What's moving: Clear water is headed west. In dives to 45 feet this week, we lost half the visibility we enjoyed in June, leaving about 12 to 15 feet of hazy, green water. Moving out to 55 feet solved the problem, where we found 25 to 30 feet of visibility with a blue-green tint.
What's staying: All grouper do not move to deeper, cooler water. The 83 degree bottom temperatures bring tiny glass minnows to ledges, and grouper can't resist them. We checked low ledges with crevices and found red grouper as heavy as 10 pounds and roaming gags just less than 20 pounds on several sites. One ledge with Swiss cheese-like holes on the top side had big schools of silverside bait fish and above them cruised Spanish mackerel, kings and a large school of small amberjack.
What's missing: Gulf divers don't usually carry nets and tickle sticks like those who dive with the intent of bagging a bunch of spiny lobster, but as the season gets closer, "bugs" are nowhere to be found along the 10-fathom line. Shovelnose or slipper lobster are rare finds as well.
Chad Carney teaches diving and spearfishing in the Tampa Bay area. Call (727) 423-7775 or visit his Web site at floridaskindiver.com.