One could fill a page with superlatives and still never adequately cover the sheer thrill and joy of spearfishing.
From hitting the shoreline shallows with nothing more than a mask and pole spear to kitting up to the max and hunting the blue water – spearfishing is a special type of hunting.
With a sport that involves a combination of so many different skills, there’s always more to learn, more to discover and most definitely a tip or two to take from others.
As a builder once said to me, “it’s all about the tricks.” Of course, he was understating the skills developed over decades in the trade, but I certainly understood what he was getting at.
It’s the tips and tricks we take from others, discover for ourselves and, hopefully, share with others that make us better at spearfishing.
It’s these insights that make spear fishing safer, more productive, more fun and more sustainable.
The tips listed below are still very fresh in my mind and they’re solid basics. I haven’t been spearfishing long enough to take them for granted yet.
Solid basics. It applies to everything in life and is a great rule of thumb for spearfishing.
The following list of Essential Spearfishing Tips is hardly comprehensive – it can’t possibly be, volumes could be written and have been.
I’ve selected those tips that made it possible for me to fish safely, successfully and sustainably. The tips that allowed me to expand my boundaries while having bucket loads of fun.
Let’s dive into it. The tips are categorized for an easier flow. Enjoy.
Sustainable Spearfishing Tips
1. Follow the Local Laws
Follow local laws and know the species that are protected. Ignorance is not a plea and disciplinary action by authorities can be supremely costly.
I agree that some of the laws might be very hard to fathom, nonetheless stick to them, those who have made the laws might know something you don’t.
2. Leave the Big Breeders
Recognize the big breeders and leave them there. I’ve seen areas that have been stressed badly by overfishing – it’s heartbreaking. Recovery takes a very long time.
3. Protect the Ecosystem
We’ve all got species on our bucket lists. But there are species that are threatened in particular areas and every fish that stays in the ecosystem is critical.
Select a more abundant target this time around. Be a thinker, not trigger happy.
4. Respect the Environment
It’s a hunt, not a slaughter. Be selective, be conservative and show respect for the environment that IS your sport.
Spearfishing Safety Tips
5. Don’t go spearfishing alone
I’m stunned at the numbers of people that still go spearfishing alone. Don’t. It’s that simple.
This message is for the more experienced anglers, in particular. They are the ones who frequently break this critical rule.
6. Know your fitness & Endurance levels
Know your limits. Even basic spearfishing requires a modicum of physical fitness.
Do you know how long you can hold your breath? Do you know how long you can tread water?
Here’s a tip. Find out before you’ve speared a 25-pound GT at 15 feet below the surface.
7. Know your Colleagues Endurance levels
You may well find yourself fishing with those who have better diving, fitness and endurance skills than you.
Establish any disparity of skills within the group before you enter the water.
Discuss it. Make provision.
Pushing your limits is part of learning and improving your skills. Don’t do this half-cocked or on the spur of the moment. Plan for it.
8. select several back up exit points
Conditions on the water can change in moments. When we enter the water from the ocean rocks, conditions for entry may well have been ideal for a safe entry.
After an hour in the water, the spot you entered may well be unsafe for an exit. If you were aware of the potential for this situation to develop in the first place, then it was not safe to enter in the first place.
Where the geography permits, select several back up exit points.
9. Use a buoy
Use a buoy to mark your position. Getting run over by a boat or jet ski is a real possibility.
Often, you’ll be fishing in areas where there is motorized watercraft activity. A buoy provides a heads up for skippers to avoid you.
You may also be spearing where anglers are casting for the same fish you’re chasing.
Again, a buoy lets them know you’re there and to avoid casting in your general direction.
10. Be aware of your diving buddies
It may sound obvious to most, but it must be stated. A spear is a dangerous weapon.
Never point that at anybody, even unloaded, in jest.
When diving, be completely aware of your surroundings and the location of your dive buddies. This is even more critical when fishing murky water.
Basic Spearfishing Equipment (not spears)
11. Protect Your Hands
A good set of gloves is a must. You might think it’s odd that this is the first bit of kit that I think of above all else.
