There are basically two methods for how to aim a speargun, the point and tilt method and the instinctive method. In this article we will take a look at both styles and provide some tips to improve your accuracy.
The point and tilt method – Turbo’s Preference
The point and tilt aiming method is in my opinion the best place to begin with your spearfishing. It gets you into a routine and it’s replicable which allows you to adjust and work out where your gun is shooting. The point and tilt aiming method is where the hunter points the tip of the gun at the target and then brings up the handle of the gun so that the gun is pointing exactly at the target. The hunter uses their vision to align various points on the speargun. These points can include the muzzle, spear, spear notches, rubbers and handle to help aim. These points depend on the speargun style and hunters preference.
For example when using a Rob Allen closed muzzle speargun, align the v created by the back of the tensioned rubbers with the hole in the muzzle. This should provide you with consistent accuracy.
There are slight discrepancies between all guns so a systematic approach to testing the gun in a pool or the shallows is a good approach. A weighted thong (flip flop), piece of foam or even a plastic bag can be used for target practice. Position yourself at different distances and each time make a mental note of what you did and where the spear went. Repeat until you can replicate your shot placement consistently.
The instinctive method – Shrek’s Preference
Turbo – “The instinctive method is like shooting from the hip. The hunter through practice can point the gun at the fish and hit the target. I’ve not been able to do this yet so I stick to the point and tilt method.”
To recognise whether you use the instinctive method think about the last time you shot a good fish. Did you focus on your speargun and sighting down the barrel? or did you focus on a precise spot on the fish, then lift your gun and fire in a connected motion? If you sighted down the barrel you are probably like Turbo and you follow the point and tilt idea. If not there’s good and bad news for the instinctive style shooter. The bad news is that when your accuracy is out, discovering what is wrong can be more difficult than following a more methodical technique. For example; a ‘feel’ shooter will spend more time focusing on the fish rather than watching the flight of the shaft to see if they are shooting high or low. A feel shooter will also have more trouble adjusting to a new handle/style of speargun as they rely on the consistent performance and feel of their regular speargun. The good news for ‘feel’ shooters is that they can shoot fish from lots of different angles and it takes less time to manoeuvre and fire. Read below for further tips to improve accuracy.
Picking out a spot on the fish can greatly improve your chances. Here I have aimed where the Lateral line meets the gill plate. I didn’t quite get it but I got close enough.
Why you may be missing fish
Turbo – A few years ago after upgrading from my little timber gun to a 1.2m Euro I went from being a “dead eye” to not being able to hit the the side of a house and I just couldn’t work it out. I then stumbled across a document written by Rob Allen that explained what can affect the accuracy of a spear gun. Through experimentation Rob found that recoil was a major problem affecting accuracy and that lots of problems stemmed from grip pressure and overpowered rubbers. On a right handed shooter the recoil of the gun tends to send the shaft high and to the right whereas a left handed shooter will shoot high and to the left. Rob found that a soft grip and or overpowered rubbers exacerbated the problem greatly.
Skipper Jamie Lough has been using the same speargun since he started spearfishing and the results speak for themselves. He also has the same gun in different lengths, reducing variables. Here Jamie displays the sought after Sailfin Snapper sporting a clean headshot.
Turbo’s Tips for Improvement
Manufacturers have a formula for keeping their guns accurate. This will consist of rubber diameter, rubber length and spear diameter. Replication is the key to keeping consistency.
Keep your shoulder,elbow and wrist locked out when shooting to prevent recoil. Two hands is becoming popular as well.
Replicate your method so it becomes second nature. The less thinking and the more doing the better. It really does help to get some pool practice in. When you’re method becomes second nature you’re less likely to lose your head when that trophy fish swims within range.
In large schools of fish pick out the one fish.
Pick out a specific spot on that fish to aim at.
Make sure your safety latch is turned off before you dive. There’s nothing worse than getting everything right then having nothing happen when you pull the trigger.
Choose your gun and stand by it. The more you use it the better you will become with it. If you are going to have several lengths of gun then make them the same gun at different lengths.
