Spearfishing is a thrilling sport similar to game hunting and pole fishing, yet wholly unlike any other recreational activity out there. While there is an element of danger involved, spear fishing can be safe, exciting, and productive when done correctly—even by beginners.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn how to spear fish, what gear you need to get started, and crucial tips to quickly turn newbies into spearfishing experts.
Learning to spearfish might be challenging if you’ve never hunted, fished, or gone diving in your life. That’s because this sport combines a little of all three activities, so a basic understanding of each is involved when you first learn to spearfish.
With that in mind, instructors and guides are available to walk you through your initial spearfishing experiences. Gradually, you’ll grow familiar with each component of the sport, learning to successfully combine them and spearfish like a pro.
Spearfishing Methods Explained
Free Dive Spearfishing
Spearfishing via freediving involves just an eye mask, fins, and a snorkel (along with your spear of choice). You dive on a single breath, rather than using an oxygen tank. This method is great for beginners since there’s less to learn.
With scuba spearfishing, you wear an oxygen tank and other diving gear. This means you can dive into deeper waters and enjoy the marine life under the surface. Fish are usually much larger at these depths, as well.
The disadvantage of scuba spearfishing is that you’ll need to get certified first by taking classes, and rent or purchase the correct gear. Additionally, you can suffer from decompression sickness if your dives aren’t performed properly.
What Gear Do You Need? (Basic Spearfishing Equipment)
First and foremost, you’ll need a sport fishing license, if required by your state’s wildlife and fishing department.
Spearfishing Wetsuits & Rash Guards
You’ll need the proper attire to keep yourself warm and protected. Rash guards will do for freediving in shallow water.
For scuba divers, you’ll want a complete wetsuit. The deeper you plan on diving—or the colder the water—the thicker your wetsuit needs to be.
Mask & Snorkel
When free dive spearfishing, you’ll need a mask and snorkel. Masks keep your eyes dry so you can see, of course, but also help equalize the pressure against your eyes when you dive under the surface. Tinted lenses can increase underwater visibility, as well.
A very basic snorkel is really all you need for free dive spear fishing, since its only purpose is to let you breathe as you skim the surface, waiting for a fish to swim by.
There are neoprene gloves and other varieties meant specifically for spear fishing, but you can also get by with surf gloves or other types if you aren’t using a speargun or diving. The main purpose is to protect your hands from abrasions and injury, and to keep them warm.
These are much more important than they sound: without booties, you might notice chafing or discomfort from your fins. Like gloves, booties also serve to warm your feet.
These aren’t necessary if you’re free dive spearfishing, of course, but they can give you quite the edge in the water. You’ll definitely need fins for scuba spearfishing to help you get deeper at faster speeds and conserve energy.
You can think of a weight belt like the sinkers on a fishing line: they keep you from floating to the surface and provide a little more stability in the current.
While you may need this to kill fish, it’s just as likely you’ll use a strong, sharp fishing knife to cut ropes or underwater vegetation that tangle around you or your fishing partner.
These watches contain dive computers to help you track how deep you’re diving and how long you've been under.
Floatlines, Floats Or Reels
Floatlines (lines attached to floats and your speargun) allow you to let go of the gun after you shoot a fish. You can then get to the surface and bring in your catch.
Reels do the same basic thing: they release line so your fish swims freely (but still attached) until you can reach the surface. These eliminate the need for a dive float, granting you more freedom and less drag.
How To Spear Fish: Important Tips For Beginners
Before you begin:
How To Spearfish While Freediving
- 1Scope out your hunting ground. Read reviews from others who participate in this sport, or consult your local wildlife and fishing department for good locations.
- 2Gear up and stick to the shallows. Choose areas where you can easily swim or maybe even stand, especially when you’re still a beginner.
- 3Find a good fishing spot. Like hunting on land, this will involve a combination of moving—finding areas where game will be—and simply waiting. If you’re patient and quiet, fish will turn up.
- 4Take your aim. Fish will spook when you launch your weapon, so you want to make sure your strike is effective.
- 5Secure your catch. Reel in your spear, remove it, and store the fish. This can be done with a stringer, bucket, or fishing cooler.
How To Spearfish When Scuba Diving
- 1Gear up and get in. Be sure to prepare your floatline and float or your reel, and dive in according to your scuba training.
- 2Wait, aim, and strike. Swim to areas where you think fish might be, take cover, and wait. Then, when you spot your next catch, take aim and launch.
- 3Wait, aim, and strike. Swim to areas where you think fish might be, take cover, and wait. Then, when you spot your next catch, take aim and launch.
- 4Remove the spear and store your catch.
How To Remove A Fish From Your Speargun
There are a few methods to remove your spear from a fish. You can gently pull it out with a twisting motion, which will suffice most of the time.
Some spearfishers use a quick release clip or swivel, while some cut the line to get the spear out, then reattach.
Spearfishing Above Water, Underwater & From The Shore
When spearfishing above the surface, keep in mind that light refracts differently in water than in air.
Adjust your aim to account for this and aim lower than you think you need to—generally 4 to 6 inches in shallow waters. This is true whether you wade in or if you’re spear fishing from the shore.
Once you’re underwater, aiming is easier in some respects. You do have to account for the current and drag of the water, but your perception of where the fish is becomes more accurate. In time, aiming will become second nature.
Spearfishing Through Ice
Ice spear fishing requires a lot of patience, but can land you enormous catches when done correctly. You carve a hole in the ice, drop a decoy into the water, and wait for a fish to inspect it.
Once it’s close enough, you impale it with your ice spear—a trident with multiple points.
Locations For Spearfishing (Best Spots In The USA)
Spearfishing In California
Spearfishing In Hawaii
A prime spearfishing spot in Hawaii is Maninis in Kona, where you can free dive amongst coral-lined shallows. Adrenaline junkies might prefer Keaukaha, which is known to harbor sharks. Parrotfish, striped marlin, and milkfish are just a few of the species you’ll find in these tropical waters.
Spearfishing In Florida
First, it’s important to note that deep spearfishing is prohibited in this state. Instead, you have to operate your spear at or just below the water’s surface. What’s more, certain species are off-limits for spearfishing in Florida.
The Gulf of Mexico is a popular spot, with many beaches and reefs to spot lionfish, grouper, or mahi-mahi. Travel to Miami, and you can even spear yourself some tasty lobsters.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
How deep do you spear fish?
Some places have regulations (like we mentioned above with Florida), but you can really spear fish at all depths. Most anglers stay above about 80 foot depth.
How dangerous is spearfishing?
This depends on the kind of spearfishing you participate in. Spearfishing from the shore or in shallows while freediving is considerably safer than scuba spearfishing, which introduces the dangers of decompression sickness, riptides, or even sharks.
How far can you shoot a speargun underwater?
Most spearguns will shoot up to six feet underwater, although more powerful versions (such as pneumatic spearguns) can go considerably farther, up to 14 feet.
Spearfishing delivers unmatched thrills and a high sense of pride when you land that first underwater catch. This sport allows you to explore marine life up-close, practice hunting skills in a totally new venue, and potentially land bigger fish than you ever have before.