What you are about to read comes from a person who grew up 8 hours from the ocean, landlocked, except for a muddy lake. Someone who was lucky enough to find their passion and loves scuba diving so much that they dedicated their lives to teaching others to dive, someone who has in the past done 400 dives per year, someone who’s wife is also a diver to the exact same extent. I’m also a little bit of a redneck who grew up land locked in the north Georgia mountains hunting squirrel, ducks , geese and deer. Me and my brother spent all day everyday in the woods with pellet guns for most of our childhood. We also had archery and bowhunting. My father, a diver, instilled in us a love of the water and we were lucky enough to grow up with a pool. Dad bought us mask and fins and snorkel when we were so young that I can’t even remember learning how to use them, much less learning how to swim, it was just something we always did. We moved to muddy lake Lanier when I was 10. The brown water with zero visibility didn’t stop us and I vividly remember my dad sending us down to the bottom of the lake with 5 gallon buckets and rope to scoop up the supposedly nutrient rich soil for his garden, all while holding our breaths. Our hide and seek games were in the water at an abandoned 2 story dock. It was a proper redneck free range childhood and I’m very grateful for it. I moved to florida with my wife when I was 22 and she was 19. We learned to surf, we went snorkeling and freediving whenever we could. Then at 27, I got scuba certified and from my first breath underwater things were never the same. We moved to Honduras and became scuba instructors when I was 30. Honduras has a problem with an invasive lionfish species that can only be removed through spearfishing. This species destroys the local fish population and destabilizes the ecosystem. On one of our last dives there, my wife and I went down to 130 ft and speared 18 lion fish in 7 minutes. That night we ate like kings. You are never the same after a dive like that, you are hooked, addicted. There’s no going back.
Scuba diving is easily one of the coolest things you can ever do, just ask anyones who’s been. Now combine that with another awesome sport, Bowhunting. Now add in Fishing, minus the boredom. To that mix, add the thrill of being in an alien environment with other large predators higher on the food chain than you. You now have the sport we know as Spearfishing. The most fun, addictive and satisfying sport on planet earth. Its also incredibly dangerous without proper training and experience. Imagine being more excited and scared than you have ever been, but having to control and calm your breathing under threat of death from running out of air. Handling a bloody angry sea creature and speargun, All while simultaneously keeping yourself neutrally buoyant, fending off a shark and his friends and ascending slowly to keep from getting decompression illness. This sport requires the underwater skill of a divemaster, the discernment of a biologist and the marksmanship of primitive archer. There is nothing else even remotely like it.
Distilled down to its essence, spearfishing is using a pointed spear to impale a fish for your enjoyment and consumption. By todays standards, the tools and spearguns are relatively simple. We use long pole spears to harvest lion fish and flounder. For everything else, we use spearguns, which are basically underwater crossbows that fire a steel arrow (shaft) with a special tip that keeps the fish from wiggling off the spearshaft and swimming away. The speargun is powered by extremely thick rubber bands that are pulled back and notched into the spear shaft. In most cases there is a monofilament line attached to spearshaft that allows the diver to pull the fish to him once it has been speared. The monofilament line creates drag and is sometimes removed, this is known as freeshafting. Without a line the spearshaft flies much further and straighter. However, the diver must be a very good shot if he’s not going to use a line on the shaft, aiming to hit the fish directly above and behind the eye, right in the brain, a very small target. With a perfect hit in the brain, the fish will simply rollover and briefly vibrate almost like an electronic device, a final death rattle. In most cases, especially among new spear fisherman, the shot is less than perfect and the fish thrashes about wildly and bleeds. The diver must grab the fish by the gills and stab him in the brain with a knife or spike to subdue it. Once this is done the diver then strings the fish on to a loop of wire known as a stringer, which is clipped onto the divers vest. All this commotion and blood in the water will not go unnoticed, especially in the northern gulf of Mexico. One of things that makes spearfishing truly unique among other hunting sports is that you are very literally fighting with other animals to keep your kill. By other animals I mean Sharks, usually bullsharks, and sometimes Goliath groupers. This is where things get dangerous, but not so much because of the risk of shark bite, more from the risk of running out of air. Once you shoot a fish your adrenaline goes up quite a bit and your breathing increases, in fact, the mere act of even aiming a speargun underwater increases your air consumption. Once the fish is shot and the fight begins, divers who are not making a conscious effort to control their breathing will begin to suck down their air very quickly, and that was before the 3 bullsharks showed up and decided they want your fish. As scuba divers we always ascend to the surface very slowly, for fear of decompression illness, (the bends). It takes a certain amount of experience and nerves to keep your cool, breath normally and ascend slowly when you are being circled by aggressive sharks. Strangely , this nightmarish scene I am describing is exactly what fills us with joy and satiates a primal need to hunt and kill and fight and survive. It fills us with intense joy and accomplishment. Its a feeling of deep connection to our primal inbuilt survival responses and instincts. Ive never found anything else that makes me feel the same. Nobody is happy when the sharks arrive, but their presence actually enhances and deepens the experience.