Speargun Fishing Tips and Techniques

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By Bryan Rucker •  8 min read

Spear fishing is a fun and adventurous sport that is enjoyed by millions of people across the globe. Not only is spear fishing a sustainable activity, it’s also rather affordable and most of all entertaining.

However, spear fishing can also be a difficult sport when just starting out, so you will have to make sure you take steps to guarantee your safety while also improving your skills. To excel in spear fishing you will need a little bit of specialized gear, a fair to good working knowledge of the local dive spots, and good instincts when underwater.

You could also benefit from a few basic tips and techniques that can help ensure you snare your targets and remain safe. This is where we come in.

In this article we have provided several tips for staying safe and protected when just starting out with spear fishing, as well as some skill-based techniques that will help augment your chances of success when diving.

Tips to Keep You Safe When Speargun Fishing

When spear fishing, your safety and the safety of your dive partners should always be your number one concerns. Within this sport there are all types of dangers lurking, from sharks, eels and even jelly fish, to getting tangled in fishing nets, to getting cut by sharp objects.

However, one of the most paramount concerns that should be on every spear fisherman’s mind is the threat of drowning. The ocean waters can be treacherous so unless you are hyper alert each time you dive, and following all the safety guidelines, you might just put yourself at serious risk.

This is especially true for beginners, but it applies to spear enthusiasts of all levels and abilities. Because of this, our first few spear fishing tips will concentrate wholly on the art of safety in the water.

Always Dive with a Buddy

No spear fisherman, regardless of his or her level or ability, should ever dive alone, as there are far too many dangers that could occur, starting with shallow water blackouts. Shallow water blackouts result from a lack of oxygen in the brain, a condition known as hypoxia.

When a blackout occurs you only have about 2 minutes to act before brain damage and death become imminent. This is just one of the reasons, albeit the most serious, why diving with a buddy is so imperative for everyone, no matter how many times they have dived and spear fished.

Getting caught in a net, too, may sound like a one in a million hazard, but it does happen and when it does you will be thankful there is someone there to help free you and get you to the surface.

Carry a Dive Knife

If you do not have a dive knife currently, this is another must-get item to put on your list, as no diver should ever dive without one. Dive knives are crucial and very useful items to have with you while underwater, as they may save your life—they also look pretty cool, too.

With a dive knife you can help cut yourself or your dive buddy free from nets or ropes in which you might become entangled. Truth be told, a dive knife can also be a very useful item for finishing off a fish that is giving you a hard time.

Not only does a dive knife give you a more humane way to finish off a dying fish, but by braining the fish you will also ensure that you do not lose your catch. To brain a fish, by the way, simply stick the knife in the top of their head and move it back and forth until it stops flopping.

Know Your Dive Spots

While it is certainly adventurous to wander into uncharted territory it is also very unsafe. This is why it is so important to research your dive spots before going spear fishing.

If you are a newbie just starting out with the sport, the best way to do this is to head to your local dive store for advice. In fact, since you will probably have to go and pick up supplies anyway—like your brand new dive knife and holster—while you are there you may as well ask the employees there about any great spots that are ideal for beginners in your area, as well as what to watch out for.

Certain dive spots are only safe enough for experienced divers. This includes those in which you might encounter rough waters, currents or difficult terrain, all of which can be very unsafe for beginners.

If there is a not a dive shop in your area, or any person from whom you can seek advice, go out and do a visual scope of the spot on your own. Remember, if you wouldn’t be comfortable enough to snorkel in a certain area you sure as heck do not want to take a spear gun down with you.

The best advice: when you are a novice and just starting out on your spear gun adventure try to avoid spots with any rough surf or undertows and stay away from depths that are greater than about 25 feet.

No Hands (or Spears) in Dark Holes

What lurks within that dark hole? If you do not know for sure, never stick your hand or even your spear into it. The annals of spear fishing are loaded with tales of overzealous divers reaching into dark holes only to have their hands or arms clamped by an eel or some other type of ocean predator.

This actually happens far more than it should, but if you avoid these dark and unknown holes you should manage to remain safe. If an eel ever does clamp down on your arm, hand or leg with its razor-sharp teeth, be sure and resist the temptation to pull your arm out.

This is because an eel’s teeth are curved inward, and trying to pulling away will only rip your flesh to pieces. Naturally, your best bet is to avoid these situations altogether by avoiding reefs, dark holes and caves, and always look twice before setting your hand down on anything. While most eel bites are not life threatening, they are very painful and extremely memorable.

Tips for Improving Your Skills When Speargun Fishing

Along with being safe while diving and speargun fishing we also want you to be successful. For that reason, we have put together a few very basic tips and techniques that may help you improve your speargun fishing skills.

Get a Mentor

One of the best pieces of advice we can share with you as a beginner spear fisherman is to find a mentor to help you get started. If you are fortunate enough to know someone with several dives under their belt, their experiences can be a major source of learning for you.

Ask them to share those experiences and some of their successes and failures. Try to tag along with them and ask a lot of questions before and after the dive. Odds are that you will glean all sorts of useful information from this type of dive buddy, and the extra bonus is that this information will be specific to your dive spots.

Start with a Pole Spear

Pole spears are an excellent piece of gear with which to learn and master the sport of spear fishing. They’re also an economical and exceedingly convenient way to get started quickly with the sport.

Hunting with a pole spear, as opposed to a spear gun—at least initially—will help you learn how to move about and maneuver in the water while carrying a weapon with you. By doing this, you can learn all the fundamentals you require to become a master spear fisherman, while also having lots of success—success that will encourage you to stick with the sport.

Start Small

Although you may be tempted to jump in with both feet, we recommend you “start small” when just starting out with the sport of spear fishing. This goes for everything, from the type of dive spot you select to the type of game of you pursue.

There will be plenty of chances over your many years of spear fishing to work your way up the ladder, but unless you start small you may not learn the fundamentals you need to know to advance. It is very easy to get discouraged with spear fishing, but starting off small is also a great way to build your confidence.

Additionally, try to dive near jetties or manmade reefs when just starting out with spear fishing. In these types of places, the water is shallow and you’ll have more obstacles to hide behind, which makes it easier to sneak up on fish.

Buy the Correct Gear

Last but not least, the gear you own and use can be the difference between success and failure when you dive. Fortunately, spear fishing is not a sport that requires a ton of gear, but what it does require is extremely important, so don’t skimp just to save a few dollars.

When shopping for gear, ask the salesperson to direct you to high-quality masks, gloves and fins. If the water in which you intend to dive is cold, consider getting a quality wetsuit as well. On most outings, you will be in the water for at least a couple hours and even in relatively warm waters, you can get uncomfortably cold if not outfitted properly.

Bryan Rucker

Brian Rucker has spent his entire life participating in essentially all things wildlife. His concern grew astronomically during the previous tensions between the United States and other nations. He also has grown a substantial interest in survival and sustainability due to the current shape of the world over the years. He believes that preparation triumphs all things.