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Surface Hunting

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Stevie T

Well-Known Member
Jan 27, 2003
As a newcomer to spear fishing most of my hunt is carried out at the surface as my free diving skills are not yet upto the level to seriously consider an ambush type hunt.

This coupled with the fact that I live and hunt in the Uk, which by the pure nature of our coast line and the lack of blue water species means that most of my time is spent over reefs (max 10m) or rocky outcrops.

Therefore with the above in mind, my question is simply what advice/views does anyone have on surface hunting, whether in the UK or anywhere else around the world.


When shooting from the surface (breathing through the snorkel) I have better luck with a big gun. The aim is better. I have hit a few fish shooting straight down, but never a kill shot, which means if it has any size, it’s a fight.

The best results usually happen beneath the water. If you don’t have much structure to ambush with, try swimming down at about a 45% angle and start your dive so you end where the fish are. If the fish are swimming a certain direction, dive at an angle that intersects their path. Most fish get spooked if you dive straight down on top of them. The trick is to get down without spooking them. Once you’re down to their level they are not nearly as scared of you. Some species will even swim over to check you out.
Have fun,
My 2 cents would be that even if the fish are in the top 1/4 of the water colum you might want to still dive down and get to the fishes level rather than shot at a downward angle bc. the surface motion will affect your aim and I always have better luck when shoting at the fishes level. If you are crusing on the surface and spot a fish beneath you that looks like a good target be very aware of body language during the dive and be aware that the fish knows you are coming but if you aren't agressive in your movements and don't charge them they will likely let you get into good shooting position even if it wasn't an ambush. I like to breath up dive a 1/4 of the depth stop for a second to get the bubbles out of the snorkle and clear the ears while making as little eye contact as possible then make two or three good kicks and glide till im level with the fish but not on top of him. If all goes well youll be level with the fish, three or four good kicks out of range then level off close distance as quietly as possible and shot when you are as close as he'll let you get if he hasn't already realized your intentions. Even if hes on his way out as Muttons often are and you are his level youll have a decent quartering shoot but make sure to lead him well.
hope this helps a bit. probably already knew that but maybe it will help:cool:
If you cant get the depth to hunt from level with the fish as spearo has said try using a pranger or 5 prong cluster head on your spear if you cant find 1 locally you could mail order from Australia as these are very popular here especially with some comp divers as you can shoot thin fish from directly above more easily with a pranger - but you loose some range and speed of shaft.
Regards Peter
Thanks alot guys, your all true gents......

The season is getting into full swing here now, with most of the summer species moving onto the reefs so hopefully over the next few months I will be able to pratice the advice given and maybe bag a few for the BBQ :p

Donmoore, you say you have better luck with a big gun, what size would you recommend?
big gun

My big gun is a little unusually. It’s a Riffe 4½ Metal Tech, with 3 5/8 bands, and a broadhead archery tip. Riffe doesn’t actually make a 4½, their 4 is 6” shorter than the 5. I was having swinging problems with the 5. I love the action of the broadhead tip. It gives a much wider stone area (kill area) since it’s about an inch wide and it shots very straight. I believe the tip helps hold the front of the shaft up, which decreases fall rate. It’s the most actuate gun I have shot. Sunday I pulled the trigger three times and hit every time. Two where stone shots.

I shorted the shaft so that there is only about 1” of shaft beyond the barrel. I also use bands that are for a MT 4 so they get stretched 3” further than they were made for. This help keeps me motivated in the weight room, because I need all the power I can get to load this gun.

One disadvantage of the broadhead is it increased swinging resistance. The shorter shaft helps this. I modified a Riffe Ice Pike to accept a broadhead, but that did not work well, because of the increase swinging resistance (the ice pike sticks out about 8” past the barrel). The swining resistance also cause the ice pike to disengage often. The ice pike is not needed with this gun, because I have yet to shoot anything that the spear did not completely pass through.

