What's hot: For divers, December has been a slow month. With the closure of the gag and hogfish seasons, many have opted to stay dry or close to shore. The slower traffic in scuba shops has verified that most divers are waiting for the new year to go back offshore. Close to shore, sheepshead and mangrove snapper are gathered around the many "safe to dive" bridge supports, rubble and rock areas around the bridges. The biggest sheepshead have been 5-6 pounds.
Tips: Many shallow areas in and around the passages to the gulf are good for divers to search for inshore fish while free-diving. The perks of December include the shark population is much lower in cooler waters and on some days, the underwater visibility is almost top to bottom. One key is to plan your diving on the ebb before the slack. This tide schedule usually renders the best visibility. The only exception is if there has been rain preceding the day of your diving because the runoff in the ebb tide carries contaminants that destroy the water's clarity.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 344-3483 and firstname.lastname@example.org.