Beginner’s guide to spearfishing equipment

I started spearfishing with a pole spear, a mask and a pair of snorkeling fins. These days, I have a lot more spearfishing equipment, but I also catch a lot more fish.

For a beginner, the amount of spearfishing gear you need to go spearing can seem overwhelming. Then there’s all the different brands, and everyone you seem to talk to has a different opinion on what’s best.

I get it.

Even online the amount of information can be overwhelming. Sorting through forums, blog posts, and a ton of different websites with their own ideas on what equipment is best for a spearo. Today, my only goal is to help arm you with the right information you need to start your own spearfishing adventures into the deep blue.

And there’s one big upside. Once you’ve got the basic spearfishing equipment covered, there are very few ongoing costs when it comes to spearfishing. (Until you upgrade to a boat of course, but that’s a whole other story).

The spearfishing equipment you need to go spearing:

Spearfishing mask

To have any hope of seeing anything underwater, you need a spearfishing mask. There’s only one important thing to look for. It needs to fit your face well. This way, it won’t leak as soon as you get in the water. A leaky mask is a nightmare when you’re spearfishing.

spearfishing equipment snorkelling mask

My advice, is to head to your local dive store and start trying different models. You want to forget brands at this point. The only thing you need to focus on is finding a good fit. Pressing a mask to your face, a slight inhale should pull it tight. You know it’s good if you can lean forward and the mask doesn’t drop. I’d also check the nose is comfortable to squeeze when you’re equalizing.

For a beginner that’s about all you need. I prefer a higher field of vision when I’m spearfishing in shallow water. And you’ don’t need to invest a huge amount of money into a fancy mask when you’re getting started. I used a cheap $20 mask and snorkel kit for years as a grommet, and it served me well in those early days.

If you’re a little more advanced, and want to be diving deep you’re going to need a low-volume mask. All this means is that the amount of air trapped within the mask is very little. The downside is these masks give you tunnel vision. But they’re great when you’re pushing your dives down past 15 to 20 meters.

My favorite low-volume spearfishing masks are:

But ordering a mask isn’t all you need to do. Once you get your hands on one you’ve got to clean the glass before it’s safe to use in the water. Otherwise the chemical residue in there is going to cause it to fog up like crazy. The easiest thing to do is get normal white toothpaste, and rub it all over both sides of the lenses of your fingers. Then rinse with water. Repeat this about 5 to 7 times, and your mask is now good to go.

Spearfishing snorkel

Now I always get told my favorite snorkel is too fancy for spearfishing. It’s got both a purge valve on the bottom and a splashguard on the top. All you need is a basic “J-shaped” snorkel. Most spearos will remove their snorkel completely from their mouth before they dive. Plus, the simpler your snorkel is, the less chance it’ll break.

I’m afraid I use a bad technique here, as I keep my snorkel in my mouth when I dive. It’s a throwback to my time spent using scuba. I’m much more comfortable underwater with the mouth-guard clenched between my teeth. I like my purge valve, as I can clear the tube with my remaining air when I surface, without needing to fumble around with my hands. And the splash guard stops most of the waves filling up my tube when I’m spearing on the surface in a tidal zone.

Spearfishing wetsuit

It’s no good going spearfishing for you to get cold 10 minutes into a dive. To be an effective hunter you need to be comfortable in the water. And the next most important factor is staying warm. Stay warm and you’ll be able to be in the water longer, spend more time on the bottom, and catch more fish.

A wetsuit is a key piece of spearfishing equipment. They work like this.

It’s a skin-tight suit you wear over your body, which only allows a tiny bit of water to enter. Your body heat warms this trapped water up, which keeps you warm. There’s a whole variety of different wetsuit thicknesses. From very thin 1mm wetsuits used in the tropics, to thick 7mm suits that you can dive in very cold water with.

Generally, if you’re in a temperate climate, you’ll get a 3mm or a 5mm wetsuit. But don’t be afraid to ask what’s best at your local dive shop. Too thick and you can overheat in the water, which also makes for an unpleasant dive.

Now wetsuits use neoprene rubber. It’s also very floaty. To compensate for this additional floatation, you’ll need a weight belt. We’ll cover this in a later section.

For spearfishing, the wetsuits I recommend are two-pieces. One piece covers your legs and chest like a tight-fitting pair of overalls. The other is a jacket that fits over your chest, and usually also comes with a hood.

