Ordinary fishing can be a bit boring, but pole spear fishing brings you into direct contact with your prey. By immersing you in their ecosystem, you must rely on your own endurance and strategy to stalk fish. You’ll experience both the thrill of the hunt and the beauty of nature – with a delicious meal as the end result.
What Is Pole Spear Fishing?
This ancient method of fishing has been practiced for millennia, with the earliest examples documented by art historian Dale Guthrie in The Nature of Paleolithic Art (2005). From barbed poles used in rivers and streams, spearfishing would evolve to the wooden spears used by Indians, Polynesians, and other indigenous communities to hunt in the ocean. Although their practices continue to this day, as shown by National Geographic, the sport of spearfishing has grown beyond these early roots.
Contemporary spearfishing really began in the 1920s, with its increasing popularity on the Mediterranean coast. According to “A History of Closed Circuit Oxygen Underwater Breathing”, this era brought the development of the diving mask, fins, snorkel, and scuba diving, with the rise of Italian rebreathers in particular. Even with the invention of the pneumatic speargun, equipment innovator Charlie Sturgill demonstrated the superiority of the elastic-powered pole spear by out-performing fellow fishermen with the pole spear.
As the sport has grown, there has been a proliferation of specialized equipment. In particular, modern spear fishing relies upon various models of either elastic-powered pole spears and slings or pneumatic-powered spearguns. With a great deal of overlap with other water sports, you may find some of the tools that you need sitting in your gear closet, from wet suits to snorkeling equipment.
Spear fishing is still primarily done in one of three ways: free-diving, snorkeling, and scuba diving. While scuba diving is sometimes illegal, snorkeling is more common, and free diving is usually reserved for experts with training in holding their breath for longer periods of time. It may also be done around coral reefs, in deep ocean waters, on their coasts, or along fresh water lakes and rivers.
Pole Spear Fishing: What Supplies Do You Need?
As “The Outdoorsman’s Guide to Spear Fishing” points out, you will need to start by choosing a pole spear, which consists of a long shaft, spear tip, and attached rubber loop, or a Hawaiian Slip, which is a tube and spear with an un-connected elastic band. Poles may be made of fiberglass, carbon fiber, aluminum, or wood, with a fixed or interchangeable barb. Popular varieties include the three-pronged Paralyzer and pivoting Tahitian blade.
Standard snorkeling or diving equipment like a wetsuit and fins is essential. Additional equipment like grippy diving gloves will add extra protection for dealing with rocks, coral, and other dangers, while masks should have a good nose purge and peripheral vision. For safety, buoys or floats with live flags should be attached to the slip, spear, or speargun to indicate a diver’s presence to boat drivers.
A nother important tool for pole spear fishing is your own body and its weight in the water. As suggests, work on getting into shape for this physically-demanding sport with aerobic activity and aquatic conditioning. Before entering the water, invest in a weight belt to counteract your own buoyancy in order to prevent the extra effort of working against that force.
Upon catching a fish, you will need to have a stringer tool for stringing them along while you continue fishing or return to land. The tether should be fairly long to prevent any risk of attention from predators. A high-quality, stainless steel dive knife is also important for killing speared fish humanely, cutting lines, and preparing fillets for cooking.
How Do You Fish with a Pole Spear?
The first step is to decide upon a particular location and familiarize yourself with local regulations on fishing and catch size. Next, get a fishing license, make any related reservations for your trip, and head to your hunting grounds. Once you arrive, familiarize yourself with the ecosystem and its kelp forests, reefs, and other nooks and crannies where fish could hide.
At the same time, you’ll need to focus on equalizing pressure in your ears, holding your breath, and keeping an eye on the fish you’re hunting. As Wes Siller reminds his fellow novice spear fishermen, remember that no matter how fast you are, the slowest fish in the ocean can easily outrun you. So, avoid chasing them, and, instead, use the marine environment to help sneak up on them without making any bubbles or commotion.
Aim for the largest surface area, which usually lies behind the gills. Then, hook the rubber loop of your pole spear between your thumb and forefinger, stretching it up as far as possible and lining up with the fish. Let go, allowing the spear to fire and hit your prey, though you will still need to grab the fish and secure them on your stringer.
Pole Spear Fishing: What Should You Beware?
According to spearfisher Roman Castro, the biggest mistake that beginners make is to start too fast. Take your time in order to avoid attracting any attention that might spook your prey. Instead, keep your movements to a minimum, using your eyes to observe the depths and moving limbs slowly if at all.
Another important tip when starting out is to scout ahead and get to know the lay of the land. Once you have a strong sense of the landscape, you can start to observe specific fish, their field of vision, interactions, and patterns of movement. This will give you a sense of their weak spots that will be helpful in developing a plan of attack using the environment to surprise the fish you hope to capture.
Like any sport that involves potentially dangerous weapons, handle your pole spear and related equipment with care. Always fish in pairs to prevent anyone from getting into trouble, alternately taking turns at hunting and watching over one another. In addition, consider bringing a fellow fisherman with experience in water rescues and first aid along just in case of an emergency.
When you are fishing with a pole spear, you have become the predator preying on the weak, so don’t be ashamed to pick off the slowest or weakest fish. This unique sport immerses us in marine ecosystems that can feel like another world but from which we so often get our daily meals. Beyond these basic tips and guidelines, remember to enjoy not only the thrill of the hunt but also that experience of nature’s beauty.