I’m sure that there’s a lot of bubblers out there that might be offended by the title of this article. Let me first start off by saying, I’ve been there, and I’ve seen both sides of spearfishing.
Around 15 years ago I moved to north Florida and picked up fishing, both inshore and offshore. I didn’t grow up fishing on the coast, so it was all new to me. I grew up hunting whitetails, dove, and an occasional hog back home. I loved hunting so much that while living on the coast I started having withdrawals! I knew there had to be a way to get my fix by hunting in the ocean. That’s when I was introduced to spearfishing. Spearfishing was a way to get fully emerged in hunting right in the ocean in my backyard. I did a little research and visited the local dive shops and found the easiest and quickest way to get into spearfishing was to get my scuba certification. I got my cert and completed my check out dives and bought a used speargun off a local diver. I went on many local dive charters and shot a lot of fish on scuba.
Scuba was the only way I knew how to hunt underwater till one day I was talking to a dive buddy and he explained to me that he took a freediving course and now he could dive to 70 feet with just one breath of air. That conversation changed my entire outlook on spearfishing. I did some research and signed up for a FII level one freediving course out of Ft. Lauderdale. A buddy and I went through the course and on the second day of the course I completed a three-minute breath hold while lying flat, with my face in the pool. Keep in mind, I’m not a super athlete, and previously my best breath hold was around one minute. After learning the safety, tips and techniques of freediving I found how accessible it is for most people to obtain a three-minute breath hold. By the end of that weekend course, I’d checked out on a 60-foot dive on one breath. I felt like my eyes were opened to all the spearfishing possibilities after that weekend.
It’s been 11 years now since I’ve speared on scuba. I no longer carry around multiple tanks, BCs, regs, complex dive computers to estimate my dive time, nitrogen level monitors, and dive tables.
I still have the equipment, but it’s been collecting dust in my garage ever since. Over the years I have refined my dive gear with simpler and better equipment. All of my dive gear now fits in a duffle bag and a speargun with a few extra shafts. What used to be hundreds of pounds of gear can now be easily carried to the boat in one trip.
Since switching to freedive spearfishing, I’ve noticed a big difference in the quality of fish I shoot. I now can dive silently on a wreck, reef, or out in blue water and not spook the fish. On scuba you’re letting everything in the area know your there with the clouds of bubbles and the foreign breathing noises you make. While freediving and using the correct body language you can dive up to otherwise spooky fish and shoot them right in the face. It’s a lot like stalk hunting with a bow and getting close to your kill. I get much more satisfaction in spending time in their element and having a personal connection with my kill.
I want to be clear that you don’t have to be a superhuman to be successful in freedive spearfishing. I’ve never run a marathon, set any breath hold records, and I’m not exceptionally athletic. Most days I’m happy to dive between 60 – 80 foot. I know that in those depths I’m most effective. You just have to be in the right spot, know your limits and dive safely. Freediving can be a dangerous sport. The best rule to follow in freediving is always dive with a buddy as a safety to watch you while you dive and when you’re returning to the surface. This gives us the opportunity to share the experience with a friend and watch each other’s back at all times.
If you’re looking into hunting in the ocean and you want to shoot fish, I’d highly recommend going the freedive route first. Take a freediving course with a buddy. You’ll never know what you’re capable of till you try it. I do feel like scuba has its place, but not the primary way to spearfish. For commercial reasons I can see where it’s more efficient, but not for those who want to get a more fulfilling hunting experience. Get the training, buy quality gear, find some great buddies to dive with, and shoot some fish in the face!
From Jason Huggins