Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.
- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Spearfishing is an exciting sport in which your skill is measured by the quality of your dinner. Here we´ll try to help you to learn where, how and what to spearfish and what spearfishing equipment will make it easier. You don´t have to be a scuba diver to spearfish and, as a matter of fact, most domestic and international spearfishing organizations that keep track of world records only accept a record if it was done while freediving.
As with any activity, you´ve got to use the proper tools for the job. This page is not meant to be a comprehensive encyclopedia of spearfishing gear, but rather an aid for someone starting in spearfishing and hopefully will help answer most of the initial questions.
If you are already a scuba diver, you probably already own most of the equipment needed and the only item remaining is a speargun. If you are planning on spearfishing while breath holding, you will benefit from acquiring specialized freediving equipment.
Underwater Dynamics is actively promoting spearfishing in Utah and we have the largest selection of spearguns and other spearfishing freediving equipment and accessories in the state. We stock equipment from all main spearfishing equipment manufacturers: Mares, Beuchat, OMER, Sporasub, Riffe and AB Biller.
There are two main types of spearguns - elastic band powered and pneumatic spearguns.
Band guns are powered by one or more elastic bands. The barrels of the guns can be made of wood, stainless steel, aluminum, fiberglass or carbon fiber.
European-style spearguns (shown on the picture) are becoming more and more popular in the United States. They are characterized by a thin 6 to 7mm shaft, a usually single thick band, and a handle placed at the back of the gun. The thin shaft allows for a greater speed and accuracy, the single band speeds up loading, and the handle at the back of the gun allows for a longer reach. European-style spearguns are usually equipped with an articulated metal wishbone and notched spear shafts.
American-style spearguns are powered by two or more bands with a handle located towards the middle of the gun, which helps in controlling the gun. The shaft diameter can be as large as 3/8". For greater power, these guns are loaded with multiple thinner bands one at a time, rather than a single, thick band as found on European-style guns.
The groove or "rail" in the barrel to guide the spear shaft helps with accuracy. Heat-treated spring stainless steel shafts are less prone to bending than zinc-coated spring steel shafts found in cheaper spearguns. Many divers prefer bands with dyneema wishbones since they are less likely to cause an injury if mishandled and are easier to make from bulk materials. Open muzzle spearguns are easier to load, closed muzzle is required for free-shafting. Threaded spear shafts allow the use of various tips, but heavy tips reduce accuracy.
Band-powered spearguns are available with more power and longer length than pneumatic spearguns. Band-powered spearguns do not lose power with depth like pneumatic spearguns. Band guns require very little maintenance - wood guns need periodic oiling and the bands wear out and age and need to be replaced regularly. Overloading the band speargun may bend the barrel and reduce accuracy. The longer the speargun is kept loaded, the weaker the bands will become, so it is best to load the band powered speargun right before the shot.
In the pneumatic speargun, the elastic bands are replaced by a sealed chamber filled with compressed air and a piston. The spear shaft is propelled by the piston being pushed by the compressed air. A properly working pneumatic speargun does not lose any air pressure during the shooting cycles, because the compressed air serves as a spring only.
Pneumatic spearguns are generally capable of delivering more power than a twin band speargun of the same length. They are more accurate and have less recoil than band guns. Pneumatic guns have less drag and make less noise when moved through the water and when fired than band spearguns. However, cheaper pneumatic spearguns can be noisy when fired because of the poor shock absorber design. Pneumatic guns can be kept loaded for any period of time without it effecting the power of the shot, but they do lose power with increased depth. Pneumatic guns usually require annual service. Loading a bent shaft or sand in the barrel can damage the barrel and cause the gun to lose pressure. Air leaks can also be caused by a worn or damaged piston o-rings. Repairs often require the gun to be sent back to the manufacturer. Very few dive stores have the necessary equipment or trained technicians that are capable (or willing) to work on pneumatic spearguns.
The longer the gun, the more accurate it will be and the longer effective range it will have. The choice of the gun is determined by available visibility and the size of a diver rather than by the size of the prey. Basically, you want to bring the biggest gun you can handle for a given visibility, with the exception being when hunting in kelp or caves.
Warning! Spearguns should never be fired out of the water because it can cause damage to the gun and injury to the operator or bystanders.
If your prey is not killed or paralyzed with the shot, you may have to finish the job using a knife. Spearfishing knives are characterized by a very sharp point and a strong blade. The skin of some fish can be quite tough and often bends or breaks regular scuba diving knives.
The spearfishing knife is usually worn where it is easily accessible - on the waist, forearm or shoulder. Placing the knife on the lower leg may increase the possibility of entanglement and it also makes it more difficult to retrieve and replace.
If you are diving in Utah, you are required to display a dive flag prior to diving activity as well as dive and surface in close proximity to the flag anywhere where motorized boats are allowed. According to Utah Boating Laws & Regulations, all watercraft must remain 150 feet from the flag. Floats also become extremely useful when hunting large game fish capable of dragging the diver down.
