Best wreck dives: The Coast Guard cutter Blackthorn, Sheridan tug and seafood barge are each 175 to 200 feet long and headline the Pinellas County 2 artificial reef site. Nearly 30 years ago, the Blackthorn became the Coast Guard's most tragic peace-time accident; 23 men were killed in a collision with a freighter. Today it holds the most marine life of the three wrecks, due to the superstructure and hull separating and partially breaking up. The Sheridan tug, with 35 feet of relief and listing hard to starboard, is the most intact wreck and holds massive schools of bait and the pelagics that hunt them. The Pinellas seafood barge was the first on the site, arriving in the 1970s, and the deck is full of large holes, making it more attractive to fish and divers. The wrecks occupy an area three football fields long, and the most advanced divers can swim from one to another. Visibility of 30 feet revealed gliding eagle rays, many gags and a large black grouper. The natural bottom throughout the site is limestone. It has much coral growth.
What's new: Dive Flag Awareness Week runs through Friday. Divers should display proper dive flags, and all boaters should observe Florida dive flag laws. Go to MyFWC.com for regulations. Officers will be watching, especially for the opening of scallop season Wednesday in Hernando County and north.
Chad Carney teaches diving and spearfishing in the Tampa Bay area and can be reached at floridaskindiver.com or (727) 423-7775