What's hot: For the past month, spearfishermen diving on the west coast of the state have had to deal with bad weather and bad visibility. But just in time for Christmas, the visibility has dramatically improved to "top to bottom" and the waters have calmed down. The waters have been so clear, many boaters can see the outline of the bottom structure while leaning over the gunnel of their boat. Free divers (breath-holding divers) relish this weather. Being able to see where a nice fish just hid makes everything a little easier.
What's cold: The bottom-water temperatures directly west of Clearwater in 40-50 feet are bottoming out at 62 degrees and a little warmer at deeper sites. That's cold for those without proper thermal protection. It's imperative for divers to cover their heads, hands and feet with proper insulation. The water isn't too cold to slow down the bite for fishermen. In fact, the fish seem lively and happy in these temperatures. Snapper, hogfish and grouper are showing up at most sites, and legal-sized amberjacks are showing up on the wrecks in depths below 60 feet.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 344-3483 and firstname.lastname@example.org.