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What is Spearfishing?

Have you ever wanted to combine fishing, hunting, boating, and diving? Here is your opportunity to do all of those at one time.

April 22, 2020
Fishing 101
Cover image for the post What is Spearfishing?

We all have a lot of outdoor activities that we love doing as outdoorsmen and women, I would go as far as saying most of us probably all enjoy a lot of the same things. If you’re like me and love to hunt, fish, boat, and simply be outside this next thing may just be for you. How can you combine boating, hunting, and fishing? Well the easiest way is to get a wetsuit, fins, mask, snorkel, spear, and head to the water.

Spearfishing is easily one of the oldest forms of fishing dating back thousands of years when modern equipment was not around to help more easily harvest fish. Thanks to modern developments we have access to some of the greatest spearfishing gear and for very affordable prices. Due to this and things like social media and YouTube, spear fishing is growing fairly quickly, more and more people are realizing the great natural resource they live right next to and they’re doing their part in helping maintain populations while also scoring a fresh meal.

Spear fishermen diving.

The growth in spearfishing has helped to combat some non-native invasive species on some of our reefs here in the United States and North America. Looking at the state of Florida you have some beautiful reef systems. These reefs have people diving on them every day for numerous reason such as, exploring reefs, photography, and spearfishing. However, these reefs are beginning to struggle because a lot of native bait fish are being eaten by a fish called the lionfish, which appeared in the Florida water system in the 1980s. This leads to a lack of food for other native fish species who survive on those baitfish. So, the growth in spearfishing is playing a large part in removing this non-native lionfish, which is a very tasty fish, and there are no limits you can harvest all you want, so feed the entire block if you please!

Photo of an invasive florida lionfish. The invasive Florida lionfish on a coral reef.

If you’re interested into getting into spearfishing whether it’s to combat non-native fish or to simply extend your “hunting” season there are a few things you need to know and need to have in order to begin. The first thing is there are two types of spearfishing, the first is free diving, this is where you do not use a rebreather or oxygen to help stay underwater longer. Freediving is a very strenuous sport and it’s best to make sure to do plenty of training and get comfortable before trying to do too much. The second is scuba, this is exactly what it sounds like which is diving with scuba gear on. Most of the time you will see people hunting lionfish in scuba so they can stay under and collect a large number of fish without needing to resurface for oxygen. When free diving you’ll be snorkeling on the surface looking for fish, once you have found your fish this would be when you’d dive to get closer and then shoot the fish.

Let’s say you’re free diving, we won’t get into what’s needed for scuba because that’s part of a class that’s going to take days. Trust me I know, I have done it, so this is something we will leave up to your dive instructor, he or she will be a much better source for this information. If you plan to free dive, you’re going to need a few essentials. These items are a mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit, weight belt, gloves, and a good dive knife.

Picture of a snorkeling mask.Mask
Picture of a snorkel.Snorkel
Picture of a set of fins.Fins

To explain, the mask and snorkel are simple, you’ve got to be able to see and breathe in the water, do not dive with a snorkel in your mouth, this is for surface only. Next for exposure you’ll want a good wetsuit, this keeps your body temperature regulated and protects you from the sun. Your body is buoyant meaning it floats, adding a wetsuit which is made of neoprene makes you even more buoyant. To combat this, you’ll need a good weight belt. A good rule of thumb here is to add enough weight so just your eyes sit above the water. The last few items are fins, which you’ll need to propel yourself through the water more efficiently. A pair of gloves and a dive knife are also key items to bring, gloves are for protection and grip when holding fish and a knife is for cutting away line if you get hung up in something or to finish off a fish.

Moving onto the “fishing” part of this, you’re going to need a few more items. The first is a fishing license, you must carry a fishing license to spearfish. Check with your states fishing policies to make sure you have all required licenses and tags before ever getting in the water, you don’t want a citation. Next is a spear or speargun, two general types here are a pole spear which is a little more difficult because you’re the one putting the power into the spear. The second is a speargun, this is similar to the way a crossbow works and is powered by a trigger. Pole spears are used more in shallow water where spearguns tend to be used more often in deeper waters. You’ll need to make the decision on these like any traditional fishing gear based on what species and what water you’ll be fishing in.

Picture of a pole spear.Pole Spear
Picture of a speargun.Speargun

Before we leave our basic equipment, we need to cover one last thing, when diving you must have a dive flag, these are floats with a dive symbol flag sticking up. This lets other boaters know that you’re there in the water diving and to move with caution. The float is attached to your gun or spear by a rope and move with you, so you’ve always got some sort of indication of where you’re at in the water. Say you and a buddy are diving together and a third person is on board the boat watching out for you, this dive flag also gives them reference of where you’re at in the water, so you don’t get too far from the boat.

Floating dive flag. A floating dive flag is required when diving and a very important item to help keep you safe.

Spearfishing is a great opportunity to combine several aspects of outdoor recreation into one. It’s also a great way to help combat non-native fish species put some fresh food on the table. It’s an artform that’s been around for centuries and is only getting better and easier to get into. One really great thing about spearfishing is there is no by catch, you’re only catching the target species, so no other fish are involved or hurt in the process. So, if you’re looking for a new way to fish, to expand your knowledge, and to meet some new people you may want to look at taking up spearfishing. My last note is do not dive alone, you always want to have a buddy, this could be a lifesaving decision one day. Being underwater is beautiful but things can happen, and you don’t want to get caught in a bad spot with no help. So, get out, enjoy the beautiful waters around you, catch a fresh meal, and make some memories taking on a new sport!