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Diving Snorkeling Spearfishing

Spearfishing is a challenging and rewarding sport that has engaged fishermen worldwide for centuries. Spearfishing may be done using free-diving, snorkeling, or scuba diving techniques.

Thousands of anglers engage in spearfishing every year. Spearfishing effectively takes practice and effort but it's also the most exciting way to "catch the big one". Always exercise caution when spearfishing.


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Video - Introduction to Spearfishing



Spearfishing Tips from Hawaiian Spearfishermen

One of the best tricks a spearfisherman can take advantage of when spearfishing is a fish's curiosity. Fish see their world with their eyes and with vibrations picked up by their lateral line. Experienced spearfishermen take advantage of this by moving very slowly in the water, and by using weights to carry them to the bottom rather than kicking of fins to minimize vibration.

Once on the bottom or in sight of his spearfishing target a spearfisherman will remain perfectly still, and lack of vibration in the water will usually cause the fish to come within spear range to investigate. Experienced shore spearfishermen will travel along the shoreline and prepare for an entrance to the water and go straight to the bottom for as long as they can hold their breath.

Any large creature in the area will usually come to investigate the appearance and then disappearance of something, as no picture is available to their lateral line of a non moving object. Any rocks or other objects on the bottom that the spearfisherman can get close to will further disguise his appearance and warrant closer investigation by fish within 40 yards. Exiting the water and moving 40 yards down the shore usually produces another shot at a big one.

Experienced spearfishing divers will carry several small pieces of coral or shells and when their prize is reluctant to come into spear range, rubbing or clicking of these usually draws them closer. Throwing up sand also will bring them closer and helps to camouflage the spearfishing diver. Contact with coral should be avoided as this may damage the reef. Blue water spearfishing divers will float on the surface 100 yards from their boat and continue to rap a dive knife or a softer object against their spear gun until a big one comes to investigate.

In areas where many holes are available for a fish to hide in, a strong spearfishing swimmer can clip his gun to his belt, and force them into a hole by swimming full speed and slapping his cupped hands on the surface with each stroke. Another shoreline spearfishing technique for the big ones is to spear fish that are favorite prey of the desired species or collect the seaweed, mussels, etc. that they eat and chum them into the area.

Some think chumming the water is dangerous as it will draw sharks, but many big predator fish travel with reef sharks, and the instances of spearfisherman being attacked is a very low percentage of the total number of shark attacks.

Spearfishing in areas with many sharks larger than 8 feet and of aggressive species does not require chumming as these areas are plentiful in big fish that are not used to seeing spearfisherman. Care needs to be taken in these areas to stay out of areas where blood from a kill is in the water.

Florida Spearfishing Regulations

Spearing is defined as “the catching or taking of a fish by bow hunting, gigging, spearfishing, or by any device used to capture a fish by piercing its body. Spearing does not include the catching or taking of a fish by a hook with hook and line gear or by snagging (snatch hooking).”

Spearfishing is defined as “the catching or taking of a fish through the instrumentality of a hand or mechanically propelled, single or multi-pronged spear or lance, barbed or barbless, operated by a person swimming at or below the surface of the water.”

The use of powerheads, bangsticks, and rebreathers remains prohibited. The following is a list of species that are prohibited for harvest by spearing. Any other species not listed that are managed by the Commission, and those species not managed by the Commission, are allowed to be harvested by spearfishing.

