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Published Feb. 25, 2006

So far this year many spearfishermen have had more spearfishing dives than all of 2005. I don't want to jinx our good fortune, but we all hope the trend toward improving underwater visibility and flat seas continues. The visibility has been a little tricky. This week some divers found worse visibility in 90 feet of water than in 60 feet. The surface water at 60 looked very dark and uninviting but the visibility opened up to 15 to 20 feet on the bottom.

The grouper are on edge. The divers doing well are the ones good at "quick shooting." It takes a lot of dives in poor visibility to master this type of spearfishing. When spearing jumpy fish in low visibility, a diver doesn't have time to determine that it's a grouper and that it's of legal size before the grouper bolts. This is very frustrating for the spearfisherman and it lends for a hard story to sell; he tells his buddies on the boat about all the nice fish he saw but has none on his stringer.

Some tips that help in low visibility with spooked fish: look for shapes and develop an eye for the size of a species by only seeing its head; have a line-shaft and keep the line short; use a light gun with the handle toward the rear to track fish quickly (pneumatic guns and Euro tube guns are best for this type of shooting) and use a mask with yellow lenses (these add resolution and detail to your vision).

Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg. Call (727) 344-3483.