Spearfishing is one of the oldest forms of fishing in the world. It is one of the most exciting and physically most demanding forms of recreational fishing. Spearfishing may be done from shore or from the boat or using free-diving, snorkeling or scuba diving techniques - note: spearfishing while using scuba equipment is illegal in some countries, sometimes even having scuba and spearfishing equipment in the same boat is illegal. Spearfishing is highly selective form of fishing that normally uses no bait and has no by-catch (or very rarely). Spearfishing can be done in seas, lakes, rivers etc - also note that some countries have different regulations for saltwater and freshwater spearfishing.
Spearfishing from the shore or from the boat is usually done using hand thrown spears. This type of fishing is limited to shallow waters or to fish species often found near sea surface (marlins, mullets etc.). Bowfishing is often considered as form of spear fishing - using various bows (mostly compound bows made from artificial materials), fish are shot with a barbed arrow that is attached with special line to a reel mounted on the bow.
Spearfishing using free-diving or snorkeling techniques is true sport fishing - divers can hold their breath even for several minutes and dive up to (or even more) 25m.
If you are beginner, start slowly and gradually increase your diving depth - for example, first few days don't dive below 4-5m and gradually increase your time under water. If something should happen, you can reach surface in just a few seconds. After few days, depending on your conditioning, increase diving depth and time under water - of course, to reach depth of 15-20m and to be able to spend 2-3 minutes under water, it takes years of diving, swimming and other workouts.
Spearfishing and conservation
Although spearfishing has been implicated in some areas in local extinction of some species, in countries where the sport is highly regulated by state, spearfishing has been found to be the most environmentally friendly form of fishing due to being highly selective, having almost no by-catch, causing no or minimum habitat damage (spear hitting coral reef should be considered minimum, if not no, damage), nor creating pollution or harm to protected and endangered species. In fact, in many countries, spearfishermen are first to note changes in marine species and marine habitat and often first one to alert authorities about problems to come.
Although spearfishing is practiced with minimum equipment, some equipment is commonly used:
Speargun is an underwater fishing equipment designed to fire a spear (often called arrow) at fish. There are basically two types of spearguns - band powered and pneumatic (compressed air) spearguns. Which one is better, depends on many things like game fish (size and weight, speed etc.), fishing areas, regulations, personal preferences etc. Pneumatic spearguns are usually shorter and can have power selector (personally - highly recommended) in the form of lever close to the thumb that enables diver to chose hitting power. This can be very useful when fishing in holes, among rocks and reefs - when missed fish often means hit in something hard and broken or damaged spear head.
Snorkel and diving mask - snorkel enables diver to look underwater while freely breathing air and diving mask enables clear view under and above surface. Objects under water appear closer, but after just a few minutes even beginners don't think about that difference any more. Diving masks are available in many shapes and sizes to fit everyone face contours. For people using optical glasses, diving masks with built-in optical lenses can be purchased - these masks often cost more, but they are worth it.
Price of diving masks vary greatly, depending on the model, diving depth and similar features. Also, there are diving masks with built-in cameras, USB ports, flash light and other 'gadgets' that someone can find useful when spearfishing or just diving ...
Fins are used as swimming aids. Using minimum strength (and minimum, so much needed, air), diver can travel larger distances in less time. Proper swimming technique is needed - movements are mainly from the hips, not from the knees or ankles (although knee and ankle action is needed, too). All movements are soft and gentle - diver spend less oxygen under water and such moves don't scare off the fish.
Not all fins suit every person or fishing/diving occasion. If you are spearfishing using only light speargun with snorkel and mask, then some soft and relatively narrow fins are more than you need. But if you are spearfishing in cold waters with thick wet suite, weight belt and other equipment, you need more thrust - harder and wider fins are required for more thrust to move around. Of course, such military style fins require much stronger legs and require plenty of air in the lungs, so don't be too 'optimistic' when purchasing your first diving fins :o)
Diving knife is not just a 'fancy gadget' - often it makes difference between life and death. When you spend a lot of time in the water, swimming and diving, you will see more and more ghost nets, ropes, wire mashes and other obstacles swimmer and/or diver can become entangled. Sharp and strong diving knife will help you get out of trouble and reach surface. Remember that when you are diving and holding breath, you have maybe only few tens of seconds to free yourself - after that many people panic (which is not something surprising) and chances of getting out of trouble diminish with every second passed by ...
Diving knife don't have to be some kind of 'Rambo style' knives - often smaller and lighter knives are better for carrying on easy to reach positions - usually around waist or on arms. Personally, I don't like knives carried on calf position - they are sometimes hard to reach and swimming can be harder.
Fish stringer is used to store speared fish on - it is usually attached to the dive float or more often around the waist of the diver. Swimming and diving with speared fish on yourself, can be hazardous in waters with dangerous animals like sharks, barracudas and similar predatory species.
Wet suite and weight belt (weight vest) - wet suite is used for swimming and diving in colder waters. It can cover entire body or just certain body parts. Due to it's buoyancy, weight belt (or weight vest) is carried to achieve desired diver buoyancy. Wet suites come in various thicknesses and color schemes, depending on one needs.
Gloves are not commonly carried when spearfishing, but they can give additional layer of protection from rough surfaces (rocks, reefs etc), sharp objects, dangerous species (weever, various rays ...), cold water etc. Note that not all diving gloves protect from sharp objects or from poisonous fish spines - illusion of safety can be very dangerous!
Buoy or float are usually tethered to speargun or directly to spear. If tethered to spear, they are used to subdue large fish - diver finds the fish and hit it with spear - large fish, even when hit in vital areas, still poses plenty of strength and can pull floatline with plenty of force. Since this can be very dangerous to diver, it is much safer to have spear attached to buoy or float.
If buoy or float is connected to speargun, it is used to mark position of diver to passing boats.
Other equipment used in spearfishing can include various timers, depthmeters, compass, thermometer etc.