But if you’ve been sliced open by gill rakers, pierced by fins, or had your hands shredded by razor-sharp barnacles, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
With a good set of gloves, you’ll keep more of your blood inside your body. You will also avoid line burns.
Importantly, you’ll feel more confident when handling your catch and maintain a more secure grip of your slippery adversary.
12. A good knife is essential
Good dive knives are reasonably inexpensive and should be considered essential kit.
Firstly, should you get hung up in nets or rope or whatever, a sharp knife will allow you to cut yourself free and may well save your life.
Secondly, a knife allows you to dispatch a fish quickly before the commotion attracts sharks. A dead fish is far easier to handle by the way.
Important. When buying a knife don’t just assess the blade and handle. Check the scabbard.
Firstly, it should feel secure and comfortable on your leg.
Secondly, the mechanism that holds it in place should be secure yet easy enough to release quickly.
13. Choose the best mask for spearfishing
Buy the best mask you can afford. Sealing and seeing is what it’s all about but the comfort makes all the difference.
Trust me when I say only a scuba diving mask will do. Anything less is a toy.
14. Invest in Freediving Fins
When you intend to dive deep, free divers fins are a no-brainer. Not only can you move faster but you reduce energy expenditure significantly.
This is critical considering you hunt while holding your breath.
Yep. They’re expensive but worth their weight in gold. An exception to freediver fins might be when you’re diving a shallow reef.
They can get in the way and you can damage fragile corals. Consider standard fins for shallow reef diving.
15. Choose a wetsuit that allows easy movement
Wetsuits are a personal thing because we all feel the cold differently. A long spell in the water can bring on the chill even in the warmer waters.
For me, anything below 22 degrees is a guarantee wetsuit situation else it’ll be a very short session.
Not all wetsuits are made equally. Check for a suit that allows for easy movement.
If you’re fishing different locations all year round, you may find you require several wetsuits to ensure your covered for significant variations in water temps.
16. Weight belt tip
We float when we hold our breath. This means we have to use effort to dive – we’re fighting our buoyancy.
A weight belt allows us to dive faster and provides us with more control when we’re steadying for a shot. It’s hard to hold still and aim while we’re floating up to the surface.
Importantly, a weight belt allows us to conserve energy as we don’t have to expend so much energy to combating buoyancy.
17. Choose a quality buoy
In many places, buoys are a legal requirement. Check local laws. There are so many types of buoys available they deserve their own article.
Apart from ensuring high visibility, look for buoys that have several tie-downs to hold extra kit.
For me, I liked a buoy that allowed me to hang on to it comfortably for a rest. Quality is always apparent in the stitching – check it closely.
Spearfishing Equipment (Spears)
18. Start with a pole spear
Start with a pole spear? Yep! It’s heaps easier in a number of ways.
I was bitterly disappointed when I was handed a pole spear on my first dive. I wanted a speargun!
To be honest, you don’t really need to start off with a speargun so long as you receive instruction from an experienced user.
However, pole spears are awesome. Apart from the very accessible price of a pole spear (ridiculously cheap relative to a gun), when you’re developing aiming skills and stalking, the pole is king.
It’s super-fast to reload a pole spear – a second or two. Reloading a spear gun is considerably longer, particularly for noobs.
Having to reload a speargun over and over because you’ve missed the target wipes plenty of joy from a dive. Your target swims off too, more disappointment.
Importantly, the short range of a pole spear ensures you develop your stalking skills quickly.
19. Pack a range of guns
A tip for the more experienced. How many times have you arrived at your location and thought, I wish I had my ……. gun because visibility was far better than you expected or murkier than you expected.
You intended hunting crays, but a school of wahoo arrived.
If you have space and carrying capacity, pack a range of guns. Despite planning and intentions, you can never be sure what you will face when you arrive.
20. Service your spears
Service your spears. Always make sure the pointy end is still pointy. A few collisions with rock and reef will often demand a change. Do it and avoid disappointment.
I don’t have nor have never used a pneumatic gun. A mate of mine was very pleased to have bought a pneumatic gun for a hundred bucks.
