Spearfishing; for total beginners

What is it?

Spearfishing is the art of catching fish by shooting them with a spear gun. So at the very least, you need a gun, and a mask and snorkel.

The gun tends to be powered by rubber bands (like the ones on black widow catapults), and on pulling the trigger they propel the spear (say, a 75cm steel shaft) about 8 feet. The shaft has a string which connects it to the front (muzzle?) of the gun.

So you go snorkeling, and dive down looking for fish, and shoot them. And eat them.

It’s fucking awesome, and if you were beginning to tire of beach holidays it’s an ideal sport to break up the cycle of books and beer.

But as with all hobbies, you soon find yourself needing more stuff, and the types of equipment you need depend on where you go.

What spear gun?

You’re probably male (that’s my stats counter, not sexism) and consequently you want to buy a gun. You don’t really get a gun for all situations, and they’re relatively inexpensive (compared to, say, air rifles) so you don’t need to. As with all hunting sports, my advice is to buy the smallest gun that’ll do the job.

Lets say you are fishing in the mediterranean, in somewhere like andalucia, and are just swimming from the beach. The med is pretty fished out, but that coast is still really fun to fish. Best case scenario, you might get an octopus or a fish a foot long (of course, it’s possible you could get something bigger but unlikely). Most fish there are smaller than a CD (to futureproof it for a few more years, lets say DVD), stuff like bream. So in terms of a gun you could use something as small as it gets, like 40cm long.

Why not get a bigger one?

A gun longer than 65cm might not fit in your suitcase, and £15 extra baggage fee each way is more than it’s worth. Also if you are hunting fish around coral and rocks, too powerful a gun will result in bent spears or getting them stuck. Plus as tempting as it is to buy a huge gun, it’ll be cringe when Rambo returns to the beach with a bream. So I’d advise if you regularly go to the med, get a small pneumatic (like a Cressi SL 40cm or 55cm). More on pneumatics vs banded guns in another post.

Crucially, get a diving float and a string that attaches it to you. This is super important everywhere because it tells jet skiers and boats that there’s a diver down, and people die every year getting hit in the head when they surface. Especially in the med with so many drunk-driven jetskis around, and on that note stay well away from the lanes they buoy off to let them ride up to the beach.

The float I have is inflatable, and has a line attached to it which runs to you. It bobs about on the surface 20ft from you.

On another safety front, you should get a knife too in case your string gets tangled in some rocks while you’re down. Also you need it to kill fish. And if you have a knife and string spool (coonected to the float), you need a belt. Rubber ones are best because they don’t slide loose when you get deeper ( and thinner). Finally you need a fish keeper which is a string with a metal rod, to hang your catch from while you keep fishing.

Snorkel, mask, speargun, belt, string spool, float, knife, fish keeper; that’s about the minimum stuff you need to go spearfishing in the south of Spain, or elsewhere in the mediterranean. Yep, that’s a lot of stuff but you can fit it all in one small rucksack.

More stuff….

You have to dive down to get the fish, and if your as unfit as me, you don’t have long underwater before you return to the surface for air. it’s way quicker to go up and down if you have fins (flippers), and freediving fins (which are narrow, long and flexible) are best.

Even more stuff…

If you go to andalucia in July/august/sept you probably will get away without a wetsuit, but you’d be surprised how cold it gets when you swim out and down. If you can, tough it out without one because it’s bulky to carry. Worse, wetsuits float so you need weights to counteract it, and all of a sudden your travelling with lumps of lead. If that’s the case, call a scuba diving place in your resort and arrange to borrow some for the week. Weights go on your belt.


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