How can I increase my breath-hold for spearfishing?
Dry training for spearfishing can help you to increase your breath-hold when you consistently practice. When done correctly, dry training exercises can help you to train your body to get used to increased carbon dioxide (CO2) and even reduce your oxygen (O2) consumption. While it’s not a magic bullet, it is a crucial part of improving or at least maintaining freediving fitness, especially when you cant get into the water for awhile. Getting wet everyday is not a reality for most of us that work, have families and deal with classic weather stitch-ups. So this article is an actionable guide to help you start or improve your dry training regimen.
What is in this dry training guide?
Below I will share 7+ exercises for dry training for spearfishing + tools and resources to help you maintain and even improve your freediving performance. The good news is that being landlocked doesn’t mean you can’t train. Some of these techniques are borrowed from legends who have shared their stories on the Noob Spearo Podcast, others come from friends and personal experience. But first….
“Breathing is an easily understood topic. I think I’ll skip a freediving course and just watch YouTube videos….”
– Bill ‘I might die on my next dive because of my lack of knowledge’ Smith
I’d like to tell you that breathing for freedive spearfishing is simple and training is just a matter of getting in the water and having a go, but its not. It’s really not. There are some huge simple things you can do right now to avoid some of the biggest dangers in breath-hold spearfishing but I thoroughly recommend doing a freediving course and learning about the whole breath hold and freediving process.
Holding your breath aka freediving for spearfishing basics
Don’t over breathe
Spend at least twice your breath-hold time on the surface breathing between dives
Always have a dive partner (buddy) in the water (training and spearfishing)
Over-breathing flushes CO2 from your body
Without CO2 your body’s signals to breathe disappear and without this message your body doesn’t get the information it needs to warn you to breathe. Over breathing also reduces your breath-hold time capability. So you have two HUGE reasons not to over breath.
You won’t be able to hold your breath as long and
Your body won’t send you the correct signals to breathe.
Watch this simple 15 minute explanation from Adam Stern to learn more about breathing for freediving (watch till the end!). Over-breathing is commonly called hyperventilation.
Double your surface interval (minimum)
Between dives your body needs to relax and replace the oxygen in your blood. Relaxation should be your primary focus on the surface. One of the most effective ways to do this is using a rate yourself relaxation technique developed by Luke Potts. The technique helps you to understand exactly how relaxed you are before diving. Basically the technique ensures that you don’t dive until you are completely relaxed. Learn more about this technique in the how to spearfish video series here.
Another very effective tool for monitoring your time on the surface is a dive watch. A dive watch will not only tell you the depth of your dive and the length of your dive but it will also tell you exactly how long you’ve spent on the surface which is even more important.
Not all dive partners are created equal
Some of your buddies will shoot more fish than you, others will dive far deeper than you and others you will only see back on the boat.
What type of dive buddy are you?
Here are seven reasons to be (and have) a good dive buddy;
Your mate could save your life in the event of blackout
You could save your mates life in the event of blackout
You land more fish (more fish in the cooler/esky/chilli bin). Second shots save the day.
You can relax more with the knowledge someone’s got your back
Increased visibility – boats and other ocean users can see you easier
You enjoy success together
You observe your buddies good habits and learn
“Your buddy is your only piece of safety equipment” – Simon Trippe
7 Dry Training Exercises To Improve Your Spearfishing
Now that you have some understanding of breathing and the safety basics for freedive spearfishing, I can share some dry training techniques with you. Each technique offers different benefits and some may not suit you or your needs so choose one (or a few) that suit you.
#All breath hold training involves risk. This guide relies on you to apply common sense. Be conservative. If you can’t do that then don’t read any further.
1. The Turtle Walk
Walking point to point while holding your breath – aka Apnea Walk. Have you ever seen someone staring at a point in the distance, shoulders back and walking with bum cheeks engaged? That person probably needed the toilet and this is exactly how it feels when someone catches you using this technique.
The Turtle Walk has been mentioned a few times on the Noob Spearo Podcast. Rick Trippe practices this breath-hold whenever he has to climb stairs but I’m not recommending it to you for safety reasons. However, the apnea walk technique is effective and safe on flat ground provided you remain conservative. Your body will respond to this exercise and your apnea performance will improve from consistent practice. One of the reasons for this is that a slow and steady walk mimics the energy output of finning. For this reason many spearo’s believe that this training is more effective than static breath hold training (static breath hold involves remaining completely still).
