By Clarke Gayford
So you haven’t been out spearfishing in a while, the weather’s warming up and your mate’s Facebook pics are stirring you to action. But much like the Warriors pre-season games, or the All Blacks first 10 minutes, cracking back into it can often be a bit … um, patchy … to begin with.
Spear-fishers know that there is a multitude of subtle elements all required to come together that can mean the difference between a ‘good’ day and an ‘okay’ day in the water (there’s no such thing as a bad day). I often find that if just one thing is out it can really throw my ability to relax under water. It might be the wrong amount of weight, a leaky or foggy mask, too cold, too hot or a forgotten glove.
So if it has been a while it’s important to have a good once-over of gear and technique prior. This is essential to ensure that A: your gear is in working order; and B: to give yourself enough time to pick up any missing pieces. And there’s always missing pieces.
Ah yes, the one accessory that separates us from snorkellers.
Make sure you check all rubbers, including line tensioner for signs of perishing. Is your trigger mech in good working order? Has your shooting line shrunk or frayed? Is your shaft straight with a good sharp point? Does your flopper engage properly?
Take more than you need in reserve and add where required once in the water (especially if you enjoyed an extra pudding or 2 over winter and your buoyancy has, um … altered).
Also think about where you will be diving – I tend to use more weight in shallows to hold me down when snooping, and less weight for deeper dives when hunting kingfish.
How are you going to hold onto it? Does your catch bag have a clip to hold to your float? Is your measurer attached? Do you have a stringer for your fish? Do you know your take limits?
As the water warms and the annual northern bronze whaler incursion approaches, is it worth thinking about getting a float boat to keep your catch away from the inshore toothy-IRD?
Cleaning any film off your mask is essential to stop it fogging, if it hasn’t been used in a while this can accumulate on the glass. I find a good rub with toothpaste the night before does the trick. Or if you have a new mask, these can be prone to fogging as a silicon film can collect on the lens during the manufacturing process.
One technique to get rid of this is to hold a lighter up to the glass to burn it off, but you must be careful to get the flame in the hottest part to stop carbon being deposited and not melt the rubber surrounds!
If it has been a while since you’ve held breath it really is important to remember your own abilities will have changed. It’s a physically demanding sport and if your fitness has been neglected this could really affect you in the water.
Ease your way into it and dive to your current ability and not to last summer’s personal best. It can be a bit frustrating, but you will find that within a couple of sessions your bottom times will increase and your fitness will improve. Rush this and it could prove fatal.
Have a good think about where you are heading and how you will hunt. A bit of visualisation beforehand can really help to get you thinking about the task at hand.
Where will the light be? What’s the current doing? How many kina in your snapper berley, and what’s the ideal ledge to set one up under?
Remember also, fish hate being tracked, play it calm, use nice smooth movements and let your target swim to you.
Taking a dive buddy is one essential thing, but let’s be honest, sticking with them in the water can be entirely another. So make a good plan beforehand in case you split up, including an expected meeting point and time. There’s nothing worse than waiting on rocks for hours, worrying, only to discover your partner’s long since gone back to the car. It’s dangerous and unnecessary. If you are both diving from a boat with no one left on-board, make sure you have flown a dive flag before getting in the water, and swim down to check the anchor line is securely in place. Discovering a missing boat too late could be a disaster.
A knife, how will you attach it? Wetsuit seams all intact? Salt is a silent killer of neoprene and stitching. Two Gloves, two Socks? Sounds simple, but I don’t know how many times one has simply ‘disappeared’ on my trips out.
Dive watch and torch – how are the batteries and straps on these? Does your float have a dive flag and is it attached?
For more tips and hunting techniques keep an eye on Dive New Zealand magazine’s Facebook page, where I will be soon releasing a series of ‘how to’ videos with actual pros soon. Enjoy.