The fit is what’s most important when selecting a wetsuit. It needs to be snug, yet easy to get in and out of. Too loose, and the water will not stay trapped inside and you’ll get cold. Have the staff in the store measure you to help you find the perfect fit. Sometimes, it may be necessary to have a custom wetsuit made.

When it comes to the actual neoprene, there’s two types

  • Closed cell wetsuits. These are cheap, and you’ve probably used one of these already if you’ve taken dive classes. They last forever, are thick and cumbersome, and they insulate you to a degree, but they’re not perfect.
  • Open cell wetsuits. These are much softer and flexible. To have any hope of actually fitting into one you’ll need to add soapy water so it slides on. Because they’re a much tighter fit they will insulate you better. Plus they’re much more comfortable to wear. But they’re also more expensive, and will wear out much quicker.

Personally, I’m a big fan of my Salvimar N.A.T. two-piece. It’s 5.5mm, and has a camouflage pattern to break up my outline when I’m spearfishing. It’s one of the best brands I’ve found to fit an athletic frame without having to get it custom made. It’s also great for where I dive in Australia. The water temperature during winter gets down under 70 degrees (21 celcius).

Spearfishing gloves

After the wetsuit comes your gloves. Spearfishing gloves are important for two reasons. They’ll keep your hands warm. But they’ll also add a hard layer of protection from any fish, jagged rocks, or crayfish you’re trying to grab. I started out with a pair of warm-water gloves from U.S. Divers, but they tore up rather fast. Especially on the fingertips. I usually finish most dives with a bit of crayfish hunting which doesn’t do my gloves any favors.

These days, I’m sporting a pair of Kevlar gloves from Ocean Hunter. They’re a much tighter fight, and have fully reinforced palms and fingertips. Perfect for hanging onto a rock or stuffing your fingers inside the gills of a fish without a thought. This pair have lasted two seasons already with very little wear. I’m suitably impressed, and I’ll keep you updated on just how long this pair lasts. So far they’ve been awesome.

Spearfishing fins (and socks)

For spearfishing the best fins to get are the longest ones you can find. Seriously. They may look intimidating because they’re massive. But once you’ve tried them in the water you’ll never look back.

Choose “soft” fins. If they’re hard they’ll be brutal on your ankles when you’re kicking around on the surface.

spearfishing equipment snorkelling flippers fins

Again, fit is the most important factor here. You want the boots to be an almost perfect fit (when you’re wearing a pair of neoprene socks of course). I’ve found my feet will swell a little in the water, so be sure there’s enough room. You should also buy a pair of socks when you’re at the store, and make the fins fit well when you’re wearing these.

Tight fins will cause the arch of your foot to cramp mid-dive. Loose fins will kick off, and rub blisters on your feet. So get down to your local dive store and try on as many pairs as you can. Just make sure you’re looking at closed-heel fins, as these will give you a bit more power in the water. Right now I’m loving my Motus Kama fins from SEAC. But I was a big Cressi fan too until I got these, and you won’t go wrong with a pair of their GARA fins either.

Weightbelts for spearfishing

We mentioned earlier about the buoyancy of wetsuits. It’s a big problem. Pushing yourself underwater yet your wetsuit is floating you to the surface.

That’s where a weight belt becomes an important piece of spearfishing equipment. It counter-acts how “floaty” you are when you’re wearing a wetsuit.

Of course, we’ve all got different body types and shapes, so the amount of weight you’ll need is going to vary. The thickness of your wetsuit is also going to have an impact.

Just be careful. Using too many weights is dangerous. If you sink like a stone and have to struggle to kick back to the surface, you’ve got it wrong. You should still float on the surface, even after you exhale. For me, at 84kg, I use 7kg of weights along with my 5.5mm wetsuit.

As a general rule, take the thickness of your wetsuit + 2 to calculate the weight you need.

  • A 3mm wetsuit = 3 + 2 = 5kg of weight
  • A 5mm wetsuit = 5 + 2 = 7kg of weight

On your first dive, I’d recommend keeping your weights a kilogram or two lighter. Until you get used to your new spearfishing equipment. Once you’re confident, up it a little until you get your neutral buoyancy right.

What’s most important though is having a weight belt with a quick-release buckle. Riffe make a good one you can get here. In an emergency you want to remove your weight belt as quickly as possible. So you can get to the surface fast. Now you should never push yourself so hard on a dive that this is necessary, but it’s a good safety net to have, just in case.

