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How To Spear Fish

Mark Armstrong
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Learning how to spear fish can be difficult but once you’ve got the skills and techniques it can be a rewarding and exciting way to fish.

But there are a few things you might want to think about before you head out, such as where can you go, what might you need and what might you be able to catch? Hopefully we can answer most of your questions and help you learn a little more about spearfishing.

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What Is Spearfishing, And Where Is It Done?

Spearfishing is thought to be one of the oldest types of fishing, with evidence suggesting that it has been a way of catching fish for thousands of years.

Instead of using a fishing line and bait, it involves using a type of spear that is then propelled through the water to catch a fish. There is no bait involved. You simply choose your fish, aim and shoot it. This all usually takes place while you’re diving or swimming underwater.

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Video: Spearfishing Off East Coast Australia

Types Of Spearfishing

The method of spearfishing will usually differ depending on the type of spear you use. Most spears used for spearfishing will have some type of propulsion, often similar to that of a slingshot. This is so that the spear has the power to cut through the water and into the fish.

There are also some methods of spear fishing that may not require you to dive, for example, if you are using a hand held spear and fishing from land or in the shallows of a lake or river.

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Where To Spear Fish

Spearfishing is mostly done in the ocean but can be also be done in lakes and rivers. However, some lakes and rivers may not have adequate water clarity. It can also be a good idea to check the rules of your specific location to make sure that spearfishing is allowed.

Popular locations for spearfishing in the United States can be found in the coastal waters around Florida, Hawaii and California. Inland states, like Michigan, can also offer spearfishing opportunities.

While both Hawaii and California have size restrictions on certain species and seasonal restrictions on others, Florida has a lot more restrictions.

There are a number of species in Florida that are prohibited when it comes to spearfishing. These include all types of billfish, manta rays, sharks, red drum, sturgeon, bonefish, tarpon and lobsters, as well as several others.

Additionally, there are lots of other locations in various countries around the world that are known as good spearfishing destinations.

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Why Spearfish? What Are The Advantages?

Improved Physical Fitness

Because spearfishing is a physical activity that requires you to swim and dive under the water, it can be a great way of improving or maintaining a good level of physical fitness.

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Spearfishing is generally a pretty eco-friendly activity, as it doesn’t require motorized vessels or anything else that may be harmful to the environment.

It can be a natural way of catching fish to eat and there are often less fish caught compared to other types of fishing, which can mean there is less impact on the underwater habitat.

Because of this, spearfishing is generally thought of as a sustainable way of fishing.

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Choose Your Own Fish

Rather than waiting for the fish to come to you (or your bait), spearfishing allows you to go to the fish. This can give you more of a choice when it comes to deciding which particular fish you catch.


When you’re under the water you can feel at one with nature, which can be relaxing in itself. But the sensation of being underwater spearfishing can mean your focus is directed more on yourself and the act of fishing, leaving all your other land worries behind.

To be successful when spearfishing, relaxation is often key, as this can help you stay underwater longer and can mean fish aren’t spooked by your heart racing.

What Species Of Fish Are Hunted?

The types of fish you’re able to catch when spearfishing will vary, depending on your location. Good species to hunt are ones that are invasive.

This is because there are usually no restrictions or limitations on these non-native species, as they are generally considered to be damaging to the native habitat.

Some of these invasive species include lionfish, carp and northern snakehead.


Target spearfishing species in Hawaii include invasive species like Roi and To’au, which have no limits on sizes. Other species include Uku, Awa, Umaumalei and Moano, all of which have minimum size restrictions.

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Hogfish is a popular species to target, and it can be a particularly good species for beginners to hunt. Grouper is another species that can be found in Florida that is targeted through spearfishing.


Yellowtail, halibut, and whitefish can be ideal targets to spearfish in California because they can be good for cooking and eating.


Freshwater spearfishing targets can include carp, bowfish and catfish, as well as many others. But it can be a good idea to check with your local state regulations to make sure it’s allowed, as many locations can be off limits.

In Michigan, the spearfishing season for carp, catfish and bullheads runs all year with the only exception being it’s prohibited in designated trout waters.

What Equipment Do I Need For Spearfishing?

  • Spear
  • Wetsuit
  • Snorkel
  • Mask
  • Fins
  • Floats
  • License

Pole Spears

A pole spear features a tip on the end and a rubber sling at the back that allows it to be shot forwards when the sling is stretched and released.

It only requires one hand to shoot and can be a good choice for beginners.

Video: How To Spearfish Using A Polespear

However, with a pole spear you may have to get pretty close to your prey since your pole spear can only fire a distance as long as its length.

Pole Spear 1: Scuba Choice 5 Foot Travel Pole

This two piece foot pole spear measures 5 feet long and is made from fiberglass. It features a 12 inch barbed 3 prong paralyzer tip made from stainless steel.

A handy feature of this pole spear is that it comes in two pieces, which can make it easier to transport and store. Each section of the pole is 24 inches long.

Pole Spear 2: Scuba Choice 7 Foot Pole Spear

This 7 foot pole spear could be a good option if you want to hunt in open water. It features a 3 prong paralyzer tip and has an 8 millimeter diameter thread. The pole itself is made from fiberglass, which is designed to be lightweight and durable, and it features a black rubber sling.


Spearguns fire a spear after you pull the trigger. These guns can be powered either by compressed air or by an elastic band. Because it’s not relying on your own strength, it can give you a more powerful shot.

