What's hot: Those who spearfish have been successful the past few weeks targeting bottom fish such as grouper and hogfish. Divers have found keeper-sized gag and red grouper in depths of more than 70 feet. When underwater visibility was good in shallower areas, gag grouper and hogfish were plentiful in depths as shallow as 30 feet. The gag grouper season closes in most gulf state waters Nov. 1; many hook-and-line anglers and divers have pushed to find a calm day or two to target grouper. Stone crab season opened Monday, and the first reports aren't encouraging. They say only average numbers of claws are being harvested.
Tips: Cobia and mackerel are all over artificial structures. These pelagic fish are following the large bait pods and are preoccupied with the bait, making an underwater stalk much more successful. Other areas producing cobia are the pipeline mitigation areas in 65 to 92 feet. Free divers are finding plenty of mackerel darting above the wrecks from 30 to 130 feet.
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.