The Tampa Bay Times

The offshore waters temperatures, in the Gulf of Mexico, are not cooling down as fast as in previous years. Benthic (bottom fish) are moving from deeper to shallower, as most do this time each year, but the move is slower this year.  Gag groupers are being found in normal winter haunts.  Some keeper gags have already been speared from the inside waters of Tampa Bay. However, many are still close to their summer depths.  Most keeper red groupers are still in depths exceeding 80 feet of water.  As the water temperatures finally start to drop, these red groupers will move to depths much closer to the coast.  Last week we speared some over 20 pound red groupers in 140 feet of water.

Hogfish are still plentiful in most depths.   Hogfish are very active this time of year, and their increased movements help divers to spot these fish.  Hogfish use camouflage patterns to stay un-seen to predators but if they increase their movements around the bottom structure, their camouflage defense system is seriously subdued.

The southern migration of Cobia has started, but it’s not in full swing.  As the temperatures drop more and more, the influx of Cobia’s will increase.  Just this past week a 75 pound Cobia fought hard but succumbed to the determination of one of our divers and more of these strong Cobias could be on there way here to our wrecks and ledges.

Capt. Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and technical diving classes at Aquatic Obsessions, 6193 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL  33710.  You can reach Capt. Hardman at (727) 344-3483 (DIVE) or