Cold-water diving: Water temperature in the low 50s can cause problems for divers. Those who are not wearing 5- to 7-millimeter wet suits with hoods, neoprene gloves and socks can become hypothermic within minutes. Hypothermia greatly increases respiration, which at depth can predispose the body to serious troubles such as decompression sickness and oxygen toxicity. Keep dives shorter and shallower than normal. Pay attention to boating-safety requirements.
January spearfishing: If you can't get out in the gulf because of northwest winds, southeast Florida is likely to be calm, and short runs to warm Gulf Stream waters often host fish species in winter that are missing other times of the year. Atlantic fishing regulations often are different from those in the gulf; check online at myfwc.com.
Other ideas: Check out the new 2010 dive equipment at a dive store or find some great deals on 2009 gear. Beat the spring rush by getting your equipment serviced while business is slow. Take an advanced specialty class such as nitrox or equipment specialist, which require only classroom sessions. Many Tampa Bay area instructors also use indoor heated pools for specialties such as advanced buoyancy or refresher courses.
Chad Carney teaches diving and spearfishing in the Tampa Bay area and can be reached at floridaskindiver.com or (727) 423-7775.