Try a roller gun. Rollers have less recoil and are extremely accurate. You can read more on roller guns here.
Being able to aim your speargun and shoot accurately is vital to hitting fish cleanly and making good holding shots. To shoot a fish a poorly and have it tear off only to die is a waste of good fish and to be blunt, it’s cruel. It happens to everyone from time to time and is a part of hunting but just like our counterparts on land we too need to hone our skills and become better hunters
If you are new to spearfishing and would like to learn more then visit our getting started page here. You can also check out our book 99 Tips to get better at Spearfishing here
The spearfishing float line setup, it’s safe, simple and effective. Float and flag, float line, speed spike and speargun.
Spearfishing Beginner Set Up
The spearfishing rig line setup has been around for a long time and has always been most spearo’s go to set up. It’s simple, practical and safe however, in recent times the popularity of the rig line setup has wavered for the increasingly popular reel gun. Despite the reel gun resurgence the rig line setup is the best option for the beginner and is still used by expert spearfishermen every day. It is also mandatory in many competitions. This article will look at the setup and how it’s used.
First of all let’s look at the components of the rig line set up. Generally there is a float and flag, rig line, speed spike, and gun. Simple!
Spearfishing float and flag. This float is hard plastic with alpha flag and lead keel. Notice the shark clip and float line with keeper knot for holding strung fish.
This setup consists of the float or buoy with the blue and white dove tailed alpha flag or the diver down flag, a red flag with a white horizontal stripe. The float will have a shark or tuna clip in which the rig line is attached to. The float will be weighted or keeled so that ir rights itself in the swell.
The float and flag ensure you’re visible to boats so you don’t get run over. It also ensures you are visible to your boatie so he can find you when he needs to. Trying to find a diver without a flag and float in swell and wind chop can be extremely difficult particularly in the glare of morning or afternoon sun. Should you get lost at sea the float can be put on the end of the spear and waved in the air to signal the boat. The float also provides a means of flotation if you get tired.
A good float will have points where you can attach other objects like flares, water, a whistle, and reflectors. It should be able to be towed behind the boat without diving under the surface. Floats can either be hard or inflatable but for rockhopping I recommend a small hard float that won’t puncture.
Next is the rig line, 15m-30m of floating rope. This rope needs to float so that it returns to the surface after each dive reducing entaglements with the bottom. The rig line will have a loop spliced on each end. One end attaches to the float while the other is attached to the speed spike.
As with everything these days there is every option under the sun from hardware bought rope to state of the art dyneema cored floating tube. The main thing to remember is that it needs to float, not tangle, and be strong enough to land your fish. I personally use a 15m, 20m and 30m length. All three are different types of rope but all float and are all relatively tangle free. All have loops spliced on each end. I find these three lengths allow me to cover all my diving applications.
The rigline attaches the gun to the buoy preventing the gun from being stolen by large fish that run hard or reef species that hold up in caves. If a large game fish is shot the diver releases the gun and swims up the rig line to the float where the diver plays the fish.
The speed spike attached to the spear gun via a shark clip. I recommend the thicker ones as they are less prone to bending.
The speed spike is a metal bar with two rings welded on the ends and is attached to the rig line and the other is clipped to the gun. The speed spike is used to string onto the rig line. The speed spike is pushed through the eye socket of the dead fish then fed up the line to the float. I tie a knot near the float so the fish don’t slide back down the line.
This keeps the fish away from the diver attracting shark activity away and keeps the diver’s hands free to hunt.
I won’t go into too much detail about guns however to say the gun is usually a simple single or double rubber rail gun with a closed muzzle and a shark clip attached. It’s length should be matched to the local conditions but usually, for shore diving a 1m – 1.2m gun will do the job.
So that’s the set up. It has very few moving parts and that’s the point. Keeping it simple is the key when starting out and often a diver will have no need to change from this setup. It can be very cheap to purchase this set up and it’s worth checking out second hand websites like gumtree or facebook groups to pick up good second hand equipment.
