If you think of fishing as calm, relaxing, and maybe a bit boring, you haven’t tried spearfishing. Forget the boat — spearfishers get up close and personal with their prey, and don’t wait for the fish to take any bait — they go and hunt them down.
Unless you’re really old school, you’ll be firing your spear rather than throwing it. There are two main types of trigger mechanisms: rubber bands and pneumatic systems. The first works pretty simply: the band stretches back, when it’s released, the spear is shot forward. Pneumatic models can be powered by pumping air to build pressure (much like a super soaker) or by a CO2 canister.
A polespear is an even simpler device; it’s a long pole ( 4 to 10 feet) with a spear tip at one end and a rubber loop at the other. You place the loop between your thumb and forefinger and stretch your hand forward to grasp the pole at or past its midpoint. Point it at a nearby fish and let go, and the tension of the stretched rubber will shoot it forward.
The last thing you need while on the hunt is a to be injured or killed by a passing boat or jet ski that doesn’t know you’re there. Have a buoy near you. Larger and brighter is better, bonus points for adding the blue and white flag that indicates “diver down.” Use a floatline to attach the buoy to your speargun or to the spear itself- the latter can help slow down and subdue large fish (though it didn’t work against Jaws).
Like any activity in which you spend extended amounts of time in the water, a wet suit is a good idea. But unlike surfing or snorkeling, spearfishing involves hunting, and that means you need camouflage. Wet suits specially made for the sport come in different patterns (all variations on blue, green, and black, naturally), fit for different watery locations.
Any time you’re working underwater with various ropes and straps, it’s a smart move to have a knife handy to cut yourself free if you get tangled. A knife is also good for quickly killing a speared fish. It’s more humane than letting it die slowly and can even improve the taste of the catch. An instant death will prevent the stress conditions that accompany the fight for life and that result in faster spoilage and worse flavor. To be precise, use an ike jime spike — which is a short rod with a sharp hook on the end – made for this purpose.
While some spearfishers use a scuba tank to stay underwater for extended periods of time, the most common method is to use a snorkel. Either way, a mask is necessary to keep your vision clear. Fins are a good idea for improved maneuverability. Gloves are also good to have — fish do bite, after all, and their scales can be sharp — and are especially important if you’ll be fishing around a coral reef.
Wherever you go, make sure to check local regulations. Some places restrict what kinds of fish you can catch, prohibit scuba diving while spearfishing, or ban the practice altogether.
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