Spearfishing knife

Having a blade handy as part of your spearfishing equipment is always a good idea. All you need is a small knife with a good point. Don’t get anything too bulky that may catch on the seaweed or in the kelp as you’re hunting. When I started, I picked up a cheap stainless steel dive knife with a sheath, and I think it set me back about $10.

I used it for everything from cutting old fishing line tangled in the reef to chumming up baitfish. And of course, to ensure every fish caught was dispatched quickly, safely and humanely.

If you take care of your knife it’ll last for years. My wife got me the Argonaut Titanium a couple of years back now and it’s held up perfectly to this day. It’s a much better knife that’s for sure, but ultimately, what you can afford is better than nothing. And you need a knife.

Spearfishing floatlines

Your float is a very important piece of spearfishing equipment. As it broadcasts to any boats in the area that there’s a diver below, so they know to take care if they’re passing by. It should be brightly colored (fluroescent orange is good), with a flag attached so it’s easily seen.

spearfishing equipment dive float

You always need to use your float.

The only time I don’t, is when I’m spearfishing in close to the rocks. In this instance I clip it to a rock out past the breakers so it doesn’t get tangled.

In all other cases the float is attached to my line, which attaches to my speargun. My line is roughly 35 meters long. More than long enough for most of the diving I do, I only swap this out for my 50 meter one when I’m going into deep blue water.

You can make your own float, but it’s just as easy to buy a float like this one from Rob Allen and attach a standard “diver below” flag to it.

Now there’s a reason to attach the float to your gun. Chasing little fish around the reef you’re going to easily bring them to the surface. Until one wedges themselves in a crevice. Or you shoot something a little larger, like a 140cm wahoo. In the tail. Who decides he’d rather swim away and pull you along with him.

I nearly lost my first speargun because of this. Don’t do this.

Tie your speargun to your flatline. So you can let go. You can rise to the surface for another breath. And go back down to untangle your line, or follow the float until the fish tires out. Or better still, get your boat and haul it up with both your feet on dry ground.

Finally, your floatline needs a stringer. That way anything you catch can be threaded onto the line underneath your float. It’s a convenient way to keep your fish together. But it also means your catch is hanging at least 30 meters from you while you’re spearfishing. Just in case. If another predator decides they want your fish, they’re going to go for your float and stringer, not you.

Speargun

Of course, the final thing you’ll need is a speargun. There are so many different types it’s not possible to cover everything in a single post. But here’s a rough overview.

  • The base of your speargun is a long straight barrel with a trigger handle
  • A metal spear (known as the shaft) clicks into the trigger mechanism
  • Rubber bands stretch back and connect to notches in the shaft
  • At the end of the shaft is the point, and a barb (known as the flopper)
  • The shaft attaches to the base of your speargun by a monofilament line

When the speargun is loaded and you pull the trigger, the tension from the bands shoots the shaft. The power of your speargun will depend on the tension in your bands, and the length of the barrel.

For cave spearfishing, you want a very short gun (65 to 70cm). Very little power will minimize ricochets and any damage your shaft gets on the rocks. For open water diving, you’re going to want a large gun (140cm +) with multiple rubbers. This will give you additional range and power. For general reef spearfishing, somewhere in the middle (100 to 120cm) is a safe bet.

And that’s it. All the spearfishing equipment you need to get out in the water, and start chasing fish. Just remember. Go slow to start with, and don’t push yourself too hard as you learn. With experience you’ll improve, and the first time you land a decent-sized fish, you’ll be as proud as punch.

Happy spearin’

Beginner’s guide to spearfishing techniques

I’ve been in an out of the water my entire life. But I’ve got a problem. When spearfishing with new people I’m often surprised at their lack of experience. Especially with different spearfishing techniques.

Sure, they’re great in one area. But if you want to bring home fish, day after day, you need confidence no matter what type of hunt you’re on.

There’s no such thing as the right way to go spearfishing. The weather, the fish you’re targeting, and even your abilities as a spearo will make a big difference to the spearfishing techniques to use.

But before we get stuck into it, I want to run through some general lessons that apply. Follow these and you’ll have much better results when you go spearfishing.

