What's hot: Grouper season for reds, blacks and scamps opens Sunday, and many fishermen and divers are getting their boats ready. However, gag grouper season remains closed. So make sure you know your grouper species. Unfortunately for anglers and divers, the most prevalent groupers we have seen over the past couple of months are gags. So be careful when placing a shot or releasing a hook and line.
Where are they? Red groupers are holding in water starting at about 60 feet. The larger ones are in depths exceeding 100 feet. The reds are patrolling ledges and Swiss cheese areas. Scamps are in most depths, but the problem is the minimum size. Most scamps out to 130 feet are below the 16-inch minimum for the Gulf of Mexico. If you get lucky and find a legal-sized scamp, you are in for some of the best grouper filets available. Some black groupers have been spotted in depths shallower than 130 feet, but it is by sheer luck when you find one in those depths.
Go deep: For nice black groupers and scamps, the key is depth. Most divers looking for 10- to 15-pound scamps and black groupers weighing more than 40 pounds must go in water exceeding 150 feet. These fish are found just inside the Elbow, in the south end of the Middle Grounds and on small ledges west of Boca Grande.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 344-3483 and [email protected]