What's wild: Shallow-wreck diving is a hoot right now as huge bait schools often block the view of the wreck until mackerel and kings slash through, parting the waves of bait. Clear water and 40 or more goliath grouper greeted student divers Dawn and Blake Doganiero on the 80-foot So County Tug this week. Large schools of cobia up to 60 pounds not only checked us out but uncharacteristically made repeated passes. I spear most cobia freediving and using a reel filled with a spectra-blended line for abrasion resistance, attached to a spring stainless spear with a Hawaiian flopper-style point for speed and accuracy.
Welcome: Gag grouper are in shallow water in bigger numbers than I've seen in five years. On the Tug we saw more than a dozen, and a couple were up to 10 pounds.
Not welcome: The goliath grouper population is up substantially from the Red Tide kill of a few years ago, and one of their favorite dinners is spiny lobster. The St. Pete Open is the only large Florida west coast spearfishing tournament open during spiny lobster season. This year the Open sported the lowest number of lobster in six years — 17, down from 26 in 2003. The size to make the top 10 was down from the usual 3-5 pounds to just 1.95 pounds.
Chad Carney teaches diving and spearfishing in the Tampa Bay area. Visit his Web site at mobilescuba.com or call (727) 423-7775.