Joshua Chaffee
Joshua Chaffee

May 14. 2 mins

10 Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Spearfishing Skills

The first time I’ve ever been spearfishing was where I now live in Bocas Del Toro, Panama, and the first thing I ever caught took me about 7 tries to take it down. I’m ashamed to admit that it wasn’t even a fish, but a lobster who so graciously stood still for me to shoot. So why couldn’t I catch it more easily? Truthfully, I didn’t know what I was doing, and what is more, I was ill-equipped for the task.

I want to make sure that whether you are freedive spearfishing or spearfishing on scuba, you have a better experience than my first time. Since that day, I have learned a lot about spearfishing and would like to share some tips that will make you a better spearo.

Fish With a Buddy or Instructor, and Stick Close!

east an experienced spearfisher, or spearo, if not an instructor. This way you can see what they do, how they swim, and how they hunt, to learn with your own eyes.

If you decide to go out with someone who doesn’t know what they are doing, at least stick close to them. One of the biggest dangers you will run into out there isn’t sharks or eels, it’s shallow water blackouts, which are caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain called hypoxia. This can happen to anyone, including experienced spearos.

Practice Holding Your Breath

Since, in most situations, you will not have compressed air at hand, you should practice your breath hold. Most experienced spearos hold their breath for three minutes underwater, even while hunting. The more time you have underwater, the better you can hunt.

Aim Small Miss Small

A big mistake that beginners make is aiming for the fish as a whole instead of a smaller target. The larger a target you are aiming for, the more likely you are to miss completely. The idea is that if your target is smaller, your error will be smaller as well.


Try aiming for the spot right behind the gills. If you are able to hit it, it will provide you with a “stone” shot, or an immediate kill. Even if you miss that spot, you are likely to at least hit the fish somewhere.

Don’t be too Obvious

The founder of Spearfishing Today, Leo, says that spearfishing is like pursuing a girl on a date “don’t be so obvious about your intentions, and act as if you’re uninterested.”

If you swim sporadically, always aiming your pointy spear at a fish, nervously chasing it to get closer, the fish can sense your intentions and will escape quickly. Try to go with the flow; act natural. When the opportunity presents itself, strike.

Make Yourself as Small as Possible

Fish have poor eyesight. Take advantage of this by making yourself smaller in their field of view. For example, if you know or suspect that your target is hiding in a den, don’t situate your entire body right in front of that den; try peeking over the edge with as little of your body as possible so as to not alarm the fish.

Know Where to Look and What you are Looking for

Most of your targets won’t swim right up to you, and many of them could be camouflaged. Learn beforehand what fish are in the area, what they look like, and where they hang out. Most of your larger catches will come from dens and dark holes. For example, the ling cod generally hang out in holes and dens.

Don’t Stick Your Hand Where you Shouldn’t

Although many good fish will be hiding in holes, that doesn’t give you license to go around sticking your hand down every dark hole around the reef. There are dangerous fish and eels that could be living down there, and you don’t want an eel to latch on to your arm, because it’s hard to get it off once it does.

Get the Right Gear

I once went spearfishing in an area with a strong current, but I had a terrible pair of fins, and no gloves at all. I was left frustrated and empty-handed, while my more prepared friends came back with a bounty of fish.

Get high-quality fins, gloves, and spears, and you will be ahead of most. You want to be able to swim quickly without tiring or losing your breath, and you want to hold on to rocks to get good angles and to keep from getting washed away.

Be Careful Where you Point That Thing!

Follow the same rules with a speargun as you would with a regular gun. Understand that accidents happen, and it is possible to accidentally discharge your weapon. Never aim your spear at another human, and always keep a mindful watch on the tip of your spear.

Make Sure You are Aware of Laws and Nature’s Best Practices

Remember to never fish in restricted areas, and never fish anything that is endangered or out of season. This is why it is so important to know what kind of fish you are looking for and what kind of fish you should never shoot. Don’t touch coral as it can hurt you and you could damage it. Respect the life of your catch and eat anything you kill.

Always check local marine laws regarding hunting and fishing; be careful not to break any laws or cause damage to a fragile ecosystem.

If you follow these tips, you will hopefully bring back something for dinner tonight, and fun while doing it!

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