Outdoor Life that D’Onofrio landed the fish while aboard a charter boat on May 28. The grouper, which had an official weight of 76.55 pounds and measured 57 inches long, was verified as a record by the agency on June 16. And because D’Onofrio caught it while fishing with his dad, TPWD highlighted the catch in a social media post on Father’s Day.

“This is the first black grouper record for the Junior Division, and we’re excited about his catch,” Simms says. She explains that the category was established nearly 20 years ago to recognize anglers under the age of 17.

In order to have the record certified, D’Onofrio’s black grouper had to be verified by TPWD fisheries biologist Christine Jensen. This was important because the Gulf of Mexico is home to several different species of grouper and it can be difficult to distinguish one species from another.

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Black grouper in particular are a highly sought after game fish because they make excellent table fare and can reach sizes of over 100 pounds. In fact, some of the biggest black grouper ever caught have come from the Texas Gulf Coast. This includes the IGFA all-tackle world record, which weighed 124 pounds and was caught by angler Tim Oestreich II in 2003.

Because the IGFA also maintains a junior angler record book for anglers 16 and under, D’Onofrio’s black grouper could also qualify as a new junior world record for the species. The current junior world record is a 34-pound, 12-ounce black grouper caught in the Bahamas in 2009.