Grouper closing: Sunday is the last day to fish or spear grouper in the Gulf of Mexico before the recreational closure begins. The season reopens April 1. The water is cold, and many bottom fish are still concentrating on spots where the bottom temperatures are in the mid 50s. The grouper are more prolific in depths exceeding 80 feet off Clearwater and St. Petersburg and in shallower depths off Tarpon Springs and farther north. Over the past couple of weeks, divers have discovered that the larger the structure the larger the grouper.
What else is there?: Hogfish are starting to scatter, and most of our divers are seeing less of these fish on ledges and rock piles. This is the first time in a year that we are seeing fewer hogfish. Mangrove snapper are all over the wrecks and ledges, and sheepshead are still offshore, but the ones that swam out to deep water are making their way in to their more common winter depths of 20 to 60 feet.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 344-3483 or firstname.lastname@example.org.