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Hunting Technique

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Desk Driver
Dec 6, 2001
Hi all,

Been all around the site, and I really like what I see. One thing that is amiss though is hunting tips / technique etc. I've seen a couple of comments on how we're never too old to learn (something about dogs???)

So, here it is. A new Thread with hunting tips.

For a start I'm going to outline the different types of hunts. These are: surface hunt, ambush hunt, search hunt, cavities hunt, tide hunt and combined hunt. Which one to use depends on the actual physical condition of the hunter, the weather, the fish, and other factors.

If there's any interest in the finer details of the different types of hunts, I'll discuss it further. Otherwise I'll do what I should have done and go diving ......

Attached is a picture of a 'target' fish .... go figure this one out.
Orange: 98% chance it's gonna end up on your stringer
Purple: 80% chance it's gonna end up on your stringer
Green: 50% chance that you'll lose the fish - not a good area to shoot in as it turns very mushy when hit. IOW Spear Rips Out, No Fish.

Ciao !


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Surface hunt

The surface hunt is the oldest spearfishing method we know. When hunting from the surface the spearo actually doesn't dive at all. He floats on the surface, moves really slowly and silently and waits for the fish to pass by.

During the summer months this method is a complete waste of time. Even if the spearo spots a fish, it would never be close enough for a successful shot. The surface hunt would be somewhat appropriate during the cold winter / spring months. The fish then occupies the upper warmer layers where there's more plankton. That's exactly the time when enormous schools of fish may be encountered. Besides everything else the fish during that period reacts slower due to the cold water and the diminished survival instincts after the hungry winter months.

The natural camouflage colors of the fish should be taken into consideration when applying this method. The dark back of most of the sea habitants protects precisely from the hunters above as the darker color fuses with the one of the sea beneath the fish. During this type of hunt the fish is hard to spot and is extremely cautious.

Surface hunting can be strongly recommended to beginners who are trying to master the diving skills and the ones needed when dealing with a speargun.

This is a great thread SAS, I'm interested. My technique stinks, as I have not had much experience and am not close enough to water to practice, so any advice you are willing to share is welcomed by me and I'm sure others. I think we need more hard-core spearfishermen on the boards, so have at it!
Erik Y. (-18C and 15cm snow, but headed to the Persian Gulf tomorrow...woohoo!)
Ambush Hunt

As the very name reveals, this method is basically a pure ambush. During hyperventilation (Deep breathing ..... blah blah blah about safety here) or on the way down the spearo marks the appropriate ambush spot. Good spots are rocks or sand bottom covered with dense vegetation. Even better is the margin between the rocks and the clear sandy sea floor. That's where you can encounter almost all kinds of fish.

The dive should be absolutely quiet and you should try and look more like a sinking log than like a living creature. The object here is to get right down to the ambush spot and hang around for a while.

Once you reach the bottom try to blend into the scenery, no matter how bad it might look to inoccent bystanders. Grab a stone or sea weed, straighten the arm you hold the speargun in really slowly making sure it doesn't hit the rocks or get snagged somewhere. At this point it's always a good idea to check your spear line - you don't want it wrapping around appendages or other things just before shooting.

Unlike the surface hunt the fish that would pass in front of your ambush will be much easier to spot, unless it comes from above. Then you'll face the opposite situation where the silver belly of the fish will fuse with the colors of the surface. This is obviously nature's camouflage at best.

If you've got a good spot, fish will get very close to you. They may even start feeding of your gun - it's been known to happen. Once again, be extremely carefull and aware of your gun - banging it into rocks is never a good idea.

Danger warning: Being at depth and not moving much, as you would during this kind of dive, one should be aware of one's body - if you start feeling like you need air, go and get air. It's no use if you spear a record fish and die 2 seconds later because you've got no breath. I've found that getting into a rythm for this type of dive is the most advantagious.

What I do is dive for 2 minutes, stay on the surface for one minute. It does NOT matter how deep the dive is - even if it's a very shallow and easy dive, this is the rythm that I keep to. If you've got a good spot and a decent rig, you can keep this up for at least 3 to 4 hours with the occasional rest and rehydrate in between.

Only one problem I've found with this technique: I normally use a 120cm Rob Allen Railgun (they RULE!) and sometimes a fish will come from the blind side and the gun won't fit between me and the fish. All you have to do, however, is wait. Or like we call it in SA, Chill ..... it'll go into range sometime or another.

Happy Hunting!
Search Hunt

The first part of the dive is identical to the one described for the ambush hunt but in stead of looking for an ambush spot the spearo marks a "route".

The route is determined by the sea floor terrain, the current and feeding zones. The route should consist of a couple of good ambush spots not too far away from each other.