Version 1 (distance)
When walking along streets, use a visual marker like a power pole to keep track of your distance. If you use this technique regularly，you can steadily increase the distance as you improve. Running apps like Runkeeper or MapMyRun on your phone can also help you to track distance down to the meter. Use a steady breathing cadence. The means 10 seconds out, 5 seconds in, this will help you to relax. Begin with a full breath hold at your marker. When you start using this technique be conservative and slowly increase your distance over time.
Version 2 (time)
Use a stopwatch to track time. Use this variation to train your body to walk in an economical way. Instead of measuring distance, your focus is total time. As you start walking, begin your relaxation breathing and then hold. While holding, focus on developing an economical cadence. Walk at a pace that covers distance but feels very relaxed and efficient.
When you train in a swimming pool (with buddies) you should also focus on building this steady, relaxed cadence with your finning. It’s about developing a balance between relaxation and covering distance.
Both of these variations can be used in combination with CO2 or O2 training techniques and tables as mentioned below however this not something I will recommend for safety reasons.
2. Making Ads useful – the Couch Potato
Breathhold training need not interfere with the next Cowboys football game. This technique involves holding your breath whenever a TV ad break appears. What would otherwise be an exercise in channel changing can now be an exercise to train your body to respond to apnea. To begin with you might only hold your breath for 1-2 ads but as you practice you can increase this steadily. It’s pretty safe training from the comfort of your couch and you will be making better use of your time.
The main idea of this technique is to use waiting time to improve your freediving fitness. Please don’t use this technique while driving or similar. It’s a good opportunity to use your time productively while not adding unnecessary risk.
3. Watching videos
Deep Spearfishing Encyclopedia’s Hold, Dive, Shoot series. In this series by Anvar Mufazalov’ you can breathe-up, hold your breath and go along with Anvar as he descends to spearfish in the Mediterranean. This is great for practicing your breath hold and you can vicariously experience shooting big elusive fish in deep water. I seem to fail at holding my breath successfully till the end of each video but I like the concept.
4. Full Breath Practice
In a freediving course you will spend time being taught how to fill your lungs properly. This involves a 2 or 3 stage inhale process.
First you fill the the bottom of your lungs. Your stomach will expand without your chest moving during this stage.
After the bottom parts of your lungs are filled you fill your main chest area.
The third and final part involves pulling your shoulders back (a little) and filling the top part of your lungs and throat.
The exhale process is equally important. This needs to be slow, about half the speed of your inhale. Purse your lips together so that your diaphragm (the muscle that powers your lungs) works a little and make sure you breathe all the way out.
The exhale process is equally important. This needs to be slow, about half the speed of your inhale. Purse your lips together so that your diaphragm (the muscle that powers your lungs) works a little and make sure you breathe all the way out to a relaxed exhale or exhale to a comfortable level..
When you are practicing this technique do it nice and slowly to help your body slowly adapt to this technique. It becomes second nature after a while.
Just practicing these full breaths everyday is extremely useful. This practice will condition your body so that your lungs become used to being filled to capacity and this technique is extremely relaxing and scientifically proven to reduce stress.
5. Co2 Training Tables
The urge to breath comes from the buildup of carbon dioxide in your body and not from a lack of oxygen. CO2 training tables are a tool that help the diver to gradually increase their tolerance to higher levels of carbon dioxide and stay relaxed.
CO2 tables work by having a set time for your breath hold (2:00 below) each time. While your hold time stays the same your resting periods of breathing between steadily decrease. Check out this example below from freediveuk.com
In this example you breathe for 2:00 and then hold for two minutes. After that the second breathing period is only 1:45 but the hold time is still 2:00. This continues until you get all the way to a 15 second rest followed by the full 2:00 hold. Brutal!
CO2 Table Variations
Adam Stern has another good video below about training for freediving. He describes a variation of this table that he believes is more effective. Basically its a 4 minute set that continues to repeat. In each 4 minute set you hold and prepare for the next hold. For example; I hold for 2:15, that give me 1:45 to breathe before my next hold (the 4 minute mark). I hold again for 2:20, now I have 1:40 to breath up.
Adam tells us in the video that a table is a sequence of breath holds that slowly stress the body and force to either adapt to increased CO2 or decreased O2. We will explore O2 tables in the next method.
6. O2 Training Tables
Freedivers use O2 tables or oxygen tables to improve oxygen efficiency. This means that your body will learn (and adapt) to use less oxygen when you train using these tables.