  • Focus on the hunt. You need to be prepared before you even get into the water. You need the right tools to ensure your success, and strategy that’s going to work for the area you’re spearfishing. Oh, and a positive mindset never hurt either. You will catch a good fish today.
  • Never give up. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve missed a prize-winning fish. It’s a lot. As soon as you let your attention drop, you stop being a hunter. Maybe you’re cold. Tired or hungry, and you’ve “given up” to head back to the boat. Only to get surprised by one of the biggest fish of the day. Of course you miss it. When you’re in the water with your speargun, never give up. You never know when the right fish is going to choose to appear.
  • Get comfortable in the water. If you’re flapping around or in pure predator mode, the fish will be able to tell. Being aggressive will scare later fish away, so take a breath. Calm down, and move through the water like you belong there.
  • Learn as much as you can. I should also add here to never stop learning. Every spearo will have different experiences and different advice. Pay attention and don’t be afraid to spark up a conversation with them. One thing I also do is heavy research on all my dive sites, and record my dives. This way I know the right tides and conditions for my regular spots to work. And I’m always scouring maps to uncover new “secret” locations to try.
  • Don’t chase the fish. You’re a predator in the water but you’re out of your element. All you’ll do is scare your target away, and broadcast to every other fish in the area that you’re on the hunt. You may even scare away any prized-gamefish that are watching your every move. The only time I’d recommend chasing a fish is if they’ve torn off your shaft and you’re pursuing them for the kill.
  • Be careful with your gun. A speargun is a deadly weapon, and can do a whole host of damage should it fire into another person. When you’re not actively hunting the safety needs to be on, and never, ever point it at another person. Treat your speargun the same as a firearm. If you’re ever out spearfishing with another diver who doesn’t follow this rule, do not hunt with them. It’s not worth your life.

Right, now let’s get straight into the spearfishing techniques.

Spearfishing from the surface

This spearfishing technique is where we all start. Floating on the top of the water armed with a pole spear or a speargun. It’s the easiest way for you to get comfortable shooting. All you need to do is float on the top, and as a fish passes by take your shot.

Once you’re proficient with your speargun this method isn’t the most advanced. What I’ve found is it’s too difficult to spot your prey from above. Most fish have coloring to camoflague them from predators employing this specific tactic.

It’s also quite difficult to land your shots from the surface. You’re much further from the fish your’re targeting which gives them a higher chance of escape. I’d only recommend this spearfishing technique for beginners who are still learning, or hunting in a tidal zone.

Spearfishing from ambush

It’s pretty obvious what hunting from an ambush entails. As you’re spearfishing on the surface keep an eye out for a good location for an ambush. I like to position myself flat on a rock, or on the edge of a bed of seaweed facing out into the sand. This way the natural formations and vegetation in the water break up my outline, and the fish don’t know I’m there.

Ambush spearfishing technique

Be as stealthy as you can while you dive. Hyperventilate to flood your bloodstream with oxygen, then dive to the bottom. Then stay frozen in place with your speargun extended. Your goal is to blend in with your surroundings when using ambush spearfishing techniques. I usually grab hold of a large rock or the base of some seaweed to help keep myself in position.

If you’ve found a good spot, the fish will start swimming by, and get very close to you. Much closer than you’d get on a surface hunt. The only challenge is if they’re swimming at a higher level than you laying on the bottom. Their silver bellies will make them harder to spot against the colors on the surface.

Of course, there’s a danger to this type of dive, as you’re laying still and will run out of air. Pay attention to your body, and if you feel like you need to take a breath, do it. There’s no point waiting for the perfect fish then blacking out. You need to breath. After a while you’ll fall into a rhythm, taking a breath on the surface before diving down to resume the ambush.

Active spearfishing

When active spearfishing you follow a path along the seabed. I like to choose a path that has a couple of ambush locations, so you can surprise your target fish.

You don’t need to make this a marathon. I usually find a spot with a couple of good ambush locations that aren’t too far apart, and start my dive.

Again, dive quietly, then lie flat on the seabed. From here, you want to pull yourself along the ground using your free hand. Try not to let your speargun, weight belt or anything else bang into the rocks. Absolute silence is a must with this spearfishing technique if you want to catch a fish by surprise. I’d also recommend not kicking. Your spearfishing fins will also create a disturbance that put any nearby fish on high alert.

After spotting a target fish, you’re going to strike in a very similar fashion to hunting from ambush. Keep your body still, then start extending your gun arm and your speargun so as not to alarm the fish. Fire once your ready. Underwater your movements should be graceful. Anything sharp or sudden will give away your intentions, and scare off the fish.