I have lost two fish because the shaft end, after passing through the fish, found the hole and pulled back through. I connect the shooting line to the rest tap so the shaft is more likely to turn and not pull back through. One of the two times, it still managed to pull through, but the back of the broadhead did hold the fish for about 10 minutes and I would have landed it had I not been to lazy to swim down (I was tired!) from the surface and poke the fish with my knife or push the shaft back through. That was a big amberjack and it would have been my first! Still hurts to think about it!

For up close shooting I prefer a smaller gun. Especially if I am up against structure. I dive almost exclusively at oil rigs and one disadvantage about the MT 4½ broadhead gun is that unless you have 6’ of space on the other side of the fish, the broadhead is going to poke something. The broadhead cuts through the fish like butter most of the time; bones, skull etc.. A Riffe or JBL rock tip will penetrate a fish and open up with, only about six inches of room between the fish and structure and it won’t easily damage the tip, even when hitting metal. A small gun is also easier to dive deep with.

Sorry for the long explanation. I think any longer gun will give better range, plus you have more of the gun to line up with the target, which also helps the accuracy. Choose a 110 plus cm in a european gun or something about ¾ from the largest in an American line. Just under the blue water models.

Tomorrow I get to try out my wife’s new Riffe MT1 Hawaiian. She has to work, what a shame. Its just going to me and another spearo. No pole fishing! No bait! No tying hooks or extra equpment and their clean up. Just spearfishing!
Cheers Donmoore, understand most of what you are saying, but as a newbie i'm a little unsure of some of the terms but certainly get the idea of what you are saying about the length of penetration through the other side of the fish.

Can I assume from your statement about bait n hooks n stuff you are also a fisherman?

I fish and dive alot over here and thats what has got me into spear fishing, seems a natural progression to join the two hobbies together, except for i don't shoot in SCUBA, it's seriously frowned on over here int he UK. In fact spear fishing in general is not liked much by the UK diving scene whether you are in SCUBA or Freediving.

Anyway, let us all know how you get on with your wifes new gun.

G'day Steve.

Having dove over there on your side of the rock, I'll say that the water conditions in terms of visibility and depth match those here in Northern California somewhat, so I'm kinda qualified to have a take here...

While, or in Queen's English, whilst :hmm having a larger gun like a Riffe MT4 or a 120 cm :girlie gun looks dandy on the beach and occupying space on the wall, your needs and skill level dictate the use of a much smaller gun. While at this stage in your diving, the last thing you need is 3m of gun to toss around with whilst clearing and figuring out what the Hell it was that just swam past and adjusting your mask. I personally recommend to newbies and guys with some time in as well to go with a smaller 36 inch/1m gun at most, with a pair of bands at most and a simple rock tip with two barbs and a double wrap of shooting line with a bungie. Real simple and easy on the diver and his purse. I have more than a few big guns for special locales and fish and the gun I described to you is still the one that gets the most use and yields the most dinner.

JBL is a very tough gun and a tough deal to beat for their simplicity and ability to be built up and experimented with. Your locale would be the perfect situation for a Custom model or the .38 model. Spend some time with these two guns and watch your skills and belt size increase quick. The guns are all over the place and are often seen on ebay for a song. Good luck and don't feel that you have to go with a big ol' Ferrari for a gun at this stage. A lot of guns that people have and yak about get as little use as the divers themselves.
I would have thought that a Euro gun or Railgun such as a Rob Allen would be easier to use for someone new to the sport? They are accurate and only require you to muck around with 1 or 2 rubbers max, they are manouverable and easy to track with.

Best of luck
Cheers guys, you are all too kind, all advice read, and digested.........

Now to take this thread to the next step, say I now have my gun sorted and understand the methods to adopt with the surface hunt.....

What is the next natural step to take, baring in mind my ultimate goal is to be able to spend longer under the water to ambush my prey instead of tracking them across the surface and diving only to take a shot?

i.e. fitness, techniques etc etc etc etc

Sorry but I am a mere novice and do not know anyone that spear fishes to ask.............

Only one thing you can do, matey ....

