Spearfishermanredirects here. For the former diving gear company see Spearfisherman (company)."Spearfishing is a form of fishingthat has been popular throughout the world for centuries. Early civilizations are familiar with the custom of spearing fishout of riversand streamsusing sharpened sticks as a means of catching food.
Spearfishing today employs more modern and effective elastic- or pneumatic-powered
spearguns and slings to strike the hunted fish.
Spearfishing may be done using
free-diving, snorkeling, or scuba divingtechniques. However, spearfishing while using SCUBA or other artificial breathing apparatus is frowned upon in some locations and is illegal in many others. Because of the belief of lack of sport in some modern spearfishing techniques, the use of mechanically-powered spearguns is outlawed in some jurisdictions.
Spearfishing in the past has been detrimental to the environment when species unafraid or unused to divers were targeted excessively. However, it is also highly selective and has extremely low amount of
by-catch; therefore with education and proper regulations spearfishing can be the most ecologically sustainable form of fishing.
The very best free-diving spearfishers can hold their breath for durations of 2-4 minutes and dive to depths of 40 or even 60 meters (about 130 to 200 feet). However, dives of approximately 1 minute and 15 or 20 meters (about 50 to 70 feet) are more common for the average experienced spearfisher.
Spearfishing with barbed poles (
harpoons) was widespread in palaeolithic times. [Guthrie, Dale Guthrie (2005) [http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=3u6JNwMyMCEC&pg=PA298&lpg=PA298&dq=Cosquer+spear+fish&source=web&ots=JMnNQj1gPu&sig=2SgDhCZyGrWWNpMXz9y0DLSWmuE&hl=en#PPA298,M1 "The Nature of Paleolithic Art."] Page 298. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226311260] Cosquer cavein Southern France contains cave art over 16,000 years old, including drawings of seals which appear to have been harpooned. There are references to fishing with spears in ancient literature; though, in most cases, the descriptions do not go into detail. An early example from the Biblein Job : "Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?".
The Greek historian
Polybius("ca" 203 BC– 120 BC), in his Histories, describes hunting for swordfish by using a harpoon with a barbed and detachable head. [Polybius, [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Plb.+34.3 "Fishing for Swordfish"] , "Histories" Book 34.3 (Evelyn S. Shuckburgh, translator). London, New York: Macmillan, 1889. Reprint Bloomington, 1962.]
Oppian of Corycus, a Greek author wrote a major treatise on sea fishing, the "Halieulica" or "Halieutika", composed between 177 and 180. This is the earliest such work to have survived intact to the modern day. Oppian describes various means of fishing including the use of spears and tridents.
In a parody of fishing, a type of
gladiatorcalled retiariuswas armed with a tridentand a casting-net. He would fight against the murmillo, who carried a short sword and a helmet with the image of a fish on the front.
Copper harpoons were known to the seafaring Harappans [Ray 2003, page 93] well into antiquity. [Allchin 1975, page 106] Early hunters in India include the Mincopie people, aboriginal inhabitants of India's
Andaman and Nicobarislands, who have used harpoons with long cords for fishing since early times. [Edgerton 2003, page 74]
Traditional spear fishing
Spear fishing is an ancient method of fishing and may be conducted with an ordinary
spearor a specialised variant such as an eel spear [ [http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/claremuseum/riches_of_clare/water/eel_spear2.htm Image of an eel spear] .] [ [http://www.journalofantiques.com/June03/hearthJun03.htm Spear fishing for eels] .] or the trident. A small trident type spear with a long handle is used in the American South and Midwest for gigging bullfrogs with a bright light at night, or for gigging carpand other fish in the shallows.
Traditional spear fishing is restricted to shallow waters, but the development of the
speargunhas made the method much more efficient. With practice, divers are able to hold their breath for up to four minutes and sometimes longer; of course, a diver with underwater breathing equipment can dive for much longer periods.
