Divers who ventured offshore in the past week have been greeted by improving underwater visibility and a fair complement of fish. For many weeks, underwater visibility has been poor. Two weeks ago in depths out to 130 feet, visibility was 5 feet or less. With visibility improving, divers are finding nice concentrations of hogfish on most of the limestone ledges and hard bottom areas. The better visibility has the prowling male hogfish working overtime to keep females in the area and free from encroaching suitors. The preoccupation with rounding up the females gives divers a chance to find a larger, older fish with his guard down for a good spear shot. Red grouper are showing up on some bottom areas, but they are small. The larger reds will move in as the water warms. Keeper-sized scamp grouper are flirting round some of the ledges in 60 to 80 feet. If you haven't had scamp for dinner, you've missed out one of the best-tasting grouper in the gulf. It is worth the time to learn to identify scamp and see if you can get one over the minimum of 16 inches overall on your next dive.
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]