tampabay.com

Daily fishing report

By BILL HARDMAN
Published September 23, 2006


Besides the random areas of Red Tide, the dwindling underwater visibility and the smaller numbers of gag grouper in most depths, the spearfishing in the gulf has been good for most of the summer. Mangrove snapper have been plentiful in most areas. Hogfish concentrations are holding steady. Red grouper are easy to find in water deeper than 100 feet. But it's the gag grouper that have been hard to find. The deep water has given up some nice late-summer gags, but the shallow water where most spearfishermen hunt has produced fewer gags than previous years.

However, in deeper waters from 150 to 220 feet, the occurrence of gag grouper more than 40 pounds have been high. For example, in this year's St. Pete Open Spearfishing Tournament, held in mid August, there were so many big gag grouper weighing in at more than 40 pounds that 50-pound gags were ranked in the same prize pick as hogfish that weighed less than 10 pounds.

In 1994, the distribution of summertime grouper was similar to this year. The good news in 1994 was that during the following winter, the shallow water was once again laden with gag grouper. That winter we speared gag grouper of more than 40 pounds on ledges west of Sarasota in less than 35 feet of water. I am not sure if the damage caused to the bottom structure from last year's Red Tide will keep the winter grouper away, but we will know for sure in a couple of months.

Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg. Call (727) 344-3483.