If you are considering buying new stuff I stand by, buying right and buying once. Below are my recommendations and links to our principal sponsor www.spearfishing.com where you can save $20 on all purchases over $200 when you use the code noobspearo at check out.
Recently on the Noob Spearo podcast we were lucky enough to chat with SE QLD legend Tim McDonald. There wouldn’t be an Australian Spearo that doesn’t know of Tim’s exploits in the South East. It seems that if it’s edible and swims in the ocean Tim has shot it, and probably a big one of it. We asked Tim what his favourite hunting technique was. In fact we ask every guest this question. This question is designed to get some practical in water techniques for new spearo’s to improve their spearfishing. Tim didn’t give us just one tip for one fish but gave us an insight into his spearfishing mindset for establishing fish behaviour and how best to target them.
When I listened back to the recording there was so many great quotes that I wrote a few down. The following is a series of quotes taken from Tim’s interview that I feel give a good insight into Tim’s mindset when it comes to spearfishing and how he approaches hunting fish.
1. “I think that what makes a great spearfisherman is learning what hunting technique works for what fish”
2. “I probably put more thought into hunting fish and finding fish than most spearos.”
3. “I’ve got a photographic memory when it comes to spearfishing spots. I could draw you a detailed map of every spot I dive but I also remember what works for certain species and that’s probably what’s helped me hunt some of the fish that don’t often get shot in the area.”
4. “You know what, that worked in this spot and that worked in that spot, Wow I’m going to try that again over here.”
5. “I am the worst person for technical names. I don’t call it aspetto because I don’t necessarily know what aspetto means. I’m guessing that means lying on the bottom. One of the big ones is just lying on the bottom, being there for a long time and lying in the right spot.”
6. “We dive all day. Being turned on and focused thinking about it all day is what works.”
7. “Having the mental strength to hunt really dirty water is something that is key to making a really good spearfisherman.”
8. “If you asked my wife she’d probably tell you I spend too much time thinking about spearfishing.”
9. “That’s most guy’s biggest challenge, they want to shoot it so bad and they can’t hide that. They start waving their gun around, they don’t get their gun in the right position early enough, they don’t keep their eyes down for those brief moments when he’s coming head on. Just those little things make a huge difference.”
10. “My parting tip for guys is to learn how to hunt. If you can learn how to hunt you’ll be a great spearo. For some of them (species) that’s hunting them from the boat and some it’s hunting them in the water.”
Clearly it’s the experimental mindset that Tim has applied to his spearfishing that has helped him to become so proficient. He observes and adapts. He is always thinking about the species and what makes it tick and how he can out smart it. Tim continually learns and adapts to what he observes in the water.
He experiments with new approaches right down to the noise his gloves make underwater. He keeps a record of what he observes. It’s mental a record but it works for him.
I would just like to say thanks to Tim for chatting with us and sharing his wisdom. You can listen to the full interview here.I highly recommend it as it’s jam packed with spearfishing gold from one of Australia’s best.
Ling cod (Ophiodon elongatus) are one of the primary targets in Northern California for line anglers and spear fishermen alike. They are one of the biggest fish in Northern California and have great eating qualities. They are described as being dragon like with large predatory teeth. They are easily accessible from the shore making them a fantastic fish to hunt for beginners and experienced spearos alike. Any hole or crevice along any rocky point, or reef could hold a Ling cod.
The state record for Ling cod is 37lbs taken in Mendocino by Dan Siviera in 2012. However the angling record is 56lbs taken by a lure in Del Norte in 1992.
Ling cod Behaviour
Ling Cod can be found on top of reef structure but generally they are well hidden in rock crevices and caves. Ling Cod prefer smaller tighter caves where they can be snug and avoid predators like seals. This also affords them protection for their eggs. It is always worth looking around these schools for crevices and caves. Some spearo’s say you can see bite marks on the blue rock fish which gives you a good indication that that Ling Cod are in the vicinity.
