Divers are finding gag grouper spread out in the gulf. Some of the strongest concentrations are in 50- to 60-foot depths due west of Tarpon Springs and Bayport. The water has that smoky green color, but gags are loving the massive influx of bait. Farther south and between John's Pass and Clearwater divers are getting gag limits in depths as shallow as 25 feet. The visibility is only about 10 feet on the bottom, but gags are feeding well in those depths. Almost every gag we've taken has been full of small to large bait. Red grouper of legal size are harder to find in these shallows, but most of the reds have more crabs in their stomachs than fish. Reds reaching more than 10-15 pounds are more prevalent in depths exceeding 140 feet. The legal-sized amberjacks are there, too. Legal-sized summer amberjacks are always in deeper federal waters of the gulf. But these AJs are off limits. The Gulf of Mexico Marine Fishery Council decided not to reopen the recreational harvest of amberjacks in federal waters on Aug. 1 and also announced it will be closed throughout the remainder of 2016 in federal waters. However, the state has reopened amberjack harvest in state waters.
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]