With a break from tropical weather, this weekend many frustrated spearfishermen will be running long distances offshore. Visibility reports have been only 10 to 15 feet from Venice to Crystal River, but beyond depths of 80 feet, grouper, snapper and hogfish have been plentiful.
Diving in limited visibility presents physical and psychological challenges. Use a fast deploying marker jug and follow the line to find dive sites. If anchored, ascend and spot the boat before making long safety stops, then descend and navigate to the boat by compass. Drift diving lets the diver explore more freely, eliminating the fear of getting down current. Carry a signal marker buoy or flag, a light and a diver air horn to be easily spotted on the surface.
A shorter speargun or pole spear may be the best for shooting in poor clarity, but larger guns can still be shot from the hip, or held like a pool cue and fired with the thumb on the trigger. Extra care must be given to keep all shots at a steep angle to the bottom to maintain safe targeting.
Clear water gives divers a sense of calm, knowing trouble can be easily spotted. Spearfishermen in dirty water should stay alert to the behavior of reef fish, they often signal the presence of predators. Also, finish off wounded prey on a stringer and keep it in your hand, don't attach it to yourself.
Chad Carney teaches diving and spearfishing in the Tampa Bay area and can be reached at 727-423-7775 or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org