Modern spear fishing
In the 1920s, sport spearfishing without breathing apparatus became popular on the
Mediterraneancoast of Franceand Italy. At first, divers used no more aid than ordinary watertight swimming goggles, but it led to development of the modern diving mask, swimfinand snorkel. Modern scuba divinghad its genesis in the systematic use of rebreathers for diving by Italian sport spearfishers during the 1930s. This practice came to the attention of the Italian Navy, which developed its frogman unit, which affected World War II.cite journal |last=Quick |first=D. |title=A History Of Closed Circuit Oxygen Underwater Breathing Apparatus |journal=Royal Australian Navy, School of Underwater Medicine. |volume=RANSUM-1-70 |date=1970 |url=http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/4960 |accessdate=2008-04-25 ]
During the 1960s, attempts were made to have spearfishing recognized as an Olympic sport. This didn't happen. Instead, two organisations, the [http://www.iusarecords.com International Underwater Spearfishing Association] (IUSA) and the [http://www.freedive.net/ibsrc/index.html International Bluewater Spearfishing Records Committee] (IBSRC), maintain lists of world records by species and offer rules to insure that any world record setting fish is caught under fair conditions. Spearfishing is illegal in many bodies of water, and some locations only allow spearfishing during certain seasons.
In 2007, the Australian Bluewater Freediving Classic became the first spearfishing tournament in the world to be accredited and was awarded 4 out of 5 stars based on environmental, social, safety and ecomomic indicators. [ [http://www.recfish.com.au/hot_topics/media.html Recfish Australia] ]
Purposes of spearfishing
People spearfish for sport, for commerce or as subsistence. In tropical seas, some natives spearfish in
snorkeling kit for a living, often using home-made kit.
pearfishing and conservation
Spearfishing has been implicated in local extirpation of many larger species, including the
Goliath grouperon the Caribbean island of Bonaire, the Nassau grouperin the barrier reef off the coast of Belize, the giant black sea bass in California, and others. [Roberts, Callum. "The Unnatural History of the Sea", Island Press, 2007, p. 238]
Types of spearfishing
The methods and locations freedive spearfishers use vary greatly around the world. This variation extends to the species of fish sought and the gear used.
Shore diving is perhaps the most common form of spearfishing and simply involves entering and exiting the sea from beaches or
headlandsand hunting around ocean architecture, usually reef, but also rocks, kelpor sand. Usually shore divers hunt between 5 and 25 meters (about 17 to 83 feet) depth, though it depends on location. In some locations in the South Pacific, divers can experience huge drop-offs from 5 meters up to 30 or 40 meters very close to the shore line. Sharks and reef fish can be abundant in these locations. In more subtropical areas, sharks may be less common, but other challenges face the shore diver, such as entering and exiting the water in the presence of big waves. Headlands are favored for entry because of their proximity to deeper water, but timing entries and exits is important so the diver does not get pushed onto rocks by waves. Beach entry can be safer, but more difficult due the need to consistently dive through the waves until the surf line is crossed.
Shore dives can produce a mixed bag of fish, mainly reef fish, but ocean going pelagic fish are caught from shore dives too, and can be specifically targeted.
Shore diving can be done with trigger-less spears such as pole spears or
Hawaiian slings, but more commonly triggered devices such as spearguns. Speargun setups to catch and store fish include speed rigs, fish stringers.
The use of catch bags worn close to the body is discouraged because the bag can inhibit movement, especially descent or ascent on deeper freedives. Moreover, in waters known to contain sharks, it is positively dangerous and can greatly increase the risk of attack. The better option is to tow a float behind, to which is attached a line onto which a catch can be threaded. Tying the float line to the speargun can be of great assistance in the event of a large catch, or if the speargun should be dropped or knocked out of reach.
Boats, ships or even kayaks can be used to access off shore reefs or ocean structure such as pinnacles. Man made structures such as oil rigs and FADs (
Fish Aggregating Devices) are also fished. Sometimes a boat is necessary to access a location that is close to shore, but inaccessible by land.
Methods and gear used for diving from a boat diving are similar to shore diving or blue water hunting depending on the prey sought. Care must be taken with spearguns in the cramped confines of a small boat, and it is recommended that spear guns are never loaded on the boat.
Boat diving is practiced worldwide. Hot spots include the northern islands of
New Zealand(yellow tail kingfish), Gulf of Florida oil rigs ( cobia, grouper) and the Great Barrier Reef( wahoo, dog-tooth tuna). FADS are targeted worldwide, often specifically for mahi-mahi(dolphin fish). The deepwater fishing grounds off Cape Point, (Cape Town, South Africa) have become popular with trophy hunting, freediving spearfishers in search of Yellowfin Tuna.
