What's different: I had my first catch-and-release snook Thursday while free diving over remnants of the original John's Pass bridge. A small snook had broken off an angler's line and become entangled on a railing 400 feet east of the new bridge. I grabbed the fish, who offered little resistance, cut the line and surfaced under my kayak. A bird's nest of line at the hook in the snook's mouth, evidence of the earlier hard fight, also was removed. Moving the fish forward underwater began it's revival, then it swam around my feet before quickly swimming deep.
What's safe: One way to prevent high boat traffic in your dive area is to tow a kayak or inflatable boat with an oversized and stiffened dive flag, and ascend only on the anchor line. The two-day spiny lobster sport season is Wednesday and Thursday, and the Keys and southeast Florida will be dangerously crowded. See myfwc.com for dive-safety and lobster regulations.
Spotted eagle rays: We're seeing more in the gulf with wingspans up to 6 feet or more. This week we had our second sighting of the month on the Pipeline mitigation reefs 2 and 6, which are hollow, coffinlike structures spaced much like a cemetery in 52 feet of clear water. We also saw mangrove snapper, red grouper and scamp, and one keeper gag. The 12-foot Parking Lot Ledge had a small black grouper and a nice gag.
Chad Carney teaches diving and spearfishing in the Tampa Bay area and can be reached at floridaskindiver.com or (727) 423-7775.