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best way to subdue a fighting fish

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New Member
Feb 2, 2004
hi guys, I am new to spearfishing and will be doing some rig diving around fourchon, la. i have heard stories of spearing fish and have been told to pull in your line quickle and get a hold of the shaft to subdue the fish. i would appreciate any tips on subduing these fish. i have a riffe knife that i will strap to my leg, but am wondering if i may have a problem pulling the knife out while trying to not get dragged around. (it may be hard to swim against the fish if i am pulling on my knife and not able to kick as effectively) what do you suggest as options in subduing these fish? I have heard that some fish it is better to break the bottom of their gills, and others suggest getting to the shaft quickly and sticking the fish in the head with your knife. of courst, i will be shooting small fish to begin with, but would appreciate some tips on fighting and killing fish that may pull more than i am expecting. thanks in advance.
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IMO the principle to capture a fish is to place a right shot in the first place. If your shot is correct you may kill it or you can easily apply force on the line without too much damaging the flesh or loosing the fish!. If the fish is small pull the spear line and finish the job with knive. If the game is big and if its fighting, best choice will be to tire it with the float or reel and than pull it.

Hope this helps.. Happy hunting :)

Welcome to the forum.

I carry my knife on the topside of my lower left arm. This lets me hold lines, spear or fish with one arm and still keeps me able to reach my knife. This also eliminate the problems with the bouy line getting wraped around the knife during dives.

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stab the knife to the head from the top through right behind the middle of the eyes or same spot but through under the gills if fish has hard skull. I generally use my fish stinger for smaller fishes, don't bother myself taking out of the knife.
the brain and the eyes make an equilateral triangle dont forget it ;)
Beside the other good advice here, you need to consider what type of fish you are subduing. If you are diving in the Gulf of Mexico, there are some fish with very nasty teeth. I personally would never grab the shaft if it were a barracuda, unless it was pretty much stoned (killed) from the shot. Better to swim to the boat, pull it up and gaff it.
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I favor an Ice pick. It's very easy to use and pierces bone easy. one quck jab in the head, wiggle quickly and the fish is totally motionless.

nice thing about an ice pick is you have no worries about cutting yourself why wrestling with a stuck fish :)
Big C,

I wear my knife upside down on the outside of my left upper arm. I grab all my fish (regardless of size) under their throat with my left hand inside and under the gill plates but also under the gills themselves (the strip of meat on the throat there acts like a perfect handle). Please be cautioned though, you definitely want to be wearing gloves for this procedure (especially for grouper!!!!!). I make sure I get my hand all the way around the fish's throat so I can make a closed fist. Once I get that grip, it's pretty much over. I position the fish so it's head is facing toward my body, then I reach across my left arm with my right hand and grab/release my knife. From there it's an easy stick into their brain and it's all over.

Hope this helps. Oh yea, I almost forgot. I don’t think this method will work with the Riffe knife though (that’s why I don’t own one even though I like it's shape and size). You need a quick release case so that you can take the knife out and put it back with one hand.

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hi scott,

in here more experainced spero told me that dont put your fingers in the gills of the grouper (probably black and dusky ones)
even if you have gloves they have power to break your fingers especially for bigger ones. Did you experianced with such thing?

I’ve never heard of that but I've only killed groupers up to 34 lbs (15.5 kilos). At that size, I've never had a problem with holding them the way I was describing. The only reason I recommended gloves is because the groupers here have gill rakers on their gills that are just as bad and dangerous as any teeth found on any fish (except maybe sharks and barracudas).

My hand actually comes in under the gills up against the body, maybe in-between the gills and they can clamp down on you. I don't know. As I said, I've never heard that before. Maybe somebody else on DB has experience in this matter and can enlighten us more.

