Calm seas Thursday made it easy to spot the float bladder of the Portuguese man-of-war at the dive site. These jellyfish have long stinging tentacles that are much harder for a diver to see underwater. Visibility has improved significantly near the surface with the break in cold fronts and was aided by the sunshine. In 70 feet of water due west of St. Petersburg, you can see a hazy 12 feet, and about a third less at 45 feet. It will settle more at the bottom with each day of this calm weekend.
The limited visibility made it tough to find the ledges and wrecks with each descent. Water temperatures of 59 degrees can also make equalizing difficult and sap your strength. My 7-millimeter wetsuit and hooded vest help retain body heat, but at 70 feet the water pressure compresses them to about a third of their original thickness, losing a lot of insulation. Compression also causes a loss of buoyancy for a freediver, requiring hard kicks to ascend from the bottom until pressure neutralizes again at about 30 feet.
These waters were hit hard by the Red Tide last year but bait, mangrove snapper and big sheepshead were found on all the sites. The most memorable fish was the beautiful snook sunning under the overhanging branches next to the seawall by my dock.
Chad Carney teaches diving and spearfishing in the Tampa Bay area. Call (727) 423-7775 or e-mail email@example.com.