“If you find a school of blue rock fish hanging out like that, it’s really worth spending some time looking around the cracks and the holes underneath that school because often that’s where they’ll be (LING COD). They’ll want to find a nice crack where they can hide but also have access to a food source so if you find that school of blues don’t just shoot a few blues and move on but spend your time there once you find that school of their food source.”
Jim Russell – Noob Spearo Podcast episode 62
How to spearfish for Ling Cod
As mentioned in behaviour the Ling Cod’s preferred habitat is in rock crevasses and caves and therefore that’s where you need to focus your efforts. This method of spearfishing is called “hole hunting” and is used by Californian Spear fisherman all along the coast.
Hole hunting is literally a matter of poking your head and torch in the hole to see if there are any Ling Cod in the hole. Though Ling Cod can be found in crevasses that face in any direction it is the ones that face away from the prominent swell direction that are more productive. These are generally shore facing. According to Jim Russell a good hole will continue to produce fish year after year and in some instances he has even found fish that have moved in on the same day so it is always worth another look.
“When coming back up from checking out a hole, don’t forget to scan the top of the boulder or pinnacle Lings and Cabs will often perch right on top and hide there in plain sight waiting for a meal”
Once spotted Ling Cod can be a rather forgiving species and generally won’t become frantic and make a break for it straight away. It’s therefore important to line your shot up well and make a good clean headshot, particularly if you will be pulling the fish from a tight hole. It is important to remember that overpowering your gun can lead to bent spear shafts and lost spears.
Once shot the Ling Cod like most other fish can be difficult to remove from the hole or crack. Jim Russell urges people to be patient. If the fish won’t budge from it’s hole its better to run your reel line out or swim up your float line, breath up and go back down. This will save you from tearing the fish off the spear or bending your spear shaft.
Ling Cod like many other fish can be inquisitive and as curiosity killed the cat, it too can kill the Ling. Ling Cod can sometimes be seen following a diver from a distance. Once a diver turns on them they will often stop and rely on their camouflage for protection making for an easy target. Other spearos will make noise by jingling their stringer or bang their gun on a rock to help entice a Ling cod out of hiding. Backtracking can also yield results when curious Ling are following a diver.
Ling can be found in very shallow water right through to deep water.
Locating productive reef for Ling Cod
Sometimes the most difficult part of spearfishing is identifying and locating productive ground. On the East Coast renown Striped Sea Bass spear fisherman David Hochman runs a spearfishing charter targeting the schools of striped Sea Bass around Block Island (Read more)(Listen here). He can’t afford not to find the schools of fish for his clients and as such has accrued a GPS waypoint library of over 400 marks in his area. David also records what marks held fish and the time of year.
Jim Russell on the West Coast in Northern California uses a similar approach but he does so without the use of a boat. Before setting out Jim studies the coastline using topographic maps that have been compiled over several decades by the California Coastal Records Project (link here). Every square inch of the coast has been photographed and is great resource for finding new ground.
Then there’s the Navionics app available for download. This handy app shows all of the bottom contours and is a great way of finding pinnacles and drop offs. The app also allows users to mark their spots essentially turning your phone into a marine GPS. Albeit one very sensitive to water.
Thirdly Jim uses satellite images on google maps to find areas where he can easily access the ocean. He looks for tracks that access the water when planning trips along the coast.
When Jim is in the water and finds a productive hole he will surface and mark it with either a hand held GPS or has his phone in a dry bag and uses the Navionics app. On returning to a spot Jim uses a drop weight to mark the spot, then paddles away and clips off to some kelp before swimming back to the spot and diving on it. A drop weight can be a dive weight, float line and float. Using his catalogue of spots Jim can move from one spot to the next and cover more ground productively.
Nor Cal Diving Conditions
Northern California has some unique conditions. Northern California is known for it’s thick kelp stands that, during the summer months grows rapidly. The kelp can become thick making it difficult to dive through and can block out the sunlight making the bottom quite dark. The kelp later rots and the rotting matter becomes suspended in the water column turning the water a tinge of green and reducing the visibility to a mere couple of feet. On the up side summer has calmer ocean conditions.
