Maybe you have heard of it, maybe not… Spearfishing. Spearfishing combines the thrill of the hunt with swimming in the ocean, lake, river, or stream and eating healthy, tasty fish.
Spearfishing is an ancient method of fishing that has been used throughout the world for millennia. Early civilizations were familiar with the custom of spearing fish from rivers and streams using sharpened sticks.
Today modern spearfishing makes use of elastic powered spear guns and slings, or compressed gas pneumatic powered spear guns, to strike the hunted fish. Specialized techniques and equipment have been developed for various types of aquatic environments and target fish.
Spearfishing may be done using free-diving, snorkeling, or scuba diving techniques. Spearfishing while using scuba equipment is illegal in some countries. The use of mechanically powered spear guns is also outlawed in some countries and jurisdictions. Spearfishing is highly selective, normally uses no bait and has no by-catch.
Spearo is a common way to refer to a person that practices spearfishing. Some use spearfisherman(woman), or spear fisher, among others.
Why do people spearfish?
Spearfishing is the best way to catch fish. The spearo is selective when it comes to the fish he takes. This ability to size up the fish before it is shot is why spearfishing has no by-catch. By-catch is the non-targeted fish that are caught because of other fishing method. An example of by-catch when fishing with a rod and reel is catching a fish that is too small. These fish can be injured enough to die shortly after they are released. The spearo only takes what will be consumed.
Bigger fish is another reason to spearfish. The size of fish taken by spearfishing on average is much larger than by traditional angling.
Is spearfishing legal?
Provided you comply with local laws, spearfishing can be done in fresh or salt water. The important point is to become familiar with the law and regulations. You should know what species, size, count, of game you can take before you hit the water. The regulations can even dictate what type of spearfishing equipment you are allowed to use.
Types of spearfishing
From Shore – Shore diving is perhaps the most common form of spearfishing. It simply involves entering and exiting the sea from beaches or headlands and hunting around oceans architecture, usually rocks, Kelp and sand. Usually shore divers hunt between 5 and 25 meters deep, though it depends on location. In subtropical areas, sharks are less common, but other challenges face the shore diver, such as entering and exiting the water in the presence of big waves. Headlands are favored for entry because of their proximity to deeper water, but timing entries and exits is important, so the diver does not get pushed onto rocks by waves. Beach entry can be safer, but more difficult due the need to consistently dive through the waves until the surf line is crossed.
Shore dives can produce a mixed bag of fish, mainly rock and kelp fish, but ocean game fish are caught from shore dives to
Shore diving can be done with trigger-less spears such as pole spears but more commonly triggered devices such as spear guns. Spear gun setups to catch and store fish include speed rigs and fish stringers on the diver’s floats and lines.
From boat Boats, ships or even kayaks can be used to access off shore reefs and islands or ocean structure such as pinnacles or man-made structures such as Fads (Fish Aggregating Devices). Sometimes a boat is necessary to access a location that is close to shore, but inaccessible by land.
Methods and gear used for diving from a boat diving are like shore diving or blue water hunting depending on the prey sought. Care must be taken with spear guns in the cramped confines of a small boat, and it is recommended that spear guns are never loaded on the boat.
Boat diving is practiced worldwide. Hot spots include the northern islands of New Zealand (yellow tail kingfish), Gulf of Florida oil rigs (cobia, grouper) and the Great Barrier Reef (Wahoo, dog-tooth tuna). FADS are targeted worldwide, often specifically for mahi-mahi (dolphin fish). The deep-water fishing grounds off the Three Kings Islands in New Zealand are great for spearing marlin and people travel worldwide to try and spear this trophy fish.
Blue Water Hunting
Blue water hunting is the area of most interest to elite spear fishers, but has increased in popularity generally in recent years. It involves accessing usually very deep and clear water and trolling, chumming for large pelagic and game fish species such as marlin, tuna, mahi-mahi, Wahoo or giant Trevally. Blue water hunting is often conducted in drifts; the boat driver will drop one or more divers and allow them to drift in the current for up to several kilometers before collecting them. Blue water hunters can go for hours without seeing any fish, and without any ocean structure or a visible bottom the divers can experience sensory deprivation. It can be difficult to determine the true size of a solitary fish when sighted due to the lack of ocean structure for comparison. One technique to overcome this is to note the size of the fish’s eye in relation to its body – large examples of their species will have a relatively smaller eye.
What do you need to start spearfishing?
Fishing license – Most states require a valid sportfishing license in order to hunt underwater. Check with your local agencies, fishermen supply shops, lifeguards, dive shops and experienced “spearos” to see what the rules and regulations are in your area before doing anything.
The fines for fishing without a license or shooting a protected species are massive, and the money spent on licenses generally goes to fish preservation, hatcheries and similar efforts, so it’s cash well spent.
If you’re new to the sport, it’s best to start with a smaller, less powerful gun than with what a more experienced diver would use. There are myriad options to go with, but a two-band, 90-centimeter (from the tip of the muzzle to the handle) wooden gun is a great starter and will work for you just fine as you hunt bigger fish in the future.
Our advice is to start with the basics and work your way up as your freediving progresses. Hawaiian slings, or pole spears, are a great and affordable way to get introduced to the sport as well. Pole spears are also perfect for hunting in shallow-surf zones, where you’ll most likely start.
You get cold quickly while spearfishing, so a good wetsuit is key to your success. And while the water could be a reasonable 70 degrees on the surface, it’s much cooler as you descend in search of prey. To stay in the water longer, and protect yourself from abrasive reef, jellyfish, spiny fish and sunburn, you’re going to need a thick, well-fitting wetsuit.
Wetsuits made for surfing will work, but a wetsuit specifically made for spearfishing is ideal. Not only are they warmer than wetsuits made for surfing, but they generally have a built-in pad that makes loading your spear gun against your chest much more comfortable.
Fins, Mask, Snorkel Spearfishing fins are longer and narrower than ones you’d use to body surf or swim laps. The most important aspect to picking out fins is to make sure they fit well. If they’re too tight, you’ll get blisters; too loose, and you’re bound to lose them. Diving of any sort with a foggy or leaky mask is miserable. To ensure a proper fit, visit a dive shop and try on different masks until one sits just right.
Weight belt Outfitted in a thick wetsuit, you’re going to bob on the surface like a buoy. To compensate for the buoyancy of a wetsuit, you need to wear a weight belt.
Knife A knife comes in handy when you need to dispatch a fish humanely and quickly. It’s also a good idea to have a knife strapped onto your body should you become tangled up in rope or seaweed.
You don’t need a big knife, as they tend to get snagged on kelp; look for something small with a nice, sharp edge.
Gloves/Booties Gloves will protect your fingers while you load your spear gun, as well as keep you warm. Wetsuit gloves, like the kind you’d wear while surfing, will work, but they make your fingers cumbersome. Booties keep your lower extremities warm and create a soft barrier between your feet and your fins.
Dive Buddy Never dive alone. It’s rule number one, yet every year you hear of divers perishing at sea when oftentimes a dive buddy could have saved that person’s life.
Besides that, there are a ton of reasons to dive with a friend or two: Everyone shares the day’s catch, fish tales can be verified, an extra arm is always nice when lugging dive gear around and sometimes fish need not one, but two “arrows” in them.
A golden rule to go by is spearfish to eat, not sport
Learning to Spearfish
We highly recommend finding a place in area for spearfishing lessons.
These will teach you how to use a spear gun
Ethics of spearfishing
Practice in confined water to learn.
Spearfishing can be a lot of fun, though also dangerous, so you need to know what you are doing, and how to do this ethically.