What is Spearfishing? [Ultimate Guide for Beginners]

What is Spearfishing

When talking about fishing, we mostly talk about angling. But there are various fishing techniques you can enjoy, and one of them is spearfishing.

It is fun, challenging, and potentially a bit dangerous, however, there is something really rewarding in it. Catching a fish with a spear is not something anyone can do.

So what is spearfishing exactly? It is a fishing technique where anglers free dive with a spear, locate fish, and use a spear to hit the fish. Certain equipment is required, as well as a bit higher fitness level. And one of the best things about it is that there is no accidental bycatch like in angling.

This technique enables you to be selective and catch just a fish of a specific size and type. Experienced "spearo" (this is a modern term that suggests person who is spearfishing) can catch a lot more fish than traditional angler.

Most often this technique is done in saltwater, and in clear waters when anglers can see well, during the day. Keep in mind that it is strictly regulated any you have to check the local laws.

Here I will tell you all the basics about spearfishing. Enjoy!



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What is Spearfishing? [Definition]

I already gave a brief definition, but here is a wider explanation ...

Spearfishing is a fishing method where fish is impaled on a sharp object resembling an arrow. Modern spears can be described as slingshots. There are both elastic powered and gas spearguns that are basically an underwater fishing weapon.

This is why some people say that spearfishing resembles hunting more than angling. Of course, catch and release is not an option, and you should catch only as much as you will eat if doing it for fun.

There is no bait, no complicated equipment, or anything like that. Anglers use diving gear like suits, fins, masks, and weights. Ill mention scuba gear in this context a bit later.

Now you know what is spearfishing and how is it done.


What is the Historical Background of Spearfishing?

Spearfishing has been around for thousands of years. But, it was not done with modern tools like today, and it was not a hobby. People were catching fish with spears to survive. Ancient people used pointy sticks to catch fish on rivers and streams. Those early techniques didn’t involve diving.

Some less developed communities still do it in this day and age to survive, while some fishermen in developed countries do it to keep the tradition. If you travelled to Mediterranean countries, you may have seen people on tiny boats with long spears targeting fish close to the shore while driving up and down, sometimes even at night.

Today, many people enjoy this activity, but in its modern form. There are competitions and tournaments around the world where "spearos" compete to see who is the best. Modern spearfishing is all about diving and for that, you need to have a lot of strength and high lung capacity. It is a great form of exercise too!

What Types of Spearfishing Do We Know?

There are three different types of spearfishing and those are the following:

Spearfishing from the shore – this is probably the most popular and widely available form of spearfishing. If you have the right gear, you simply swim into the water and dive. Coastal areas are often full of fish.

Spearfishing from a boat – Great thing about boats is that you can reach areas that are not accessible from the shore, even if they are close to it. Most often those are shores with big cliffs and similar features. Boat also gives you access to deeper waters.

Blue water – this is basically offshore spearfishing, and to try it, you have to be experienced. Boats will leave you I the middle of nowhere and although they will follow and monitor you, there is a chance that you will stay in the water for hours and swim large distances. It is also the most dangerous form.

Of course, there are different spearfishing techniques too, and those include:

Stalking – where "spearos" dive and wait in one spot for a fish to come close.

Sinking hunt – where "spearos" watch their prey from a surface and slowly dive to get closer.

Hole hunting – actively searching for places where the fish hide and catching them there.

Of course, beginners will have much different approach than experienced "spearos".

Is Spearfishing Dangerous? [If YES - Why?]

Spearfishing can be dangerous, no matter where you do it. Close to the shore there are risks of waves and entering the water may be tricky. In some areas around the world, you have to be carefully as sharks are present in the water.

"Spearos" usually dive between 5 and 25 meters, which is a lot for recreational "spearos". It is easy to overestimate your capabilities and there is a possibility of drowning.

If spearfishing away from the shore strong currents can present a danger. Areas with high recreational boat traffic present a risk as there is a chance that you get hit by a boat.

When asking is spearfishing dangerous, you have to expect these answers and be careful. I always advise people not to go alone and to have someone experienced with them if they are just beginners.