Blue water hunting
Blue water hunting is the area of most interest to elite spearfishers, but has increased in popularity generally in recent years. It involves accessing usually very deep and clear water and trolling, chumming for large pelagic fish species such as marlin, tuna, or giant trevally. Blue water hunting is often conducted in drifts; the boat driver will drop one or more divers and allow them to drift in the current for up to several kilometers before collecting them. Blue water hunters can go for hours without seeing any fish, and without any ocean structure or a visible bottom the divers can experience
sensory deprivation. It can be difficult to determine the true size of a solitary fish when sighted due to the lack of ocean structure for comparison. One technique to overcome this is to note the size of the fish's eye in relation to its body - large examples of their species will have a relatively smaller eye.
Notably, blue water hunters make use of breakaway rigs and large multi band wooden guns to catch and subdue their prey. If the prey is large and still has fight left after being subdued, a second gun can be used to provide a kill shot at a safe distance from the fish. This is acceptable to IBSRC and IUSA regulations as long as the spearfisher loads it himself in the water.
Blue water hunting is conducted world wide, but notable hot spots include
South Africa(yellow fin tuna) and the South Pacific(dog-tooth snapper). Blue water pioneers like Jack Prodanavich and Hal Lewis of San Diego were some of the first to go after large species of fast moving fish like Tuna.
These methods have been used for thousands of years. A fisher wades in shallow salt or fresh water with a hand spear. The fisher must account for optical
refractionat the water's surface, which makes the fish appear to be further away. By experience, the fisher learns to aim lower to hit the target. Calm and shallow waters are favored for spearing fish from above the surface. [cite book
title=Fish Catching Methods of the World
author=Otto Gabriel; Andres von Brandt
Spearfishing can also be done directly from a boat, and can have similarities to
bowfishing. See gigging.
This is a list of equipment commonly used in spearfishing. Not all of it is necessary and spearfishing is often practised with minimal gear.; Speargun : see
speargun.; Polespear : Pole spears, or hand spears, consist of a long shaft with point at one end and an elastic loop at the other for propulsion. They also come in a wide variety, from aluminum or titanium metal, to fiberglass or carbon fiber. Often they are screwed together from smaller pieces or able to be folded down for ease of transport.; Hawaiian slings : Hawaiian slings consist of an elastic band attached to a tube, through which a spear is launched.; Wet Suit : Wetsuits designed specifically for spearfishing are often two-piece (jacket and 'long-john' style pants) and have camouflage patterns, blue for open ocean, green or brown for reef hunting. Commonly they have a pad on the chest to aid in loading spearguns.; Weight belt or weight vest : These are used to compensate for wetsuit buoyancy and help the diver descend to depth.; Fins : Fins for freedive spearfishing are much longer than those used in SCUBA to aid in fast ascent.; Knife : A knife should always be carried as a safety precaution in case of the diver becoming tangled in his spear or float line. It can also be used as an iki jime or kill spike.; Iki jime or kill spike : In lieu of a knife, a sharpened metal spike can be used to kill the fish quickly and humanely upon capture. This action reduces interest from sharks by stopping the fish from thrashing. Iki jimeis a Japanese term and is a method traditionally used by Japanese fishermen. Killing the fish quickly is believed to improve the flavor of the flesh by limiting the build up of adrenaline in the fish's muscles.; Snorkel and diving mask: Spearfishing snorkels and diving masks are similar to those used for scuba diving. Spearfishing masks sometimes have mirrored lenses that prevent fish from seeing the spearfisher's eyes tracking them. Mirrored lenses appear to fish as one big eyeball, so head movements can still spook the fish.; Buoy or float : A buoyis usually tethered to the spearfisher's speargun or directly to the spear. A buoy helps to subdue large fish. It can also assist in storing fish, but is more importantly used as a safety device to warn boat drivers there is diver in the area.; Floatline : A floatline connects the buoy to the speargun. Often made from woven plastic, they also be mono-filament encased in an airtight plastic tube, or made from stretchable bungee cord.; Gloves : Gloves are a value to spearfisherman that desire to maintain a sense of safety or access more dangerous areas, such as those between coral, that could otherwise not be reached without use of the hands. They also aid in loading the bands on rubber powered speargun.
