Divers are finding bottom water temperatures dropping to the magical low 70s. This week the bottom water was hovering at 72 degrees in 45 feet just south of Tampa Bay. At those temperatures, grouper, snapper and other benthic fish are swimming and jostling around the ledges and wrecks. But this week all the gags stayed motionless under the ledges and in the dark reaches of the wrecks. Even with bait present, gags were lethargic and holed up. Most gags and red grouper had little or no bait in their stomachs. Gags in those depths ranged from 6 to 14 pounds. Hogfish are doing well as the number and size taken in those relatively shallow waters were good. The largest was a 7½-pound male, and others were just under that size. Hogfish were flirting around the ledges and not hiding under the cover. Horizontal visibility in those areas was about 15 feet. Vertical visibility was better. Free diving at 25 feet, the bottom structure started to appear as divers dropped in, but when they hit the bottom, horizontal visibility turned to less than 10 feet. Only one shark came to investigate the speared fish. Once the divers turned on their Shark Shield, the shark quickly left.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba and can be reached at (727) 344-3483 and firstname.lastname@example.org.