You can begin to use O2 tables when you have improved your CO2 tolerance. After using CO2 tables for a while you will start to approach your oxygen limits so this is when oxygen efficiency becomes important.
These tables work similar to O2 tables however they work on a completely different physiological response. Instead of reducing recovery or breathing phases you steadily increase your breath hold times.
This example from freediveuk.com shows a basic O2 Table example
O2 tables train your body to operate with lower levels of oxygen and adapt. For more information on both types of tables listen into this interview with Pete Ryder – Freediving for Spearfishing
7. Vo2 Max training
If you search for the definition of VO2 Max this is what you’ll get.
“VO2 Max is the maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise. VO2 Max is used as a way of measuring a person’s individual aerobic capacity”
The simple explanation
“VO2 is basically how efficient your muscles are at using oxygen” – Pete Ryder
VO2 max training is often vetted as the most important factor for endurance athletes but freedivers have another view. Many believe that high VO2 max is counterproductive to freediving as it can increase bloodflow and extend the aerobic phase of a dive which then increases O2 consumption and therefore CO2 build-up. However as spearo’s we engage in an aerobic style of apnea and so having a reasonable VO2 max level is a good thing for most spearo’s. As we require a level of fitness for continual finning and the fact that we do repeated dives throughout a day this type of fitness is important. So having said that, here are a number of ways to increase your VO2 max.
Underwater Hockey provides short, fast bursts of high intensity action that require athletes to hold their breath while strenuously exerting themselves. This is arguably one of the more effective ways for spearo’s to train. Lemaître et al “Physiological responses to repeated apneas in underwater hockey players and controls.” Undersea Hyperb Med. 2007 Nov-Dec;34(6):407-14.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Cycling, HIIT gym sessions, etc
Hill sprints or track work
This VO2 max subject is open to debate among freedivers but you cant argue with better overall fitness and wellbeing. There are also more ways to train for VO2 max however this article has given you some ideas.
For further VO2 max reading
Ben Greenfield one of the world’s most foremost fitness experts says you must train your heart. “Very intense intervals of 1-5 minutes in duration, with a 1:3 or 1:4 work:rest ratio will stimulate a larger heart stroke volume, as well as a host of other VO2 max enhancing adaptations, like increased mitochondrial density and better capillary delivery to muscle tissue”. (full article here)
This article on Vo2 max is short and tells you what it is and how it’s measured
DeeperBlue Forum thread with some good discussion here
Resources for Dry Training and Freediving for Spearfishing
I like the Low 2 app because its currently free, it has both CO2 and O2 tables and you can easily track your progress over time. To learn more check out the iOS store reviews or take a look on Facebook here
While I love free stuff sometimes paying for something means that the people who make it have the time and energy to make something user friendly. Many reviewers say that this app is comprehensive but its glitchey. They also report that the design is not great and its not well set out.
iOS and Android Breath Training App
STAmina Apnea Trainer iOS and Android (price $4.50-$6.00)
This one has O2 and CO2 tables and comes with a recommendation from well regarded spearfishing trainer Simon Trippe. It looks easy to use and has some interesting ‘Wonka’ Tables.
This book caught my attention on a freedivers facebook page. Very good freedivers loved it and a thread with more than 50 comments made me investigate. Dr. Jaap’s methodolgy which includes practical physical training to do on land that will reduce contractions, adapt muscles to hypoxia and even reduce leg burn. Above all that you will learn how your muscles work in conjunction with spearfishing and freediving. Buy it on Amazon here
If you want a deeper technical knowledge of the physiological mechanisms and rationale for dry training then this book is definitely for you. Buy Dry Training for Spearfishing on Amazon here and also look at Manual of Freediving.
This book will teach you all about the importance of breathing. In this book you will learn about how 90% of people walk around unaware of how badly they breathe and how conscious breathing practices can improve you health and well-being. This book motivates the reader to take action and comes highly recommended. Buy Breatheology on Amazon here.
