What are Different Types of Spearfishing? [Beginners Guide]

Different Types of Spearfishing

To outside observers, spearfishing always looks the same. There is a spearo with freediving gear, and a speargun in hands.

But, those who are into spearfishing know that there are different types of spearfishing, and differences are quite big.

There are three main types of spearfishing, and those are spearfishing form the shore, spearfishing from the boat, and blue water hunting. In addition to that, there is a big difference between different types of spearguns. This makes this sport very interesting.

Not all types are suitable for beginners, and if you are still learning, don’t try to go above your abilities. Although fun, it can be dangerous.

If you are interested in spearfishing but don’t know where to start, this short guide will tell you everything you need to know about it.

I will explain the basics about different types of spearfishing and the difference between main types of spearguns.



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What is Spearfishing? [Definition]

To distinguish differences between various types, you have to know what is spearfishing. By a simple definition, spearfishing can be described like fishing activity that involves a sharp object used to impale the fish.

Unlike angling, spearfishing involves diving into the fish world and catching fish there. There are various types of spears, and some traditional ones are actually used from above the surface, however, here I will focus on recreational and sport spearfishing that always includes diving.

Spearos can either free dive or use scuba gear if allowed. Both versions, although free diving even more, require high level of physical fitness.

Special equipment is used, including very long fins and high-quality low volume masks. In many countries scuba gear is prohibited, and only free diving spearfishing is allowed.

Spearfishing resembles hunting more than it resembles angling. You have to locate and ambush your prey, and it is done from relative proximity.


How Many Different Types of Spearfishing are There?

There are three different types of spearfishing, and those are distinguished mostly by location and additional equipment like boats.

However, very often this includes difference in depth, as well as fish species caught. Not all types are suitable for beginners.

#1: Spearfishing From the Shore

Spearfishing from the shore is done by simply swimming into the sea or ocean, finding a perfect location near shore, and diving there. No boats are required.

It is the most popular form, and suitable for beginners. Depths are usually between 5 and 25 meters, depending on shore configuration. How deep you will dive depend on your abilities. Shores are often home to many fish species on shallower depths, and this is why shore spearfishing is the best option to learn how to do it. You can catch a variety of reef and pelagic species, or even an occasional smaller shark.

Spearfishing for beginners can be dangerous, and although shore is near, you have to be careful about waves and currents that can cause injuries near rocks.

#2: Spearfishing From A Boat

Advantages of boat spearfishing is your ability to reach any location, even if it is further from the shore. It can be in the middle of nowhere, or close to small uninhabited islands and rock formations.

It is a bit more dangerous as it involves certain distance from shore, and usually harsher water conditions.

This type of spearfishing is something between shore and blue water. Spearos often target larger fish species that live further from the shore, in places with deeper water. Of course, more powerful spearguns are used for that.

#3: Blue Water Hunting

The third, and most extreme type, is blue water hunting. This is basically diving in the open ocean. It is not suitable for inexperienced spearos as it involves strong currents, great depths, and often hours of swimming and diving in such conditions.

Marlin, tuna, wahoo, and similar species are targeted, and sometimes this activity even includes chumming.

There is a tactic called the drift. Sometimes spearos are left up the current and they move down the current until they reach the boat that is waiting for them again. I think that you can clearly see all the dangers of spearfishing here.

It involves a lot more gear than shore spearfishing. Large powerful guns, longer and tougher lines, often a second speargun to kill the fish if the first attempt just injured it, and a lot more.

Different Types of Spearfishing - Shore

Is There Any Competitive Type of Spearfishing?

Same as any form of fishing competitions are help between spearos. All types of spearfishing have some kind of tournaments, from small and local ones to big international events.

Some tournaments, mostly in USA, even have categories with scuba gear.

In national championship you will find very tough conditions. There is a lot of spearos, diving all around, frequently over exhausted, trying to get the best result so that they can compete internationally. If you plan to participate in any competition, even a small local one, remember to take care of your safety more than about your result.

One of the most popular tournaments is CMAS World Championship that is held in a different country every year.

There are “smaller” competitions like CMAS Euro-African, Interpacific (Australia, NZ, Tahiti, Hawaii…). Below those, you can find national championships.

Of course, competing categories differ, same as in other sports. This includes different gear, or even diving in pairs.

What are Different Types of Spearfishing Poles/Guns?

Not every speargun or spear pole is the same ...

All have advantages and disadvantages, and even between the same type, you can find difference in size and strength. Depending on your targeted species, you should choose the one that fits the best.

If you are new to all this, you should know at least the basic difference between them.

These are the most common types of spears for spearfishing:

#1: Polespear

The first one among types of spearfish is polespear. And it is the least powerful one. It is used for hand spear fishing. Polespear is an excellent beginner’s tool used mostly for smaller fish. Many people think that it is the same as Hawaiian sling, but that is not the case.

Rubber band is used to shoot the spear. Pole spear has the sling attached to the spear, while Hawaiian sling has separated propelling parts and the spear.

Polespears can significantly vary in length, and for a beginner, shorter versions are recommended. Length gives you greater rage, but it is harder to operate.

Pole spearfishing is an excellent entry into the world of spearfishing, and you can find affordable but high quality pole spears.

#2: Hawaiian Sling

It can be described like water version of well-known hunting tool which is a bow and an arrow on land. It is less powerful than a speargun but has more power and higher range than pole spear.

Hawaiian slings don’t have any tangling risks as they fire a free shaft. Rubber tubing is used to store and transfer energy onto the spear, and with spear shaft, it is the only moving part of it. The device is simple but deadly.

The key for success is proper aiming and control. This device is frequently the only permitted type of spearfishing tool in many areas of the world in order to reduce number of fish being caught. That doesn’t mean that it is not deadly, it simply means that it is a basic tool but not that easy to use.

#3: Speargun (American, European, etc.)

And the third among types of speargun is a classic speargun that can be divided into versions like European and American.

Variation between types of spearfishing guns in this category is based on rubber bands and size. European are mostly used for smaller fish and are equipped with just one rubber band. Shaft is usually 6 to 7.5mm, and length (from tip of the muzzle to handle) is usually between 90 and 130cm.

American ones have thicker shaft, they are used for larger fish, and they are meant to be used with multiple rubber bands to increase the strength. They are also longer and provide greater range. Shaft is usually 8-9mm, and length up to 150 cm.

Another type is a railgun, that is very popular in Australia and South Africa. It can be described like a bit larger and thicker European speargun.

Different Types of Spearfishing - Speargun


Noticing the difference between types of spearfishing may be very confusing for those who don’t have experience with it, but knowing the difference is crucial to enter the world of spearfishing.

As a beginner, you should focus on shore spearfishing, with smaller and less powerful spear pole. As you gain experience and increase your fitness level, you can move onto more powerful guns and challenging locations.

Although some types are safer than others, don’t take this fact for granted. Be careful about rough sea conditions and creatures that live there. And for more help you can also check this tips for spearfishing.

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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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