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Beginner Hunting/ Kona, Big Island

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New Member
Jun 4, 2004
Greetings all~

I've been lurking here for a while and have picked up some tips but I am still having trouble getting close to the fish. I hunt the West side of the Big Island- north of Kona. A friend and I started this thing as a team project but it has been frustrating.

We see a lot of fish- Grouper (told most have cig though), big Nenue (shad or rudderfish), lots of Great Barracuda and several other fish that we can't identify. It's hard to say what we are doing wrong but if someone could post a "top ten things I did wrong when I was starting out" I'd be willing to bet that you could help us out a lot.

I've been told that turbulence is noise to fish and you need to approach (generally from above the fish) with as little "noise" as possible. I know that my old fins had very squeeky footpockets but my new Sporasubs do not seem to have this issue. I have also just learned to break the seal on my snorkel as I am descending so as not to leave a trail of bubbles. Any other obvious stuff?

We are both using pole spears but are tempted by guns. It just seems that soooo many times we would be in range of a gun but are just out of range with our poles. On the other hand, I would like to learn the tactics of pole spearing before moving up because I think that the skills required would make me a much better diver with a gun.

One tactic that seems odd to me is the "ambush" or dive down to a spot and wait for a fish to spear. Is this possible with a pole spear? Seems that the chance of a fish coming up to me while I am on the bottom is minimal. Am I missing something here?

Nenue are easy to get within 10 feet of, but they spend so much time in the surge that they force you to deal with them at their eye level. Very challenging. They know that I have a 7' spear. They keep just the right distance!

Can fish hear me breath? I don't want to be a paranoid wreck in the water, but I can learn to be more quiet if I know just what is required. I wonder if they are focused more on the sight of me or the sounds that I am making or what.

And what's up with the Uhu (parrotfish)? Sooo skittish. I would love to spear one but they won't let me get within 15 feet. This is especially true of the biggest ones.

We spend most of our time hunting in the surge or up to about 25 feet of water. It seems that when you get to 40 feet of water, there are virtually no fish. Or is this just because there are fewer (and bigger) fish? Maybe if the little reef fish hung out at the edge of the coral where sand begins they would be a meal in a second. Is this a good place to hunt the bigger ones? How long would we need to stay at 40 feet? A couple of minutes?

Any suggestions, ideas, or constructive criticisms are more than welcome.

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Hi DeepDave,
First, i stopped using a pole spear as soon as it was legal for me to use a gun( 16 in france), i saw great results with pole spears but it can't give you the same chances than with a gun.
Now if you still want to stick to it, you better learn to be quiet, of course, but you will have to work on your sight aswell.
There isn't one thing to do, but a combination of different things.
Try an aspetto, what you call an ambush, but once your at the bottom close your eyes for 20 seconds and you'll be surprised to see some fish close by as you open your eyes. Of course just do it to feel the importance of your sight, you don't want to have your eyes closed when the big one comes.
I've been to Maui, but i never hunted there, so i don't know how the fish reacts to aspettos there, but you should give it a try.
To make a good aspetto you want to "drown" to the bottom, so do it with a little more weight on your belt,personally i add 1kg on each knee and 500g on each ankle your fins don't stay up and scare the fish. Next thing try it first in shallow waters max 30 feet
specially to try the extra weight. Once your reach the bottom find a place to hide or lie down on the bottom aim in a direction, eyes half closed and wait...
I'm forgetting a lot of things but i hope it will help you a bit.
Kona is a great place to dive. If you think the fish are skittish there, fly on over to Oahu. Perhaps you are diving at a spot that is easy access and dived often. The more remote or not as popular spots have more tame fish.

Get your weight set correctly. I'm positive on the surface but after a few kicks, I glide gently to the bottom. The less movement the better. When I dive bomb a fish, I try to stay pointed directly at him so he only sees a dot coming towards him. A bigger mass scares a fish.

Hide behind rocks or structure if you can. Ambush is good. Try stirring up the bottom sand or silt with your free hand, that will attract all kinds of fish. For the uhu (parrotfish), scratch the reef with your gloves or a rock. Don't overdo it, just enough to make them curious. Sounds like another uhu eating coral, they'll come check you out if you can stay down long enough.

Closing your eyes may help too, or just turn your face away. Sometimes when I drop on a fish, I look to the side, but when you get near the bottom, and you turn your head, it may be gone. Sometimes, it stays, then he gets a piece of my shaft.

