Hogfish is by far one of the tastiest fish in the water. There’s a special feeling you get when spearing a nice hogfish, knowing that you’re going to be eating well that night! Today, I am sharing with you one of my favorite memories of freediving for hogfish in the Tampa Bay area.
It was near the end of Septemeber when I got a few of my buddies together for a trip out of St. Petersburg, Florida to go dive a new spot we had found on a previous fishing trip. The spot had shown some really hard bottom, but we just weren’t sure how it was going to look when we dropped down.
On the first drop, I knew right away how great of a spot we had just found…
The spot was full of life – there was a giant ball of baitfish swimming around the rock piles and underneath the bait were hogfish, mangrove snapper, and gag grouper.
First, my buddy Tyson dropped and shot a 26-inch gag grouper. The water was shallow and the visibility was 15-20 feet so we just waited on the surface while each man dropped.
Next, my other buddy Justus dropped down and shot a mangrove snapper – the fish was a stud! Mangrove snapper are great eating fish and are plentiful, so we always enjoy shooting some of these fish for table fare.
It was my turn to take the next dive, but I wanted to drop a little further away from Tyson and Justus since they had just shot fish off the center of the spot.
I swam a few meters away and prepared for a long breath-hold. When I dropped to the bottom, I immediately saw what looked like the biggest shallow-water hogfish I had ever seen.
I gathered my composure, aimed at the fish and took a shot.
My spear went right through the top of the hogfish’s head, but it wasn’t in the spine and the fish was able to thrash around and get off of the shaft. I tried to chase the fish down, but I was at the end of my breath and didn’t want to risk my life over a fish.
I was pretty upset about losing this fish, but I didn’t want to make it a big deal because we had literally just got to the spot and started diving. I warned my friends about the fish I just lost and we proceeded with covering the entire spot to find it.
Later on, towards the end of our time on that spot, I saw this big orange thing just sitting underneath a ledge with its fins still moving. I noticed it towards the end of my breath and didn’t have enough time to get a closer look at it. I knew it didn’t look right and had a strong feeling that it was my fish from earlier!
I stayed right above the spot where I saw what looked like the fish for about 5 minutes to make sure I had caught my breath. Then, I dropped down and swam to the spot where I saw it and there it was, a stud hogfish just sitting there with a hole in its head from my first shot earlier in the day.
I swam down and put another shot into the hogfish and brought him out of the water like I was holding Simba from The Lion King. We were all ecstatic to get this fish in the boat, and it was my personal best shallow-water hogfish.
This guy was just over 20 inches and was shot in only 25 feet of water.
Do you have an awesome hogfish spearfishing story?