Darren Shields often gets asked for recommendations on where to dive.
As much as I would love to tell everyone my favourite diving locations, you can probably imagine what would happen to those spots if I did!
My advice is it’s best to learn how to find your own spots. By doing this you will gain a better understanding of fish and their habitats. As you explore new territory, you will learn to recognise the good and bad grounds for spearing.
I remember the first World Spearfishing Champs I competed at in Spain in 1996 where I met a guy from the American team who was a geologist. He had been USA Champ 15 times. His secret was being able to tear along in a boat looking at rock formations above the water and – from only this – get an indication of the underwater terrain and what might live there.
I believe this is one of those stories that has plenty of merit!
When it comes to finding fish, structure is so important.
You need big guts and lots of reef running out into the ocean – the more the better. Very small headlands or open beaches, while they may hold fish, give you no cover to approach them.
An ideal spot with plenty of exposed rocks with guts and sand gullies.
Kelp is another must. Fish use it for shelter and it attracts smaller fish and their predators.
I find underwater vertical walls less productive to spear than a steadily descending bottom with lots of rocks, gutters and big sandy patches.
Fish will pass along these walls but don’t often congregate on them for long, whereas structure will hold fish. It gives them cover, and things like crabs and octopus, staple food sources for many of our target species, live in structure.
Sand edges with good kelp cover right to the edge are where you want to look for john dory, tarakihi, trevally and kingfish. Concentrate on the edges and try find the current and baitfish. These are some of my favourite places to dive.
The best way to fish these areas is to dive down to the sand close to the weed and lie dead still, slowly panning around and keeping movements slow and steady. Look up under the kelp as tarakihi especially like to get under it at times and can be sitting dead still.
John dory like baitfish. If you find schools in these types of spots, dive it a few times. John dory are the masters of camouflage and can be sitting right in front of you.
If it’s snapper you’re after, hunt the shallows, kelpy gutters or big boulders that offer deep guts. Snapper like to hole up in these sorts of places.
Approach with the sun behind you to make it hard for the fish to see you and always stay hidden as you sneak slowly along.
Kingfish can show up anywhere, but pinnacles, rocks and deeper edges are the best spots. If you are diving a rock make sure you are out in front of it, i.e. where the current is hitting first. Behind the rock in a current eddy might be the easiest place to dive but is less likely to hold fish.
Kingfish love to hang around bait. Baitfish will generally be in the spots I have described above and sooner or later a kingfish will pass by.
Trevally not only school up out in the open but also love to rest up in shallow gutters and in behind rocks, not unlike snapper.
Again, sneak up to them and try to stay hidden before you take a shot. Trevally are one of my favourite fish to eat.
If you are diving off a beach, look at either end for the country that I have outlined above and head that way. Don’t go out onto bare white sand for too long. You may get the odd fish passing by but it will be very hard to get a good shot with no cover.
If you are swimming a bit of coast and planning on swimming back over it, place some berley as you go. Make sure you remember the spots for the return swim. It could pay big dividends; snapper especially will come and feed if left undisturbed. Over the years I have had some really good results by doing this.
The writer took this snapper off berley placed on a swim then rechecked on the way back through.
Country that you shouldn’t spend much time over are pebbly bottoms and white rocks. There are fish sometimes but for best results, pinnacles, kelp-covered gutters and good sand edges with current are the spots to try!
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