© St. Petersburg Times, published August 24, 2002
The warm August waters have kept bigger grouper farther offshore. The occasional keeper gags are flighty and hard to get in spear-gun sights.
For grouper, your best bet is for reds on the limestone ledges deeper than 90 feet. Mangos are showing up in all areas and nice size ones are billowing out of deep water potholes and on the wrecks.
In last weekend's St. Pete Open, many spearfishermen turned in cobias. The largest was in the 50-pound class. Last year at this time they were hard to find. If seeking cobia, be at least 9 miles offshore (new law) and use a line gun. These powerful fish are hard to stop. The line setup allows you to make contact with the fish and secure your catch. Strong equipment is a must, no nickel-plated spear tips -- heat treated stainless is a must.
Hogfish, plentiful in the spring, are scattered and small. The Florida Middle Grounds holds some 18- to 20-pounders. Search areas with heavy sea urchin concentrations.
On Sept. 20-22, the Southern Open Derby Underwater Tournament is being brought back by the Florida Skin Diving Association. This tournament has a spearfishing and an underwater photography division. Check www.fsda-wcc.com or call David Shelton at (727) 847-5479.
-- Bill Hardman teaches scuba diving, free diving and spearfishing at his dive shop Aquatic Obsessions Scuba, 980 58th St. N, St. Petersburg, FL (727) 344-3483.