What's hot: Gag grouper are plentiful on shallow water ledges. Since the season opened July 1, and when the weather permitted, spearfishermen have speared their two-bag limit in short order. Most of the fish are in water of 45 feet or less and range from 5 to 10 pounds, with the occasional 15- to 20-pounder. The even-bigger gags have moved to their summer deep-water haunts (130 to 220 feet).
Tips: Gag grouper are wary and harder than most fish to approach. Unlike their red grouper cousins, they learn quick and stay just outside the effective range of most line-shaft spear guns. Experienced gulf gag spearfishermen use "freeshafting" to get a little more range and better accuracy out of their spear equipment. The older gags will only give you a second to identify them and make a rapid accurate shot before they turn and disappear. Learn to quickly spot gags hiding under schools of bait. When the bait starts to separate in front of you, be ready to make an accurate shot.
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.