December diving: Not many divers have been getting offshore because of the frequent cold fronts and low 60s water temperatures, but lots of fish have welcomed those who have. There is no need to run far when big hogfish and mangrove snapper are being spotted in 55 feet and less. Visibility has varied from 10 feet to the 20 feet I found on my last dive of the year, in 45 feet of water near Madeira Beach.
Best bets: Artificial reefs such as South County, Indian Shores and Rube Allyn have tremendous amounts of barges, landing ship mediums and culvert piles, along with bridge slabs and pilings from the John's Pass and Belleair Causeway bridges.
Structure is key for cobia, a favorite while amberjack remain closed. Winter water temperatures tend to rock up groupers and snappers on artificials as well.
Chad Carney teaches scuba, freediving and spearfishing at Mac's Sports in the Tampa Bay area. Visit his Web site at floridaskindiver.com or call (727) 423-7775.