Hunting Underwater – A Spearfishing Beginner’s Guide
Not all hunters live on land. Many prefer to be in sync with the ocean, only taking what they need, and giving back when they can. This group of people is called “Spearos” or underwater hunters. They are a group of people that aspire to master both freediving and spearfishing.
What is Spearfishing?
Spearfishing is exactly what the name suggests – trying to catch fish with a spear or any sharp tipped object. The challenges of this sport may not appear to be very obvious. For example, the fish you are hunting can escape in virtually any direction. They can swim up, down, sideways, any which way you can think of.
As an underwater hunter, you have to develop the skills to catch your prey. You will have to learn how to track the fish without scaring them away, learn freediving or possibly scuba diving, what gear you need, how to accurately shoot your fish, and etc.
How do you get started in Spearfishing?
A great way to get started is to join your local Spearfishing club. The sport is much more popular than you think and most likely there is a club in your local area. Underwater hunting is not limited to areas with large oceans, many spearfish in lakes as well. For example, spearos will hunt year round (even in winter) in the great lakes located in the Midwest of the United States. If you live in an area that is not directly located next to a major waterway, do some research, and you will be surprised with what you find.
What skills or certification will you need?
As far as spearfishing legally, you will have to look into your local state and county laws. In most places you’ll just need a standard fishing license.
If you are looking to take your spearfishing adventure to the next level, it is always a good idea take freediving classes. Freediving is the art of diving into the depths of the ocean on a single breath. You will learn how to properly hold your breath, swimming technique, and safely descend to the ocean bottom.
By learning this skill, you will be able to maximize your underwater time. The longer you stay down in the ocean, the more opportunities you will have to track down your preys and bring them home for dinner.
Can you just use a scuba tank?
Yes, many Spearos prefer to use scuba tanks and are PADI certified. Typically members of the spearfishing community see themselves as “watermen.” Another example of watermen is surfers, a group of people who want to “naturally” enjoy the ocean and do not necessarily care for mechanized fun. Similar to underwater hunters, they want to challenge themselves, burn calories, and master water related skills.
When you go scuba diving, you are an observer of the ocean. You are trying not to waste air, go slowly as possible, and see some cool underwater creatures. It is very unlikely you will get your six packfrom scuba diving and as a result lots of spearos prefer to use the freediving method.
This is not to say underwater hunting with scuba tanks strapped to your back doesn’t have its challenges. In many places around the world you have to dive REALLY deep to hunt larger fish. These places are often out of the reach of freedivers.
Scuba vs. Freediving
It is also worthy to mention that you will probably have more underwater time with freediving. When you scuba dive, you have around 50 minutes of air per tank. Once the tank is empty, it is time to go home. However if you freedive, you can stay in the water for as long as you’re physically capable to. It really depends on WHERE you plan on spearfishing and which method resonates with you.
What type of gear do you need for underwater hunting?
You will ideally need:
Low volume mask
Freediving fins (they are longer than normal fins.)
Wetsuit or rashguard
Speargun or pole spear
We could probably write a detailed analytics of each piece of equipment, but for this article we are going to dive deep into the most important piece of gear – spearguns.
What is the water conditions like?
Spearguns are like golf clubs. Although you can use any single club for all conditions, ideally you will have more than one.
Before you buy your first speargun, you should take into account WHERE and WHAT you want to hunt. The longer the speargun, the more powerful it will be. The problem with longer gun is that they might extend beyond your range of visibility.
For example, if you are hunting on a day that has four feet of visibility, it would not make sense to use a gun that is four feet or longer. With your arm fully extended, it would be one foot longer than what you can see.
In lakes, shores, or just a place with limited visibility, you will want a speargun that is around 55 to 100cm (1.8 to 3.3 feet.) Although reef hunting is typically in very clear waters, many also prefer a shorter gun for these types of areas. The fish tend to be smaller (under 100 pounds) and spearos want shorter guns with faster loading times.
When do you get to use the big spearguns?
For bigger fish you will need bigger guns. When you fish offshore, where the waters are very deep and the big fish come to play, you will have the opportunity to use your most powerful gear. In areas where you can hunt big fish, the visibility is normally very clear with lots of shooting space, you will have the chance to catch fish that are 100 pounds and bigger.
Just keep in mind, if you truly want to hunt big game, you will want multi-band spearguns. These guns will be powerful enough for larger fish, but they do come with a hefty price. Not only are they more expensive, they also take a lot longer to load.
Similar a crossbow, a speargun uses a band to launch a projectile. If you have speargun with 5 bands, it will take 5 times longer to load than a single band gun. Being that it can be a bit of a pain to load, you might want to let small to medium sized fish pass by, in hopes of finding larger game. While your friends are catching lots of smaller fish, you might be endlessly looking around for the larger fish. However, when you catch that one fish, the waiting will be worth it.
Is there a combination of short and powerful guns?
Yes! Pneumatic spearguns are becoming very popular. They use compressed air to fire spears at your prey. This style is typically much shorter than its banded counterpart and is much more powerful. This way if you hunt the bigger fish in an area with low visibility, this would be your “go to” speargun.
Keep in mind they are still not as powerful as a band gun with 3 or more bands. If you want to hunt game that is truly big (i.e 100+ pounds,) you will need a multi-band gun.
What is a good Speargun to start out with?
If you are just getting started out, we suggest getting the Omer Kanaloa to start out with. The reason is that it is a very fair priced gun that you can get your feet wet with. It also has a pretty cool story behind it. It was originally developed by Omer for the Hawaiian market. They demanded a fair priced product that met their upper level needs. The result was the Kanaloa, a very affordable speargun that you will never want to get rid of. Its medium size is suitable for most water conditions and is a great buy.
Whether it is on land or in the water, when you take part in a sport that involves going into the wilderness, always tell someone where you are going. Many have lost their lives from overestimating their diving abilities, always bring a friend and never dive alone.