Without a boat, most of your first spearfishing adventures will be spearfishing from shore. It’s how I got started, swimming out through the breakers and spearfishing along all the rocks at either end of the beach. It was something I could do straight after school, and within a few minutes I’d be exploring an underwater wonderland. And for the most part, it was fine.
But after a few scary encounters of my own, and a variety of scars from being washed over the rocks. I wanted to share this article today to help anyone else who is interested in this sport understand the right way to get started spearfishing from shore. So you can avoid making the same mistakes.
Think of these like a set of rules to avoid disaster when you’re spearfishing off the beach.
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The Right Way to Start Spearfishing from Shore
Spearfishing from shore is a bit of an art. Especially when you’re new to the sport and still getting the hang of it. To me, nothing beats the adventure that comes with spearfishing right off the beach. You combine the thrill of diving with the art of hunting. All while pushing your own limits and endurance levels.
And while many people go spearfishing from boats, spearfishing from shore is an activity that is accessible to everyone. It’s how I spent the first several years enjoying this sport. In this article you’ll learn everything you need to go spearfishing off the beach. And quickly and safely find the best spearfishing spots.
Respect the weather and the tides
It’s pretty obvious in hindsight, but when you actually make it down to a location only to find the conditions are a little sub-par, it doesn’t make sense to push it. Spearfishing is a dangerous sport. And when the surf’s a little big, or the wind has blown out your spot, you need to adapt.
- Perhaps there’s another location that’s more protected?
- Perhaps it’s better to throw a line in the water, instead of getting in yourself?
Diving in dirty water isn’t fun. You’ll have terrible visibility and likely won’t see much. Plus, you also risk getting yourself into a dangerous spearfishing situation. The tides matter too, as they can often create changing currents. Currents that you’ll get swept up in, as the water levels change in the area you’re spearfishing. Wind is another factor, that can blow you off course. And then you’ve got the waves. Pushing you closer and closer to the rocks.
If the weather and conditions don’t look good for spearfishing, don’t push it.
Create a plan for spearfishing from shore
It’s important to have a plan when you’re spearfishing from shore. You’ve got to make it out through the currents and the breakers. Before you get to the calmer water where you can actually go spearfishing. Generally, I do a quick survey from a vantage point. Like getting up on one of the headlands to see what the water looks like. Sitting and watching even for just a few minutes is perfect. That way, I know how conditions will be once I’m in the water. Plus any spots I need to watch out for. Especially when sets of waves roll in.
And you don’t need to struggle clambering over rocks and cliffs either. One of my favorite buys recently has been the Limitless Drone X Pro. It’s super easy to control. And with 30 mins of flight time per battery and 3 miles range, it’s awesome. I can do a quick scout from the car before I even suit up. The camera is crystal clear, and helps me to plan where I’ll be spearfishing from shore. So my buddy and I can get on the same page and follow the right route once we’re in the water.
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Know your local regulations and restrictions
One particular area that catches many people by surprise are the rules about spearfishing. Depending on your area, there may be places you are unable to go spearfishing from shore. There might also be certain catch limits and species that are off limits completely. Being aware of what you’re allowed to do in your local area is important. You don’t want to get fined for breaking the rules, and it’s something you can easily research.
In my part of Australia, you need to be very careful of the “Sanctuary Zones” where there is no fishing or spearfishing allowed. Considering that you can get fined up to $22,000 per breach, and even have your boat and gear impounded – it’s not a mistake you want to make. Take the time to learn where you can (and cannot) go spearfishing off the beach, and make sure you stick to the rules. It’s far better than getting caught breaking them.
The gear you need to safely go spearfishing from shore
In my first few years spearfishing off the beach I didn’t really use much gear. Which in retrospect, was a mistake. I thought I was smart for not spending money on spearfishing gear, but I was actually hindering my progress. You need gloves to protect your hands. You need a float line to store your catch. Even a decent spearfishing wetsuit will help you to stay warm in the water, and also give you protection from scrapes, bumps and even jellyfish stings.
The right gear helps you be more effective when you’re spearfishing from shore, as you can stay in the water for longer and make sure that any other people in the area know that you’re spearfishing. One thing I’d recommend for everyone who is spearfishing from the beach is a floatline and flag. Something with a tough exterior shell, that’s counterweighted to ensure your “diver below” flag remains upright at all times. What I’m using now is this one from Spearfishing World – and it’s fantastic. Plus, it gives you something solid to hold onto if you get a cramp or need a break from all the swimming off the beach.
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Get organized before you start spearfishing from shore
One of the surest ways to lose all your gear is to start waddling out into the breakers before you’re properly organized. I know. I’ve done it myself. These days, when I’m spearfishing from shore I get as ready as possible. Before even entering the water (or clambering over the rocks), I’m all geared up.
This means that my wetsuit and weightbelt is on, along with my gloves and water shoes. If you’re using neoprene socks these can get a little torn up, but I’d rather replace these than slice my foot open. The last time it was two weeks out of the water before I could go spearfishing again. My mask gets a couple of drops of anti fog, and I position this on my forehead. My dive knife sits on my arm, my dive watch on the other. I hold my towline in a few loose loops along with my float and speargun in my right hand. My left is then free to hold my fins, and I’m ready for the water. It’s a bit awkward carrying all this to the water, but it gets easier the more you go spearfishing from shore.
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Decide on your entry points at the beach
Now, where I grew up spearfishing there were always a couple of options to get into the water from the sand. Depending on the conditions, you need to decide which is going to be the safest point for you to start spearfishing from shore.
