Guide for Shore Dive Spearfishing
Part 2, the Dive Day
Welcome to second part of our Guide for Shore Dive Spearfishing. Part 2 is highly geared towards those shore diving through a surf-zone but the points to consider are still applicable to sheltered water diving. Part 2 starts off where Part 1 finished
Shore dive spearfishing is not a lower form of the sport, diving from the beach is challenging and often its not as easy to access species such as pelagics however there is nothing quite like bringing in a good fish or two with nothing but the equipment that you carry to the beach. Its simple and sometimes that’s why we want to go spearfishing, for the simple pleasure of catching, preparing and sharing our catch with family and friends.
Weather and Conditions, final checks
A final check to make sure the weather is good should be done before leaving home. Its a waste of your fuel and time if the weather has changed significantly. Some of the locations I like to shore dive are 90 minutes drive and in the past I have arrived to brown muck and/or large swell. Because I have driven 90 minutes I have often persevered in ridiculous conditions just because I am there. When you are a ‘keen as mustard noob’ often this can lead to diving in dangerous conditions. The sport is addictive but keep your wits about you when deciding whether to dive or not.
Spearfishing First Timers
If you are heading out for your first time spearfishing and you are buddying up with an experienced person, I recommend not even taking a gun. Just watch and observe what your experienced guide does. Look at the way they enter the water, duck dive and constantly scan the bottom and surrounds for target fish. You will learn more observing for your first session than you will carrying a gun. If you are comfortable in the water and think you are ready for it, your guide may let you take a shot with their speargun.
Turbo and I have both taken guys out like this and find it works well. The Noob’s we have taken out have had a chance to get comfortable in the water while not being burdened with a speargun and float. The apprentice just snorkels along next to you and they can practice duckdiving and breathing up without the added stress that carrying more equipment brings. When you (the experienced diver) thinks that the noob is comfortable and ready to take a turn with the speargun, ensure that they have a good understanding of basic speargun safety before handing it over to them.
Entry and Exit Points
In part 1 of our guide for shore dive spearfishing we talked about finding a spot that had good entry and exit points in your initial planning. If you did not manage to get a local spearo guide to be your buddy, then the next best option is to take a screenshot of the area you are planning to dive from Google maps and take it into your local retailer. Often they can point out things about the area or refer you to someone who can. Marking out key things such as recommended entry and exit points on the screenshot map will help you when you arrive on the day.
Your Chosen Entry Point needs to offer you a clean and expeditious route to where you want to dive. Looking at the swell from right in front of it and observing the wave sets for 5 minutes will give you an idea of where and when its safest to jump in. The place where I regularly shore dive usually has a good swell rolling in, so I get in 500 metres away around a sheltered corner and have a warm up swim before I start. Many locations will have somewhere similar such as a gutter where the run-out current minimizes the swell, or a semi sheltered point to enter. Entering the water is usually the safer part of the dive and if it is difficult to get in, it will probably be worse getting out.
All of your equipment should be well organised, wrapped up if possible and fitted tightly before you enter the surf zone. Once you have cleared the surf zone then you can unravel and start spearfishing. Coatesman has a great post here on shore diving with some great information about securing your float or buoy and line.
[Tweet “#Side Note, When entering the water have your mask on your face, not on your head.”]
Exit Points (plural)
This is the part of the dive to spend time seriously planning. If your mate stabs himself with his dive knife and you need to get out of the water quickly, what is the plan? If you get bad cramp, will you be able to make it to your exit point? It sounds dramatic but these are the potential scenarios to think about when planning your exit points.
Entry points that were good for getting in, can be terrible for getting out due to many factors, prevailing current and swell behavior among them. Therefore you should talk between you and your dive buddy while gearing up, and plan for a few different exit point options. If you are drift diving (planning on diving with the current along a coastline) then you need to have extra contingency plans in case of emergency.
Nothing beats local knowledge, the beauty of becoming a local is the awareness you develop of the area and contingency plans you have for when things dont go well.
[Tweet “Entry and Exit both require good timing, you will develop this with experience”]
Equipment for shore diving
Float or Buoy
When choosing your Float or Buoy, generally a rigid or hard float is the best option. Some people recommend using the biggest float available so that it is easily visible (for boats) and can support you if you get tired and want to eat a large meal while resting. While this sounds great and God knows I love a bucket of chicken mid-dive I dont recommend this option for two reasons,
1. Its a pain in the arse getting it out through the surf and
2. Often these larger floats are not hydrodynamic which means when you are swimming a long distance they will sap your energy.
There are two crucial things you should get from your float. It should be capable of giving you a rest if you need it too and two, it should be easily visible for boats, other watercraft and your buddy.