After reaching the bottom quietly, crawl right above the floor between the ambush spots. Stay a few centimeters above the floor and creep slowly from one ambush spot to the other. When crawling absolute silence is a must. Keep fins, guns and belts away from the rocks and try not to disturdb the bottom with your fins. Rather use your free hand to push yourself from rock to rock or pull yourself around using seaweed and stuff (Watch out for the fire coral!)

Once the quarry is spotted the technique will start to resemble the ambush hunt - keeping still, extending the gun arm fully, and firing. From the surface this hunting technique looks a lot like the movies - policemen sliding from one obstacle or hiding place to the next .....

Open areas with no concealing places are normally a waste of time - unless a school of fish comes swimming by.

Try and keep the movements slow and gracefull - more like a turtle than a dolphin - and this should be a very successfull hunting technique.

I'm just going out to get some bungee line for my float system ..... will post again soon.

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Cavities Hunt

OK, first of all ...... this has got NOTHING to do with looking for dingle berries ..... :D

Here we are looking more at hiding places for fish rather than for the spearo. In other words, places that fish hide in ..... the fish's own home, as well as other holes, caves, piles of rocks or cavities that some types of fish use as hiding place or as "student's flats" during the mating period.

A couple of things to consider ........

1.) The type of fish being hunted here
Normally reef - type fish. Slow moving, hard heads etc etc. Also eels, sometimes small skates and rays.

2.) Type of gun used
This is where my favourite "Cave Gun" comes in. It's a super short 65cm gun with 4 rubber bands - not the powerfull 20 mm variety but a very subdued surgical tubing around 12 mm with 2mm sides. It also uses a heavy 7mm spear with a screw - on tip. The tip can be replaced when it gets bung up on the rocks, and the spear won't get bent in a hole or cave - especially since the gun is fairly slow. Being less powerfull also reduces the risk of the spear bouncing of the rock and tagging the spearo. Not a nice way to spend a couple of weeks - trying to dig a spear outta your you know what.

3.) Light
When standing in front of a hole, the spearo is silhoueted against the light from the background. This makes it easy for the fish to see you, and not the other way around. One way out of this is to use a torch. This will however use up both your hands .... where's the knife gonna go if need be ?

4.) Nasties
Face it, you don't want some Moray to have your hand for breakfast .... or your head ! Don't stick anything into holes - as my dad always put it "Keep your thing out of holes and your hole out of things"

Okay, so there's two variants to this technique: Canyon and hole dives

Canyon dives are pretty cool. They're a variation to the ambush theme where one would hide next to the entrance of a canyon or hole where fish might come through and monitor a certain section.

Hole dives (that doesn't sound too good) includes cavities, caves and rock piles. What might happen during normal dives is that fish will lead you to their hiding places .... all you need to do is ambush from the side - preferably out of view. If a cavity is big enough to see into clearly, and a fish can be seen, it has not got that many options. Play dead, or swim out. Make your pick where and when you want to shoot it.

Words of warning: Caves are dangerous. They can snag you, your gun, your line, just about anything, they can fall in on you, you can get trapped in a funnel, you can get trapped trying to turn around, you can get washed into one by a surge of water or wave - BE CAREFULL. Dive with your head, not your heart.

Tide Hunt

This is the one with the most dangers associated with it .......

It is NOT for the inexperienced, poorly trained, unfit,
intelligent etc etc etc divers out there.

This is more of a hunting zone than a technique. It's the zone a lot of people ignore when they go hunting. The surf zone. Not the wussy "Oh, like, shoo broe, let's like paddle our boards out and like, you know, ride the waves" - the spot where the waves hit the rocks.

I know it sounds crazy, but I've had some good successes here. I noted one day on my way out (towing a 22kg Barracuda and a 8kg Yellow Belly Rockcod out from a little deeper) that there was quite a bit of activity in this zone.

My first thought was "aah screw it, it's some some small mullets and breams frollicking" but then I had second thoughts. I dropped my bag off on the rocks (this was where I was heading anyway) and went back for a second look.

What I saw was quite interesting. I saw schools of smallish to medium fish (about 1 to 3kg's) gulping air / eating foam. This continued for a couple of minutes, and they sped off. A minute or two later another school came and repeated the performance ..... I got to wondering what the hell it was all about. And I'm still wondering.

The point is, however, that just a little behind that, on the way to the open sea, was basically a "feeding zone." I mean, COME ON !! We're talking mega baitfish swimming to and fro the whole time ... there's bound to be pelagics and predators around there !

There was ..... some nice cuda, prodigal sons, a lone wahoo ..... all hunting. It was a hive of activity. There was a couple of frustrating points made clear after I went to fetch my gun:
1.) The waves helped to speed these fish up .... a LOT
2.) The constant surge was difficult to contend with ....
3.) All the foam and bubbles in the water screwed with my boyancy and vision .......

