Definition: A spearfishing technique is a sequence of underwater maneuvers that allows the spearfisherman to get closer to the fish, or, bring the fish he is after within his speargun range.
Nowadays, with the fish having frequent encounters with spearos and getting more suspicious and accustomed to spearfishing, the knowledge of certain tricks and movements is essential in order to end up with a (bunch of) tasty fish on the dinner table.
From the beginner’s surface ambush to the most sophisticated modern/mixed methods, the most important factors to success would be to comprehend and subsequently predict the fish behavior. This ultra interesting and rewarding procedure can lead to an endless underwater, second after second improvisation, based on the fish’s reactions. The eyes, the spines, the tail movements of any species, are some of the best indicators in order to get into this “fish behavior” process. In some other cases baitfish will indicate the presence and the mode the predatory species - the ones we are mostly after- are in, allowing us to be ready and effective.
Equally significant variables in most of the cases are the spearo’s abilities and virtues: quietness, buoyancy perfectly adjusted at every depth, proper relaxation and lack of tension that would scare the fish, and foremost cold blood, even when one’s fish of a lifetime is getting in the perimeter. After landing the fish only, an experienced spearo will at last let himself free to express his real feelings. Passion, excitement and joy! Screams of triumph are totally encouraged, accepted and relieving!
During the early years of spearfishing (1930-World War II) the plethora of fishes didn’t require any technique at all from the pioneers of the sport. The problem to catch them was mostly primitive equipment. Back then, the massive fish of the shallows were competing on which will first crash its scull on the weak spears of those times.
During World War II spearfishing at the Mediterranean coastline had become a way of surviving-feeding the family, so the development of the sport had kicked off. More people started getting in the water while fishes started moving deeper, hiding or staying in a safe distance. At the end of the forties Mediterranean spearos were already using certain techniques, like for example the hole spearing for groupers that were hiding in caves. The same time, a “gang” of passionate Italian spearfishermen was invading the ambush technique. Tito Nanni, friends with the later famous Rodolfo Betti, also known as “Maro”, discovered and first described the method. Tito was having an eye problem that wouldn’t let him focus in the grouper holes, so he was unhappily spending his time lying on the bottom, just watching around. This co-incidental action soon brought within his speargun range the most elusive species to shoot, like the dentex, the amberjack, the gilthead, the sea bass. Clever Tito soon observed that the same thing would happen every time he was lying on the bottom and so the technique that was going to change the future of the sport was born! In a yin-yan-like bitter story, Tito Nanni got drowned a couple of years later while practicing his favorite technique, the dentex ambush…
In the future years the fish annoyed by the rapidly growing human presence started moving deeper – and their predators followed! Deep spearfishing skills and the vertical dive technique got in the game. Later on, more developed methods had become a necessity, ending up at present times, where the most sophisticated methods are considered basic knowledge for the average spearo. The only exceptions are some deserted, untouched places, of the kind that thankfully mother Ocean still has quite a few to share. Of course, a long journey and a lot of cash are essential in order to approach those still-virgin, non-technique-needed locations.
Analyzing the techniques
1. Hole spearing
Practicing the hole spearing technique the hunter effectively seeks, finds and shoots his preys inside openings of the depth structure. These openings might be random shelters the fish have chosen in order to escape the invader, strategic hide outs/ambush locations or a permanent residence. A hole, caves, cracks, tunnels on cliffs or even sand holes totally dag from the fish, are serving as the referred purposes by thousands: it is an endless world down there! Hole spearing can also take place in wrecks although entering the dark crypts is a slightly extreme technique.
Guns: Short, 60-100cm.
Extras: A powerful, easy to handle hand torch
Tips: Well-calculated buoyancy will make for a quiet landing and approaching. Always choose the sideways approach leaving a little part of you exposed to the fish. Shoot at first sight!
Most wanted species: groupers, croackers, snappers and breams
Hole spearing fetish: dusky grouper (epinephelus marginatus)
2. The ambush technique (l’aspetto)
At this technique the diver lies still on the surface or the bottom using parts of the surrounding structure to partially or totally hide himself from the fish. The purpose of the method is to intrigue and attract the fish, or in some cases wait for them at certain spots they use to cross by.
The ambush technique consists of two main variations, shallow and deep ambush, with significant differences between them. The shallow ambush (0-5m), requires an excessive quantity of ballast. Minimum wetsuit compression and white waters (in order to cheat the spooked fish of the shallows we are diving in wave braking and swell conditions), get along very well with loads of lead. Especially at low water temperature, when a thick, 7mm suit is mandatory, 12-14 kgs (25-30p) on a belt and a special vest are a common practice. Needless to say that with such a load of weight deeper dives are totally unaccepted.
The deep ambush technique is, performance wise, undoubtedly the most requiring technique: The diver has to go deep and stay long! Proper breathing, relaxation skills and good freediving technique, are essential at every part of the session. The goal is massive, top quality preys and, of course, a safe ascent to the surface. The ballast the diver carries follows the 2/3 rule: neutral buoyancy point is set at the two thirds of the operational depth.
Using the deep ambush technique the diver has the chance to shoot the highest quality, the most elusive fish in his spearing career, no matter which ocean he is in.
In both variations the chosen post plays a significant role. The ambush spot has to provide the diver with a relaxed position while at the same time will cover the biggest part of his body leaving only the armed hand exposed.
Guns: long, 90-130 cm
Tips: Scratching on the bottom, making sounds with the use of our throat, throwing sand, really work. Try it!
Most wanted species: Uku (green jobfish), mutton snapper (lutjanus analis), dentex dentex (denton, dentice), groupers (gag, golden, mottled, white).
Fetish catch: Shama! (dentex gibbosus, 11kg!).
To be continued...