I am often asked what makes me venture in to the ocean to go spearfishing. The question is frequently tempered with a sense of intrigue and the assumption that I might be slightly insane, but there are many reasons why I love this sport.
I still distinctly remember the first time my Dad took me spearfishing. Kitted out with an eclectic variety of fluoro coloured dive gear I took my first plunge. It was a sensory overload: the colours, fish, corals and seaweeds all overpowered my senses and from that day forth the ocean became my second home.
Each time I venture out I feel a great sense of calm and I believe there is no greater escape from the intensity of everyday life than to dive beneath the surface on just one breath of air and let the ocean take hold of you. You can truly detach from our terrestrial life and enter another world; a world in which we are no longer the top of the food chain.
Another reason is that I love to eat fish. In today's world where many people think food comes from a supermarket shelf it is nice to know exactly where your food comes from. Fish really is a ‘super food’ and there is nothing healthier than freshly caught fish that you have iced and prepared yourself and in Australia we are blessed with an abundant variety of great eating fish.
It seems there is a misconception that fish are easy to capture on spear. While this can be true for some species but others, like snapper, are very difficult to spear. I catch more snapper in a two-hour soft plastic session than I do in an entire year of spearfishing.
As you become a more skilled practitioner you target more and more challenging species. A good friend of mine who is an exceptional spearfisher, Tim McDonald, sent me an email recently that really highlights the difference between species.
Many spearfishers wear dive watches that log the length and depth of a dive. This is an important safety tool as it gives you an indication of how long you should spend on the surface recovering before you take another breath-hold dive. His watch showed two separate dives for two different species. The first was a 2m dive for a wahoo, with a dive time of five seconds, which is pretty easy.
The second dive was in excess of two minutes in deep water to shoot a jobfish, another very wary fish. Spearfishing is all done on a single breath of air, as in most states it’s illegal to use scuba gear.
Spearfishing can be incredibly challenging both physically and mentally and with most pursuits in life the greater the effort the more rewarding the result.
The simple answer is, yes! I am also afraid of some drunken idiot driving down the wrong side of the road, but it doesn't stop me from driving a car.
Sharks are a risk when diving but really a very minimal one. There are also plenty of practises to minimise risks that will ensure your spearfishing is a pleasurable experience and your interaction with sharks is both positive and as safe as possible.
Without generalising too much it seems we are all getting busier and having less and less free time to enjoy everything this wonderful country has to offer and of course that all important ‘family-time’.
In recent years I have introduced my nine-year-old son to spearfishing and he has taken to it like a fish to water. He would be one of the very few children at his school that has snorkelled with sharks, visited most of the Solitary Islands, and of course speared a few fish. He has become a downright nuisance and bugs me continually to take him spearfishing.
But in all seriousness, spearfishing has given him a great passion and even more importantly a great appreciation of the marine environment.
Capturing your first fish of a particular species; the excitement of a school of big pelagics passing underneath; a close encounter of the shark kind. These are all snippets of time that would seem less without someone to share it with.
Reliving a moment in time over a beer at the end of the day is akin to our hunter-gatherer ancestors sharing stories around a campfire. Sharing everything from humorous to downright outrageous anecdotes brings meaning to our hunting adventures.
There are so many reasons that spearfishing is an unbridled passion for me: escapism, the challenge, time with my son and mates and ultimately a great feed of fresh fish that you have procured yourself. I encourage you to don a mask and walk down to the water's edge and have a snorkel. It could very well be a life changing experience.Reads: 3021