Spearing hidden fish

Fish aren’t always out in the open. Especially if you’re hunting in the reefs or if they’re a slower species. Instead, you’ll find them hiding in a hole, cave or a crevice until they need to go out in search of food themselves. What you’re looking for here is the places where fish may be hiding, so you can find them and hunt them.

Of course, there’s a few things to note with this spearfishing technique:

  • You’ll need a short gun, with a heavy spear (at least 7mm) and a screw on tip. Because you will hit rocks. The only way to counter this is to use a less powerful setup, and a tougher gun. I have a single 14mm band on my cave gun, and it’s only 65cm long.
  • The trouble comes in actually spotting the caves. They will be deep, and it’s going to be dark and hard to see the fish hiding underneath. One way to combat this is to use a flashlight, which will make this type of hunting far easier.
  • Be careful what you’re sticking into the hole. You can snag your gear or arm and get stuck, and you also don’t always know what’s hiding in there in the depths of the cave. Don’t stick your hand in there unless you want to risk something biting it.

Finally, it bears mention that caves are dangerous. Before trying these advanced spearfishing techniques, you should be confident in your abilities. And comfortable with your gear. Getting snagged or stuck underwater is a potential death sentence. Don’t swim into any funnels or areas which could trap you, and be wary of the surges underwater. It’s not worth risking your life for a fish.

Now when you’re ready to start spearing hidden fish, there’s two ways to do it.

Canyon dives are exactly what they sound like. Like the ambush technique, position yourself near to the entrance of a canyon or a gulley. At a spot where you think fish may be passing through. Then wait. Keep focused on a specific section, and take your shot when your target fish swims through.

Hole dives are similar, but the fish will usually lead you to these. Then it’s just a matter of approaching from a different angle, so you can ambush them from the side. I make it a habit when I’m spearfishing to always check potential caves. Ledges, or any little cranny where fish may be hiding. Often, they’ve not go anywhere to escape, and you can take a perfect shot. Just don’t give up too soon. The key to making spearfishing techniques like this work – is patience. You may need to return to the same hole again and again to scan every inch of the interior for the fish you’re hunting. They’re there.

Spearfishing with the tides

As a grommet I was spearfishing long before I could afford a boat. So spearfishing in the tidal areas was one of the most productive areas I was able to reach. It’s often ignored by many spearos, but there’s plenty of mid-sized fish in here.

You’ll find schools of fish feeding in the foam, zipping in and out of the waves in very shallow water. And with fish in a frenzy there’s a good chance you’ll find big pelagics waiting for their chance to strike.

Now a word of warning. This is the most dangerous area for you to hunt. The waves help the fish surge through the water much faster than normal. You’re going to get bounced all over the place with the waves and swell, and the bubbles are going to ruin your vision.

Not to mention the chances of getting washed up and onto the rocks if you get too close.

I like to think I’ve mastered this tidal zone over the years, and have a couple of tips if you’re going to hunt here.

First, make sure you’ve got heavy-duty spearfishing gloves. I can guarantee you there will be a lone wave that catches you off-guard and you’ve got to hang on for dear life. Tearing your hands up while you do this is not idea.

I’d also recommend wearing an old, thick wetsuit. Because you will get bounced off the rocks, you don’t want to tear up your brand new one. I’ve got an old 7mm I always wear when I’m planning to go in the tidal zones. I’ve repaired it that many times over the years one more rip is hardly noticeable.

It’s also important to have nothing that can get you snagged. Your line will get washed over rocks. You will get caught up.

After getting tangled twice, I now always remove my float line. Clipping it to a rock so it’s positioned outside where the waves are breaking. You won’t need it. Most of the fish you’ll encounter here won’t put up a fight like a big pelagic.

For me, one of the spearfishing techniques that works best in this area is staying shallow, in the first couple of meters of water. This puts me underwater enough to ride out the surges in the waves. And on an equal playing field to the schooling fish. Too deep and you can struggle to see them in amongst the bubbles and the foam. Then wait for the fish to close in, and take your shot.

Spearfishing in dirty water

I’d love perfect conditions every time I wanted to jump in the water, but mother nature often has other ideas. Sometimes, you’re facing bad conditions and dirty water. But that doesn’t have to ruin your spearfishing plans.

Now the number one rule is that safety comes first. Don’t ever get out into the water if it’s too rough, or the conditions are dangerous. But here’s how I still catch a fish or two when visibility is poor.