Management of Spearfishing
Spearfishing is intensively managed throughout the world.
In Australia it is a recreational-only activity and generally only breath-hold free diving. There are numerous restriction placed by the Government such as Marine Protected Areas, Closed Areas, Protected Species, size/bag limits and equipment.
The peak recreational body is the Australian Underwater Federation. The vision of this group is "Safe, Sustainable, Selective, Spearfishng" and the AUF provides membership, advocacy and organises competitions. [ [http://www.auf-spearfishing.com.au Australian Underwater Federation] ]
Because of its relatively long coastline compared to its population, Norway has one of the most liberal spearfising rules in the northern hemisphere, and spearfishing with scuba gear is a widespread activity among recreational divers. Restrictions in Norway are limited to anadrome species, like atlantic
salmon, sea trout, and lobster. [ [http://www.frivannsliv.no/spearfishing.no/Spearfishing.html Spearfishing in Norway] ]
In Mexico a regular fishing permit allows for Spearfishing, but not for electro-mechanical types of spearguns. [ [http://www.conapescasandiego.org/contenido.cfm?cont=REGULATIONS CONAPESCA SAN DIEGO - Sportfishing regulations, Conapesca Mexico San Diego Office ] ]
Tips from Hawaiian Spearfishermen
One of the best tricks a spearfisherman can take advantage of 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 a fish 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 enter and go straight to the bottom for as long as they can hold their breath.
Any large fish 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 divers will carry several small pieces of coral or shells and when a fish is reluctant to come into spear range, rubbing or clicking of these usually draws them closer. Throwing up sand also will bring a fish closer and helps to camouflagethe diver. Contact with
coralshould be avoided as this may damage the reef. Blue water 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 swimmer can clip his gun to his belt, and force a fish into a hole by swimming full speed and slapping his cupped hands on the surface with each stroke. Another shoreline 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. Sharks are like dogs,: if you cower from a bad dog, it will bite you, but if you stand your ground with a big stick, you can usually back it down.
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 spear fisherman. Care needs to be taken in these areas to stay out of areas where blood from a kill is in the water.
* Underwater fishing in Australia and New Zealand by Adam Smith
* [http://www.auf-spearfishing.com.au/administration/documents/documents/23.pdf Spearfishing is it ecologically sustainable?] A paper given at the World Recreational Fishing Conference, Darwin, Australia by Adam Smith and Seji Nakaya
* [http://worldspearfishing.com World Spearfishing Guide] Provides forums, live chat, spearfishing news, classifieds, and a large directory of spearfishing sites worldwide.
* [http://www.spearfishing.com Spearfishing.com] International Spearfishing Forums and contact information for groups worldwide.
* [http://spearfishing-videos.com Spearfishing-Videos.com] Collection of streamed spearfishing videos from around the world
* [http://www.spearfishing.ws Spearfishing.ws Spearfishing in Greece. News and Articles!]
* [http://www.hawaiiskindiver.com Hawaii Skin Diver] International freediving and spearfishing magazine
* [http://www.freediver.net/iusa/rules.php Spearfishing World Record Rules]
* [http://www.freediver.net/iusa/home.php International Underwater Spearfishing Association (IUSA)]
* [http://www.spearfishingworld.net Spearfishing World Network]
* [http://www.liquidfocus.com.au International spearfishing photos and films]
* [http://www.auf-spearfishing.com.au Australian Underwater Federation (AUF)]
* [http://www.usfa.com.au Underwater Skindivers & Fisherman's Association (USFA Inc.)] New South Wales, Australia
* [http://www.spearoz.org SpearOz] Australian Spearfishing forum.
* [http://www.spearboard.com Spearboard] American spearfishing forum.
* [http://www.zipkinavi.com ZipkinAvi] Turkish spearfishing forum.
* [http://www.medfish.com Medfish] Forum for Spearos around the Mediterranean Sea.
* [http://www.deeperblue.net Deeper Blue] International freediving and spearfishing forum.
* [http://www.divingindepth.com Divingindepth.com - Your Spearfishing Resource!]
* [http://www.spearfish.org Spearfish.org Spearfishing in Bulgaria and Black Sea. Forums, News, Articles!]
* [http://www.scale-tales.com Share your spearfishing stories with the world]
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