Improving offshore weather, water visibility and a warming gulf have started many area divers dusting off their spear guns and wet suits. For many, this will be their first dives in months. It's paramount to get reacquainted with equipment and skills. An unprepared seasonal diver can have equipment problems that cause confusion, panic and injuries.
The wet suit that fit before the holiday season may be too tight and make breathing uncomfortable and difficult. This inhibits the full expansion of lungs during inhaling.
If you haven't worn your wet suit hood or beanie cap in months, take time when entering the water to relax, burp the air from your hood and get comfortable before you descend. I run a hot nail through the top of my neoprene hood to allow air to escape automatically.
With air temperatures in the 80s, don't overheat in your wet suit while getting ready for your dive. If you heat up while waiting for your buddy to suit up, pour cool gulf water in your suit.
This week on a freediving trip we found good concentrations of 15-pound gags just south of the Safe Water Mark in 40-50 feet. Visibility is good for freedive and scuba spearfishing. On scuba, we found keeper amberjack on the wrecks starting in depths of 70 feet.
_ Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and freediving at his dive shop Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg. Call (727) 344-3483.