Use of a float line significantly reduces the risk of entanglement and it is much easier to manage than rope or twine. The float line is usually equipped with a couple of "tuna" clips and a swivel that helps to keep the line straight. One end of the float line is attached to a float and another, with a swivel, either to a speargun or to a shooting line if set up as a "break-away". The length of the float line is determined by the maximum depth of your dive and is available in various lengths from 25´ to 100´. Blue water hunters often use bungee float lines that stretch instead or in conjunction with regular float line to help to prevent tearing the flesh of the speared fish.
Some floats are equipped with various D-rings and/or pockets to allow divers to attach fish stringers, lights or to store other accessories such as shaft straighteners, mask defog, etc.
When diving in kelp or around large rocks where the float line can become caught, entangled, or damaged, some divers prefer to use a reel instead of a float and a float line.
Keep your catch on a stringer attached to a float to avoid returning to the shore or a boat after each successful shot. There are two styles of stringers available, a "line" stringer (shown on the picture to the left) and a "loop" stringer. There is no definite advantage of one style over another and it is just a matter of the diver´s preference.
If you are considering pursuing spearfishing in its purest form - freediving, you may want to consider the following freediving-specific equipment.
Freediving masks, or masks purposely build for spearfishing, are low volume to allow mask equalization at depth when only a limited supply of air from a diver´s lungs is available. Masks designed with spearfishing in mind are usually available in camouflage colors and with tinted or mirrored lenses to hide diver´s eyes - fish flee upon seeing a diver´s gaze.
Scuba divers may benefit from upgrading to a spearfishing mask, though fish are probably already aware of your presence by the bubbles you make.
A small, streamlined snorkel helps to reduce water drag during a freediver´s rapid descents and ascents. Spearfishing snorkels are also available in camo.
These snorkels lack the corrugated tube common on scuba diving snorkels and interfere with the regulator in a scuba diver´s mouth. Therefore, we don´t recommend replacing your snorkel if you are spearfishing while scuba diving.
Freediving fins are very long, with a length of around 36" being common. They are designed to get you deep and back very fast and with minimum amount of effort. The other notable characteristic of these fins is the design of a foot pocket. Freediving fins have a "full foot" pocket and are meant to be used with a sock (or bare feet) rather than a boot. This design is more efficient in transferring the power from the leg to the fin.
Fin blades are made of different materials with the stiffness of the blade being the primary feature. Different divers prefer different stiffness depending on their swimming style/technique and/or level of fitness. Blades are usually replaceable to aid with packing for travel. Fins are also available in camo.
Scuba divers carry heavy scuba cylinders and need the traction and protection that the soles of boots provide. Even though there are long-blade freediving-style fins available in "open heel" design, we don´t recommend them for scuba divers since the hunting technique of a freediver and scuba diver are different and require different tools - scuba divers are not in a rush to get deep and shorter scuba diving fins offer more maneuverability.
A typical spearfishing wetsuit is made of single-backed open cell neoprene with the outer surface in camo colors. This article in Wikipedia is a great source of information about numerous differences in neoprene wetsuit design, wetsuit terminology and may help you make an educated decision on what wetsuit is best for you. Generally, freediving/spearfishing wetsuits are more flexible and allow for less water flushing through the suit than regular scuba diving wetsuits.
The chest loading pad is a nice feature for those who prefer to load their speargun this way. Often, longer spearguns are loaded by placing the butt of the gun on the stomach or hip. Pneumatic spearguns are loaded by placing the gun handle on a thigh, for shorter guns, or on the top of an arch of the foot, for longer guns.
Gloves provide thermal insulation as well as protection from being hurt by a wishbone on the band guns if band is accidentally released before locking on a shaft.
If weights are needed to aid with staying at target depth, an elastic weight belt is worn. This type of belt does not slide over to the rib cage or fall off as the wetsuit or diver´s body are compressed by increased pressure at depth.
The flexibility and warmth of open cell neoprene wetsuits comes at a price. They are very fragile and not compatible with wearing heavy scuba gear. The wetsuit or drysuit you´ve been using until now will be fine for spearfishing while on scuba. If you like the idea of improving the stealthiness, you can wear a camo rush guard and pants designed specifically for this purpose.
Utah is great for spearfishing. Deep Utah lakes are home to record size trout, tiger muskie and other game fish. Five of the world spearfishing records were set in Utah. The visibility varies depending on the lake and the time of the year, from 5´ to 30´.
Spearfishing for carp is allowed in all waters open to angling during their open seasons. Spearfishing for game fish is currently allowed in the following lakes (see current spearfishing regulations for additional information and restrictions):
Rocky Mountain Spearfishing Association hosts several spearfishing tournaments every year in Utah, which we are proud to sponsor. The competitions primarily target carp that is infesting our lakes.
There are some very talented spearfishermen in Utah. Come to our UNiTeD Club dives to meet them and excange techniques and ideas. Take a look at our Utah Diving page for more information about the local dive sites.
We welcome underwater hunters on all of our dive trips to California.
California current spearfishing regulations.
More information is coming soon.