Dock of Death: The Life Cycle of Spearfishermen and Why We Need to Mature
The term ‘Dock of Death’ is getting thrown around more and more within the spearfishing community. For those of you unfamiliar it is the practice of laying out everyones catch for the day in a way that prominently displays everyones fish, usually close to everyones limit. While it is impressive to display a groups ability to gather their limit of fish it has some issues when it comes to the public relations for the spearfishing community. The debate on if it is a good practice is pretty well decided in it being poor form. That being said, the legality is certainly in the favor of it being acceptable. We will go over some of the reasoning behind why you may want to simply consider showing off your prize fish and keeping the rest of the fish on ice.
Your Legal Right, Until it Isn’t
We would like to think that the governing authorities in charge of fishing regulations are basing it purely on sound scientific data. Unfortunately, there is a large portion that is based at least partially on public input. While it is important that the public has a voice in many aspects of their lives, This should probably be an area that has a stronger focus on science. So based on this we can see how a negative public perception of spearfishing can directly impact things like our bag limits. When the public sees divers with what may be considered and excessive number of fish the public can express the idea that the limit should be reduced.
In the State of Florida we saw the recreational limit of sheepshead reduced from 15 fish to 8 fish. At the forum many people expressed distaste for seeing people holding up what they considered to be too many fish. The limit was determined by public opinion rather than the scientific data which pointed to 15 fish being sustainable. Be aware that is can happen anywhere with any species of fish or any limit. If that isn’t an example of why we should be more conscious of our actions I’m not sure what is.
The Life Cycle of a Spearo
Divers seem to have a bit of a life cycle as they continue to spearfish. They go through phases that can be defined to some degree. Obviously every diver is different and may bounce around to different parts of this lifecycle. That being said, just about every has the same starting point. Check out a detailed breakdown on Noob Spearo Episode: 150 – Death Pile Phenomena, Dock of Death Pics.
Phase One: The New Diver/ Beginner
No matter how great a diver you may have become you started just like everyone else. Most new divers are still struggling to understand the basics of freediving when they try to throw in the infinite skills that spearfishing also requires. The challenges of understanding the loading and safe use of a speargun is no small task to the new diver. Take that and compound the use of a reel or floatline and it is a struggle. Go a step further and add fish identification and understanding of size and method of take regulations. Then, on top of all of this, you have to try and stalk and hunt a creature that is in its natural habitat, while you are not. Needless to say a new diver is working on developing all these skills, and as such is usually not the most skilled spearo straight out of the gate.
Phase Two: Shoot the Limit of Fish
After you get past the early stages of spearfishing it is common for people to progress to trying to catch their entire limit. This is easier said than done. In this phase divers refine the skills they were working on in phase one. As the diver progresses this is where the ‘dock of death’ starts to come into play. They get better at stalking and hunting, and start to pick up on fish behavior. The diver starts to figure out more about what the sport is about, but they are still focused on filling the freezer.
Phase Three: Shoot the Biggest Fish
In phase three the goal tends to be on harvesting the largest fish you can. Larger fish are usually more weary of divers. It takes more skill to stalk and land these larger fish. This is where a diver may start to show signs of maturing while spearing. In order to have a chance at the really big fish you end up passing up opportunities on tons of good and legal fish. In short, the diver is becoming more selective. Once a diver is good at shooting their limit of big fish is when the dock of death pictures start to really get the attention of other people in the diving and fishing community.
Phase Four: Selective Harvesting and Competition
This phase is optional. Many divers start to feel competitive once they start shooing big fish and they want to demonstrate it. The best way to do that is through competitions. Spearfishing tournaments happen all over the world and are a great way to enjoy the camaraderie of the sport. Competitions are not a driving force for every great spearo. Some people are driven purely by the hunt.
Phase Five: Respecting the Resource/ The Chef Stage
This can frequently be the final stage of many spearfishing journeys. At this point divers frequently become very selective. They pick the fish they specifically want. This usually is driven by food. The focus becomes on the edibility. Divers tend to focus on taking ethical shots on specific species they want. At this point the diver tends to focus on how they want to prepare their catch. If you get a group of these divers in a room you are more likely to hear people trading cooking recipes rather than how crazy their dive trip was. At this point it is really all about respecting the resource.
Phase Six: The Statesman
Not all divers get to this phase, and that is okay. Not every diver that gets to this phase does it well. The Statesman phase is always driven from good intentions, but often comes off as rude or frustrating. The diver is often trying to guide people further along in the phases, or trying t get them to skip to the end. There are good ways to do this and rude ways to do this. Having a simple and productive conversation with someone seems to be the best way. Unfortunately the statesman tends to get on social media and start calling people out in harsh ways. This doesn’t help anyone. Try and be responsible in helping others progress past the need to display a dock of death.