Practice breath hold. Get a stopwatch and while lying in bed time yourself. Try it while moving around and then by laying as still as possible, you'll see the difference. Learn safe ways to prepare your lungs for a dive. Avoid hyperventilating and risking shallow water blackout. I take 3 deep breaths, the last one the deepest and stuff as much air as I can, even to the point of discomfort. When you drop down, you will be comfortable and have the time needed to hit a fish.

If you insist on pole spears, check out the Kawabanga spears sold locally. I think they have a 9 footer. If Bluewater Hunter doesn't have it, Tokunagas in Hilo does. Bluewater Hunter tends to be a little pricey. Tokunagas also has Wong, Omer, Sea Hornet, and Kawabanga guns. They also carry fins like Cressi and Sporasub, check them out. Tell Eric that Laron sent you.

When dropping down, lift one leg up vertically and gently, while tucking your head. This should be enough to start your decent without burning too much energy. I like to remind myself to do things in slow motion, save energy and less scarey to fish.

Pickup the Epic spearfishing video which is filmed locally, I think on Oahu. Gene Higa shows how to ambush uhu with a pole spear. Each diver also gives tips like those mentioned above. Order from Hanapaa or Hawaiiskindiver.net.

Lastly, practice, practice, practice. I wish I could dive in Kona. Aloha.

I envy you. I just returned a few weeks ago from Oahu and did a little spearing myself. The water was clear, warm, and beautiful. Also, all the locals were extremely helpful and hospitable. Both of the previous posts have given excellent advice, particularly Uluapounder. I like the fact that you are starting off with pole spears and once you develop technique and polish your skills, you'll really do well with a trigger gun.

As Uluapounder mentioned, check out Epic. Gene Higa shoots a bunch of fish with a three-prong pole spear. Also, you'll see guys like Jason Hijirida and Travis ???? shoot some real nice Uhus and Uluas. Always try to dive with a partner and be constantly aware of your surrondings. When I went to Oahu I initially had some problems approaching the Uhu (They seem so skittish on the North Side). However, aspetto and patience helped me land quite a few after several unsuccessful dives.

Check out ;

It's an excellent forum in your area moderated by Jason. You'll be able to ask tons of questions and receive plenty of feedback as Uluapounder just gave you.

Make sure you post plenty of pictures as you see yourself improving. Be cautiously confident and you'll bring in plenty of fish. Good Luck and Dive Safe.

Here's a pic of a few Uhus I took on the North Shore while on Jason's Boat:


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Glad you got in some nice dives here. Nice uhus by the way. If you can shoot fish here on Oahu, you'd do great in Kona and on other neighbor islands.

I'm glad the locals were nice to you. Some divers have no aloha, but most do. Let us know when you are back in the islands again.
HI guys

Can someone help with aspetto - the word. I know what it is, but where does the word aspetto come from ?? Just curious.

Hi Deepdave

Ste had some good advice. A few other bits, always remember to 'flush' your hoodie and suit before you dive to get rid of any small pockets of air, ( also traps air like a snorkel).
I am guessing that most reef fish are similar, with aspetto, as Ste said, get down, half-eyes closed, and wait, do'nt stress by looking all over. The small guys usually return first, whilst the 'big' fish wait a while for the coast to seem clear. They are smart, but eventually, curiosity is there own worst enemy, and they will venture up to see what they're missing. Sound underwater is amplified hugely, even a light bump of a spear on rock. Eye-contact is key. Avoid it . Look out of the periphery, show indifference in your body language, and be patient.

Research by marine biologists on fish behavioural patterns that indicates that fish are concerned about 'being watched'...they closely observe the eyes of an approaching animal, especially if they suspect a predator. Top spearo's believe that masks make eyes look even more threatning, but our general clumsiness underwater seems to work in our favour.

In summary, if we are patient, feign disinterest, and avoid eye contact, the reef fish will make 2 basic mistakes...1) curiosity will draw them in to range, and 2 ) due to poor 'binocular vision' and better 'monocular' vision, the fish will turn side-on for a clearer look. There is your window of opportunity. You need to practise a 'look, line-up, and shoot' in a very quick space of time, and lastly...if you need to swim to your prey, try to pick a point ahead and off to one side, again showing disinterest as you close the gap.

Apologies for the length of post, hope something in all of this helps...good luck !!

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Jeff (Bluecape),

Aspetto is an Italian word which basically means "to wait". Basically laying on the bottom.


Thanks for the words. I'll get back out there soon. Say hello to the Waikele Warrior, Larry Go.

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"Aspetto" is derived from Italian, and literally means "waiting".

