Get the right spear gun for the job
  |  First Published: June 2013

The start of winter sees the water cooling down and the spearfishing interest tends to diminish.

However reasonable spearfishing can still be had through winter for the keener spearfishers. Warm wetsuits and shorter dives tend to be the order of the day but good catches in June can still be had of crayfish, scallops and select scale-species. Trevally can be found in large schools along our state-wide ocean reefs along with your usual reef species such as sweep, leather jackets, wrasse and morwong. With the spearfishing slowing down a bit during winter I will take this opportunity to explain the basic spearfishing equipment required for Victorian spearfishing. This month I will detail spearguns and follow on next month with wetsuits and other accessories.

The choice of speargun is dictated by the waters you dive and your target species. For ‘normal’ Victorian spearfishing a 90cm or 100cm stock length speargun is perfect. This is the length of stock or barrel not the overall length. The overall length of a 100cm speargun is approximately 150cm long. This length gun will allow you to hunt and land quality reef and smaller pelagic species such as salmon, trevally and whiting and has an effective range of 3-4m maximum. Speargun power is dictated by the rubber you use (both length and thickness) and thickness of spear. Ideal rubber thickness is 16-18mm and the length will depend on individuals strength and actual gun size, type of rubber, and so on. A 90-100cm size gun is easy to move through the water column and still small enough to hunt ledge fish such as rock ling. It is also ideal for the average visibility we frequent in Victoria of 6-7m.

The selection of spears is an interesting one and can vary between individual spearfishers as well as target species. Two main spear types exist. One is a single point and the other is a cluster or pranged head. This type of spear head requires a threaded spear to change spear heads where as the single point simply has a sharp point and a flopper or barb to secure your fish to the spear. Both are very effective and I switch between the two depending on what I am targeting.

In competitions I will always use the pranger head as it is generally more effective on smaller reef species and in ‘rushed’ situations where getting the perfect shot is sometimes not possible. This type of spear does not have the range of the lighter single point and can damage the flesh of smaller species. Thus, when I am social diving or hunting for the table I will use a single point. The single point is also a cheaper and easier way to go as pranger heads are not cheap (at $45-$50 each and you are constantly repairing and replacing pranged heads. They are very effective of fish like whiting, snook and even flathead. Single points are very effective on wary fish like trevally and snapper and hold larger fish like salmon and kingfish well. Spear thickness for these guns varies between 6.5mm and 8mm with a 7mm spear being ideal.

For the serious Victorian spearfisher wanting to target kingfish and even southern blue fin tuna in season they should look at a longer speargun such as a 1.3m speargun. This is not so good for your average reef species but perfect for longer shots and the clearer water that these pelagic fish tend to frequent. The effective shooting range of this gun is more like 5m and a single point is ideal for this speargun rig. Some more experienced divers will use a reel attached to the gun for hunting these species with this rig but that is optional and not necessary.

The rigging for spearguns is very important and quality lines (usually 350-400lb breaking strain monofilament) and crimps are vital. All spearguns should have a quality clip attached to its handle to attach to your float line. The standard shark clip is very strong and effective and the choice of most serious spearfishers. Unfortunately, I have seen and heard of numerous stories over the years where guys have lost quality fish due to inadequate lines and clips and in some situations even lost their entire speargun due to weak clips. Remember, your speargun and rig is only as strong as your weakest piece of gear. No good having 500lb monofilament and a cheap and nasty clip to attach the gun that will give way once put to the test.

Hand spears or rubber powered slings are also a serious option for Victorian spearfishers. Many divers, including yours truly started with these simple and cheaper items. In fact, several of the states more competent spearfishers are returning to using the slings and why not. You can still get a good feed and a great challenge hunting with slings and it is great fun.

A few words on speargun safety is essential here. Always treat a loaded gun with a lot of respect and do not trust safety mechanisms. They can and do fail. Never point a loaded speargun at a person and never load a speargun out of the water. Always cover your spear points when not in use. (a snorkel is quite an effective cover). Be very mindful of other divers in close proximity whilst spearfishing especially in dirty water.

Winter is a great time to tinker with spearfishing gear and try a few different types of gear and techniques. Do not let the cooler water deter you and get out and enjoy the winter months. We can often have quite reasonable conditions through June and July with offshore winds making the ocean a pleasant hunting ground.

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