Gag grouper season opened Friday. For more than a month, all the spearfishermen I spoke with echoed the same stories: “Gags are everywhere. I know where to find them when the season opens up.” The truth is only about half of those divers speared their fish. Once on the menu, most spearfishermen give off clues that they are now hunting the fish. That sets off the prey response of the fish. They’ve played this game for years, and they feel the pressure. One tip is to get close and get a shot, learn to act like you aren’t interested and catch the wary fish off-guard. Smaller, legal hogfish have been thick in shallow water out to 40 feet. In deeper water, out to 130 feet, the big hogfish are easier to spot as they are busy swimming around looking for females. Some big grouper and hogfish were turned in this past Sunday at the Tampa Bay Spearfishing Challenge. For full results, go to tampabayspearfingchallenge.com. Some of the popular big fish that were turned in: largest grouper, 69.45 pounds, dressed black grouper caught by Justin Moraine; largest hogfish, 19.85, dressed by lucky old me. There are plenty more big hogfish out there. I shot four more than 16 pounds dressed and saw twice as many than that.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 344-3483 and firstname.lastname@example.org.