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Old 12-07-2016, 08:46   #16
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

I grew up in South Africa and spearfished there since 1974. Had a couple of shark encounters. I've also got a couple of friends that's been bitten by sharks. It's mostly the Grear White's that do the damage. It seems that the sharks that bite you are never really interested in your fish. The speoro's that I know that's been bitten also never saw the shark until it was too late. Just two weeks ago a friend of mine got bitten at Martha's Reef close to Cape Agulhas.
Saying that, divers are also not their staple diet and the vast majority of sharks never show much interest. It's mostly a privalage to see them.
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Old 12-07-2016, 08:46   #17
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

STT =St. thomas. Are sure that is true? From personal experience?
STX = ?
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Old 12-07-2016, 08:48   #18
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

I've seen sharks almost every time that I've hunted fish with a spear. Only once has one seemed to be following me; I didn't shoot at it, but I did prick its snout with my spear. It skedaddled and did not return.

My spearfishing experience has been 100% in Bahamian waters. Snorkel only; no guns or bows allowed.

If I saw an Australian 'shark expert' feeding sharks in the Bahamas, I'd be tempted to prick him with my spear, too. I certainly would give him some strong words of discouragement. Lots of Bahamians depend on spear fishing for their sustenance; some foreign aszholes coming over and training sharks to come looking for a handout is criminal. It may be OK for the Australian gawker-tourist industry, but it is not OK in The Bahamas.
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Old 12-07-2016, 08:50   #19
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

I would say LOCATION matters also. If you are diving ANYWHERE near where they have group dives and feed the sharks, DO NOT SPEAR ANY FISH.

The sharks in the Bahamas at many locations hear a boat motor and think it means a dinner bell.

I have personally watched these dive operators go to their specific locations, then they drive the boat in a circle revving the engines loudly.

My rule of thumb is for the Bahama's is, If I shoot a fish, I get out of the water and move to a different area.
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Old 12-07-2016, 08:50   #20
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

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Originally Posted by m2244 View Post
So, any idea how often a person might run into one of these fellows? I know that is a vague question.
First year spearfishing, we never saw a shark, never, not even one. That year I had to go to Lowes and buy a portable freezer I shot so many fish, limited out on Grouper and red Snapper every day, and was being picky, only shooting the big ones. We ate fish a couple of time a week for the whole year.
Then a year or two later it seemed every time we splashed there would be a shark, once I rolled off the side of the boat with the anchor line and ten ft of 5/16 chain in hand and as soon as I got rolled around, I had a HUGE Bull staring me in the face on the surface, scared the stew out of me, he was just curious I guess cause he swam away.
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Old 12-07-2016, 08:59   #21
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

See the odd shark in the Caribbean but in the South Pacific we saw them on almost every dive or snorkel. The sharks in the SP seemed to have an ear for the twang of a speargun as while I was fishing I wouldn't see a shark but seconds after pulling the trigger they would magically appear.
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Old 12-07-2016, 09:17   #22
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

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So, any idea how often a person might run into one of these fellows? I know that is a vague question.
You see them now and then. Not all the time. Barracuda are very common though. They will steal a fish you spear in the time you blink an eye.
I learned something in my time in the Caribe; Sharks come out to forage in the am and after maybe 3 pm. I just started primarily hunting from about noon to 3.
The Bull Sharks bother me and are not uncommon. They can show up out of nowhere. I have been hunting an underwater shallow wall (maybe 10 ft water) and look back where I just passed and there's a Bull gnawing on something in the wall where I just passed! Where did he come from?
Avoid murky water. Most Bull bites in Florida are in the surf.
If you spear a fish, take it to the dingy immediately. DO NOT tow it along side you!
The sharks are not that common if you go out in the timeframe mentioned. I have had them come right up to me... I bopped them on the nose with my spear and they disappeared. I have never seen anything than Bull, Lemon and Nurse sharks in shallow water. I did see a big hammerhead below our boat at 5 pm after cleaning a bunch of Conch though. He stuck around for a full half hour and was at least 8 ft.
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Old 12-07-2016, 13:17   #23
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

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One thing, when the man in the grey suits shows up, and he will one day ,do NOT allow him to have your fish, fight him off, if your not prepared to do that, your not prepared to spearfish. Theory is you do not want him to associate divers with food, that could be bad.
There is an excellent spear fishing forum I think maybe spear planet or something like that, been awhile since I was an avid spearo


