Offshore conditions: The heavy rainfall last weekend carried a lot of sediment and particulate out of our coastal areas and into the offshore waters. Usually this means lower water visibility on the offshore reefs and wrecks. However, in a lot of the spots from just north of the Tampa Bay shipping channel to north Clearwater, the visibility has been good. Many divers have had top-to-bottom visibility in depths out to 40 feet, and the fish migration is in full swing.
Cobia, amberjack and more: Cobia are hovering around most of the wrecks and the bigger ledges in depths from 20 feet out to 100 feet. Most of the cobia that we've seen are in the midsize range of 20 to 35 pounds. As more bait moves through the area, the bigger cobia will follow. The water temperature was 77 degrees in 40 feet, and the pelagic fish are cutting up the bait in the water column. Amberjack have started moving in to shallower water, and some of these fish in the 35- to 45-pound class have made some of the wrecks in 50 to 80 feet their new stomping grounds. Hogfish are still darting around the ledges, and gag grouper season is still open. You should be able to find tasty grouper hanging out under the bait balls.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 344-3483 or firstname.lastname@example.org.