Dive, dive, dive, dive, etc etc.

The more time you spend in the water, the more chances you'll get at your dream fish. So make every possible excuse to go diving.
You need time, either in a pool or ocean, and just work on diving, equalizing your ears, and holding your breath, and swimming. Get some long freediving fins. They really help you swim while keeping your hands free for your gun and ears (nose). Don’t let the scuba shops tell you their scuba fins will work for freediving. It’s a bunch of bull that any experienced freediver will tell you.

Equalizing the ears is one of the biggest problems for some freedivers, me included, because of our headfirst assent. I went so far as to buy an inversion machine so I could practice. Took me about 9 months to get it perfected. Others don’t have any problem, but make sure you equalize often. A friend who was going to try free diving with me soon, was an official in a sail boat race just a few weeks ago. They were in muddy water and the depth gauge was saying 9 feet. He didn’t believe it and decided to dive to the bottom and check. He didn’t think he needed to equalize. Ruptured an eardrum!

You will most always use the surface, even when you develop good underwater skills. It’s the place were your look and plan your descent to intersect with the fish, and also breathup and recover from previous dives.

Read a lot on the forums Freediving Training and Techniques, and Beginner Freediving. To be a good spearo you have to also learn and master freediving skills.

Good luck
Thanks a lot guys,

The weather is great over here at the moment and the sea conditions are perfect so its the ideal time to spend some time in the water. My brother is coming down for the weekend this week (he is also a SCUBA diver) so i think I will try and talk him into leaving the tanks at home and just go out freediving so that I can get some practice. :cool:

Once again thankyou to everyone that has posted on this subject, hopefully as time goes by I may be able to return the favor.............

  • Like
Reactions: Erik
dude, stevie...my two cents...

learn hands-free equalizing techniques...they come in handy when you are doing night-hunting...it frees up ur already clustered hands (gun, light, plus whatever else u might fancy)

also, a bigger gun extends the reach of your hand.....u can easilly oberve the difference between two guns that are only 4 inches different from each other....remember that the gun should be an extension of your arm...

good luck...and when you go spearing with a buddy, which u should always do anyways, make sure that u set up a system...like who goes up who goes down, when, where, blah blah blah... and ALWAYS, I MEAN ALWAYS, unless u are stalking a fish, keep ur gun either unloaded or with the safety on... i had a dear friend of mine died after he spooked his buddy and the guy squeezed the gun just by reflex....
a tip

That sucks. He must have been hit in a critical area bc. id imagine thats why spaceial awareness is soo important. you should never have any weapon pointed in any direction were you could cause harm to others and never have your hand on the trigger unless you are about the pull it. You should always watch for muzzel sweep and keep your gun pointed in a safe direction at all times. Also be constatly watching to see were your buddy is at all times, never let them get lost from sight bc you could get into trouble. As for diving with and unloaded gun I don't think it would be very practical since fish often don't hang around very long. One thing I do wich might help you, is I never hold onto the gun by the grip unless I am preparing for a shot, I always hold it by the middle. this prevents unwanted trigger pulls and make it easier to put the gun onto the fish without much swinging of the muzzel wich tends to spook them.
hope this helps a bit
Surface hunt

Hey Stevie,

Besides strongly encouraging you to start diving more, I'd like to add some comments on the Surface hunt technique.
As an Euro diver, my personal opinion is that you don't really need anything bigger than a normal euro gun (90 - 100cm) and 18 (20 max) bands. In fact when you're between the rocks you don't even need a more than 75 cm gun. The fish on the surface is never calm and you don't have time for aiming and tracking a long gun.
To be frank - forget about all the Riffe, JBL and other big wooden multi bands macho guns taller than an average basketball player. Those are made by US, Aussie and SA spearos for US, Aussie and SA spearfishing... In Europe we have the Euro guns, and there's a reason for this. :)

The fact is that it's almost always a waste of time to just swim on the surface and wait for some fish to pass under you... Having also in mind that noticing the dark back of the fish and aiming well enough is really hard I'd rather say it's would be pure luck if you get anything. Now maybe in some warmer parts of the world they still can hunt that way but for Europe that time is long gone.