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Well that is stupid advice. First, if you are spearfishing you will release a lot of blood in the water and will attract sharks. Any violent movement on your part will tell them you are a delicious seal waiting to be eaten. Dont surface. If you surface you will be bitten if there is blood in the water. And do not even try to fight off a shark unless you really know what you are doing(hint: they do not like their noses hit). Plus if you are fighting with one shark, guaranteed another will go behind you to take you away from the shark you are fighting.
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Old 12-07-2016, 18:25   #24
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

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One thing, when the man in the grey suits shows up, and he will one day ,do NOT allow him to have your fish, fight him off, if your not prepared to do that, your not prepared to spearfish. Theory is you do not want him to associate divers with food, that could be bad.
There is an excellent spear fishing forum I think maybe spear planet or something like that, been awhile since I was an avid spearo


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OMG That is about the worst advice you could give and the best way to get bitten!!! If a shark comes on scene be prepared to drop the fish, if the fish is on the spear you can hold it away from your body. If the shark is just cruising that's fine but if it knows you have the fish and starts swimming erratically, has lowered pec fins, arching back or gaping its time to relinquish your catch. I always hold the fish out of the water after shooting it and keep the dinghy close by so I can remove it from the water asap.
Remember reef sharks especially are used to being in a pack and don't respect personal space like other species so they're especially likely to want to compete for your fish.
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Old 13-07-2016, 00:35   #25
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

Ive been spear fishing all my life. Best is try to dont get shark nervous. When you spear a fish, throw it in the dingy. With that action you minimize problems, its hard to see a shark in the water, they only show up when there is blood in the water.
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Old 13-07-2016, 01:10   #26
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

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 or Australia, but have been from Angola, Namíbia, São Tomé, Brazil, China 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 reasons ...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 and gear guidelines:

Shallow waters-
  • 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.

Blue Water-
  • 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 for spearfishing:
-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!
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Old 13-07-2016, 02:34   #27
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

Nice advice Messias

We use to tow a 4ft inflatable kayak behind us, picked it up from a toy store.


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Old 13-07-2016, 03:49   #28
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

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I've been watching a lot of sailing videos and one thing my wife and I keep wondering is in regards to sharks when people go spear fishing.

We are narrowing our search down to blue water, BVI, Caribbean type areas.

Are there any good resources for doing a little research into the dangers of spear fishing in different locations around the world?
Try this : Diver Safety | Underwater Skindivers and Fisherman's Association

I won't rave on about spearfishing and sharks, and being a very experienced Australian spearo, can categorically deny that we Aussies like feeding fish to sharks!

I've had a few spearfishing mates, fellow competitors and associates die or have been seriously injured in the water, so consider that I have a bit of insight into the dangers of spearfishing. The fact is that sharks aren't your biggest risk. More death and injury whilst spearfishing result from drowning, shallow water blackouts, sambas (look it up!), rocky shore entry injuries and boat strikes than by shark attack. I'm definitely shark conscious, have had innumerable shark "interactions", but those guys are not your biggest threat.
It's just the psychological effect on humans of being eaten by a wild animal!

Weigh up your risks, use common sense to minimize them and enjoy the most exhilarating and environmentally friendly way of getting a fish meal.

PS Messias' advice is sound.
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Old 13-07-2016, 04:25   #29
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

And now for a positive note on sharks: We spent some time in Kwaj lagoon. there was a gray shark we called Molly who would swim with us, follow us when diving, and generally hung around. She never made any aggressive movements, quietly ate her own food(poor little fishes) and, foolishly, we petted her. Great anti skid surface. And of course there are the cute dogfish in shallow waters. As with bears, do not feed the wildlife. BTW, sharks are like cats, very curious; and mostly want to just check out what you are doing.Of course that assumes you are not thrashing about, no blood in the water(females, heads up), and you are not threatening.
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Old 22-09-2016, 23:40   #30
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Re: Spear Fishing - Dangers

I second the comment about the numerous other dangers of Spear Fishing greater than sharks, ESPECIALLY Shallow Water Blackout when freediving... Every location has it's own unique dangers but when it comes to sharks and spearfishing the actual danger (which is undeniably present and there are a number of ways to minimize that risk) is much less than the perceived danger. Other less charismatic dangers ranging from generic dangers like heart disease to spearfishing specific dangers like shallow water blackout and involuntary muscle movement if freediving (a freediving class is highly recommended for risk reduction but will also make anyone's diving ability improve considerably..), getting tangled up in fishing line, getting hit by a boat propeller, hypothermia (where relevant), or getting separated from safety of boat/shore by a strong current are all more pressing concerns when spearfishing.

Dive safe,
David Demarest
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