This course is perfect for giving you enough information to get down to 10m or 30ft. It’s a starting point and gives you all the basic techniques to start your spearfishing journey. Equalizing, finning, the duck-dive and basic breathing are covered. Get started free on the taster course and if you decide to purchase use the code NOOBSPEARO to save 20%
This course is excellent for getting you in prime freediving shape (breathing anyway). If you have a big spearfishing charter trip coming up this is a great tool for preparing you! This course is a 30 day dry training system that incorporates CO2 tables, O2 table, relaxation techniques while giving you coaching and providing accountability. Most dry training takes serious discipline and so this course makes that part of it a lot easier. You have a specific goal to aim for, training to help you learn and the exercises and drills to help you get there. Turbo loves this one. Get started free on the taster course and if you decide to purchase use the code NOOBSPEARO to save 20%
Freediving Safety – You will learn the risks associated with Freediving which are real, as they are 50-75 fatalities per year in the USA. You will discover that blackouts can happen on dives even if you feel fine. Lastly, you will learn what to do if your buddy has a blackout at the surface.
Breath Hold Secrets – Here you will learn how to take a 20-30% bigger breath and specific breathing techniques that will lower your heart rate and increase your breath-hold. Then you will determine what is causing your urge to breathe and what you can do about it.
Training Tools – I will share what in my opinion is the most time-efficient and effective way to increase your tolerance to carbon dioxide. I will cover 3 exercises to improve your breath hold as well as how to delay and minimize your contractions. You will learn stretches that can increase your lung volume and the one secret weapon that every single competitive freediver uses to dive deeper and feel more relaxed at depth.
28-Day Weekly Training Plan – I will give you a weekly training plan telling you precisely what to do each week. You will get a PDF you can print and place on your refrigerator to mark your progress.
USE THE CODE noob28 for 15% off
How To Increase Your Breath-hold for Spearfishing Video Course
This course covers many of the fundamentals for developing your breath-hold for spearfishing. The video is 54 minutes long and will give you actionable techniques to improve your breath-hold for spearfishing. I like it because it’s a very practical video directed at also improving your hunting technique within the breath-hold limitations you currently have. He also gives a very good relaxation technique that will help you become better at maintaining good surface intervals. This is a huge winner for making longer dives. Read my full review of the How To Spearfishing Video Series here.
Check out this training video course here and save 10% by using the code: NOOBSPEARO
Dry Training For Spearfishing FAQ
Q. Can Dry-Training increase my spearfishing performance?
A. Good question! Short answer, yes it can dramatically increase your apnea performance. It will even make you a better hunter because you will be more relaxed and not completely focused on shooting something within your limited, neglected spearfishing breath hold. While spearfishing all the time will keep you fit, at some stage you will have at least a few weeks between dives. This is the time to use a few of these techniques to help maintain and even improve your breath-hold.
Q. Why Should I train for Spearfishing?
A. Two reasons are;
Have longer and more enjoyable dives.
Be safer – understand your body and your limits.
Q. Is dry training as effective as pool training or spearfishing?
A. Short answer, no. Training breath hold without being in the water or at depth is definitely second best, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from dry training. People who do yoga and altitude training use breathing specific training for a host of physiological benefits besides improved breath hold so there are tonnes of reasons to do dry breath hold training..
Q. Can we use O2 and CO2 tables together?
A. Pete Ryder from howtofreedive.com does not recommend using CO2 and O2 tables at the same time because they work on different mechanisms. He says focusing on one at a time is more beneficial. “Use the training in blocks, for example do the CO2 tables for two weeks then do the O2 tables for two weeks. I highly recommend not doing the training together even on different days, stick to blocks”
If you have tips for dry training or some questions, please comment below:)
If you would like to learn more about spearfishing setups for chasing big Dogtooth Tuna, underwater photography or even the mindset of an experienced watermen, then this episode with Andre Rerekura is for you. Andre is one of the co-founders of Terra Australis, a collaborative between some very talented guys who make films in and on the ocean. In this chat we learn a tonne of hunting insights while meeting a spearo whose mindset has shifted from shooting fish every chance he gets to selecting and taking a fish only when he’s hungry.
Dual spearfishing world record holder John Pengelly joins us and shares the tales of these two special fish taken from the waters of French Polysnesia. On his second day in the Austral Islands John took the opportunity to shoot a 137 lb or 62.6 kg Wahoo that beat out the former record by more than 12lbs. As if the Wahoo wasn’t enough John went out again and shot a 240 lb or 109 kg Dogtooth Tuna smashing the former 91kg, 200.4 lb model taken by former guest on the show Cameron Kirkconnell in Indonesia. This interview is packed full of practical information and ideas to improve your spearfishing. Listen in!
