The Tampa Bay Times
Red Snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is open until July 12. This will be the last full weekend for anglers and divers to go after these very tasty fish. This has been a great season for Red Snapper and the key has been finding the right depth. On a few dive trips we could not find any Red Snappers in 190′ to 150′ and none in 125′ to 90′. But on the same day, they were thick as thieves in 130′ to 145′. Usually some of our hot spots in the Elbow hold some big Red Snappers that weigh in over 15 pounds, but those high relief sites were very thin on Red Snappers.Gag Groupers are pretty common in the cooler deeper water of the GOM. We speared some in the 30 pound range and saw a few bigger and more wary ones skirt away from us before we could get close enough for a good shot. Ledges and potholes that are holding a fair amount of Gags are also holding a fair amount of sharks. Bull sharks lead the way with Dusky and the occasional Hammerhead. On the wrecks that are holding Permit, the Bull Sharks always seem to be two steps behind the Permit. The Bulls follow them around like kids follow the ice cream truck around their neighborhood. It isn’t too hard to get a good shot on a Permit, but their power and fight to get away coupled with a hungry shark in the mix can make for a high energy experience. For divers, like my self, who have been hit from behind, one too many times by sharks, we spear only when wearing the Shark Shield. I never spear without one and it has saved me multiple times, from some pretty aggressive and hungry sharks.
Capt. Bill Hardman teaches Beginning Scuba through professional levels, including monthly spearfishing and freediving classes. You can reach Capt. Bill at his dive store, Aquatic Obsessions in St. Petersburg, Florida by calling (727) 344-3482 or email him at CaptainBillHardman@gmail.com.