Is Spearfishing Legal or Illegal?

Responsible people always buy fishing licenses and obey local rules and regulations. Spearfishing is also highly regulated, and can be done only in areas where the law allows it.

Rules and regulations also determine what gear is legal or illegal. I frequently hear a question is it illegal to spearfishing with scuba gear? Many countries around the world forbid that, as it is not fair to fish. If you don’t have to dive out for air, you can catch basically anything.

Is spearfishing with scuba gear legal depends on a country, and if you are traveling around the world make sure to check local rules and regulations.

In the US, using scuba gear is mostly legal, with some exceptions that include periods of closed season or off-limit areas.

In Canada, laws are much stricter, and scuba gear is mostly forbidden. In some areas, even free dive spear fishing is forbidden.

As I already said, you will have to answer is spearfishing legal or is spearfishing illegal by checking up to date info stated by the local authorities.

What Gear Do You Need for Spearfishing?

What gear do you need for spearfishing depends partially on your personal preferences.

Some anglers like to have nets for storing fish, while others don’t. There are many small items that are not mandatory. Here I will focus on basic equipment that is used by all "spearos".

#1: Spearfishing Mask

First of all, you need a mask. The best spearfishing mask will fit perfectly to your face, it will not leak, it will be comfortable, and it will not fog. Mask is probably the most important item because it allows you to see fish you are trying to catch.

There are many reputable manufacturers, and make sure to choose among those. Cheap masks will lead to disappointment.

Mask has to be robust, easy to adjust, silocone has to be durable, faceplates or lenses must be firm and resistant (tempered glass) and volume should be lower.

What is Spearfishing - Best Mask

#2: Spearfishing Wetsuit

The best spearfishing wetsuit is the one that suits your needs and the area you are fishing in. Thinner suits are excellent for warm waters and summer conditions, while thicker ones are for colder conditions. Most often you can choose between 1 and 6 mm thickness.

Some like to have short suits, but I prefer long ones. Long sleeve suits will protect you from abrasions, sun, and any outside influence.

Those who have a bit more money to spend can buy suits tailored to their body shape. Those suits are the best and will fit perfectly and enable wide range of motion.

#3: Spearfishing Fins

Fins are also something that will either make or break your experience. They come in various shapes and sizes, as well as materials. Larger fins are harder to control, but they offer the best agility and control. The best spearfishing fins are long. Structure is linearly graded, and blades are thicker on foorend and thinner on top end.

#4: Spearfishing Float

Float may seem unnecessary to some, but I assure you, you need it. It is a floatation device that has many functions.

It is brightly colored so that passing boats can see your position. You can use it to rest if you are not feeling well. And if you catch a monster fish, you can let go of your spear and you will not loose it as it will be connected to the float. There are various types, some are even designed for specific fish, however, it is important that it is bright, light, and durable.

The best spearfishing float is the one that fits your needs.

#5: Spearfishing Gun

The best spearfishing gun has to be chosen in accordance with your needs, budget, and experience, Two main types exist, and those are elastic and gas. Elastic powered are mostly used, they are widely available, affordable, easy to use and maintain, and suitable for beginners.

Gas ones have some advantages and some types are very powerful however, they are a hassle to load and their maintenance is more demanding.

What is Spearfishing - Gear

#6: Spearfishing Weights

And lastly, there are weights. Best spearfishing weight can be any weight that will keep you from floating up. Shape and type can be chosen in accordance with your personal preferences.

Most often, weights should be 5% of your bodyweight when wearing 3mm suit. Use more for thicker, and less for thinner suits.

#Other: Knife, Line, Reel, Snorkel

All of these are very useful but not crucial. Knife should be sharp, corrosion resistant, and it should have a good case so that you can have it stored and secured nearby.

Snorkel should be strong but flexible to minimize fluttering when swimming fast. Traditional J shape without any fancy valves is the best because they have excellent airflow. However, it is not mandatory to have such types. You can go for those with valves.

Most often spearfishing is done with thick mono lines, around 2mm. They are cheap, and they don’t tangle that much.

Reels are not mandatory for small fish, but anything bigger than that requires it. Most manufacturers have reels available that go with their spearguns.

