The good news is the winds have settled and the gulf is accessible for medium-sized boats. Spearfishermen are finding gag and red grouper on ledges in deeper water. Most of these ledges are in 90 feet, and these areas are producing decent-sized hogfish, too.
Shallow water still is producing respectable mangrove snapper. The angel hair algae, or gumbo, has moved into most areas in under 70 feet. This makes spearfishing difficult. Many fish are slowly pushed out of these areas. When they stay they can hide behind the gumbo's camouflage pattern.
Many experienced fishermen and spearfishermen turn up the gain on their bottom machines, which helps them spot the gumbo on the bottom. The gumbo shows up looking like bottom scatter. Pick a direction, motor off and keep your eye on the machine. When you get to an area where the gumbo is gone, go to the closest nongumbo ledge, wreck or other cover and you should find many of the fish that have been pushed ahead. This technique is easier for divers to finely tune. You can dive a spot and see what is below, then get back on your boat, motor around the structure and see how your machine draws a picture. Being able to see how your bottom machine interprets the bottom is an extremely valuable tool.
- Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and freediving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg. Call (727) 344-3483.