Spearfishing is making a relatively surprising comeback in the fishing world and is worth a shot if you are looking to spice up your angling life. Unlike ancient times, we’re not asking you to carve your own spear out of a tree branch, although that may turn out to be a fun experience…but we do not recommend it. Today’s spearfishing experts use powered spearguns and target fish with special high-tech equipment that tracks movement and vibrations in the surrounding water.
If you have never gone spearfishing before, be aware that it is in deeper water, and will require a scuba and/or snorkeling license and proper gear. You will need to check with your state’s regulations, but most states will require that you have a sportfishing license. It is best to plan a day with the experts for this one.
However, spearfishing can be used as an alternative method for catching fish in shallower waters, such as river banks and small streams. This practice does not require a powered speargun, but a simple stab into the water you are wading in will do. Other methods include bow-fishing, which is a powered bow attached to a fishing line. This allows you to aim for the fish and pull the trigger (powered) or release the arrow in the water. The attached line ensures that you will be able to reel your fish back in. These methods are obviously recommended for catching fish you intend to eat, not for catch-and-release, as the outcome of spearing anything is fatal.
As far as the basic gear goes, beyond the speargun that you’ll have, you will need to invest in the following: a mask and snorkel, a wetsuit and fins, a weight belt, and a knife. The knife is obviously for protection (sharks and other predators) and is also a good thing to use to finish the fish once you have speared it. The weight belt is important for buoyancy. The wetsuit will enable you to dive comfortably and give your skin extra protection from the elements, such as the cold and the salinity. The mask and the snorkel are – we hope – self-explanatory.
A decent speargun for beginners and smaller fish costs $100 or so. Once you get more experience and you catch the spearfishing fever, you’re looking at spending between $200 and $400 for a top-notch gun. The rest of the gear you can buy in a set and will run you about $70-$200, depending on what comes in the set and the quality of it. If you are just starting out, and you have the extra money to spend on the gear, go for the more expensive set. It’ll last you a long time, and you’ll feel better when you’re underwater in the middle of it all.
Do not dive alone. We cannot stress this enough. You need to have a diving buddy to come along with you while you hunt underwater, as it is a dangerous environment and the sea is 100% unpredictable. Saltwater spearfishing is a thrilling adventure, and the adrenaline rush comes from being underneath the surface and exposed to the dangers of this foreign habitat. Without a buddy, the rush can become panic very quickly, and you are 10 times more likely to be rescued with a partner, rather than just going alone unnoticed and with patrol unaware of your whereabouts.
Freshwater spearfishing, such as in a deep lake, does not remove you from harm’s way. You should never hunt underwater without making use of the buddy system. If and when something goes wrong, whether you inadvertently get your fin caught under a rock, or if you see the shadow of a shark coming your way as you’re holding a bloody fish in your hand, you will never be more glad to have help nearby.
Spearfishing is a welcomed medium in most fishing communities, and the more tropical areas actually prefer this method. It can be done in freshwater or saltwater and is acceptable for all species that are permitted to take home and filet. Once again, do not take up spearfishing in a catch-and-release only zone, as it is illegal. For information on areas in your state that allow spearfishing, you will need to check the corresponding wildlife and conservation department websites.