What's hot: Visibility close to shore dropped during storms last week, but Wednesday, one member of our group had no trouble seeing and spearing some big near-shore hogfish on ledges 50 to 70 feet out from Pass-a-Grille. Bait schools are still attracting many gag groupers to natural structures in midwater depths.
Black grouper: Usually found only in deep water, true blacks have been seen on two of my last dive trips in 60- to 70-foot depths. Red snapper season opens Monday, and some are showing up in shallow water, as well as in thick concentrations out deep.
Permit Barge: Also known as the Betty Rose wreck, it had big schools of permit Thursday. We free-shafted a fat 12-pound red grouper on a ledge in 65 feet west of John's Pass.
Tips: Even experienced spearfishermen are often afraid to try free-shaft spearfishing, but in decades of teaching rookies, I've found the technique to rapidly accelerate learning the sport without losing spears. It also reduces fish tearoffs.
Chad Carney teaches diving and spearfishing in the Tampa Bay area. Visit his Web site at floridaskindiver.com or call (727) 423-7775.