The old year ended with virtually no diving in the gulf, and the New Year has begun with a diving frenzy with flat seas for the week.
The water has a green-brown layer about 5 feet thick on top but opens out most everywhere to 20-25 feet of visibility. It's mostly 58 degrees for close-to-shore diving with a few pockets of slightly warmer water. Many spearfishers made it to the Middle Grounds where it's twice as clear and 10 degrees warmer. Plenty of gags, hogfish, amberjacks, snappers and cobia have been speared but few really big fish.
One gag I shot and strung had a wiggling tail fin protruding from its partially closed jaws. Upon inspection a beautifully colored filefish had been captured but as yet unharmed. I pulled him out and watched the lucky fellow swim back to the protection of the reef.
Often anglers examine the stomach contents of their catch for tips on which baits to use, but upon reaching the boat we got quite a surprise after pulling the spear from a gag. The impending grouper's meal, an unharmed slipper lobster, crawled out onto the deck. There is no season or size limit on these tasty crustaceans, so we were delighted with the bonus hors d'oeuvre.
Chad Carney teaches diving and spearfishing in the Tampa Bay area and can be called at 727 323-7775 or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org