  • Billfish (all species)
  • Spotted eagle ray
  • Sturgeon
  • Manta ray
  • Sharks
  • Bonefish
  • Tarpon
  • Goliath Grouper
  • Snook
  • Blue Crab
  • Nassau grouper
  • Spotted seatrout
  • Red drum
  • Weakfish
  • Stone Crab
  • Pompano
  • African pompano
  • Permit
  • Tripletail
  • Lobster
  • Families of ornamental reef fish (surgeonfish, trumpetfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, porcupinefish, cornetfish, squirrelfish, trunkfish, damselfish, parrotfish, pipefish, seahorse, puffers, triggerfish except gray and ocean)

You May NOT Spearfish (Excluding bowhunting and gigging):

  • Effective July 1, 2001, spearfishing of marine and freshwater species in freshwater is prohibited. Possession of a spear gun in or on freshwater is also prohibited.
  • Within 100 yards of a public swimming beach, any commercial or public fishing pier, or any part of a bridge from which public fishing is allowed.
  • Within 100 feet of any part of a jetty that is above the surface of the sea – except for the last 500 yards of a jetty that extends more than 1,500 yards from the shoreline.
  • In Collier County and in Monroe County from Long Key north to the Dade County line.
  • For any fish for which spearing is expressly prohibited by law (listed above).
  • In any body of water under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection,Recreation and Parks. (Possession of spearfishing equipment is prohibited in these areas, unless it is unloaded and properly stored.)

Fishermen who catch and/or sell fish harvested by spearing are subject to the same rules and limitations that other anglers in the state are required to follow.

Bahamas Spearfishing Regulations

Hawaiian sling is the only approved spearfishing device. Use of scuba gear or an air compressor to harvest fish, conch, crawfish and other marine animals is prohibited. Spearfishing is not allowed within one mile off the coast of New Providence, within one mile off the south coast of Freeport, Grand Bahama and within 200 yards of the coast of all Out Islands. Spearing or taking marine animals by any means is prohibited within national sea parks.

Spearfishing with Hawaiian Slings

The hawaiian sling utilizes a basic design similar to an underwater slingshot. In the Bahamas, the pole spear and the hawaiian sling are the only legal tools for spearfishing underwater. It's the most primitive of underwater weapons and is still used by spearfishing islanders today as a means to catch their fish. Slings are made out of different material including wood, plastic, and steel. A latex rubber tube is attached to the base sling and is pulled back with a limited range depending upon the user. Typically, you must get very close to the fish to spear it.

Spearfishing in the Gulf of Mexico

Legal spearfishing in the Gulf of Mexico includes the following fish:

  • Amberjack (AJ)
    This large- To more than 100 pounds- member of the jack family is commonly found schooling over wrecks, high profile reefs and around rigs. It is known for its fighting abilities; thus, if you do not hit a kill shot, be ready to hang on. Average weight is 7-15 pounds, but can range to 100 pounds or more. Good food value.
  • Grouper
    There are over 40 species of grouper, and a number of them live in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. There are spotted ones, red ones, gray ones, black ones, LARGE ones, and small ones. They have common characteristics. Most common to the northern gulf spearfisherman are gag (commonly called black grouper) Some of the best food value.
  • Triggerfish
    This rounded fish is easy to identify by its gray thick rough skin and by its three dorsal spines. One of the spines unlocks the others so they can be depressed and folded into a notch on the fish's back, "The Trigger". Triggerfish average about a pound or so but can get up to 10. They can be found around wrecks or on natural bottom. Triggers have a excellent flavor of firm white meat.
  • Flounder
    This flatfish swim and lie on there side. A flounder's top side is a mottled brown and can change color to match that of the surrounding. It's other side (the one that lays on the sand) is white. Flounder are year-around resident of the northern gulf, moving into shallow water- sometimes right up to the beach - in warmer weather, and into the deep in the cooler months. They average 1-2 pounds but can get as big as 15 pounds.
  • Snapper (red, lane, gray, beeliner, etc.)
    This is, in some peoples opinion, the most prized table fare of the gulf bottom variety. In the past few years, however, creel limits have been lowered because of the over fishing in the 80's, they are now making a good comeback.
  • Cobia (ling)
    The cobia is somewhat of a loner, they average 20 pounds or more and are found migrating the shoreline between mid-March and late may. After that single Cobia can be found on wrecks and natural reef bottom. They have a brownish top of the body and white belly. They are easily recognized by its flat head and protruding lower jaw. They are fine table fare.

More Spearfishing Information