Keys Spearfishing

By Robert Trosser

Spear Choice 101

Growing up in the Keys was an amazing experience. From an early age, I took to the ocean and enjoyed its beauty and power. One of my first memories of snorkeling is seeing thousands of fish and every color of the rainbow. I always wondered why anyone would waste time dropping a hook and line into the water when we can literally swim with the fishes. From that point on I knew I was destined to live by the ocean.

As I grew big enough to begin Spearfishing my father gave me a simple pole spear. It was taller than me and hard to pull back and aim but somehow I managed to learn how to use it. The pole spear is a simple stick that can be made of fiberglass, metal, or even carbon fiber. On one end is a sharp point with some sort of barb to keep the fish on. The other end has a rubber band that is stretched to its limits and released to propel the shaft forward. This is the easiest way to learn the basics of Spearfishing.

Hawaiian slings are slightly more complicated. We start with a long metal shaft with a point and barb on one end. This is placed into a hole in a handle made of wood, plastic or a combination of some other material. A strong rubber band is tied to the handle. To load the sling you pinch the rubber and shaft like a slingshot and pull back as far as you can reach. The advantage is you can make a much longer shot with a sling, and with practice, it can be very accurate. When you let the shaft go, there is nothing attached to it so you better be able to dive down to pick it up if you miss.

Hawaiian slings are often used when spearguns are considered illegal. In the Bahamas for example, you cannot use a spear with a trigger to shoot fish. So your options are limited to Hawaiian slings or pole Spears. There are many versions of the sling with some costing a few hundred dollars and others just a simple homemade contraption. I remember my first experience with the Hawaiian sling. I jumped in the water and looked down at a Hogfish! It was huge and I dove down as far as I could. When I got close enough I pulled back the spear and let it fly. The shaft went right over the hogfish and got stuck in the bottom. I raced to the surface and watched as my father dove down and shot it first try. I knew I had a lot to learn at that point.

The most complicated way to spear is with the spear gun. This is a piece of equipment that can provide the longest of shots with the most accurate aim. Think of a crossbow underwater. A spear is loaded into a track and latched into a trigger mechanism. Multiple rubber bands are stretched back and locked into notches on the shaft. The diver stretches out the gun at the target, pulls the trigger and the shaft launches away. There are hundreds of different designs of spearguns with different features for different types of hunting. They range from long guns with 4 or more bands to shoot the biggest of tuna, to short, easy to move through the water guns for dirty water and close in shots.

My favorite fish I have speared was also the biggest. We jumped in the ocean and started drifting in the open water. Just minutes later the tuna arrived. As they swam around me I loaded the speargun and prepared to aim. The biggest swam into view and I knew I had to take my shot. As I pulled the trigger on the speargun I knew I had come a long way from my start as a child with a pole spear. The spear flew straight and the fish took off. The fight was intense and lasted an entire hour before I could subdue the enormous Yellowfin Tuna. In the end, it weighed 235 lbs and was more than 6 ft long. It was the most amazing feeling knowing I was able to learn from my past mistakes and capture the biggest fish of my life.

For more information on selecting the appropriate spear for your skill level and budget, stop by Finz Dive Center to speak with one of our knowledgeable associates.

Robert Trosset
FINZ Dive Center
5130 Overseas Hiwy,Key West • 305-395-0880