So You Shot a Fish – Now What (Spearfishing For Beginners)
Every new diver builds up a bunch of skills to get to the point where they can finally shoot a fish. They have to get the gear, learn how to load the speargun, learn how to freedive down, and actually get close enough to a fish to shoot one. After all that there is still the question of what you have to do after that. This is a quick guide going over a few scenarios that new divers may run into when they shoot a fish.
The quick answer is that you retrieve it, but short answers rarely give you the detail you need to do something. Every method ends up with your hands holding and subduing the fish.
The Stone Shot
If you are lucky you can “stone” the fish. Stoning a fish is slang for shooting the fish in the spine or brain. Stone shots kill or immobilize the fish immediately. There are several reasons this is the best thing to do. Fish are surprisingly strong for their size. Even some smaller fish are able to move large spear shafts through the water when they have been shot. Stoning the fish prevents you from having to make multiple dives to retrieve your gear. It also prevents the fish from damaging any of your equipment.
Another reason to try and stone the fish is the meat tastes better. When a fish struggles it builds up lactic acid in its meat which makes the fish taste different than when they just stop struggling. The reality is we don’t always get the shot we want, and that is where the following factors come into play.
When reef fish swim into structure when they are threatened or injured. This is called rocking up. This is one of the reasons many divers attach reels or floatlines to their spearguns. These allow the diver to come up to the surface without having to leave their speargun on the reef. If you are lucky or skilled you may be able to retrieve you fish from the structure on the same dive you shoot it. Most of the time you will have to come up to the surface and breathe up and make multiple dives to pull the fish out of the structure.
Some species may choose to swim away with your equipment. This is most common with pelagic species, but reef fish do this occasionally as well. This is where a float and float line system come in handy. These allow you to return to the surface and let your equipment fight the fish for you. You can pull up your fish from the surface if your float doesn’t get pulled underwater.