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Spearfishing

Updated on February 23, 2012
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Spearfishing is an underwater pastime and sport in which a diver, equipped with such aids as foot fins, face mask, and a spear, stalks fish. Pacific islanders and American Indians have speared food fish for thousands of years, but the standardized sport began only recently. Since its origin in the Mediterranean Sea, underwater spearfishing as a pastime has been popularized in Japan, Russia, North America, South America, and South Africa.

Given great impetus by the introduction of scuba, or self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, underwater spearfishing in the United States has attracted millions of enthusiasts since World War II.

Hawaiian or Polynesian Sling

Of the three main types of spearing apparatus, the simplest and least expensive is the Hawaiian sling, also known as the Polynesian sling. It is a plastic, wood, or aluminum tube with a strong elastic band fixed at one end. The spear is inserted through the other opening, grasped by its blunt end with the thumb and first two fingers together with the rubber strip, and stretched back as far as possible. The tube is held close in front of the eye for good aim, and the spear is released by suddenly letting go with the fingers in a slingshot action.

This catapult-type harpoon has been modified for greater maneuverability and thrust by the addition of a mechanical cocking device and a triggered handle, resembling a revolver, that permits easier firing.

Metal Spring Gun

The weapon most frequently used in southern France, Italy, and Spain is the metal spring gun, in which the spear is pressed down the barrel of the gun, compressing a spring inside. The hunter swims with his gun cocked and ready for firing. When he sights his quarry, he releases the harpoon by pulling a trigger, which is fitted to the handle of the gun.

Carbon Dioxide Gun

The most powerful spearfishing weapon is the carbon dioxide gun, in which the harpoon is propelled by an explosive release of compressed air or carbon dioxide. It is so powerful that it is considered hardly sporting, except for the largest game fish. Its use is prohibited by several nations, including France and Italy. Spears with power heads that explode blank cartridges on hitting their targets are also banned in many places.

Other Equipment

Additional spearfishing equipment includes rubber foot flippers to increase swimming and diving speed, a face mask designed for maximum comfort and unhampered vision, a line of braided nylon cord attaching the harpoon to the gun, a knife, protective clothing consistent with water temperature, and a depth gauge. In some cases a snorkel or scuba equipment is used.

Practices

Beginners are cautioned to choose favorable tides and weather conditions, avoid rocks and reefs, and stay alert for passing craft and venomous fish. Loading and firing of weapons must always be executed with extreme care.

Under no circumstances may spearfishing be done near public beaches.

Precautions and Restrictions

Beginners are cautioned to choose favorable tides and weather conditions, avoid rocks and reefs, and stay alert for passing craft and venomous fish. Loading and firing of weapons must always be executed with extreme care.

Under no circumstances may spearfishing be done near public beaches.

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