For anglers, offshore fishing has been good. For spearfishermen, not so good. The bite has been strong since Hurricane Irma. Gag and red groupers, mangrove snapper and scamp grouper have been bending plenty of rods over the past few weeks. Divers have not been as fortunate. The underwater visibility has been poor since the hurricane, making spearing fish almost impossible. A few of our divers have found marginal visibility in depths of 45-65 feet, but as they went deeper, visibility got worse. Usually, deeper water means better clarity, but not in this case. In depths where it's clear enough to spear fish, the clearer water is close to the bottom. Most divers are lucky to find 12-15 feet of clarity on the bottom. That's enough visibility to take an ethical shot. An ethical shot is one that does not require quick snap shots that might not make for quick, clean kills on the fish. In low visibility, there is also the danger to anyone else in the water. Spearfishing dive buddies risk accidentally shooting the other buddy in these limited-visibility scenarios. Far offshore areas are now experiencing clean water. The Florida Middle Grounds, located over 75 miles northwest of Johns Pass, finally has good visibility. Most of the Middle Grounds have at least 40-70 feet of clear bottom water. The only problem for those who are advanced certified divers and frequent the Middle Grounds is to find safe boating and diving weather between the windy and stormy surface conditions.
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]