The water temperature is 83-84 degrees on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in depths 40-70 feet, but a nasty 10 degrees colder thermocline lurks beyond those depths, with lower visibility and happier fish. Our divers have found better concentrations of grouper beyond 70 feet. Gag grouper are loving the cooler water. Since the June 1 start of gag grouper season, these fish seem to have realized they're on the menu, so they're increasingly more cautious. Spearfishermen need to convince these wary fish they aren't interested in them. One of the worst things to do is chase them, a rookie mistake that some spearfishermen never seem to outgrow. If you chase them, you stimulate their prey response and they will successfully swim away. If you can spear another species that is not as wary, such as a snapper or hogfish, the signs of the struggling snapper or hogfish should stimulate the predatory response of the grouper and hopefully it will charge toward the wounded fish. This is your opportunity. This technique requires a spare spearshaft. As soon as you shoot the first fish, quickly load the spare. Practice loading the spare spearshaft at home and if you get good and fast at this skill, you will have a better chance at harvesting that wary grouper with your second 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 [email protected]