The Tampa Bay Times

The good news is that gag groupers are more prevalent in 2021.  As divers, we get to personally observe populations of fish species on our diving spots.  This gives us a fair idea on the health and densities of different fish species.  I have seen more gags, this year, in depths from 20’ to 200’ than in past four to five years. Smart fish like gag groupers are very wary and beginner spearfishermen don’t see most of the gags that surround them.  Gags are masters of camouflage. They can turn from a very dark brown, to light grey to white – all within a few seconds.  It takes years for many divers to learn to spot fish. To become a good spearfisherman, a diver must develop what’s called “the underwater eye”.  One of the keys is to look for parts of the fish.  Deer hunters do the same thing, they look for parts of the deer – an ear, a nose, a tail, but not the whole deer.  Successful spearfishermen look for parts too.  Parts of the fish like the forehead, the dorsal fin or the tail.  If a diver spots the fish before the fish spots him, then the diver can get a head start on harvesting the wary fish.  Other groupers aren’t as naturally wary as gag groupers.  New divers get used to spotting and shooting fish like red groupers.  Red groupers are notoriously easy to approach. New divers wrongly believe that all groupers are as easy to sneak upon as the red groupers – well, there wrong!  Once a spearfisherman gets good at spotting and spearing gag groupers, he or she is at the top of their grouper hunting game.

Capt. Bill Hardman teaches classes and runs trips for Scuba, Spearfishing, Technical & Freediving courses at Aquatic Obsessions, 6193 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL  33710.  You can reach Capt. Hardman at (727) 344-3483 (DIVE) or

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