How Much Does a Spearfishing Gear Cost?

Buying good spearfishing gear can cost you a lot. Quality comes at a price, especially if you need some specific items like prescription diving masks.

Those who are already spearfishing can replace their old items one by one, but those who are getting ready to start from the beginning have to buy all essential spearfishing gear at once, and that can be a problem. Prices vary significantly, depending on a manufacturer and gear type. You don’t have to go for high end stuff, but I would advise you to buy from reputable manufacturers, even entry level gear. That way you can rest assure that everything will work properly.

You need a wetsuit, and depending on thickness and model, their prices go from $100, to thousands. For a few hundred, you can actually get a good one for basic needs.

Fins can also go from around $100 up to few hundreds, depending on a model. You can’t buy cheap and short snorkelling fins, and you need those for spearfishing.

Good mask is a must, and you can find decent models for around $50. But a bit higher end ones, or special types, can cost hundreds.

Snorkel can be bought for as low as $20. Weights, floats, and stuff like that varies in price, and you don’t need anything special.

And most importantly, the spear gun. Well, depending on a size, strength, type, and many factors, guns go from as low as $40, up to a $1000. For a beginner, who will be catching smaller fish and learning, maybe hitting a rock or two, cheaper guns are perfectly fine.

You can even buy a spearfishing kit that includes mask, fins, snorkel, and a gun. Those usually cost from $300 up. Some even include wetsuits and gloves, but those are closer to $500 or more.

Can You Spearfishing With Scuba Gear? [Is it Legal or Illegal?]

Spearfishing with scuba gear can be very productive, but you can get in trouble for that in many parts of the world.

Can you spearfishing with scuba gear depends on a country. I like to fish in Croatia, and it is illegal there. Even nighttime spearfishing with lights is illegal. Actually, many European countries have laws against that.

On the other hand, spearfishing with scuba gear is perfectly legal in the USA. I have never done it like that, and if you plan to do it, make sure that you are either a certified diver or that you are supervised by professionals as it can be very dangerous.

Spearfishing with scuba tank is easy and gives you a lot of advantage. It allows you to go deeper, but it also removes that unpredictable and challenging factor of limited time.

What Are the Best Places for Spearfishing in the World?

Spearfishing is excellent not just because you can catch a lot of fish, but because it enables you to discover magical underwater world in various places.

There are a lot of excellent locations, and here are the best places for spearfishing:

#1: Puerto Rico Spearfishing

Spearfishing in Puerto Rico is one of the best. It is available for both experienced "spearos" and beginners. You can hire guides, enroll in spearfishing courses, or simply try to beat your personal records.

There are numerous locations for it, from shore to open water. East coast is especially good, and these tropical waters enable you to catch a variety of species, including Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Marlin, and some other huge fish!

What is Spearfishing - Puerto Rico

#2: California Spearfishing

California spearfishing is a classic but excellent choice. Spearfishing is possible in both fresh and saltwater, but you must have a valid license. Northern California is especially good and "spearos" can catch lingcod in some very demanding conditions.

#3: Virginia Beach Spearfishing

Virginia Beach spearfishing is another excellent choice. It is legal to free dive and to use scuba gear, so you can choose whatever you like. There are some amazing locations including shipwrecks accessible with scuba gear where you can catch very big flounder. It is a great scenery for both diving and fishing.

#4: San Diego Spearfishing

Spearfishing in San Diego can also be a lot of fun. This location is one of the best for beginners too. All kinds of reef fish can be caught, but if you are up for a bigger challenge, there are kelp beds and offshore locations too where you can test your abilities.

#5: North Carolina Spearfishing

North Carolina spearfishing is a wide subject. There are dozens of locations, and anyone can find one that will satisfy their needs. Hatteras Island and Bald Head Island are one of the best. From great beaches to a bit more distant and secluded spots reachable by boat, both of these areas have it all.

#6: Long Island Spearfishing

Spearfishing in Long Island offers classical reef spearfishing that is loved by both beginners and experience spearos.

