Spearing in the Gulf of Mexico is improving day by day. First, the underwater visibility is getting much better. For more than a month, after Hurricane Irma, the offshore water clarity was so poor that most divers stayed home. The water is now much clearer. Divers are finding the best visibility from Clearwater and north. Gag grouper are still the most sought after bottom fish and are being found more often. South of Clearwater, most gags are holding up in depths from 20 to 40 feet, hanging just under bait balls. Your great dive spots will be vacant of gags unless bait balls are hovering over the structure. Even ledges with deep undercuts that are holding plenty of small- to medium-sized fish arenít holding the tasty gags. Also going crazy under the fall bait balls are mangrove snapper. Small packs of them are patrolling up and down the ledges and wrecks with food on their mind. When they are on a fall feeding frenzy, the diagonal gray stripe that runs over their forehead is pronounced and dark black. These feeding snapper ignore all else but the bait, so the diver has a better chance of surprising a big snapper and making a good shot.
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]