However there are certain species that you can hunt almost without diving under certain circumtances. For you those would be the mullets and the seabass (also bluefish sometimes) but you should know where to look for the fish and how to stalk it. The problem is you also need calm seas for that.

To stalk the mullets on the surface you must pick a spot on the very tip of a cape. The mullets (and also the bluefish and bonitos sometimes) travel in schools along the shoreline and usually the tip of the cape is the closes point to the shore standing on their way, so they pass really close to it and often just below the surface. You must hold on to the rock, stay still and wait with just the tip of your spear pointing towards the sea so you don't scarethe suckers. The fish will eventually pass by and you'd have a clear shot.
Check also the line where the waves break since the fish often swims through it because the water is richer with oxigen there. But be extra careful - you don't want the wave to smash you onto the rocks. If the waves are strong you better stay away, you won't find fish there anyway...
Now big flathead gray mullets you can find in less than 50cm of water very close to the shore, between the rocks in tiny coves without any waves. The fish goes there to feed early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Just pick a good spot and wait between the sea weed. The fish is extra cautious in shallow water!
The seabass visits all places where he can get easy pray (juvenile fish mostly) and this is often very close to the shore. Hunt it the same way as the flathead mullet.
One way or another, you should master the art of stalking silently, otherwise you won't get anything...

Oh... And you can always find better fish if you dive! :)

Hey Whishbone,

I ordered my gun. Its OMER Alluminium 100. The shop owner will give me discount price:p Probably i will get it next week. It has 6.3 mm shaft on it, and power 18 OMER bands. Now i am thinking one wrap of line or two wrap? I will find this when starting to use it. Some people says two wraps of line is hassle but if you buy relatively bigger more expensive gun and if it has potential, why don't use it?. I will buy another 75 cm gun, OMER Excalibur 2000. Alluminium barell. This is for small fishes, like mullet, spinefoots, small breams and groupers hiding in caves. But i have to arrange my budget. If i buy second gun i may not able to buy torch. Torch is really advantage here when you are hunting the sargo and groupers in the cave. Gun price is 80 euro and torch is 60 euro. But probably i will not able to use my 100 cm gun in tight areas. Altought i don't want scratch its carbon barell by using in caves.
Hey Murat,

Congrats on your new gun...

I don't know what kind of torch you're going to buy, but I was quite happy with my Technisub torch for about EUR 20. The smaller the torch - the better. When buying it, make sure it won't occupy your hand the whole time - you should be able to leave it hanging on your wrist without feeling it too heavy. And also you must be able to operate the on/off switch with the same hand while pointing the torch. All other models are useless and inconvenient. And since you're a spearo and you will rarely dive in complete darkness (spearing at night is forbidden in most of the Med countries anyway) you don't really need a torch powerful enough to lighten up a disco bar. Go for something small and cheap.

I'd say one wrap of line is just fine. I dunno whether OMER still provides the guns with the thin kevlar black line, but if they do, don't use it on the longer gun. Its doesn't stretch and can be easily torn by a larger fish when it touches a rock. It is also very thin and literally cuts through the fishes with softer flesh. Once it gets scratched by a shell or a rock it snaps like hair.
You may laugh, but what I use is thicker fishing line. You can replace it every single week of the season and it still be cheaper than the fancy kevlar lines and stuff... But that's my personal opinion! :)

A little piece advice on the carbon barrel. I guess you're not going to strut on the beach with the barrel right? No one would really make the difference anyway. :)
The solution is very simple. Get a roll of that black sticky insulation tape the electritians use for wires. Then wind it around the whole length of the barrel (like on the grip of a tennis racquet). The tape is soft and thick and prevents the carbon from even heavier scratches. The glue is also very good and hasn't come off of my gun for 2 seasons already. If you want to unwind it, it won't leave any marks and the barrel is as new....


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