It is a paradise for free divers, and you can catch a variety of species. Guides and charters are also widely available. Blackfish is one of the best species to catch here if you are a beginner. These fish are not too smart or cautious so you can improve your skills on them.

#7: Croatia Spearfishing

Those who like to travel and are interested in Mediterranean locations should visit Croatia and enjoy Croatia spearfishing.

Adriatic Sea is full of fish, various islands and lagunas, and above all it is safe. There are no big tidal changes or dangerous marine predators. Of course, you still have to check the weather forecast and take care of some precautionary measures, but it is truly a paradise.

You can try to catch some very famous local species like gilt head bream or European sea bass.

#8: Other

When it comes to spearfishing, there are no limits. From New Zealand and Australia, to southeast Asia, there are hundreds of extraordinary places.

If I have to exclude some, those would be Krabi Province in Thailand, Bali, and Cape Verde in Africa.

Is It Possible to Travel With Spearfishing Gear?

Traveling with spearfishing gear can be a hassle, especially if traveling by air. Your spear has to be safely stored in your checked baggage, and we all know how that baggage is treated. Possibility of damage is unfortunately high.

When it comes to the gas gun, it has to be unloaded. Of course, neither gun type is allowed as cabin luggage.

Before you even start to pack your bags, make sure that spearfishing is legal in your destination, and that owning a spear fishing gear is legal there.

If you have connecting flights, that can make the situation even more complicated. Some countries don’t allow such gear, so make sure that you check rules in transiting areas too.

If this seems a bit too much, you can always hire a guide as well as the equipment, when you arrive to your destination.

Do You Need a License for Spearfishing?

Do you need a license for spearfishing is one of the most frequently asked questions. Spearfishing is treated as other forms of fishing in terms of licensing, and license is required unless stated otherwise by the authorities.

This type of fishing is sometimes even more regulated and strict laws may apply in some countries. There are places where regular angling is allowed, but spearfishing is not. One of the best examples is Ontario where spearfishing is allowed only under certain conditions.

It is your responsibility to check up to date info.

What is the Best Time to go Spearfishing?

Spearfishing can be done in various times of the year, depending on a location. In some places it is a year-round activity, while in some other places it is possible only in summer due to weather influence and low temperatures.

But what is the best time to go spearfishing in general? Warmer parts of the year, between high and low tide. If tidal changes are significant this can be a bit challenging or even dangerous, but fish activity is the best.

The best time to go spearfishing is also around sunrise and sunset too. It is in a way similar to other forms of fishing.

Are there Any Fishing Games about Spearfishing? [Yakuza 6]

Many anglers like to play fishing games when they are bored. "Spearos" are no exception. Yakuza 6 spearfishing game is one of the best.

Controls are very simple, and no previous gaming experience is required. You shoot any fish you can see and load it into your boat. Of course, there are some dangers lurking around and you have to keep an eye on it.

You get awarded when you finish every fishing voyage and as you are progressing through the game you get increased time under water, as well as the more hits.

I won’t discover too much! Try it for yourself and enjoy!

Other Good Tips for Spearfishing

And lastly, here are some general and basic tips for spearfishing that should help you get started:

• Use a smaller gun that is easier to handle until you get some experience.
• Move slowly and quietly, and keep a low profile so that you don’t scare the fish.
• Don’t look directly into the fish eyes.
• Wait for the fish to come to you instead of chasing it around.
• It is better to dive shallower for a longer time than deeper for shorter time.
• Don’t create bubbles with your snorkel.
• Make sure that you use weights suitable for your body mass.
Be patient and practice!

And that’s it. The only way to improve your skills is to go out there and start spearfishing!

What is Spearfishing - Tips


Explaining what is spearfishing sounds easy, but this type of fishing is actually very demanding. You have to be able to hold your breath a long time, and you need to be able to control your motion very precisely under water.

It is an activity that resembles hunting in terms of stalking your prey and loading your speargun. Despite some physical challenges it brings it is extremely rewarding and fun.

Make sure to pay attention to all safety measures and don’t go spearfishing alone. Always check local rules and regulations and buy a fishing license.

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind Slo-fishing.si and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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