There is nothing more thrilling than to dive into the deep unknown to hunt in the alien ocean landscape. Spearfishing is an exhilarating experience, and it’s among the most dangerous water activities.
It requires the ability to dive, swim, and operate a firearm while practicing proper safety procedures. Not to mention, water is not a humans natural environment. Humans are not the dominant species in the sunken dark of the sea.
After all, we know more about space than about our own oceans. If you want to explore unknown underwater landscapes and hunt a new kind of game, spearfishing is your sport.
If you’re new to it, you’re in for the adventure of a lifetime. But, in order to tell of your adventures, you have to make it back alive, which means practicing proper spearfishing safety.
What are the top 10 spearfishing safety tips? Keep reading for some handy tips on how to stay safe when spearfishing.
What Is Spearfishing?
Spearfishing is a practice of food gathering. Hunters dive under the water to spear fish with a speargun. The hunter will catch fish by spearing their target while submerged.
This is done on the surface of the water or beneath the water. A snorkel is used for positive identification of the target from the water surface. Then, the spearfisher dives under – holding their breath or using an air tank – to hunt their target.
What makes spearfishing different than other forms of fishing is the method a catching a fish. A speargun causes a spear projectile to propel at high speeds under the water. This requires a high amount of combustion in order to keep the spear on-track underwater.
Spearguns, therefore, carry a limited amount of ammunition, so hunters must be accurate.
Before You Hunt…
You have to be prepared in order to stay safe while spearfishing.
Learning how to spearfish ties directly to the gear you use. To do it legally, safely, and effectively, you need the following things:
License for Spearfishing
A spearfishing license is required in order to legally spear a fish underwater.
Every state has individual regulations concerning this sport. It’s often prohibited to hunt marine and freshwater species around reefs and harbors. Species that are endangered or threatened may also be prohibited from fishing or hunting.
Spearfishing can keep you in the water for a while – and it gets cold. Wearing a wetsuit is a must. This piece of equipment keeps you from getting hypothermia as you descend deeper to chase prey.
A diving wetsuit also protects you from jellyfish, coral, sharp rocks, and more. Its exterior is thick and form-fitting to keep your internal body temperature normal.
For quick dives, a standard surfing wetsuit can work, but suits made specifically for spearfishing enable you to stay warmer for longer.
Snorkel and Dive Mask
A well fitted, high-quality dive mask and snorkel are essential for spearfishers.
Low-quality masks will leak and fog up too easily. To spearfish safely, you must be able to see all of the potential dangers in your vicinity. Foggy masks are not only annoying but represent a safety hazard as well.
Diving fins are made specifically for spearfishing, so don’t use your normal swimming fins. They are longer and more narrow to enable fast physical maneuvers and stability when shooting.
Be sure that your fins are well fitted to your feet.
Too tight, and the fins will cause blisters and constrict blood circulation, which lowers your body temperature. Too loose, and they will hinder your maneuverability and speed. Make sure to try out several kinds of spearfishing fins before deciding.
A weight belt keeps you from floating on the surface when you’re trying to dive down. Between the buoyancy of your body and the wetsuit, it’s impossible to stay submerged for long enough to hunt. So, you wear a weight belt to even out the buoyancy.
The weight of the belt is specified to the thickness of your wetsuit and your bodyweight. Weight belts have a quick-release button in case of an emergency, which provides you with a safe place to string a catch.
Gloves and Booties
Spearfishing gloves are designed to enable easy loading and handling of your speargun as well as your catch. Be careful using standard surfing gloves as they are bulking and won’t keep your hands warm enough.
Diving booties simply present a layer of cushion and insulation between your feet and diving fins. In warm, shallow water, you might be tempted to skip the booties, but that’s a mistake.
Booties also provide a more snug fit to your fins, giving you more control in the water.
A diving knife is essential for any serious spearfisher. It’s easy to get tangled up in thick seaweed or rope. A knife is the only way to quickly free yourself.
It also comes in handy when collecting your hunt – if your spear doesn’t quite finish the job. The best kind of diving knife has a corrugated edge and a straightedge to the blade.
A spearfisher can use a hand operated spear or a speargun.
Spearguns come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges – as do all spears. No matter if its the cheapest model or the most high-end, a spear is a weapon and your speargun is a firearm. So, use caution.
If you’re just starting out, go with a two-band, 90-centimeter wooden speargun or a pole spear.
In case you’re diving in shallow waters as most beginners do, you’ll likely be using a pole spear. This is a good way to get used to spearfishing without the hazard of a powerful firearm.
Once you’re comfortable spearfishing, you can upgrade your spear pole to a speargun.
