AJs aka Reef Donkeys are common on high relief sites like bride spans and shipwrecks. The 30" minimum size limit on these notorious gear busters however means that to find them with any certainty of legality you need to be in deep
water. Only the absolute largest of the ones inshore will be of the minimum necesary size.
AJs typically exhibit no fear of divers as they have few predators as adults. They are easy to shoot but hard to land due to their raw power and stamina. In the deepwater offshore they are common up to 70#s with monsters in the triple digits no being unknown to locals.
The key to landing these juggernauts is primarily shot placement and very selective pressure if lineshafting. Be carefula as they are known to have fooled almost every spearo at somepoint by coming back to life near the surface.
Sometimes known as poor mans grouper, Cudas have a fearsome reputation due primarily to their toothy grin. Cudas also have little fear of divers and are often quite inquisitive. The are therefore obligingly easy to shoot. They are also blazingly fast and large ones may nearly dislocate a shoulder of the unwary shooter. Their skulls are very tough so make sure to aim close to the head and behind the gill plate to make sure you get proper penetration. Cudas can easily go 6' and wiegh over 60#s. They are common on most limestone and artificial reefs often near the surface.
In warmer tropical waters cudas and other apex predators can
carry a biotoxin called ciguatera
, which is the worst case of food poisoning on the planet and can last for a long time. The corals that create this toxin do not exist in the northern gulf and few cases are reported in the USA, however it is also common practice to leave the big ones be, just in case.
aka ling or lemonfish
Profile Coming soon!
Flatties! Flounder are a great fish for the new spearo as they tend to sit perfectly still and rely on their camo and a layer of sad to keep them safe from harm. It takes a discerning eye to discern that the sand is string back at you. Once you spot them however they are fairly easy to shoot and land. Flounder spawn in the Winter and are often targeted as they agregate to do so. This practice has recently drawn concern from biologists given the relatively high bag limit on flounder (10 per person) could lead to the disruption of the spawning aggregation. Anecdotal evidenceseems to support the assertion that there are less flounder around today than in previous decades so please don't get carryied away and take more than you plan on eating. Flounder are legal at 12", can wiegh up to 7#s and are founder around all bottom features.
All groupers are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning they are born female and transition to males later in life. This is commonly noticed as occuring between 35#and 40#s in gag grouper with neary every grouper over 40#s being male. Males are therfore hugely important to the breeding stock and many spearos elect to forego the big fish kill to satisfy their ego to avoid a disproportionate impact on the spawning mass.
Black- aka Carbos, black grouper are rare in Panama City Waters but not unknown on the deeper natural bottom areas around 130'. Blacks are quite wary and grow to be quite large, with spearing records being in excess of 100#s! Up to 50#s is more normal locally.
While all groupers can change their patterns as well as their colors at will, blacks default to a checkerboard pattern or just a straight dull brown. They do however have a yellow tinge to their lips. They are commonly confused with gag groupers due to the color (when brown) and shape similarities. They are much thicker than gags of the same length however and can pretzel a spring steel shaft, even freeshafts, with ease.
Gag- If any fish alone represented the prize catch for divers off Panama City Beach, this is it. Gags are common on most artificial reefs and limestone bottom sites with some relief to them. They are quite adept at hiding in plain sight in the sand and will frequently move away from a high relief site into the open when they feel threatened by a diver. They are exceptionally wary and are often considered the benchmark of when a new shooter actually becomes a novice spearo instead of just a diver with a speargun. Many divers have missed a shot at a gag only to have it "laugh" at them by sitting perfectly still next to their shaft and just stare back at the diver, mouth slightly agape. Somehow they always move off before a reload cycle is completed. Gags are legal at 22" and are common up to 20#s while monster 60# and better can be found in deeper water at the edges of recreational diving's limits. Gags spawn in Febuary to March and closures have been enacted to preserve the integrity of the spawning aggregations during this time frame.
Red- Red grouper are the anti black/gag. They are curious and even bold and frequently will adopt a slightly aggressive posture to a diver swimming over the low relief hardbottom sites they call home. Reds do not get as large as gags or blacks and a 20# red is considered a monster for the species. Since reds are territorial and establish homes in holes on reefs and ledges, they are the primary excavators of our favorite hunting grounds, meaning they keep moving the encroaching sand away from the reef. Due to the low relief of their common habitat it should be considered poor form to take the last red grouper off of a site as the site itself can become at risk of obliteration until the sands naturally shift to uncover it again. Reds are legal at 20"
Hogfish- aka Hog Snapper (actually a wrasse, not a snapper)
Profile Coming soon!
- Panama City have two kinds of lobster; shovelnose (aka slipper tail or bulldozer) and Spinys. Spiny are much larger and more commonly known but have a 6 month closure for the egg bearing season of April-August. Spiny lobster have large whip like antenae and many sharps ridges on their carapace that give them their name. Very few people have seen a lobster smaller than the legal minimum size of 3" from the rostrum to the base of their carapace
Shovelnose lobster have no season or bag limits with the only prohibition being to avoid egg bearing females. Many people swear the tail meat of the shovelnose lonster is the sweetest of the lobster family and prefer it to all others. Sadly the little biggers are masters of camoflague and are known to hide upside down under ledges and other small hollows on reefs and some shipwrecks. Shovelnose lobsters are often found on the same hardbottom "swiss cheese" sites that red grouper are so common on. Similarly they are excavators and should likewise not be completely depleted from an area, to preserve the site for future use and of course the other residents that depend on these efforts.