What's hot: The most popular types of grouper in the gulf are showing up on many of our ledges and rock piles. All three — gags, reds and blacks — are being found from 25 to 75 feet. Divers have had to limit their minimum diving depth to 40-50 feet due to safe-hunting visibility. The rough weather from two weeks ago has stirred up the water, but water clarity should be better this weekend.
Black grouper: Yes, I said blacks. The past few years, we've noticed more black grouper moving in. It's a big bonus for anglers and divers to have higher populations of a desired species enter our area. Many local sportsmen have gotten the occasional black grouper and thought it was a dark-brown gag. Small black grouper (8 to 25 pounds) in the gulf don't usually have a black skin color like those in more southerly waters. Here, their skin is usually medium brown with dark-brown rectangular patterns. The keys to identifying these from gags: the amber/golden spots that make up the colors of the fish, the yellow around the mouth, and the black edges of the fin.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg and can be reached at CaptianBillHardman@gmail.com or (727) 344-3483