Video: Using A Speargun

Air powered spearguns, however, can spook the fish after you fire it and they may also require more maintenance. Some locations may also prohibit the use of spearguns.

Speargun 1: Mares Bandit Sling Band

This speargun could be an ideal choice for both beginners and more experienced spear fishers. It comes in a range of barrel lengths, from 55 cm to 120 cm (roughly 22 to 47 inches) and features an ergonomically designed handle that’s suitable for both left and right-handed use.

This sling powered speargun has a corrosion resistant anodized aluminum barrel with stainless steel firing mechanism and also benefits from a trigger lock mechanism for added safety.

Speargun 2: Seac Sub Sting Speargun

This speargun is sling powered and comes in a choice of lengths, from 17 to 29 inches. It has a corrosion resistant aluminum barrel and a stainless steel trigger mechanism. It also benefits from a shockproof nylon safety catch and a line attachment system on the arrow.

Hawaiian Sling

Hawaiian slings work in a similar way to pole spears in that they also shoot after a rubber band or sling is pulled back and released. However, these types of spears generally require two hands to load and shoot, much like a slingshot or bow and arrow.

Video: Spearfishing With Hawaiian Sling

These types of spears may give you a longer range than a pole spear because of the extra power you’re able to generate from the elastic being pulled further back.


Two piece wetsuits can be a common choice for spearfishing. These types of wetsuits have an attached hood and should be flexible enough to allow you to move easily.

Your wetsuit should fit you well and have very few gaps in the fabric, so that it essentially feels like a second skin when you’re in the water.

The thickness of the neoprene will usually depend on the temperature of the water where you’re diving.

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A simple snorkel can be ideal for spearfishing. You don’t need any special features, as these can cause disturbance in the water and scare away fish. One feature that can be a good idea, however, is if it’s a black or dark color, as this can help make it less visible to fish.

Grab a full snorkel set here


Your mask should fit your face properly, so that no water will be able to enter while you’re diving. Essentially, it should stick to your face when you breathe in through your nose after simply holding it up to your face (without the strap around your head).

If it sticks to your face during this process then it should be a good fit. If air gets in, you might want to find one with a better fit. It can also be important to make sure the skirt around the mask is made from silicone, for durability, and is black in color to prevent light reflection.


Probably the most important thing about your fins is that they should fit your feet. You can often get a better or more comfortable fit by wearing neoprene socks, but remember to consider that your feet may swell underwater.

The length and materials you choose will most likely be down to personal preference, budget and experience.

Plastic blades can be a good choice for beginners, as they are durable and ideal for shallower depths. However, they tend to be more rigid which may require more energy to use them, so if you’re more experienced you may prefer a more flexible blade for deeper diving.


Spearfishing floats come in various sizes and designs. The type you’ll need will usually depend on where you’re spearfishing and the type of fish you’re hunting.

The larger the fish, the larger your float may need to be, as another purpose of the float is to slow the fish down.

Video: How To Choose A Spearfishing Float

Floats sit on the surface to let other water users know that you’re there. They are also there so that you can attach your gun to them using a line that’s at least a third longer than the depth you plan to dive.

Safety and License Requirements

Before you dive right in, you will need to make sure you have a fishing license, if necessary. Most states will require you to have a license in order to spear fish. 

If you’re spearfishing in Hawaii, on the other hand, a license is generally not required. However, you will have to abide by their size and catch limits on certain species.

Another thing you should have with you is a diving buddy. This is for safety and you should ideally not go diving without one, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced diver.

Joining a local spearfishing group could make it easier to find diving partners and you could also learn new skills by taking a spearfishing or freediving course.

How To Spearfish

Step 1: Attach Your Float To Your Spear

The first thing to do is make sure your spear is attached securely to your float, with line that is at least three times the depth you’ll be diving to.

Step 2: Hunt

Once you’re in the water, it’s time to hunt down the fish you’re going to shoot. Stay relaxed, as this should help you use less energy and help keep the fish from fleeing.

If you’re using a pole spear or Hawaiian sling, you may not want to have your sling ready to fire at all times, as this can also waste energy and tire your hand out.

Video: How To Use A Speargun, Float & Line System

Step 3: Target Spotted

When you spot your target, try not to scare it off, so relax and let the fish come closer to you. By allowing the fish to come closer to you, you can conserve some of your energy rather than if you are chasing it down.

Step 4: Load And Aim

If you’re close enough to the fish that you have a good shot, then prepare to fire your spear.

To load a pole spear, loop the band onto your hand and push the same hand down the length of the spear towards the tip. This will stretch out the sling so that when you let go it will fire the spear.

Then aim at your target fish. If you’re using a pole spear or Hawaiian sling, use your arm to create a straight line. Try to aim for the spine of the fish, above the eye and behind the gills.

Step 5: Shoot

 Once you’ve aimed your spear, shoot at your target fish.

Step 6: Secure Your Fish

Depending on your shot, you may not always kill the fish right away, so you should do this as soon as you can.

One way is to force the spear upwards through the fish. This should also allow you to keep it on the spear until you reach the surface.

Finishing Up

Hopefully your questions about spearfishing have been answered and you’re ready to give it a go.

Remember to check your local regulations before you head out to make sure you stay on the right side of the law and remember to always take a dive buddy with you.

Encourage your friends to try spearfishing by sharing this guide and let us know your thoughts on spearfishing by leaving us a comment.

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