by: Capt. Chad Carney
Few new targets come to Southwest Florida, but when I look back over 50 years, two groupers were very rare. First is a 22lb. yellowfin old timers call a fireback. In 140 ft. of water, he holed up like a small carbo would. My gun mounted light and a fast freeshaft finished him and showed me the vivid coloration. I’ve seen buddies get a couple since but mine was my last and it was good eating.
My 2nd rare grouper is a yellowmouth, that was also deep and far offshore and looked like a gag with a tail that’s 1/2 scamp and 1/2 carbo. He’s about 15lbs. and not as smart as his lookalikes.
These next 2 fish are much more common but are pelagics, so I don’t often look for them. This 24” permit was a strong fighter. I shot while freediving with my 55” reel gun with a slip-tip that held on while I took off to the surface. I dove down half the depth while reeling carefully. I could see he was cold dead, but I made sure he was. I have shot a few more permits including a bigger one that I freeshafted on scuba. He towed my spear halfway along a big wreck while I bolted after him, and then he fell to the bottom – I think his heart exploded as permit give it all!
The last fish is a 20lb. kingfish that swam above a big drop off below me as I ascended. When you get good with a 3 freeshaft speargun you can shoot every 5 to 6 seconds. The 2nd shot took this king out. I knew the line shooters onboard wouldn’t believe it, so I handed the fish into the boat with the 2 spears still in the fish.