What's hot: Hogfish are still the spearfisherman's best quarry in the shallow waters of the central west coast of Florida. We found plenty of nice-sized hogfish on our most recent dive. Some of the bigger males were 6 to 8 pounds in depths of 45-60 feet. The larger ones were definitely more skittish as they patrolled their territory. Gag grouper season is still open (closes at midnight on Dec. 3). We found keeper gags on all the ledges.
Tips: Most divers know that hogfish aren't the most cautious fish. A good thing about these fish is that beginner divers can work out their "buck fever" and speargun idiosyncrasies on these easily approachable fish. Hogfish are the most common fish taken by beginning spearfishermen. Most of the harvested fish are the smaller females. The males are much older and more aware. A dominant male swims constantly, checking on his females and intimidating smaller males in his territory. When hunting for bigger hogfish, stay close to the females, relax and don't give off predatory signals. Then with a little luck the bigger male might swim in and give you a 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.