17 Jun 2016
Blue water hunting successfully involves every aspect of reef spear fishing and much more. Items such as chum and flashers can be used to attract fish while proper gear rigging will secure and land the fish once speared. The techniques that a blue water hunter uses are similar to reef diving however there aren’t any rocks to hide behind. Successful blue water hunting not only involves attracting fish, proper equipment, and techniques but also safety, which encompass the knowledge of shark habits and activities.
Commonly used lures to attract fish are similar to what most pole fisherman would use. Chum, often referred to as burly is one of the best fish attracters due to its natural smell and shimmer. Anchovies, sardines, and squid are most commonly used. It is best to cut the chum into small pieces that way it will appear less appealing to a shark. When a blue water fish is spotted approaching the chum it is best to allow a small portion of the chum to be consumed before a dive is attempted. This will allow the fish to become distracted by the taste of the chum as well as the shimmer. One major draw back to the use of chum or burly is sharks can be drawn from a great distance due to the smell. Often if a shark arrives on the scene he will appear agitated, moving quickly and purposefully.
Flashers are made up of a shinny or metallic substances that include polished metal, reflective tape or plastics. Fake or imitation squid dangling off of a series of flashers is common to attract a variety of blue water fish with less likelihood of attracting sharks than chum. A flashing lure can be submerged at different depths to attract specific types of blue water fish. While hanging from a boat platform the up and down motion of the waves will create a constant movement in the flashers and lures. Reflective tape can be used on the spear gun itself to attract some blue water fish straight to the spear gun.
The sound made by strumming the spear gun’s rubber bands can emulate a struggling bait fist. A diver can also create a variety of sounds in his throat to replicate feeding or breeding sounds of some blue water game fish. Also a spear fisherman’s posture and direction of view can create curiosity or conversely, fear in a fish. A diver needs to try and position himself in a non-aggressive position. An opportunity to dive straight down onto a slow moving fish is best and easiest however a more likely scenario is to dive parallel or even away from the intended game fish which will cause curiosity in the fish and comfort in your non-aggressive behavior.
Judging distance of blue water fish due to the lack of background or reference to surrounding objects cause many spear fisherman to take long or poorly led shots. Try using the spear tip as a reference to distance and size by glancing back and forth from the fish to the spear tip. Wait until you have a clear shot on a vital area and the fish appears within a few feet of your spear gun. DO NOT take a desperate shot. In most cases a desperate shot will simply wound the fish which will later die, or a clean miss which will scare the fish and any surrounding fish therefore making a second shot much more difficult or impossible. A spear fisherman needs to relax his muscles until the moment just before he pulls the trigger. A relaxed diver’s position will in turn relax the intended prey.
When the fish is speared it is vital to play the tension on the line as a reel on a fishing pole. Let your hands create enough drag to slow the fish down but not too much to tear the fish free. Allow the fish to run when necessary but apply the appropriate drag to slow it down. Pull up slacked line. Ready a kill knife as the fish is being brought to the surface. Subdue the fish by gently grabbing its tail and sliding your hand slowly up under the belly towards the under part of its gills. Once the neck area is gripped firmly use the kill knife to dispatch the fish. Remove the fish from the water as soon as possible to limit the possibility of attracting sharks. Many injuries occur when a speared fish is not dispatched properly and is handed to boat personnel. Often a fish will thrash violently when removed from the water even though it appeared lifeless.
Blue water spear gun rigging must be impeccable. Any flaw or weakness may cause the loss of expensive spear fishing gear or even a personal or world record. In reef diving lost or faulty gear may be retrieved from the bottom. In blue water diving faulty gear is lost forever. Improper rigging can also be hazardous to the diver or others around him. Sloppy or poorly rigged equipment may become entangled with a diver after a fish is speared. A blue water fish is extremely powerful and may not give the diver the chance to cut himself free or for another diver to come to his aid before it’s too late. Remember below a certain depth retrieval of gear or personnel is impossible. A good diver will always change used or old gear to ensure the safety of himself and other divers as well as to secure a fish once speared. In most cases heavier rigging is required than what is used for reef spear fishing, which includes a more powerful spear gun, heavier spear shafts, slip tips and appropriate floatation for the largest possible local fish scenario.
The use of camouflage wetsuits has enabled divers to approach pelagic fish much closer than in years past. Appropriate fit of a wetsuit is important but keep in mind some camouflage patterns may work better than others. Some blotchy patterns have even been known to attract sharks. With experimentation a tight patterned blue camouflage seems to break up the outline of a diver and enhance the curiosity of a pelagic game fish.
Safety is of utmost importance. As a blue water spear fisherman you only get one chance. Appropriate safety gear should be checked regularly so that it is working properly and kept in pristine condition. A sharp knife is imperative and it should be easily accessible. If diving in pairs at least one diver should carry a bang stick/power head. If diving alone or if there is a chance of separating from your partner then all divers should carry a bang stick/power head. A bang stick/power head is your personal insurance policy and may make the difference between you telling the shark story or your friends and family reading about it.
Bang sticks can be used several different ways. Some divers prefer to slip the power head over their spear tip. This enables a diver greater distance from an approaching shark and also allows the power head and shaft to be fired for even greater distance of defense. However this method requires the spear shaft to be loaded in the gun. If a shark appears after the gun is discharged the tip loading style of power head is nearly useless. Other divers prefer a handheld power head. This enables a diver to protect himself regardless of if his spear gun is loaded or not. This method requires a longer handle to allow for a safer distance to discharge the power head upon the approaching shark.
The mention of the word “shark” brings fear and anxiety to most people due to the lack of understanding. Keep in mind if you are diving in the ocean you will sooner or later encounter a shark situation so don’t be surprised. One of the best things for a diver to do is to inquire with other divers about shark experiences. Discuss with your dive partner a “plan of action” when a shark appears. The most important observation a diver should make once a shark is spotted is to identify what type of shark it is. Each species of shark has specific characteristics and in many ways can determine the action that a diver(s) should take. The next most important observation is to take note of the demeanor of the shark. Depending on the “situation” a diver needs to either remove himself from the water as soon as possible or be willing to engage the shark if necessary.
When a diver decides to remove himself from the water it should be done quickly and precisely. Abandoning the gun just before entering the boat will help expedite the removal of the diver. The float attached to the gun will allow safe retrieval of the equipment once all divers are safely loaded onto the boat. Do not spend time dangling on the side of the boat explaining the situation. There will be plenty of time later to talk story.
If the diver(s) are willing to engage the shark than they should ready any defensive equipment such as a power head/bang sticks and alert any other divers in the water as well as the boatman. If a diver is willing to engage a shark it should be for the purpose of observation and gaining a better understanding or appreciation for the shark, or to continue spearfishing with a competent partner to watch your back. A willingness to interact with a shark should be a slow transition from no interaction, with each experience adding to the last like a mental log book. However never assume you fully understand a shark’s behavior, because they may react aggressively “without cause.”
Successful blue water hunting involves every aspect from luring the prey, utilizing the techniques learned from experience and from talking story with other divers, proper blue water spearfishing equipment and rigging, and especially safety. A successful hunt is when everyone comes home uninjured, with all the equipment they left with and of course fish. Always keep in mind the beauty and bounty of blue water hunting and what lures us spearfishermen back again and again. Respect the ocean and all its’ inhabitants and they in turn will respect you.