I tried a couple of different things over the past few years to hunt in this zone. It's not easy. The two best techniques are to float on the surface and wait for a school to come in, and then shoot from the surface. This seems pretty easy, but remember the wave action and keep an eye on the rocks ..... also your line can get terribly messed up here.

The second option is to hunt from the bottom. This is also not too easy, as fish normally have a whitish belly. This makes them hard to spot against the foam. The waves also throws them and your spear around a lot, which makes it tricky shooting.

And finally, consider you wetsuit ..... It's more than likely that it'll get cut and ripped by the rocks. Nonetheless, I've had some nice catches in this zone. And it's never a long swim to the beach. And I've NEVER encountered any type of shark in foamy water. Maybe I was just lucky .....
Combination Hunting

This is what happens when combining more than one technique to form a combination. These are the most popular / usefull combo's I've used.

Search hunt with ambush hunt - the spearo marks the separate ambush spots and moves from one to the other waiting on each place for about 20 seconds. Differs from a normal search hunt in that you stay at the ambush spots for some time before moving on.

Search hunt with cavities hunt - Normal search hunt with the occasional cavity check :) thrown in. Can also be hanging around a canyon type structure during a normal search hunt.
"Let's not leave a hole unvisited!"

Tide hunt with surface hunt - pure gambling. Swim around in circles aimlessly and hope for the best. A in - out zig zag pattern sometimes work best.

Ambush hunt with cavities hunt - the spearo waits beside the hole like the method described above. This is usually applied when a fish is suspected to have holed up in a cavity.

I think that's about it ....... all the type I can think of for now. Anything else anyone can think of ?

Deep Dives, Big Fish, Good Shots and smelly feet to all !

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Chumming / Baiting

One more ..... there's always one that I forget.

I don't like chumming (cutting up of bait fish and creating a feeding zone) purely because we've got some nasty Johnnies around our waters. Chumming attracts a lot of attention from sharks, and that's one thing I don't need - attention from sharks.

Is there anyone out there that chums and wouldn't mind sharing some knowledge ? Thx

The one "baiting" technique that I use a lot, especially on boat dives, is called a chicken float. It's a foat with some line attached to it, from which I hang all kinds of shit - just about any shiny artificial lure (with hooks removed) will do. What I found to work pretty well is using a couple of spoons (normal stainless steel teaspoons) and one or two of these plastic squidy thingies. Just let these hang about 2 to 4 metres below the surface, and wait for the big mamas to come knocking.

The best way to work this sytem is to do a surface / ambush hunt .... you hang around the surface, watching the flashers (you might be able to fire a shot from there if it's not too deep) and alternate this with diving to around 1 metre below the flashers, about 3 metres away from them .... keep a beady eye out, a lot of BIG fish gets attracted by the flashers - it looks like a school of bait fish from a distance ....

Incidentally, the previous two world record Black Marlin was shot using this technique, as was the world record Blue marlin and Sailfish .... all in sunny South Africa .... he he he.

Enjoy !

Picture of a chicken float with flashers .... I took it of Rob Allen's web site - I haven't got a photo of mine.


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A good read SASpearo

I've never been spearfishing but that was very informative. If ever I take up the sport I'll have to use this as a reference.

Can you tell me what is the average effective range of a speargun, in the hands of say, an average shooter? Can you give me some numbers on the trajectory of the spear? I realize different guns would be different but I'ld like to see just a few examples. Also one more question.. tell me, in general, what constitutes a "good marksman" in spearfishing.. do spearfishermen setup targets like archers and practice, practice, practice? Do they ever shoot for group, and what woud be a good group at what distance? I'm a shooting sports (firearms & archery) enthusiasts so this stuff catches my curiosity.
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Huntin' ....

Yeah, well ..... a lotta difficult questions .... he he he

What I'll do is compare the two guns I've got to give you an idea of what they can / can't do.

65cm Balco Sub Cave Gun

This is a very short gun used for hunting in cavities etc. This gun runs 4 * 12mm rubbers (similar to some slingshots - the ones that use that yellow tubing) and isn't very powerfull. A good with this gun would be more than 2 metres, and hitting a target area of about 5 cm in diameter. A fair shot would be the same but hitting in the 10cm mark. Remember that fish move around fairly fast, and the moment the trigger is pulled under water the gun makes a racket. If oyu shoot further than 2 metres with this gun it just nicks a fish - won't even penetrate. You can overcome this by adding more rubbers, but then the spear tend to wobble when it releases.

120cm Rob Allen Railgun

This is one kick ass gun. Runs only one 20mm rubber, but it is the proper speargun rubber - very tough. Quite a few people have difficulty trying to load this gun because of the uncomfortable length and the strong rubber. A fair shot with this gun would be around 5 metres, hitting a 10cm circle. A good shot would be hitting the same circle at around 7 to 8 metres. At that range the spear is still powerfull enough to penetrate most fish.