The first is the power charge. Dive to the bottom and swim along at a swift pace. Like what you’d use to follow and chase an injured fish for a second shot. As the fish you pass become aware of your presence, they’ll spook and swim off. When you hear or see this happen, stop and lie prone on the seafloor. Fish are curious. When they think the danger has passed they’ll swing back for a look at you, and give you a chance to get a shot off.

If they don’t double back, you can use another technique to draw their curiosity. Make a grunt sound. Imagine the hacking sound that Gollum makes in Lord of the Rings. Use the back of your throat to make a similar noise. Often this is enough to get the fish to come back for a look at me, and give me a decent shot.

Chumming the water for spearfishing

One spearfishing technique that’s a little riskier but can attract some really big fish is chumming. I catch a couple of bait fish, and cut them up so their flesh and blood creates a feeding zone near your dive site.

Any big fish nearby will come in to investigate. Their sense of smell in the water is far greater than what you can see, and you can get a shot off when the close. The risk is this doesn’t only attract fish, and if you’ve got any sharks in the nearby area this will bring them in too.

Chumming the water spearfishing technique

Use chumming at your own risk.

Of course, if you’re not comfortable chumming the water for spearfishing you can also fake it. I’ve found there are almost always large fish out there, watching you on every dive. The trouble is, they got big by being wary. So they hang back, out of sight.

If I’m having a particularly bad dive, one trick I use is to drop down to the sand and start digging. The silt and sand gets stirred up, and fish will come in and investigate. This can give you a chance to take a shot.

Baiting and flashers for spearfishing

I only learnt this spearfishing technique a few years back, and it’s proven to be a winner time and time again. It’s especially good in deep water where you need to bring the big pelagics in. Prepare a separate float and rig it with a series of flashers. I then tie this off to the bottom, or let it float alongside me.

Hanging from the float is 3-meters of line with a handful of different flashers. I built mine from surplus gear I had in my garage.

The float’s a recycled white milk bottle, so I can always spot it at the end of my dive and pick it up before I leave.

Tied on the line is:

  • a bunch of old lures with the hooks removed
  • a big plastic squid I got as a freebie from a boat show
  • a bunch of metallic ribbons I cut from an old Mylar blanket
  • a couple of pieces of stainless steel to weigh it down

This does the trick, and I’ve also got a couple of flashers tied to my towline. They only hang about a foot below, but it gives any fish nearby something interesting to come take a look at. So you can make the shot. I was doubtful at first, but this is one of the most productive spearfishing techniques I use time and time again.

Putting your spearfishing techniques together

I’ve spent the better part of my life in the water. And these days I don’t use just one of these spearfishing techniques alone. You’ll improve with practice of course, but there’s a secret to success.

You’ve got to combine the different spearfishing techniques.

Here’s some examples to give you an idea of what I mean.

When you’re actively spearfishing keep an eye out for any hidden holes or cavities. I have a rule that nothing goes unchecked when I’m spearing. Following this has often led me to find new ambush sites along with my fair share of crayfish.

I also like to slow down when I’m spearfishing. This is a fundamental lesson that’s important to all spearfishing techniques. No matter what, I give myself 15 – 20 seconds of pause at any potential ambush locations. It’s lots slower than how I normally swim through the water. But I’ve found that a small amount of pause is enough for any curious fish to close in.

When you’re starting out I get how spearfishing can feel a little overwhelming. You’ve got so much gear, and there’s so many things going on all around you. Let alone the rush of actually finding a target fish and taking your shot.

My only advice is to go slow. It’ll take time for your abilities to improve, to learn these spearfishing techniques and hone your fitness and agility in the water. Be patient with yourself. And focus on learning and mastering each of these spearfishing techniques. Even if it takes a season. There’s no rush, and in my experience the slower you take it the more success you’ll have.

Happy spearin’

Spearfishing safety. How to avoid a diving disaster.

I’ve been spearfishing since I was 15 years old, a bronzed little Australian kid running around the beaches with a snorkel and a pole spear. In my time I’ve done some pretty silly things, and as I learnt more and started pushing my limits more and more, I realized just how important safety is when you’re spearfishing in the big, blue ocean.

Today, I’m going to cover the guidelines I believe are critical for spearfishing safety. Break them at your own risk, because you won’t just be putting yourself in danger, you’ll be risking everyone around you as well.

