Tuesday's cold front pushed seas to 14 feet in the gulf, and the big question was what that would do to visibility. Thursday the winds continued to blow, but the easterly direction made it possible to get offshore. We were surprised and pleased to see at least 15 feet in shallow water off St. Pete Beach, and in 65 to 130 feet it was four times as clear.
Paul Bryant of Jacksonville was glad he visited and went wreck diving. He had seen few fish other than barracuda on a large wreck in 60 feet when he spotted a giant stingray on the sandy bottom. He rousted the ray and its wings swirled up the sand, instantly attracting a big cobia. He aimed his big-line gun, shot the 60-pound fish and dragged it still fighting to the back of the boat. Unable to get control of the powerful fish he accepted a second gun from a buddy and finished off the cobia.
Amberjacks were scarce in deep water, and one speared too close to the surface was cut in half by a bold barracuda before the spearfisherman could secure it. Good-sized hogfish are plentiful on the middle-depth reefs, but legal-sized gag grouper are in short supply. The shallow artificial reefs are totally obscured with tremendous schools of bait, boiling the water every few seconds when another predator slashes through.
_ Chad Carney teaches scuba and sppearfishing and runs charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 423-7775 or e-mail infomobilescuba.com.