Deepdave, I applaud your use of the polespear, you CAN get nice fish with it. Don't feel the need to get a gun because you're struggling, satisfying hunting has nothing to do with easy hunting. There's some real good advice posted above, and while I've never been to Hawaii, I can tell you some things that work for polespearing in the Bahamas. One thing, like what was said before, is using the structure to your advantage. You need to corner fish, either in a hole or back up against a ledge, or against a reef. Don't chase after them, (they swim a lot better), steer them gently towards the structure. Stalk from the surface, or well above them, and try not to approach them directly. Be patient, and tenacious. The fish are curious, they'll always poke their head back out of the hole to see if you're still there, be hiding nearby when they do. And don't hesitate, your first chance for a shot will often be your best. Keep at it, it's not easy for anyone at first. That's why it's called hunting not killing.
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Hi everybody,
Concerning the "apetto" technique, it is said to have been found by french hunters in Marseille around the 40's. These guys kept it for themselves for a long time, and won all the competitions at that time. It has probably been discovered in most of the countries with a diving culture sooner or later. A friend of my father, his partner when he was competing, told that as a kid he would go dive next to the old german bunker because he could find a lot of lead to make weights. One day, as he looked back while picking up some lead at about 10m, he saw a couple of mullets in his fins and every time he would dive back down to take some lead the mullets would come back. He started hunting like that and it was only 10 years later that he found out it was called "agachon" in french or "aspetto" in italian.
Good hunting
Happy birthday.
I seldom try to shoot fish any more, but the Kona coast is a very difficult place to learn. Most areas have been hit hard and the fish are smart and scarce
Is there any chance that you can make it to the Kona YMCA on the first Thur of the month? Our club has some great spearfishers and they've been quite friendly to new divers.
Hey Dave,
Welcome to the board. Being another local diver, I'll try to give you a run down of the 10 things not to do.

10. Don't think that just because your a good pool swimmer, it makes you a good ocean swimmer.

9. Don't skimp on gear. You don't necessarily need to get top of the line everything but get some decent gear.

8. Don't give up on the 3 prong (pole spear). Too many beginers go straight to the gun. Learn how to use the pole spear and how to approach/stalk fish with it. It will make you that much of a better gun hunter.

7. Show some aloha to the local divers/fishermen. I mean don't dive in front of the pole fishermen or get cocky with other divers. This is a good way to get your butt kicked.

6. Try to hook up with some experienced guys. Most of us don't mind taking a rookie under our wings so long as they're cool and willing to learn.

5. Be patient and relax in the water. Fish can sense your excitement. Kinda like stepping up to a girl, if you're stumbling and bumbling all over the place you just blew it.

4. Learn the right techniques for the right fish. Kole, manini, and even nenue can easilly be brought within 3 prong range just by lying on the bottom and keeping still. Menpachi and aholehoe usually reqire you to lay in front of a hole and wait for them to get curious and poke their head out. Uhu with a 3 prong is tough. I'll usually follow them on the surface untill they hole up, then try to intercept them coming out or still hiding

3. Stop staring at the fish! Unlike girls, fish really don't like making eye contact with you. Keep your head down and use peripheral vision until ready to let go or fire. I've even heard of guys covering their eyes with their hand and peaking through their fingers in an attempt to not spook the fish.

2. Know your limits. Whether it be marginal surf or depth, if in doubt, don't go out..or down I guess.

1. Never dive alone.

Hope this helps and if you're ever in the Hilo area, drop me a line. If I got some time, I'll take you out 3 pronging.

The first thing to learn is to move smooth, as silent as possible and don't go straight for the critter. I always veer either to the left or right a wee bit before letting the three prong go. Patience is the key. Its like bow hunting...patience pays off. Lots of times I go without a spear and just see what works for getting close. Use the natural cover in the area, use the currents in your favor. Scout the area first. I have found that some of the bigger fish stay in the same area day after day, so find where they are on a daily basis and use the currents to drift to the fish.

Practice, patience and good lungs make for fun hunting.
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Gee, I'm glad I opened this thread. Lots of good advice and especial thanx to Dave for bringing up the subject. Karma to all!
Like sisu said jump in with just a three prong but remember that fish are smart and will recognize the difference between someone thats hunting them or someone whos just snorkleing. One of my favorite things to do is just go for a swim. Its very relaxing and a good learning experience. I also think that you should stick with the three prong for a while. I used one for 5 yrs before I finally got a gun. Most of the advice thats already been said is pretty much dead on. Just have fun with it.

Hey Uluapounder Im back on Oahu. I still have to fly home and get my stuff but were definatly gona be doing some diving up here. Maybe you could show us the ropes up here sometime. Shoots
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