When I started spearfishing it was by design, not chance. I didn’t grow up near the ocean. I’ve only lived near the ocean briefly. I didn’t stumble into this sport… A love for the ocean turned into a love for exploring it, then exploring it with a speargun.
I spent a few years chasing big fish. I didn’t have much time off and I wasn’t making much money in the military – so it was difficult. But I managed to land respectable specimens of all of my dream fish. It was akin to trophy hunting, and after spending several years diving that way – I learned how to be very selective of the animals that I harvested.
Down here, though, that’s all flipped on it’s head. Down here, trophy hunting ends the same way every time: disappointment. Even if there were trophy fish in this area (and there aren’t) – it would be a challenge to make use of all of the meat. So I’ve had to change my style quite a bit. Now I’m spearfishing for dinner.
Spearfishing For Dinner
Most people who spearfish probably start with a love for eating fish. I started with a love for spearfishing, the love of eating fish came afterwards; a byproduct of spearfishing. And never, ever did I actually spearfish for dinner. Eating fish was a byproduct of my chosen sport. When you’re spearfishing for trophies things are pretty different.
Trophy spearfishing on the reef is kicking around, keeping a keen eye out for large outlines of large fish usually in relatively deep water. Or poking your head into big holes in deep reef. Trophy hunting offshore is about finding the fish, and quickly determining the size and distance of them (very challenging in open water) so you can put the right shot on them.
Trophy hunting does not compare to spearfishing for dinner. Spearfishing for dinner, in a good area, is about finding the best size of the best tasting fish and then getting them into your boat. The best tasting fish aren’t always game fish. The best size of fish is usually not a trophy. Rather than holding your shots for the largest fish, you’re pulling triggers on anything that makes good ceviche. Parrotfish, Lionfish, Triggerfish, and small Snapper are the primary targets. Grouper are hunted, but rarely taken – they’re crafty in these parts.
For me, it’s taken me 6 months of recovery and I still hold shots when I should pull triggers. Almost everyone I spearfish with pulls more triggers and lands more fish. I’m still trophy hunting, no matter how hard I try to spearfish for dinner…
It’s a massive relearning of every technique I’ve used thus far. It’s also different equipment – better to use smaller and more maneuverable spearguns. Two bands is enough, and often overkill. A 110 cm speargun is enough. A 130 cm speargun is usually too much. In holes in the reef, 80 cm is about right. Thin shafts fly faster and you don’t need heavy shafts for smaller fish.
This kind of hunting can be alot of fun, though. Smaller guns, faster reloading, more pulling of triggers. All of that adds up to something really fun, when you get the hang of it. Of course, we don’t get to post pictures of us with massive fish. And we always stop after we have enough for a couple of meals. There are a couple exceptions to the “enough for dinner” rule: when we can share fish with friends, when we are spearfishing with locals, and when we can trade fish for other stuff (like alcohol or produce). Providing fresh fish to others brings with it quite a bit of good will. I enjoy that.
One of the interesting things about the “enough for dinner” rule is that if we shoot a big fish, or a bunch of small fish – we don’t get to spearfish the next day. Or we eat fish three meals a day, so we can go and spearfish again. Not a big problem, but it certainly makes you think about shooting those large-but-not-quite-trophy fish. Those fish are tempting, but one of those and all the spearfishing is over for a bit.
The good news is that I have a dedicated freezer onboard. It’s sole purpose is to keep meat frozen on long passages. So, if I really do bump into a trophy fish (not a large-but-not-quite-trophy) – I can put it into the boat without feeling guilty. It just means that we’ll be eating fish three times a day for a month, and freediving armed with cameras rather than spearguns.
There are worse punishments, me thinks.