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i think that sturgeon has a good point. i am going to have trouble pulling my riffe knife from the case because of the rupper clasp. i appreciate all of the advice from you guys, and am now considering the ice pick approach as an alternative. i guess i will decide after spearing my first few fish next month. i have a full length 3mm suit (thin) and am hoping to dive in late April if the water warms up enough. do you guys think that late april is too soon to go with a 3mm suit? looking forward to more tips! thanks in advance, big c
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Couple Points:

ALWAYS CARRY A KNIFE. mine has saved my life at least once (mono fishing net) and have come in handy many times. if you're considering an Ice Pick (I love them) please be aware you will also need a good knife that is easily accesable with BOTH hands. haveing it only acessable with your primary use hand does you no good when that one is rendered inoperable (think fish net)

I use the same technique as scott with my fish and have nevered had an issue with fingers breaking, if it;s properly executed. had have some bent the wrong way when I screwed up a grab. never go spearing with out a good set of gloves, don;t matter how warm the water is. both the line on your gun and various parts of a fish can cut your hands all to hell of you miss a grab or screw up. I almost lost a finger to reel line when the fish decided to make a run and all I had holding it was an ungloved hand.

there are no stupid questions here, ask away. so many great spearos here to offer you advice.

Welcome to DB, Willer.
all the techniques mentioned above are great. i particulaly carry a small pneumatic gun for dispatching lager groupers and other troublesome fish, not to mention for a little extra safety with tiger and bull sharks, but they usually leave us alone. my experience is that a knife to the brain is the best. ice pick should work too although ive never used one, maybe cuz the only ice in Kuwait is in my freezer...lol
Originally posted by mishu1984
all the techniques mentioned above are great. i particulaly carry a small pneumatic gun for dispatching lager groupers and other troublesome fish, not to mention for a little extra safety with tiger and bull sharks, but they usually leave us alone. my experience is that a knife to the brain is the best. ice pick should work too although ive never used one, maybe cuz the only ice in Kuwait is in my freezer...lol

You're joking right? :confused:
with the riffe knife, use a elastice(the ne that could come with it) to loop around the bottom for one hand use. I have had no problems with mine, other than the crappy edge that came with it. but i havent had one fall out that way but have lost 2 from me being stupid :duh . I usualy stab the fish in the bottom of the head through the gills. but some times i just cut them inside the gills so they bleed out.
I assume youll be using cable as your shooting line right? If so, the Riffe knife is good b/c it WILL cut the cable. I also carry a pair of EMT shears on my belt however, because they cut the cable much easier.

Your typical fish on those rigs will be red and mangrove snapper, cobia(lemon fish), AJ's and grouper. Each will have their own technique for the easiest dipatch. This just takes time and experience to figure out. For example, on aj's larger than 40 lbs or so I like to get to them and stradlle them with my legs wrapped around the tail and my hands holding the throat....kinda like riding a horse, then I take the knife to the brain. Grouper usually get handled like scott said, I often jam my gloved hand in the gills b/c then they arent going anywhere due to the gill rakers acting like velcro...learning these tricks will be half the fun!

Snapper season opens April 21 I believe but the big gags are up shallow right now on some of the rigs, so catch a good day and go...just watch the fog.
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You are absolutely right about big dusky groupers causing hand injuries if grabbed by the gills. We are talking about fish that are more than 15 kg. Their heads are much larger than Florida groupers (similar to Jewfish, red grouper) and have powerful gills. The proper way of grabbing big dusky groupers is by taking one hand and putting the fingers in the eyes (sort of like the photo I attached) and with the other hand grabbing the handle over their jaws. We don't have to do this with the groupers we get here (they are different species and smaller on average). Here's a 22 kg dusky I got in Greece in the early 90's (man I have aged :( )



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yeah their smaller...til you get your hands on one of those 200 pound warsaw's;)
Turning a fish onto its back while holding its gills will usually calm it down. Esp. Cobia and Amberjacks. Then you can do what you want. I use an ikijima spike for dispatching fish. IMO, it works better than a knife and doesn't break as easily.
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