How to Spear Fish

Spearfishing has been used as a means to catch fish for thousands of years, as is evidenced on wall paintings which date back to almost 1500 BC.

Today it is a pastime which could reasonably be described as a water sport, with a large array of specialized equipment available for those who wish to take part. Let’s take a look at how to spear fish.

Spearfishing Explained

The basic premise behind spearfishing is a simple one and that is to catch fish using a spear or similar equipment. There are several types of spearfishing, and each of them requires different techniques.

Most people’s concept of spearfishing is someone standing up to their knees in water, holding a long spear, and taking aim with it, as fish swim close by. This is the most basic version of spearfishing and is a good way to be introduced to it.

Moving a stage further you would use a snorkel and mask to float or swim along the surface of the water looking for fish that are at, or near, the water’s surface, or swimming around rocks and stones.

More advanced spearfishers will head under the water using breathing apparatus, or with a technique called freediving. Freediving is the act of swimming and diving by holding your breath for time periods which run for several minutes.

The need to be able to go down to the seabed is because it is there you will find many of the fish. They are not simply going to come swimming up to you, so you are going to have to go where they are. To do that, the ability to dive, and to do that safely is essential.

Learning to Dive Comes First

With so much of the enjoyment of spearfishing based upon swimming underwater, it should be obvious that you will need to be able to dive, and if you are very keen, learn to free dive.

It will depend on where you live what facilities there are in relation to diving classes. It might mean you need to travel some distance to access a class or a qualified coach, but if you want to spear fish, this is what you’ll need to do.

It is not everyone who is comfortable with freediving and there are others struggle with it. If either of these scenarios arises for you, you should then focus your energies on scuba diving and diving with the use of breathing apparatus.

Spearfishing Equipment

Here is a list, with brief explanations of some of the basic pieces of equipment you will need to go spearfishing.


Help keep your hands and fingers warm in cold water and provide a level of protection for them too. The better ones are made from Kevlar or neoprene.


These do the same for your feet, as what gloves do for your hands


Used for snorkeling and diving to help propel you in the water with the minimum of effort.

Snorkel and Mask

A mask which fits well and offers you a good, clear vision will be a huge advantage. The snorkel is obviously for when you are floating on the surface of the water.


While a normal wetsuit will suffice, a wetsuit which has a camouflage print will reduce the chances of fish noticing you as you approach them.


There are three main weapons types as follows which we explore in the next section.

Weapon Types

Spear gun

There are several types of these and one of the main differences is what causes the gun to fire. You can have gas- or air-powered one, or the more basic manual one which uses a sling or band mechanism to launch the spear

Pole spear

The most basic weapon which basically needs you to get close to the fish and then launch it with your arm. Some have a single spike, other have multiple spikes.

Hawaiian slings

This also requires you to get close to fish before aiming and firing the sling

Safety Considerations

While you are in the water there are a few things which could present a danger to you. These include the fish you are stalking deciding it is going to attack you, predators such as sharks, and the real possibility of another spear fisher accidentally firing a spear at you.

All these risks can be reduced by planning properly, always spearfishing with a partner, so you can look out for each other, and being aware of what and who is around you.

Laws and Regulations

One of the problems you may encounter is the laws and regulations relating to spear fishing in your state. Unfortunately, there are no universal set of rules as each state will have its own regulations with some having very strict limits on how and where you can spear fish, and others having more relaxed rules.

It is essential that you make yourself familiar with the spear fishing laws in your state to avoid falling foul of them.