Top to bottom visibility in 80 feet is enticing divers to spearfish the offshore wrecks, where amberjack are the most targeted fish. A 30- to 40-pound AJ can put up quite a battle if not speared with precision. Getting wrapped in the line is an obvious danger, and huge, hungry goliath groupers present another. They have become conditioned to follow hunters, looking for a free meal.
This midweek Chris Anderson had his amberjack break loose and swim to the surface with a 6-foot barracuda in hot pursuit. After the barracuda ripped the lower half of the fish away, we boat-hooked the head and torso for him.
The Middle Grounds, oddly, is where the visibility is challenging, with 70 feet of green, warm water blocking much of the light from the clear, cooler water. This is increasing the fish's ability to camouflage into the reef. Gag grouper have been mostly in the 20-pound range, but a diver from Hudson speared a 70-pound black grouper.
Large mangrove snappers have been speared on deeper wrecks. These are frequented by trolling sport fishermen, so dive flags and caution should be exercised to ascend close to the boat.
The Southern Open Spearfishing Championship will see more than 200 divers competing in New Port Richey on Saturday. The weigh-in is at 6 p.m. at Catches Restaurant.
- Chad Carney teaches scuba & spearfishing and runs charters out of St. Petersburg. Call 727 423-7775 or e-mail email@example.com