The guys who do lots of spearfishing take plenty of what they do for granted – but for the new guys there is so much to learn, starting right from the basics.
Recently I was in Gisborne giving a talk when my old mate Bruce Knight offered a little tip I’d never seen before. If you tip your gun on its side or upside down when spearing, the spear’s muzzle sometimes tips sideways or downwards because there’s nothing to hold it in place (except on guns with open muzzles, where your mono wraps over the spear and stops it from moving). To fix the problem in the open muzzle, pick one of the brown, bead-type kelps and force it into your muzzle’s hole to stop the spear moving. Upon firing the spear, the brown kelp bead will be harmlessly ejected without disturbing the spear’s flight.
This got me thinking of other tricks of the trade I’ve picked up or come up with over the years, some of which may help even experienced divers – as they say, you never stop learning.
Always swim with the sun behind you where possible – it’s hard for a fish to determine what you are this way.
Don’t yell out to a mate. Talk quietly because the sound resonates underwater through your chest, scaring fish away. Also, dropping objects, especially in an aluminium boat, creates sound that travels a long way underwater and warns wary fish of your presence.
Divers tend to be really sloppy in the boat. Upon getting into the boat, don’t leave your float line in a tangled mess on the floor. Wind it around your float where possible, or coil it up nicely before doing anything else. When you reach the next dive spot, leave your line still coiled on the float (some floats allow this) and it will unwind as you swim away. If you uncoil your line, the float can tangle with others, or catch on the outboard or anchor rope if swimming up-current or upwind of the boat.
Put your mask inside your fin’s pocket. That way you will know where it is, and it’s protected from things dropping on it. Do the same with your snorkel, and put your fins in a barrel in a corner of the boat near where you sit to gear-up. It keeps them tidy and away from any weight belts dropped by mistake.
Take your gloves off and shove them up under the front of your jacket when in the boat. I have done this for years – it’s so easy and I know exactly where they are when I need them.
If your mask is fogging, try using the same soapy water that helped you suit-up as an anti-fog – it works really well.
Don’t strap your knife to your leg with the straps provided. Your leg is the hardest place to get at your knife and the worst place for float lines and weed to tangle with it. Get a pouch made on your suit or wear it on the outside of a weight just under your armpit; with your arm at your side, it covers the knife as you swim through weed and is easily accessed if needed in an emergency.
In winter, take a good raincoat out in the boat, and as soon as you exit the water put it on, even if feeling warm from your dive, as it will stop any wind chill. Also, keep your hood on to retain the heat, especially if you have a haircut like mine!
Keep gear to a minimum. A diver dressed up like a Christmas tree is too slow through the water and spends more time checking and rearranging gear than diving.
Don’t drink coffee or energy drinks before diving, as this raises your heart rate – the opposite of what you really want when diving. These drinks also act as diuretics, causing you to pee a lot, which in turn dehydrates you. Even without this you dehydrate, so drink lots of water all day.
This seems basic to many, but take a chilly bin or bag with ice and keep your fish cool. It’s amazing how many guys don’t do this! The reason we dive is for the good seafood, right?
Another important basic: NEVER, EVER point a loaded gun at your mate or place a loaded gun in a boat. I see both things happening WAY too often!
Have a good filleting station ready at home with a means of disposing the waste. Make sure it is well lit – you generally get home after dark – with a hose close by. I am stunned by the guys who go spearing but never give thought as to how they will prepare their catch. Have a good, sharp fillet knife ready to go – blunt knives make the job slow and waste fish. If you’re not going to process the catch, why kill it in the first place?
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