What's hot: Divers are still seeing big sheepsheads on the ledges out to about 70 feet of water. They're in shallower water north of Pinellas County. Also occupying the ledges are nice mangrove snapper. The hot topic with divers remains the large quantities of gag grouper on almost every ledge from 30 to 100 feet.
Grouper rules: The closed season in federal and state waters for red grouper, black grouper and scamp ends March 31. The federal interim rule closure for gag grouper stays in effect until mid summer, and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Council might continue the closure for all of 2011. Gag grouper in state waters is open after March 31 but still closed in federal waters. For Florida regulations, go to http://myfwc.com/media/1068044/FINAL.pdf.
Tournament: The fifth annual Tampa Bay Spearfishing Challenge is a favorite of many who spearfish because prizes are randomly distributed and not determined by placement. Spearing begins April 9, the weigh-in and awards are April 10 at the WingHouse in Pinellas Park starting at 10:30 a.m. Go to tampabayspearfishingclub.org for information.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg and can be reached at CaptainBillHardman@gmail.com or (727) 344-3483.