Spearfishing is a beloved subset of angling and if you’re new to the sport, it can be pretty tricky. While it does require some serious skills, don’t let that deter you from trying your hand at it.
In this article, we’ll walk through 10 must-have tips and tricks to know before heading out for a spearfishing excursion.
What is Spearfishing and Why is it so Popular?
Spearfishing is an angling technique that has been around for centuries. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be—the first humans that roamed the earth fished with sharpened sticks, but now we have tools like spearguns at our fingertips.
On the most basic level, spearfishing is the act of hunting fish underwater, commonly without any breathing assist tools. Spearfishing is done in conjuncture with free-diving, snorkeling, or, in some instances, scuba diving. The two basic tools you need are a pair of great googles and a reliable tool for snagging your fish.
Spearfishing 101 - Tips and Tricks
Before heading out to the water with your spear, googles, and fins, check out these must-know tips and tricks. They just might help you land the perfect catch.
Master Your Technique
Great spearfishing technique is difficult to achieve, but not impossible. Odds are, your preparation and performance may be lackluster at first, but practice makes perfect. There are a few tips that can help you get a little closer to excellence.
First, it’s always a good idea to shoot your spear a little lower than you would think. If your target is right in front of you, aim just slightly below and you’ll have a better chance at spearing it. If you’re using a pole spear, think of it as an added length to your arm rather than a tool. This will give you a better sense of control, and therefore, a better chance at a catch.
As mentioned before, practice practice practice. In between dives, try shooting at some floating objects like a water bottle, or even a sausage. This will help perfect your aim over time, giving you a better technique when it really matters.
Know the Area
The best way to give yourself a fair shot at catching a big fish is to educate yourself on the area where you’ll be hunting. The better you know the underwater area, the better you’ll know where the fish like to hang out. There are many ways you can do this.
Start off by exploring a little bit. The easiest way to acquaint yourself with a great hunting ground is to do some preliminary scouting. Take some time to scour the seafloor, looking for fish and potential fish hotspots like underwater structures and reefs. Another foolproof way to get to know the area quickly is to buddy up with a local. If you’re traveling, odds are you won’t know the best fishing spots, but the folks at the local tackle shop will. Make a good first impression and they might just give you a couple of secret spots to try out.
One of the biggest mistakes beginner spearfishers make is getting a little too ambitious too fast. While it’s totally understandable to get excited about the sport and put your all into it, this might not result in the success that you are hoping for.
You’ll be better off starting off targeting smaller fish and taking shallow drops rather than diving deep right off the bat. Hunting smaller, manageable fish will give you an idea of how your spear pole or gun will react in the water with much lower stakes. It’s also really important to be conscious of your physical abilities—while it may feel very tempting to dive as deep as you can all the time, this will tire you out quickly and can end up shutting your day down earlier that you may want.
Look for Sunken Lots
If you follow tip number two and talk to locals about the best fishing spots, odds are, they’ll suggest you go to a reef or direct you to some sort of sunken structure. The reasoning behind this is that fish like to frequent underwater structures. It gives them a place to rest and hide from predators.
There are many different types of underwater structures, ranging from sunken debris to natural humps or hills under the water. These can be tough to find if you don’t know where you’re going, but you can also use a fish finder or other sonar device to help you seek them out.
Only Use What You Need
The practice of spearfishing is an ancient sport. In fact, it was probably the first way that humans learned to catch fish. Back in the day, anglers were equipped with the simplest of tools and managed just fine— why shouldn’t we?
Although it doesn’t apply in all angling situations, sometimes, the simpler the better. Spearfishing doesn’t require a ton of fancy gear to achieve success, so try to practice using only what you need when you go out on the water.
This is beneficial to both you and the environment. For one thing, you won’t need to invest in overly expensive high tech fishing gear, and you’ll be putting less strain on the environment by keeping it simple. And as an added bonus, you’ll reduce the amount of stuff you have to lug to and from the water.
Keep in Shape
Spearfishing is not an easy sport. In fact, it’s really really hard. It takes a great deal of stamina, and you’re better off if you learn some breath control, too. For that reason, it’s pretty important to be in good shape before heading out to the water. If you’re not prepared, you could easily get injured, or in a worst-case scenario, drown.
If you’ll be free-diving or snorkeling, you’ll definitely want to practice some breath control. Fortunately, you can increase your breathing capacity over time with a little time and effort. Some of the best freediving spearfishers can hold their breath for up to four minutes! You can expand your breath capacity by practicing with low stakes. To better your technique, go out without your spear from time to time and stay underwater for as long as you can. The more you do this, the bigger your capacity will get. Just be sure not to push yourself too far.
Be Mindful of Your Environment
As with any angling practice, don’t do it if you don’t plan to respect the environment around you. Especially when fishing around a reef, it’s easy to damage the natural structure if you are not mindful. Also, be sure that you’re not leaving any debris in the water around you when you are spearfishing.
In the same vein, some areas have very strict laws concerning fish conservation. Don’t go shooting your spear if you’re not sure of the kind, as it could be protected. Not only can you get a hefty fine for being mindless, but you can also contribute to a less healthy ocean environment as a result.
One other thing to be mindful of is depth. Because you’ll probably be relying only on your breath, you’ll want to make sure you are very conscious of your surroundings and have an easy way to the surface. Give yourself at least a 15-second grace period to ensure you have enough breath to reach the surface.
Take Care of Your Equipment
If you are spearfishing, you’ll likely be in saltwater. Unfortunately, saltwater can be extremely damaging to angling tools due to its corrosive nature. If you don’t take care of your gear, it can break down and rust very quickly. The easiest way to maintain your angling tools is to give them a thorough cleaning after each use. This will ensure there is no saltwater or sand residue leftover that can give you trouble later.
Make a gentle cleansing solution with warm water and a bar of very gentle soap. Sponge your spear, goggles or mask, and any other equipment vulnerable to corrosion. Rinse it off fully with clean fresh water. Leave it to air dry. It’s also a good idea to make sure you are storing your gear in a place where it won’t accidentally get bent out of shape. As always, be careful transporting your stuff to and from the water, too.
Learn About Spearguns
You can definitely manage spearfishing with just a pole, but you’ll get a huge boost of convenience and accuracy if you opt for a speargun. There are many different types available on today’s market, so give yourself a little lesson before heading to the store to make sure you have the best chance at getting the speargun that's best suited for you.
There are several common speargun styles that you should acquaint yourself with, but you’re most likely to come across pneumatic or band/sling spearguns. Pneumatic is powered with compressed air. The only action required is to press the spear into the barrel, and the compressed air does the work from there. Band spearguns operate with, you guessed it, a band. They’re a very popular choice among spearfishermen because they’re really easy to handle and use.
Use Data and Charts to Your Advantage
When it comes to spearfishing, the more you know about the area you’ll be hunting in, the better off you’ll be. This can be pretty tough, especially if you are not local to the area you want to fish in. As mentioned in the “know the area” section, talking with locals can really help, but that isn’t always an option.
While it may not be your first instinct, don’t forget the multitude of data that is available to anglers online. In many areas, there are very elaborate maps and charts of the underwater landscape, especially if it is a popular angling spot. Browse online and see what you can find—it could make all the difference in your spearfishing experience.
If there are maps available, make a note of places that could be potential fishing hotspots. These could be underwater structures or height variations on the ocean floor.
Hopefully, this article gave you a kickstart for your next spearfishing excursion. Although it’s definitely not an easy angling technique, this ancient form of fishing is a tradition that should be kept alive. Keep in shape and practice practice practice; you’ll be on your way to a safer, more rewarding spearfishing experience.