Respect the ocean

If you’re ever looking at the sea and thinking, “Oh wow it looks a little dodgy today,” it might be a good idea to call off your dive. I’ve lost friends who braved big seas in a little boat, never to be seen again. It’s just not worth it. When it’s rough, choppy, or the swell is up, don’t push it. The ocean is unforgiving to the spearo’s who don’t respect it.

You also need to be wary of what’s happening in the area you’re diving. Strong currents can drag you away from the boat, or the swells hitting the rocks along the headland can be a recipe for disaster. Always pay attention to what’s going on around you, and don’t risk your safety just to catch a fish.

Use your dive float

Sharks aren’t the most dangerous thing in the ocean. Want to know what is?

Other boats.

When you’re decked out in your camouflage wetsuit, with a camouflage speargun and a pair of black fins, you’re almost impossible to see. Especially if that boat’s heading into the sun, the driver’s checking their GPS, or even just cruising on autopilot as they trawl out the back.

Always, always use a dive float and your flag when you’re spearfishing. They’re inexpensive, and with a big orange float following you around with a flag sticking up, you’ve got a much higher chance of being seen by another boat before you get run down.

But aside from broadcasting your position there’s two other benefits.

It allows you to drop your speargun and retrieve it later, like if you stumble across a lobster hole and need both your hands to pull those suckers out. Or if you lose your buddy. It’s easy to spot their float then follow the line down to their speargun, which could come in handy if you accidentally get sidetracked and need to track them down again.

Never dive alone

Ok, so maybe if you’re paddling around spearfishing in two foot water and the sea’s as flat as a board you can get away with it, and I’ve done so on many occasions.

But once you start pushing the limits you need a dive buddy. When you’re spearfishing deeper and deeper, staying underwater for long periods of time, or tackling more hazardous areas, you need a spearfishing partner to help you stay safe.

Your partner is your backup, and you need to work as a team.

My advice, especially when you’re diving deep, is for your buddy to hang back on the surface and take turns with each dive. That way, if you need help bringing in a big fish, they’re ready to go. Oh, and if you push yourself a little too hard and black out, that’s when your dive buddy is going to come in real handy.

Know how to revive your buddy

When you’re diving as a team, one of the most important steps to learn is how to deal with a blackout (or a samba). Blackouts refer to falling unconscious underwater, while a samba is a complete loss of motor function.

If you’re not ready to act immediately, it could have tragic consequences.

My advice is to take a spearfishing (or freediving) course, where you can practice exactly what to do, and you’ll also learn a number of techniques that will make you a better diver.

If you find yourself in this situation you need to grab your dive buddy, quickly bringing them to the surface while supporting their head, and wait for them to respond and begin breathing again. It can take around 10 seconds in a shallow water blackout, and as long as 30 seconds if you were diving deep. CPR may be needed if they do not regain consciousness.

Never keep your fish on you

This one is just common sense, but it’s surprising just how many experienced divers I’ve spearfished with who have broken this cardinal rule. Now I love sharks and have a healthy respect for them, but clipping your catch onto your dive belt is plain stupidity.

You do not want to be in the way when a shark comes in to grab the fish, as it’s a good way to lose a big portion of your torso. Always, always drop your fish back at the boat, or attach them to your float line that’s at least 30 to 50 feet away from you. It’s common sense people.

Use the right equipment

In any adventure sport you’ll find gear that falls on both ends of the spectrum. Cheaper products made for beginners, and more advanced gear that you need once you start pushing your limits. My advice is to be careful, know the limits of your gear and buy the right products.

A beginner’s speargun probably isn’t what you want when you’re in deep water chasing big pelagics. To boost the power you’ll have to get thicker and shorter bands, which will put too much pressure on the trigger mechanism, greatly increasing the chance it’ll misfire. You need a big gun like a Rob Allen speargun.

But if you’re splashing around a headland in just 10 to 15 feet of water, a cheaper speargun like a JBL is probably all you need to catch a bunch of fish, and have a great dive.

Always buy the right type of products for the type of spearfishing you’re planning to do, and don’t be afraid of investing in quality spearguns if you really need it.

Spearfishing is an adventure sport. You’re out in the middle of the ocean, in the playground of some of the biggest predators in the world. There’s risks of course, but if you follow our guidelines for spearfishing safety, you’ll have a much better chance to make it home, and enjoy the big cook-up of fish with your family.

For me, that’s what’s most important.

Happy spearin’