Have you ever wondered what it’s like on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico? Every time I head offshore to fish, I can’t help but wonder what lays below on the sea floor.
I would love to dive. However, I struggle to equalize and find my ears in pain even in shallow water. When I want to know about life on the bottom, I have to rely on divers’ information. I love to hear the stories and see the videos of spear fishing from those with a passion to be underwater.
One of those passionate people is Taylor Chadsey III, a native Bradenton resident who began diving when he was 12 years old. The tradition has passed down through the generations among the Chadseys.
“My dad had always spear fished and he taught my brother, sister, and I,” says Chadsey III. “He started when he was young and was taught by Gene Cloud, a legend among divers around here.”
This love has developed into an addiction for the Chadsey’s, who were the recent winners of the first annual DeSoto spearfishing tournament. “If it’s nice, we’ll dive every weekend. We usually head between 7-15 miles west of Anna Maria Island between 40 and 75 feet.”
With so much time underwater, Taylor has a good understanding of the Gulf of Mexico bottom, something surface anglers are always curious about. “Typical bottom is sand. There are patches of hard bottom that can form rock ledges or a Swiss cheese-style bottom. We prefer to dive the hard bottom.”
Spear fishing the hard bottom leads the Chadsey’s to typical catches of grouper, hogfish and snapper. But that is not all that they find. Most people don’t know about a little secret off our coast: There are lobster, and many of them. In fact, Chadsey Jr. has won the St. Petersburg Open for the largest lobster.
“While diving in the Gulf we see lobster nearly every time out on certain spots. We usually leave them alone,” Chadsey III says. “We have several ledges they are at. 65-80 feet is where we have noticed the most spiney lobster, and 90-120 feet deep is where there are more slipper (rock) lobster. Hard, ledgy bottom is best.”
If you’re wondering, lobster season is open from August 6 until March 31, 2012. Their carapace must measure larger than 3-inches.
The next challenge for the Chadsey’s and divers everywhere will be Stone Crab season, which will open October 15, and runs until May 15. No females with eggs are allowed to be harvested. Claws must measure 2¾-inches. The limit is one gallon of claws per person, or two gallons per vessel, whichever is less.