Most guns start losing height (sinking) after it loses the necessary momentum to penetrate the fish.

Some spearo's (especially the good ones) has at some time or another made fish targets and shot it full of holes in the local pool. Like with any other sport, the only way to improve performance is to practice. We don't generally shoot for group as only one spear is used - kinda difficult to reload a kicking gun (the spear is attached to the gun - when the spear's in a fish you might have a little difficulty reloading!)

Hope this helps get you in the water !

BTW: The 120cm Railgun kicks like a pump action shotgun - with no shoulder rest!

Regards RC
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Whup Ass thread!!!!!

Makes me feel like i'm back in the water again!

Bring on the summer!
Summer ?

Dude, you in the wrong COUNTRY !!!

32C, water temp between 12C and 19C (two oceans), no wind .....

Go on - move to SA!
Drop weights?


Way cool thread! Does anyone wish to comment on the use of drop weights and flashers? I am also a archer and gun kind of guy, and while I love to shoot targets on land I don't tend to do much target shooting underwater, I'd rather just swim around. As far as I know there are no 3-shoots in the spearfishing world, however if you have a new gun there is likely no better way to get to know it. Thanks for the thread, the big gun small gun stats were interesting.

Best wishes,

nice post SASpearo

i am also an archer (and i want to get a gun but some "law" thing keeps minors form getting one)

anyway i was hoping to go spearfishing when i got to FT lauderdale next march and now i really want to go.

thanks for the informative article.

Maybe all the self professed archers can post some info on how they better their aiming / grouping - how it would pertain to spearfishing, of course - target practice etc etc ???
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Archery and spearfishing

i'm an archer and also a spearfisher. There's a spearfishing club near my place that do target practice once a week in winter because the water visibility and temperature gets too low. Info is here http://rennes.webcity.fr/article.asp?id=10566 with pictures. Basically, for those not fluent in french, they shoot at a target at 10' in 8-10' of water. They do that in pool and old excavation hole. They also say that shooting at a target at the same range with no current in the same position all the time is not like hunting. So you dont become a good hunter by shooting at target. The important thing with a bow is not for it to shoot straigth, it must shoot constantly the same way. So to be a good shooter, forget about the bulleye. Aim at the center of your target and shoot. Do that as many times as necessary to always hit the same spot. After that, you'll only have to compensate for the deviation, the drop etc to hit your mark.

Good hunting
Archery Practise


If I am shooting a bow that I know I will shoot at my local 3-D range, which means that you walk around a course in the woods and shoot at targets in life-like poses. This is very good parctise for hunting since distances are not known. If I do not know the bow I will shoot it at a target with known distances. In particular, if I have never shot the bow I'll start very close to the target and only move back once I'm shooting good patterns. If I'm hunting I'll generally use a compound bow with a trigger release. The trigger release is like any trigger, it should be squeezed not pulled. I will practise at distances way greater than I hunt at, this helps in developing confidence for shorter shots. I hope this is what you were asking about.

Best wishes,

i would have to say the most important thing is to always have to same posture....

i learned this the hard way after shooting for 1 year.
1. try numerous positions/posture and find the position that you like the most.
2. practice getting in that posture, as soon as you draw your weapon you should be getting in that posture, now you dont nessacerily have to shoot every time you draw but make sure that you can get in the same posture time after time, once it is commited muscle memory you move to the next step.
3.start shooting at a target and always aim for the same spot. it doesnt matter if you miss all the time just shoot until you see all of you arrows/spears go in the same general direction. (this only applies if they are the same)
4. start learning how to compensate for the tendency. if it shoots low and to the right shoot high and to the left. it helps to have a constant point to focus on (on the projectile or weapon).
5. once you are shooting nice tight groups around the bulleye move forward or back a couple of yards and learn how to compansate for distance (this takes time)
6. learn each individual spear/arrow. this means you need to shoot 1 arrow/spear many many times with the aimer aimed at the bulleye and watch and see where it lands. usually all of the arrows will be a little different. but individuall arrows/spear will probably be off by 1-2 inches from the exact center when shooting at normal distance. HINT; i number all of my arrows and i know that number x goes up and to the right and the number y goes to the left and down by 1 cm at 15 meters ect.
7. practice and learn to compansate for each individual arrow/spear. be carful though i have broken many nocks from 15 meters from my arrows hitting each other.;)

well if anyone has any better way please tell me


It's kinda difficult to practice with a speargun. I found this neat little dive shop (actually not that small) about 5 minutes walk from my office. Now get this - they've got a 15m dive tank on the premises!!

Even better - After a little weedling I can now go there anytime I want to get wet. This should do wonders for bottom time / stamina.

I still have to convince them about my speargun though :D Would be kinda bummer to shoot out one of the glass panes and go floating out with it.

Is there anyone else from South Africa on these forums ?

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