Some people attach a whistle and reflective device to their Buoy for emergencies (this used to be a rule in competitions). Other options such as flares and an EPERB (Electronic Positioning Emergency Radio Beacon) are a great idea if you can afford it and they are practical for the diving you plan to be doing. Make decisions about what you carry according to your type of diving and applying good common sense.
You should also have a fully equipped first aid kit as close as practicable to where you are diving (For $25 I like this one)
Floatlines (aka riglines) also need to be robust. Some people like to use plastic or poly coated float-line, while others opt for simple rope. The high end bungee style floatlines will die a quick death shore-diving so leave these at home next to your Mercedes and pet Lion. Also a long floatline is normally unnecessary and will just cause you to get tangled with the bottom or allow the float to get dragged into the surf-line.
Luke Potts a guest on the show from New Zealand started out shore diving and talks about the 15m (50ft) floatline apprenticeship that many of us do starting out. Since shore diving depths are normally shallow, stick with a shorter line, it will save you hassle.
Reelguns are an option for the more advanced diver however you should still use a float and either. anchor it in the area you are spearfishing or share it between you and your buddy.
Word to the Wise, Remember if you are going to use a reelgun – be prepared to lose it. If you shoot a larger fish such as a White Sea Bass or Jewfish (2 larger inshore species that skilled spearo’s find occasionally) reels can become jammed (its quite common) and you will have to make the choice between the gun or drowning. Belt reels and optimal reel line setups will minimize the risk of jams however be fully conscious that you might have to let it go of your gun one day so that you can get to the surface and breathe.
Fins, I wouldnt wear my $600 carbon-fibre fins out shorediving (if I owned a set!), as you can see in this photo (below) a tough pair of fibreglass or plastic blades will do the trick. Shore divers gear always looks like its been used, its the nature of spearfishing from shore.
Tanc Sade has a video he shared with us that illustrates how easy it is to become tangled while spearfishing. He has a pet hate with catch points on gear as his shooting line became entangled with his fins, you can find the video link here on his interview page. Entanglement is a serious and under rated spearfishing risk.
Booties wear out quickly shore-diving, I dont have any advice as I just accept this as part of the cost to spearfishing. If you have a solution put it in the comments!
The dirtier the water the shorter the gun. For lots of shorediving in Australia gun size is between 900 and 1200 mm, even offshore lots of spearo’s wont use anything longer than a 1400 mm spear gun. Alloy, wood or carbon barrel, its your choice however when making your choice think about how easily the gun will turn from side to side (tracking) and how easily the material can become damaged.
For the people who want to really get good at spearfishing try a pole spear. Its not for me but check out my Pole Spear post here for more information
Mask and an effective snorkel
For me the cheap masks work the best. I have tried the expensive low volume and single vision types and keep returning to a reasonably cheap ($40) model. Snorkels are a different issue, avoid purge valve models – they make too much noise and scare the fish. Simple wins with the snorkel but talk to your local retailer about pro’s and con’s with different types. Same with the mask, ordering a cheap one online is not a good bet unless you know the exact model that fits you well.
#In store spearfishing retail outlets are often slightly more expensive than online options. If the retailer looks after you and your mates with good advice, then pay that bit extra and buy from them.
Fish Stringer – Speed Spike
This item is attached to your float and holds your speared fish while you continue to dive. A good mate of mine was towed in reverse at high speed one day by a hungry shark. He was using a stainless steel fish stringer and speed spike. He now uses a speed spike on mono so that in the event of a shark latching onto his attached fish, the mono will give before he gets taken for a ride. Here is what a speed spike stringer looks like.
For spearfishing equipment for shore diving check out Adrenos store here.
Use the code NOOBSPEARO save yourself $20 on all purchases over $200
Shore Dive Spearfishing Species
What species will you target when you start spearfishing and how will you find out the bag and size limits for your local area? At the moment I cant advise you broadly about species however Turbo is working on a global spearfishing species guide which should give the aspiring spearo a broad guide no matter where they live in the world. My best advice would be to drop into your local line or pole fishing store and buy a local fishing guide. Here in Queensland and New South Wales on the East Coast of Australia you can buy great colour guides with size and bag limits information for between $20-$30 – one good guide here. Google is often unreliable for learning local species as many areas have poor information available online. Your local spearfishing club or retail shop can also point you in the right direction. Here is a Bahamas/South Florida fish guide book. If you know of a good guide for your area leave your recommendations in the comments below!