Swim through small waves by the rocks
When waves are coming into a beach, they generally don’t follow a straight line. The ocean currents and the wind will push these, so they come rolling into the beach at a slight angle. One of my favorite ways to spearfish from shore is to see which angle the waves are rolling in, and then use the reef or the headland as a break wall to protect you from these. Entering the water on the calmer side where the waves are smaller is easy, and then you swim out to your ideal spearfishing spot.
I generally walk into the water until it’s about knee deep, and then slip my fins on. Doing so helps me avoid walking like a penguin in the shallow water, though you will need to turn and walk backwards once your fins are on. With my speargun in hand, and my towline floating free, I keep walking back until the water is deep enough to swim. Then just wait for a lull in the waves (if needed), and you can drop down and start swimming out.
Jump off the rocks along the headland
Of course, heading out to go spearfishing straight off the beach can involve a lot of swimming. Which tires you out, makes for a much longer dive, and isn’t always ideal. Another option you have is to walk out along the headland, and then find a safe spot to jump in. Doing this would cut 700-800m off our swim times (in both directions), and growing up we generally did this. Though it’s important you know how deep the water is that you’re jumping into, and you time it with any waves coming in so you’re safe.
One thing I would highly recommend if you’re doing this is to invest in a pair of water shoes. They’re tough on the bottom so you can navigate the sharp rocks, and thin enough that you can even slip your fins on over the top. Then you can simply jump in the water and start spearfishing straight off the rocks.
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Look for a current or a rip to help you
Now, at the beach most people are taught to avoid the rips. Because a rip, or a rip current is a potentially dangerous part of the ocean. It’s formed from all the water that has been pushed towards shore from the breaking waves, as this water needs a way to flow back out to sea. This water tends to group up, forming a channel of fast-moving water that heads straight to deeper water. If you’re swimming or surfing, getting caught in a rip can be frightening as it feels like it’s sucking you out to sea.
If you’re spearfishing, you can use a rip as a way to quickly get into deeper water. Look for a channel of water that is different in color to the rest of the beach, perhaps choppier or is breaking up the pattern of all the incoming waves. Enter the water here, and then swim with the current to quickly take you out past the breakers. Once you’re there, all you need to do is swim parallel to the shoreline and get out of the rip. Though a word of warning here, this is an advanced spearfishing technique, and one you shouldn’t attempt if you’re new to the sport, or not particularly confident in your swimming abilities. If you’re still learning to spearfish, my advice would be to enter in the calm water by the rocks.
Know where you’re getting out of the water
This one is especially critical if the weather’s a bit rough, or you’re spearfishing at a new location.
From the water, it can be hard to spot the right place to exit. Especially if you’re planning to get in close to the rocks and clamber back up them (following the way you went in). My advice is to map out a path before you even start spearfishing, or to simply swim all the way in to shore.
I’ve found that entering the water with all my spearfishing gear is much easier than trying to get out again at the end of a dive. When you’re exhausted and carrying a bunch of fish, the last thing you want is to tackle a dangerous rock climb. So I’ll often drop my bags on the shore, walk to the rocks where I want to jump in. Then when I’m done spearfishing, I can simply swim all the way back to the beach.
If you are trying to find a good exit point among the rocks, it’s better to mark it at the start of the dive. What works for me is spreading my towel out on a rock, facing the area I’m spearfishing in. That way it’s easy to spot from the water. Just make sure you wait for a lull in the waves before you go anywhere near the shallow water and try and climb out.
Keep a wary eye on the breakers
When you’re spearfishing from the shore you’re going to find the majority of the smaller reef fish in along the rocks of the headland or the reef you’re spearfishing on. What I quickly found, was that there were some rather large schools of fish feeding in the 1 to 2 feet of water the waves were pushing over the rocks.
If you decide to chase these schools and are spearfishing in close to the rocks on a headland, you need to be very careful of the breaking waves.
Sets of waves will come through, and if you’re unprepared or they catch you off-guard, you’re going to get washed over the rocks. Often, you’ll feel the swell pulling you back as the waves form, which can give you a half a second’s notice to duck dive and grab onto the bottom for dear life. That way, you’ll avoid the main surge of the wave, but you’ve got to be quick. Getting washed over the rocks isn’t fun, and I’m still missing one of my favorite fins because I misjudged just how wrecked I would get in a particular wave.
Build and develop your swimming skills
Spearfishing from shore involves a huge amount of swimming. When you’re diving off a boat you can rely on the boat to get you to the perfect spearfishing spot. In the water, it’s up to you. You will need to swim yourself. It’s important before you start going into deeper water that you’re comfortable in your ability to swim. The ocean is a wild and unforgiving environment. Being a strong swimmer gives you some level of control when you’re spearfishing.
Strong swimmers can better manage strong currents or rips. Helping you get back to shore safely when conditions are bad. Building your ability to swim will help you to move more efficiently through the water while conserving your energy. Because you will be swimming long distances as you explore all the different environments searching out your target fish. It’s important to build and develop your swimming skills. But you don’t need to rely on your swimming skills alone.
One upgrade I made before buying my boat, was to buy a spearfishing kayak. It’s light, sits easily on the roof racks of my car, and I can get it into the water myself. I still use it to this day, especially on days where I’m not spearfishing all that far from shore.
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It’s time to go spearfishing from shore
Once you’ve got a plan together and have all of your gear and equipment in place, it’s time to go spearfishing from shore. Like all sports, spearfishing takes practice and preparation both in (and out) of the water, so don’t beat yourself up along the way. You will get the hang of it as you get more experience spearfishing.
And all of these tips and techniques will quickly become second nature. Most of us started out swimming off the beach like you are today. Hope this helped you to understand how to get started, and I’m excited to hear how your spearfishing is progressing!