I've been an avid spearfisher for the last 20 years, from shallow coastal waters to blue water hunting and, from my experience and a few encounters, location and their numbers is what matters the most. Location... as to "how far from the shore you are" (I´ll explain why further down).
I have never been spearfishing in "great white infested areas" such as South Africa
, but have been from Angola, Namíbia, São Tomé, Brazil
and quite frequently in the middle of the Atlantic (Azores), where although they are present.. other close relatives such as the Isurus oxyrinchus
are commonly seen... and something to worry about. Following some basic safety
guidelines minimize your chances of "bad luck"... but will obviously not prevent it.
First thing you need to differentiate is spearfishing in shallow coastal waters, like near cliffs and rocky bottoms (where you will find most of your fish) from blue water hunting (where you can get a really big trophy or a whole day of nothing)... these are two completely different kind of spearfishing that require not only completely different gear
, but also a completely different mindset.
Coastal fishing you are actively chasing and hunting. In the Blue you are the "thing" that fish will come and take a look at. You will not see one single
fish that has not come to "inspect".
The Sharks that pose a threat to a spearfishers are pelagic, so out in the blue they are on their own domain and if you decide to jump in the water, you are (for the good and the bad) automatically part of the food chain.
In blue water hunting, apart from your boat, you have absolutely no distance references
and the water usually cristal clear, so everything will look much closer than it is in reality, so don´t be surprised if you miss all fish on your first attempts, even with an extremely long speargun. I would also consider a depth
gauge as a mandatory item in blue water hunting. The lack of references
and your enthusiasm when you will see some fish ascending towards you but keeping themselves out of range, will make you go down deeper and deeper. A depth alarm
is a smart thing to have or when you look up you will see a great deal of water to "climb" back up... and trust me... you will only remember to go up when you are already in need of it.
These two factors alone (lack of references and the feeling you are "out there alone" are quite intimidating... and this will be reflected in your behaviour and body movements. Not a good "visiting card" for a hunting Shark passing by. A slow and steady movement is what you should be aiming for not only because of sharks, but because you want all other fish to satisfy their curiosity and not reveal your intentions until the last possible second. They will come closer and closer. Be patient. Fish are experts in interpreting behaviour and intentions (one of the reasons why there are mirrored spearfishing masks is to prevent the fish looking into your eyes... the others are only marketing
...although mirrored masks have more downsides than good ones)
Shallow water spearfishing is what you should be aiming for, if you´re intention is to put food on the table. A whole lot more fish everywhere, you can have your lunch presented to you in no time and Shark worries are really much less. If you are "sowing" the shore line in really shallow rocky waters you will almost never see one.
(My) basic safety
- Wear a wetsuit regardless of water temperature!
- Signaling buoy (beware that Alpha flag is even mandatory in some countries)
- Never attach the buoy line to yourself. Either to the butt of the speargun or carry it with a small 500gr weight and drop it somewhere. Spearfish around its radius
- Short spearguns (100cm is the max. that I find effective. 60cm to 90cm being ideal if very rocky and plenty of small caves)
- Kill all fish immediately! stick your knive up the gills into the brain and twist it (the worst way to kill a fish is to smack it in the head with a club, as you frequently see some yachties doing ) Some species of fish, like small Seriola dumerili are worth not killing immediately as they will atract their pears like magnets ... but also other stuff as well
- If possible, keep the fish out of the water. It´s all time worth the trip back to the boat
- Be a little bit over ballasted (less effort going, staying and stabilizing your movement under water)
- Be ready to let go of your ballast! If you feel you wont make it to the surface "comfortably", just let it sink! You will be boosted back up! It will be easily recovered later.
- Wear a wetsuit regardless of water temperature!
- Very sharp knive. (this is not for killing fish! Its for saving your life by cutting a tangled line)
- Large and sturdy signaling buoy with a bungee line (you cannot hold a blue water fish by yourself and do not use your boat/dinghie as one... fish will break the line or just be torn appart if the resistance is too great)
- Never attach the buoy line to yourself. Either to the butt of the speargun or directly to the shaft, leaving the speargun with you after the shot. A quick release system is highly advisable.
- If you value your gear, do not shoot a fish that you think might be too big. It probably is and your gear will not handle it. You will break and loose everything.
- Keep well clear of your line as soon as the shaft leaves the speargun!
- Long spearguns (110cm as a min. 115cm to 140cm being ideal)
- A fish caught is a fish taken out of the water immediately. If using a dinghie as a back up, kill it immediately. High frequency vibrations on an inflatable dinghie are to be avoided.
- Very light ballast.
- Never be alone in the water. If there are two of you and you see a Shark, turn back to back and keep your eyes on him. If another Shark shows up it´s time to leave the water.
- Be ready to let go of your ballast! You will definitely loose it for good... but its a very smart move. Sometimes the only possible one.
Last, but should in reality be the first... Study fish and their behaviours in advance! If you don´t know "what it is"... don´t shoot it.
Ok... I´ll finish!
Considerations on local regulations
-Some countries impose a fishing licence to everyone and fines can be substantial.
-Some countries waive fishing licences for tourists.
-Some countries have specific spearfishing licences (apart from fishing ones).
-Some countries do not allow spearfishing with an octopus or crayfish "hook" (don´t know the name in english).
-Some countries do not allow spearfishing with compressed air spearguns
-Some countries do not allow spearfishing at night (with my support! night spearfishing is no challenge at all)
-Most countries do not allow spearfishing with Scuba
gear (with my support also. Scuba
spearfishing is no challenge at all)
-Almost all countries do not allow spearfishing with CO2 charged spearguns .(pelletiers)
Do your homework in advance and have a fabulous time... fabulous and delicious fish!