Gag grouper are still being seen and sometimes successfully speared in the gulf. Most have moved just under the thermoclines and seem to love the little cooler water. Last week the thermoclines started about 70 feet from the surface in depths out to 110. In depths of 150-210 the thermocline started about 130 feet from the surface. We needed at least a 3mm shorty or a full 1mm wet suit to comfortably dive. On a dive to 180 feet, the surface was 88 degrees and the first thermocline at 70 feet dropped the temperature to 77. It was 72 on the bottom at 180 feet. In depths under 110, the bottom thermocline made for bad visibility, but the bottom thermocline in 150 and deeper had good bottom visibility. In all these depths, gags are roaming but cautious. Keeper-size red grouper start in about 75 feet, and the bigger "fire truck" ones start showing in about 120 feet. Red snapper season is closed for recreational harvest, but for the first time in my lifetime, we found reds in depths as shallow as 65 feet just north of Johns Pass. Along with the protected red snapper were mangrove snapper, which are legal to take.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 344-3483 and [email protected]