Hogfish have been the staple spearfishing species most of this year. Even as open seasons for most of the grouper, amberjack and some snapper begin and then close and sometimes reopen, this confusion and limited access have diverted the effort from those species to the hogfish. Luckily the eastern side of the Gulf of Mexico has a strong population of this hogfish. We have found hogfish in most depths, and the larger ones that hover in the 15- to 18-pound class are being speared in the Middle Grounds and deeper areas such as the Elbow. Just recently gag grouper hunting has been strong in shallower waters. In areas west of Bayport and Tarpon Springs gag populations are scattered in waters up to 50 feet of depth. The anglers have had better luck as they don't need good underwater visibility to find their gags. A little smelly dead bait with a sprinkle of tasty live bait and the gags have been relentless in those depths. In the past couple of weeks, poor visibility has been an issue for spearfishermen. Diving in depths past 60 feet has garnered fair visibility, and gag grouper and hogfish are in those depths.
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]