John Pengelly Spearfishing Dogooth World Record 240 lb or 109 kg
John Pengelly Spearfishing Dogtooth Tuna World Record. 109kg or 240 lbs
Key takeaways for me from this interview
Opportunity (good and bad) comes when you least expect it
Body positioning for pelagics + shot placement is crucial (listen for further detail)
Stay calm in tough situations by doing the best you can with what you’ve got + keep a good first aid kit
Taking a world record. Using certified scales and taking the second shot with a speargun you loaded yourself
Prepare your gear a week in advance of a big trip
As if this bloke wasn’t cool enough with two impressive world record fish he then had to go and get himself a girlfriend that loves spearfishing as well (I’m glad she gave him some encouragement to come on the show:)Thanks for giving him a push Hilary!
Down to earth, relaxed and insightful. That was my impression of John after an hour chatting with him on this interview. Listen in for some awesome tips and insights from John Pengelly!
John Pengelly Wahoo Spearfishing World Record 62.6kg or 137 lbs
Episode Time Stamps
5:00 How John started spearfishing
7:00 First memorable fish and learning how to start regularlyspearfishing Coral Trout. We have a good discussion about learning early hunting techniques
11:00 French Polynesia – a trip straight off the back of an (unsuccessful) trip to Norfolk Island. John was working at Ocean Hunter in New Zealand at the time when he was given the opportunity to head over and hunt with well regarded spearfishing Gerard Grave aka “G” in the Austral Islands G’s French Polynesian backyard. This is one hell of a story about one hell of a trip. Two very special fish taken over several days.
38:00 What were your major struggles when you started spearfishing?
Freediving and pushing breath-hold with mates
What helped with your spearfishing?
Freedive pool training, USFA safety video (link below), mentors and experienced spearos
41:00 What are your current spearfishing challenges?
45:00 What is your favorite spearfishing hunting technique and how do you apply it effectively?
Be relaxed and keep your body language calm. Slow movements
Take in your surroundings and get out of the ‘seek and destroy’ mentality
Learn fish body language. Watch and observe before pulling the trigger
Coral Trout – approach them from the top in free fall. Especially for the cagey big ones!
Adopt the attitude that going home empty handed is ok
50:00 What has been your toughest situation in the ocean? (we get 3!)
A mate blacking out in Johns early days and timely rescue
John’s been attacked by a Bull Shark off Lamont Reef
A mate falling 7 meters from a rock and landed on his head
66:00 Veterans Vault – Understanding the Oceans Cycles
Don’t believe everything you hear
Keep a Dive Log
Develop your own forecasting methods
Learn to enjoy the whole spearfishing process
75:00 Whats the funniest moment you’ve had out spearfishing?
79:00 What is in your spearfishing divebag?
82:00 Spearo Q&A
What is the single best piece of advice you’ve been given spearfishing?
Who has been the most influential person in your spearfishing?
During your 11 years spearfishing what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
What does the spearfishing experience mean to you in one sentence?
Who is the best person to go spearfishing with and why?
Spearfishing hunting techniques for days in this interview. Cris walks us through techniques he has used to successfully hunt Bohar Snapper, Kuta (Spanish Mackerel), and Yellowfin Tuna. In the Veterans Vault Cris shares 9 huge spearfishing tips and at least a few will surprise you. His preparation for this interview was excellent and the information shared is absolutely gold. With several world records, countless spearfishing in exotic locations and his practical South African manner Cris is a real wealth of knowledge and this interview is brilliant.
I have to admit it, I’m spewing I missed this chat with Cris. Due to time and work and pressures I couldn’t make it so yesterday I had a few rum and cokes and listened to Turbo’s first solo interview with Cris and I really enjoyed it. This is a lekker chat with a cool bloke! I sat there taking notes at times as Cris lays out some great insights and tips that he’s learned from countless hours spearfishing, talking and watching legends spear and applying his own research and theories. The things that stood out particularly for me were his breath-up technique, 3 specific species hunting techniques, Bok Koors (Buck fever in Afrikaans) and his passion for the sport. Have a listen!
4:00 Cris’s background and beginnings spearfishing. Stealing his Fathers speargun with his brother and getting into mischief with his love of the water. Underwater hockey, triathlons and Lake Kariba.
7:00 Spearfishing Mentors: Mark Jackson and Adriaan Kriel (AK)
11:00 What changes and improvements did you see when you got more serious about spearfishing in your early 40’s?
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.