When it failed, early in its life (but out of warranty), he had nowhere to easily get parts or service it.
Before you purchase a pneumatic gun, make sure you have a local provider who can service it for you and has access to parts.
Alternatively, when you purchase a pneumatic gun, ask if there is a service kit available and buy a couple of kits with it.
21. Consider a travel spear
If you travel about a bit and have limited space to carry kit, consider a travel spear. There are brilliant options available.
Many of them are also very discreetly packaged – ideal if you are reliant on public transport.
Honing Your Spearfishing Skills
22. Tips to Hold your breath longer
The longer you can hold your breath the more you will get out of spearfishing.
Experienced divers can hold their breath for upwards of 3 minutes.
You can dive further, longer and have more control under the water the longer you can hold your breath.
Developing your breath holding skills takes time. Here’s an interesting video for some insights.
Having a great set of fins, a wetsuit that keeps you warm and an appropriate weight belt will help conserve energy.
Secondly, learning to stay relaxed and avoid panic will also increase your ability to hold your breath.
Don’t smoke. Like really! Don’t. Physical fitness is critical when it comes to holding your breath and extending your time underwater.
23. Practice as often as possible
Fish as regularly as you possibly can. The is no substitute for time in the water.
Unless you live in the tropics, a wetsuit will be essential for continuing to fish during the colder months.
24. Find a mentor
Get a diving mentor, join a group and fish with those that are more experienced than you.
The knowledge you acquire from this practice ensures an exponential development of your skills and confidence in the water – SO LONG AS YOU OBSERVE AND LISTEN.
25. Stretch before spearfishing
If you’re like me your champing at the bit to get wet as soon as you reach the water.
Take 10 minutes, breath, and do a set stretching routine.
When you’re twisting and contorting to drag a fish out from a crevice in between a couple of large rocks, it’s easy to pull a muscle and cramp up – particularly if the water is cold.
Avoid this with a never-miss stretching routine before you dive.
26. Dive without your spear
Go snorkeling or diving WITHOUT your spear to practice your stalking skills. When you’re hunting, the aim and focus on the kill can be all-consuming.
Without your spear, you can really focus on swimming with the fish and getting as close as possible without the distraction of considering your aim and when to shoot.
With this drill, the aim and focus is stealth and proximity with a super calm demeanor.
27. Make yourself as small as possibe
Fish are spooked by intrusive unnatural noises and shapes. Most fish will see your silhouette and respond as if you are a predator.
Remove the air bubbles from your wetsuit before you dive.
Make yourself as small as possible by keeping your limbs held as close as possible to your body.
Always remove your snorkel before you dive to avoid bubbles alerting your target.
28. Practice your aim
Practice your aim. If you have a reasonably sized pool in your backyard, this is fantastic. Take care not to impact the pool with your spear, however.
Weight some bullseye targets, get dressed in full kit, including your weight belt, and start shooting.
29. Join a spearfishing group
Chances are there is a spearfishing club somewhere near you. Join. There is no better way to experience spearfishing and develop your skills.
You will also make friends, gaining access to boats and equipment that you may never have access to.
30. Contact local fishing clubs
When you’re traveling anywhere, particularly abroad, get in contact with local fishing clubs and tell them you’re coming.
Spearfishing clubs love international guests, it’s a great chance to share and learn.
The benefit for you is that you find willing guides only to keen to introduce you to their spearfishing playground. Local knowledge is everything.
Two Bonus Spearfishing Tips
31. Know your fish target
Learn everything you can about your fishy target. Understand their habitat, diet, behavior, and anatomy.
32. Know diver hand signals
Learn divers hand signals. Being able to communicate while underwater is not only a big time saver, it can save your life, or the life of your dive buddies.
wrapping it up
When it comes to spearfishing, 32 tips don’t even adequately scratch the surface of what there is to know.
However, we’re sure, having read this list, there is a least one thing you can take with you. If indeed you have taken at least one tip that you can employ on the water, it was a highly worthwhile exercise.
There’s so much more to talk about, so stay tuned for more spearfishing tips over the coming months.