What's hot: Gag grouper are legal to catch only within 9 miles of the coastline. But divers have found keeper-sized ones there. Poor visibility in shallow depths has made it tough. It got better before this last cold front, and some spots had top-to-bottom visibility. The cold fronts stir up the bottom, and sometimes, the water clears quickly. Mangrove snapper, sheepshead and hogfish are strong on most shallow ledges, and the big snapper are all over deeper wrecks.
The cold: The water is still very cold on the bottom. Dive hoods are a basic requirement. Keeping your head covered will go a long way in keeping the rest of you warm. When the water is cold, spearfishing is at its best. The fish concentrations are close to shore. There are fewer anglers and divers to contend with, and fish are more approachable. The downside is you must have thermal insulation. If you aren't sure what's needed, go to a dive shop and get recommendations.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 344-3483 or [email protected]