Hunting Techniques and Tips for Rock Hopping
- Quietly, quietly, quietly is the way of the Jedi Spearo. Good divers clear their snorkels quietly, duckdive quietly and move silently. Muffling noisy parts on your gear is a dive by dive conscious improvement and will make a difference to the volume of fish that you have an opportunity to shoot. Even if you are targeting fish that are attracted to noise(curiosity), when you make the noise the action should be intentional and not the result of clumsy movement. This is something you will work on for years, when you head out spearfishing with experienced divers watch how they move and adopt the good behaviors you observe to your own diving.
- Different fish require different techniques however often on a surf beach the fish are close or under the surfline, one mistake Noobs make is to assume that they have to dive deep to take good species – this is untrue, some of the best fish taken are in less than 5m (15ft) of water. Again stealth is the key whilst maintaining an awareness of the risks inherent in diving in swell. When I started chasing Crayfish in Wellington, New Zealand I often made the mistake of thinking I had to go out as far as I could to find them, the best Cray holes I found in the end were only in 3m of water (30+ Crayfish in certain holes) and very close to shore. Large pelagic species are taken in shallow water also, Giant Trevally are frequently found in the shallows up in Northern Queensland, Jewfish are often taken very shallow here in Southern Queensland, White Sea Bass are apparently taken in relatively shallow water (bucketlist fish for me).
- If you are in 6m (20ft) or more of water, heading straight for the bottom and laying there while not moving will sometimes attract fish. They are curious and will come and investigate if you lay on the bottom and stay still for long enough (10 seconds+). Diving through a school of bait or undesirable spearfishing species and laying on the bottom underneath them (without spooking them) seems to make some target species much less wary and they will come in for a look at you. Laying on the bottom is a more advanced technique you start using when you begin to understand your body and its dive reflex. Laying there till you are blue is a shit idea, start with small bottom times and learn to listen to your body while staying conservative – be patient with your diving ability and do a freediving course, the information and self awareness you develop are invaluable.
- When finding that awesome little spot or hidey hole when out shore diving you can use landmarks and some alignment tricks to mark and remember that spot for next time. To learn more about this trick visit Coatesman’s blog here for some visual references.
- Invest in a copy of 99 Tips To Get Better At Spearfishing. There is a whole chapter on spearfishing hunting techniques!
Guide for Shore Dive Spearfishing, Pro Tips
#1 Keep a log on each shore diving location with good notes; Seriously this might sound a bit ponderous and boring however this will pay big dividends in the future. Seasonal variations of species, viz and current are often regular and re-creatable scenarios. Here is a list of the type of information you might record,
- Date, time
- Tide, flood or ebb. High/Low
- Wind Speed and Direction
- Swell information
- Moon phase
- Water clarity or visibility
- Water temp
- Observations about species, benthos, rain in previous days etc
#2 Red from Breathless Addiction in Tauranga, New Zealand
“ I always try to take the least amount of gear possible, less confusion and stuff to worry about. Also develop the ability to read the conditions so you dont get into any trouble when you are out there and finally dont go so far that you are too tired to return.
Check out Part 1, Guide to Shore Dive Spearfishing
Part 1 Here
For more information check out these links
- For More Hunting Techniques, Breathhold Tips, and Overcoming common issues like seasickness buy a copy of 99 Tips To Get Better At Spearfishing here
- 3 Mistakes I’ve made Shore Diving by Ryan Belworthy
- 3 Free Online Tools To Help You Find New Spearfishing Spots
- Comprehensive post on every facet of spearfishing
Also if you need to learn more about the equipment check out these videos
Thank you to the images providers, Top to Bottom
- Tanc Sade, shore dive harvest. Featuring DiveR and MannySub gear
- Brisbane and surrounds after a bit of rain. Adreno Spearfishing
- Sailors Grave, New Zealand Shore Dive. The Armed Snorkeler
- Rogan Kinnear with a sweet Male 8 kg Bluebar Parrot Fish
- Shorediving Set Up. The Armed Snorkeler
- Omer Stingray Plastics, Authors
- Shorediving bare feet. Red from Breathless Addiction
- Valentine Thomas Wetsuit, Ascension Island
- Rogues with big Shore Dive Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel
- Final Two, Authors pics
My blog posts are a work in progress – if you have a suggestion please share in the comments. I love to improve them where possible.
For some of Noob Spearo’s best guides, tips and information to improve your spearfishing check out this post
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Thanks so much for this I have been spearing for about 18 months now – self taught. This has given me some great things to work on. Any chance you have any spots around Tathra that you know of? Heading down that way next week
Hey Nick, cheers for the comments mate:) I haven’t speared down there yet but maybe this will help https://www.noobspearo.com/3-free-online-tools-help-find-secret-spearfishing-spots/