Thick kelp during summer can make diving difficult.
During September through to December the winter storms create larger swell. The increased swell dislodges the kelp and flushes the dirty water with cleaner offshore water. This increases the visibility which can increase to 40 feet making the diving better. In winter it is a matter of watching the weather and picking your dive days between the storms.
As with every part of the world the fish being hunted and the conditions they’re hunted in dictate the spearfishing gear that’s used. Northern California and Ling Cod have a couple of specifics that influence gear choice. The first is the close quarters that hole hunting requires. Therefore the guns are short in length generally 65cm -75cm. The often poor visibility also requires a short manoeuvrable gun.
Water temperatures in Northern California are cold and good quality 7mm wetsuit is required.
Rules and regulations
California has one of the most highly regulated fisheries in the world so it’s important to know the rules and regulations. Due to the rules and regulations changing frequently and the complexity of the fishery I won’t leave the rules in this blog but leave links to the relevant governing bodies. By all means do your due diligence and study the current rules and keep updated.
I hope this helps you with spearfishing Ling Cod in Northern California. I would like to say a big thanks to Jim Russell for coming on the show and giving his insights on spearfishing Ling Cod in Northern California. You can listen to Jim’s full episode here
Here’s a quick run down on spearfishing Green Jobfish. These are a few of the Tips that Tim McDonald shared with us recently in episode 70 of the Noob Spearo Podcast. When speaking with Tim it’s clear how much time and effort he has put into deciphering these fish.
Tim targets Green Jobfish in Southeast Queensland, probably the southern most extent of the species range on the East Coast of Australia. He says they exhibit some different and peculiar traits to their Northern counterparts.
“I’ve never seen Jobfish eat burley here, which is weird because if you go to the Coral Sea and drop a bit of burley over the side you’ve got fifteen Jobfish eating it”
Due to this difference in behaviour Tim says the hunting is very different. In the North he says chumming is very effective for attracting Jobfish to the area. In South East QLD however Tim says it’s a different story.
“For ours it’s all about hiding and lying on the bottom”
Further South into New South Wales and Tim says it gets even more challenging to hunt Green Jobfish.
“It’s all about lying on the bottom in the right spot and you need to be there for a long time. It’s hiding, it’s making sure when that Jobfish comes in it’s not lifting your gun up, it’s not lifting your head up and looking like you want to shoot it in the face.”
“That’s the biggest challenge with Jobfish, Wanting a fish so bad, but making sure your body language doesn’t portray that you do. That’s most guys’ biggest challenge. They want to shoot it so bad and they can’t hide that. They start waving their gun around, they don’t get their gun in the right position early enough, they don’t keep their eyes down for those brief moments.”
We asked Tim what techniques he uses to attract the Jobfish’s curiosity once he’s on the bottom.
“Scratching a bit of coral, throwing up a bit of sand all those things work. But again I probably put too much thought into it. I wear gloves that I think make the right noise”
Through trial and error, and a little desperation Tim even swapped out gloves of different material to see what worked better and he believes there is a marked difference. It’s almost like a fisho swapping out a lure for a different action when it’s not working. It’s probably not something most of us would think of doing but that’s the level of thought Tim puts into his hunting.
“But also sometimes just hugging your body to the bottom, which is not easy to do when you’re busting to breath”
Tim believes that the Green Jobfish is very susceptible to noise both positively and negatively. He says the right noise will attract them and the wrong noise like bumping your gun on the bottom will spook them.
When we asked if he ever makes noises with his throat and mouth he replied.
“If you ever want to shoot a Green Jobfish, that’s the best way to spook them away”
I think the big takeaway here is Tim’s willingness to observe and make small changes until he finds something that works. He hasn’t become as effective as he is by doing the same thing every time he goes out diving.
If you’d like to hear more of our conversation with Tim go here. We chat about his approach to hunting and how he applies it to three big species, Barramundi, Pearl Perch and Green Jobfish.