El Niño effects: Warm equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures have an effect on fish migration in the Gulf of Mexico. The strengthening El Niño is causing cubera snapper to venture to shallower waters. One of my spearfishermen shot a 35-pound cubera this week on the Sheridan Tug in 80 feet. Another diver reported a 61-pounder even shallower. Cubera is the largest snapper, sometimes reaching more than 100 pounds. It's one of the wiliest fish in the ocean. I've seen them hide behind goliath grouper to make a stealthy exit. The strong El Niño of 1998 produced many cuberas for spearfishermen, including a 65-pounder taken on the Tramp Steamer in just 60 feet. Mangrove snapper near shore have been larger than usual lately, with two from a recent trip weighing in at 9 and 7 pounds.
Spotted eagle rays have been sited on wrecks in 100 feet or less the past few months. The majestic creatures fly by underwater in small schools and often launch themselves into the air. A ray with an 8-foot wingspan makes quite a splash.
Free-diving seminar: A free seminar on free-diving safety aspects and performance is scheduled for Tuesday at Mac's Sports in Clearwater. It will include an opportunity to try out the latest free-diving equipment in a heated pool. Reservations are required. Call (727) 442-9931 for information.
Chad Carney teaches diving and spearfishing in the Tampa Bay area and can be reached at floridaskindiver.com or (727) 423-7775.