What's hot: Gulf water is clearest in April and May, and nearly top-to-bottom visibility has been reported from 35 to 60 feet from Sarasota to New Port Richey. Bottom temperatures are finally climbing into the high 60s, and divers are excited about the newly opened season for gag grouper. Gags are the favorite prey of spearfishermen in this area, but the new limit of two per day will have many divers holding out for fish approaching 20 pounds or more. Much smarter than red grouper, these larger gags prefer to roam the sandy areas near ledges, wrecks and artificial reefs. The largest gags have a black fungus on their bellies that accumulates from resting on dark depressions out on sand.
Tactics: Freeshafting extends the range of most large reef spearguns from 12 to 15 feet to nearly double. Besides the accuracy advantage, freeshafts usually stay in a fish with good shot selection because they don't have the resistance of tethered spears. A side-shaft-holder allows a shooter to quickly load a second or third freespear to finish off a big fish.
Chad Carney teaches diving and spearfishing and can be reached at (727) 423-7775 or www.floridaskindiver.com.