Apr

18

The water is warming quickly and the wind is calming, so more anglers and spearfisherman are starting to venture into the gulf.

Getting the boat out and scrubbing the winter coat of mildew is made easier by the anticipation of the coming season.  The talk of the shortest snapper season and stricter limits on other species doesn’t dampen the excitement of the first trip.  Some of us have been diving and spearing fish all winter, when the seas would let us escape the dock, but for many, their first trip is this month.  Besides staring at a wall of red snapper and remaining alert for early cobia, we pass the time underwater stacking up sheephead.

This is a great fish to target this time of year because their numbers are plentiful.  They aren’t a spooky fish that will disappear after shooting 1 or 2 and usually allow for a close shot.  They are plentiful for only a few more weeks.  I’m not sure if it is because they disburse after mating or, the wave of spring break charter fishing trips wipe the inshore sites clean. Whatever the case, we see them all year but not in large numbers, on single sites like we do now.  Because of their rib cage, some fisherman believe they are too hard to clean. But your friend that is always volunteering to take all the sheephead you bring in, knows the mild flavor and white, flaky meat and is hoping you don’t discover it.

Many underwater hunters think of February and March as their tune-up season.  Venturing to the inshore rigs and brushing up on their diving skills and getting their aim back.  Just as bow hunters start practicing with backyard targets months before bow season…spearfisherman will brush up on rigging, loading and shooting their spearguns.  The difference is spearguns cannot be shot out of the water at land targets.  Thus, the big attraction of sheephead in March.

Their smaller size and liberal creel limits make them a great fish for new spearos to develop their hunting skills.  Once a diver has honed his diving skills, many look to add a camera or speargun to their dive plan.  Since spearing fish can be challenging and even dangerous in extreme cases, we incourage new hunters to begin with small species and work their way up to the big boys like amberjack and cobia.  The challenge of wrestling the larger species isn’t an issue with the smaller fish, like sheephead and mangrove snapper.  I have never heard of a diver being towed around by a 6lb. sheephead!

Call Gulf Coast Divers at (251) 342-2970 and ask about dive training and spearfishing.  Training can be completed in a couple weeks and you can be geared up and ready for this season.  A good scuba system costs about the same as a set of golf clubs or tennis lessons. But if you are like me, then you understand the real fun happens in salt water!   So don’t keep saying, “One day I’m gonna’ see what’s down there.”  Make that “One day” happen this year.