Finding the grouper can be difficult, but when you're in the right place it's dynamite. Because of fluctuating temperatures, the fish move weekly. One of our spearfishermen had good success west of Tarpon Springs in 60-70 feet. Gag grouper were almost everywhere in these depths, but there were none in 50 feet or less.
Amberjacks have been found regularly on wrecks in shallower depths. G.R. Tarr of Brandon freedived on a wreck in 75 feet and after a hard fight surfaced with a 52-pound bruiser. Gary Sanchez of St. Petersburg was not going to be outdone by his spearfishing buddy, so he went out Monday on a wreck in 64 feet and shot an amberjack in the 50-pound range. Freediving and shooting pelagic fish of this size can be dangerous. Be careful, and don't exceed your comfort and safety level.
If you are considering freediving, or if you started but would like to learn how to do it better, now is the time to take a class. Most beginning classes run around $60 to $80, and the winter is a good time to learn. Simply learning how to work with another in a safety team and how to avoid shallow water blackout makes it worth the money. In a beginning class, however, you will learn much, much more.
- Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and freediving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg. Call (727) 344-3483.