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Captain’s Corner: Take advantage of abundant gag grouper before season ends

Bill Hardman, Times Correspondent
Published: December 5, 2017 Updated: December 5, 2017 at 07:48 PM

Gag grouper fishing and spearing is hot. The season for these grouper in the Gulf of Mexico is winding down, with a slated closure at the end of this month. The cooler water has the gags moving closer, and they are happy when the bottom temperatures hover from the high 60s to the low 70s. Just this past weekend, we found bottom temperatures of 68-69 degrees. These temperatures held strong from 20 to 70 feet of water just north of Clearwater. The fish were almost everywhere, but in many places the sizes were small. Our divers who found good volumes of bait with the ideal water temperatures also found the gags. Most boats had at least one or two gags in the 15-pound class. Out a little deeper, some of the divers wrangled gags in the 30- to 40-pound class. Hogfish are all over the bottom. Most of the ledges and rock piles in 80 feet of water and less are holding good concentrations of the wrasse. The fish are flirting over the structure then taking large circle paths out into the sand and back. The males are lit up with their dark foreheads and tails as they search for receptive females. Some of our divers speared a few in the 8- to 10-pound class. These hogfish were speared in depths not exceeding 70 feet.

Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 344-3483 and [email protected]