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The Spearfishing Tax Man: Sharks, Big Fish, Eels, and Seals

The Spearfishing Tax Man: Sharks, Big Fish, Eels, and Seals

The Spearfishing Tax Man: Sharks, Big Fish, Eels, Seals, and Dolphins

Humans have been taxed by marine life from the second we first started harvesting fish. For those unfamiliar with the term, “getting taxed” refers to when a large predatory creature fights you for your fish. The reason we call it "getting taxed" is because it's like the ocean getting its taxes from your enjoyment of the fishing resource. However, that's the nice way of putting it. In reality, regardless of how you feel about actual taxes, no one likes to pay up to the spearfishing tax man. 

 In some places, the predators have seen so many spearfishermen that they are trained to know the sound of a speargun going off and rush in to steal your fish. Now, as the sport gets more popular than ever, it is even more important to be diligent around predators.


Sharks - The Main Spearfishing Tax Man

Sharks are probably the most common creature to steal a fish from a diver worldwide because they're so widespread and so opportunistic. Different species of sharks are found all over the world. Some species of fish are renowned for being difficult to land because of their proximity to voracious sharks (the prized Dogtooth Tuna, for example). As you spend more time in the water, sharks are just an accepted part of the sport. You learn to read their behavior better, and have an idea of how to best land your fish around them. You'll never be able to keep your fish away from the sharks 100% of the time, but with good shot placement and a good team you'll definitely land more fish than you lose. When it comes down to it, no fish is worth your life... or your hand... or your foot. 


Big Fish

There are plenty of other big fish out in the ocean that can steal your catch just as effectively as any shark. In the southeastern US, the goliath grouper is one of the most notorious tax men in the ocean. They are relentless, do not fear divers, and have a taste for the same fish we do.

Other than large reef fish there are also some pelagic species, like barracuda, which can be found in blue water or on the reef which will sometimes take swipes at your catch (especially smaller fish while they're struggling). They are fast, and their teeth will cut a fish in half faster than you can blink. 



Eels are not the most common tax men out there, but they have definitely stolen their fair share of free meals off the ends of spears. They can get pretty aggressive to divers who aren't being wary near the holes the eels like to hide in. Be especially aware of dark holes in reefs before just sticking your arm in, because eels have two full sets of razor sharp teeth. The reason for the two sets is that eels do not have tongues to move food to the back of their mouths. Instead of a tongue, they have a second jaw that rests in their throat that launches forward to just behind their teeth and pulls food back. Eels are like the aliens in the movie "alien", but the second jaw doesn’t come all the way out of their mouths. 


Seals and Sea Lions as the Spearfishing Tax Man

In some parts of the world seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals have been known to steal fish. While it is certainly impressive to see these animals in the water, you should always remember they are essentially feral dogs that are able to move through the water infinitely more effectively than you. They can also weigh several hundreds of pounds and can be aggressive, especially when they feel threatened. Don't play or mess around with them, and treat them with the same respect and caution you would a shark.  



Dolphins are tricky tax men because of how smart they are. They tend to stay away from spear fishermen, but will come to steal a fish if you leave it dangling. Mostly, though, they will just roll through a spot and spook every single fish. Dolphins are amazing to see in the water, but they are still competing for the same resource as you.

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