Spearfishing Safety Tips to Consider
Your physical condition and experience in the water play a key role in spearfishing safety. If you’re recovering from an injury or you suffer from chronic pain, then consider a different activity.
Colds and coughs make spearfishing an exhausting experience and may put you and your dive buddy in danger.
The deeper you dive, the more the water pressure increases. Someone experiencing sinus problems, for example, will feel the effects of the changing pressure to a greater extent than a healthy diver.
Safety Before you Dive
The better physical shape you are in, the longer you can safely hold your breath underwater. Hydrate your body to avoid becoming lightheaded from water pressure changes.
Once you’re in good shape, follow these 10 spearfishing safety tips in your planning stage:
1. Create a Dive Plan
Your dive plan is essential for spearfishing safety practice.
Many spearfishing accidents are caused by a lack of planning. In order to be sure you’re not diving in shallow water, a shark pool, or a riptide, research and plan your location and hunting time.
Look at a location’s topography and tidal charts. Find a place that’s easy to get to and from. Plan your dive according to the tidal charts of the area.
The water current is strongest at high tide, so plan your dive during low tide.
Also, plan your catch and stick to the capacity you can carry. It’s tempting to bite off more than you can chew if you find yourself in a rich hunting zone, but this can present problems.
2. Notify Someone of Your Dive Plan
Once you’ve created a thorough plan for your spearfishing hunt, make a copy and give it to someone you trust. Include precise details on the location, start time, and estimated ending time of your dive.
Spearfishing is dangerous, and if something goes wrong, then you need third-party help. In the event of an accident, this person will be responsible for alerting the rescue authorities.
Include a timetable in your plan. Make contact directly at the completion of your dive. If you don’t contact them within a half hour of the specified finish time, have them call for help.
This third-party precaution can make the difference between life and death if your party goes missing.
3. Never Spearfish Alone – Get a Dive Buddy
The first rule of diving is to get a buddy.
If something happens to a single lone spearfisher, the chances of survival decrease rapidly. A hunting buddy is essential for spearfishing safety practice.
4. Get Trained in CPR, First Aid, and Freediving
The reason a buddy is important is so that they can save your life if needed. So return the favor and get certified in CPR and first-aid.
A freediving course will teach you specific skills for underwater rescue.
5. Know Your Spearfishing Gear and Wetsuit
Once you have your equipment get to know it inside and out. Train in shallow pools to perform emergency operations with your gear to get used to it while submerged.
Keep your gear well maintained, and be aware of failing components of your mask and belt. Practice using your quick release and get used to swimming with your weight belt connected.
6. Practice Speargun Safety
Just like any firearm, never point your speargun at anything you don’t plan to shoot.
Your speargun gets loaded once you’re in the water and unloaded before you return to the boat – every time. Never bring the loaded speargun from the water to the boat.
Your speargun rests against your chest with the spear end pointed down. Don’t hold your speargun between your legs or under your arm at any time.
7. Always Identify Your Target
Spearing a prohibited marine creature will get you a hefty fine or worse. Know the kinds of fish you’re hunting for and what they look like. If you don’t know what it is, spear it.
Moreover, identifying your target ensures no one accidentally misidentifies their dive buddy as prey. As long as you know what kind of fish you’re looking for, you are less likely to unintentionally wound or kill the wrong target.
8. Use a Float Line and Flag
A floating line is attached from you to a floating bobber on the top of the water. The float is large enough to signify your presence to oncoming boats. A floating line is the only thing tethering you to the surface.
If water is murky, divers can easily become disoriented as to which way is up. Your float line provides a lifeline to follow to the surface.
Boat motors are the biggest threat to spearfishers. The float is supposed to warn boaters of your presence, but in dim light or fog, the float is not enough. It is recommended to always use a flag on your float line to ensure your visibility to oncoming watercraft.
9. Be Aware for Ocean Predators
Though boats are the biggest threat to spearfishing safety, the ocean is full of hungry predators. Make sure your dive area isn’t frequented by sharks, seals, or sea lions.
10. Never Tether Yourself to Your Catch
Ocean predators attack spearfishers because they’re drawn to the hunters catch. Never tether your catch to your body. Your weight belt has a quick release button for just this reason.
Always tether your catch to your belt, so it can be released if needed.
In the event of an ocean predator attack, release your belt so that you can get to the surface more quickly. Also, it acts as a distraction to predators, which will follow the free meal attached to your belt instead of you.
Outside of external factors, the biggest danger while spearfishing is you. Never spearfish anywhere near other people. You wouldn’t go target shooting near a populated area, so don’t spearfish near populated areas either.
Always dive in spearfishing spots that are away from public beaches and swimming areas.
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