Having seen some particularly nasty spearfishing accidents in my time, you’d be surprised to learn just how much can go wrong when you’re in the water.
Because when you’re at the bottom of the ocean, armed with all your gear, it can be easy to forget the spearfishing dangers that exist. I’ve been washed over rocks, tangled up underwater, and while I’m lucky I’ve not had any accidents with my speargun, it’s a real and present risk. One wrong move, and that quick dive you planned could turn disastrous.
Keep reading to understand how you can avoid the most common spearfishing accidents.
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Spearfishing accidents: Don’t let your dive turn disastrous
A lot of people ask me is spearfishing dangerous, and the answer really depends. It depends on how hard you push your luck, how long you’re holding your breath for, what conditions you’re spearfishing in, and what approach you take to staying safe underwater.
There is no doubt it’s a risky sport, but with the right approach you can mitigate a lot of the dangers of spearfishing.
Why is spearfishing dangerous?
When you’re spearfishing there are so many things that can go wrong.
- You’re swimming around in an underwater environment, in conditions we’re not able to endure
- You’re venturing into the playground of some of the ocean’s deadliest predators
- You’re decked out in spearfishing gear, armed with a speargun that’s designed to kill
One wrong move, and it’s not hard to imagine how easily a spearfishing accident could occur.
Search YouTube. You’ll find no shortage of speargun accidents. Friends who have speared their friends. Or have been attacked by sharks. Or pushed their breath holds until they experienced a shallow water blackout and lose their lives. You need to be careful in the water, to avoid a spearfishing accident of your own.
How to avoid spearfishing accidents of your own
If you want to stay safe in the water and avoid your own spearfishing accident, pay attention to these simple tips. They might seem like common sense, but they’re important rules to follow when you’re spearfishing. I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve broken a few of these myself.
But I was doing so out of ignorance, and perhaps some youthful stupidity. With age, and having seen close friends both lose their lives, and come very close to it, it’s my hope that you’ll pay attention to everything in this article. Because no one should ever get hurt with a spearfishing accident, especially one that could have been easily prevented.
Don’t go spearfishing alone
I say this because many of the worst spearfishing accidents have occurred when you’re spearfishing solo. Now, I’m guilty of this too. It can be hard to find a buddy to join you for a dive when you’re on a time crunch or decide on a whim to get in the water. But a little planning can reduce the risk of a dive considerably.
When I was younger, I was naive, and thought that I’d be completely fine by myself. I’d wander up the headland, get geared up and jump off the rocks, swimming a couple of hundred yards out to the reef. Some days, I’d be the only person I’d see in the water. But as I got better at the sport, as my dive times started to increase, and I learnt far more about the risks I was putting myself in, I’ll never again go spearfishing alone. And I haven’t, for several years now.
Because when you’re alone there is no one watching your back. No one to make sure you’re not the one being hunted. No one to make sure you get back to the surface. And no one to help if something does go wrong. So find a buddy you can dive with. Join a spearfishing club. Make friends with another spearo down at the boat ramp. They’re all likely looking for a dive buddy too.
Stop a speargun accident and don’t point it at anyone
Spearguns fire their spears at an incredible velocity. Enough to give you several feet of range underwater, and on land they’ll shoot even further. Blasting through whatever is standing in their way. It’s what they’re designed to do after all, is to help you hunt and catch fish.
But if one of your friends is in the way, and your speargun accidentally goes off. They’re in for severe injuries, which in many cases can be fatal. Because the spear will punch deep into their body, impaling them with the shaft. This can sever arteries and damage vital organs, requiring immediate hospitalization and surgery.
To avoid an accident with your speargun, don’t point it at anyone. They can easily misfire, as the safety switch and trigger are only small locking devices that hold the entire force of the bands from releasing. Over time, these safety switches can fail (especially on cheaper spearguns). Of course, you may be lucky, like Connie Hallowell who survived a spear through the face after a wave washed him over a reef and his speargun misfired. But he was also incredibly lucky to survive this speargun accident.
Stay out of the water in bad spearfishing conditions
I don’t care how fit you are, how tough you think you are, or how well you know the area you’re spearfishing in. The ocean is a beast, and if the conditions aren’t safe, do not get in the water. It won’t be a good dive anyway, as you’ll be fighting the currents and rough seas.
One of my scariest spearfishing moments came from a dive in bad conditions, where I mistimed the waves smashing into the end of the reef. Losing my gear, and being thrown around over the sharp rocks wasn’t a fun experience, and I was lucky to escape with a handful of stitches. Since then, I don’t dive in bad conditions.
Yes, it may suck because that was your one day to go spearfishing this week. But it’s not worth it to risk your life for a couple of fish. I lost a friend almost 15 years ago now, disappearing without a trace after his boat capsized in a storm. At least, that’s what we think happened. He went out solo, his body was never recovered, and only pieces of the boat washed ashore. It’s a tragic accident, and a reminder that it’s just not worth it to test the limits of mother nature.
Make your location clear to avoid a spearfishing accident
Make sure you’ve got a dive float and diver below flag on your towline. Getting run down by a boat is not how I want to end it all (for the record, I want to be 132, in my bed with a bottle of whiskey). It’s important other boats can see where you’re spearfishing in the water.
This is critical in high-traffic boating areas, just having a flag lowers your risk of a spearfishing accident dramatically. But not only that, a floatline gives you something to hang onto should you get a cramp or need a break from swimming, and also somewhere secure to store your catch. Somewhere that’s not on your person, because when you’re spearfishing in the open ocean, you’re far from the biggest predator in the sea.
- Standard 28" long lifeguard rescue can style torpedo hard float / buoy, made from high grade polyethylene material that is very resistant to long exposure to saltwater and sun’s UV rays. Durability and high buoyancy makes this buoy a perfect tool for spearfishing, and rescue.
- The Dive Flag included is built to last! Made from heavy duty 48 grams / 210 Denier Nylon, and brass grommets, making it thicker, and more durable than most dive flags in the market. Bright red and white colors offer high visibility as clear warning to boaters. To maintain the flag fully displayed even without wind, we have added a removable fiberglass rod that will not bend or rust. Measuring 14 inch x 16 inch which exceeds Florida Dive Flag regulations for buoys and floats.
- The Float is equipped with a counterweight system to keep the Float upright and displaying the flag at all times, even during rough seas and high waves. The system is designed for the flag to be removed for easy storage and transportation. A 1.5 inch wide Hook & Loop Strap with rubber pull tab is included to keep it all together when not in use.
- A Heavy-Duty Stainless steel 4 inch Longline Tuna Clip with Swivel rated at 400 lbs. is attached to the front of the Float for a strong but easy quick disconnect to a Float Line or Tow Line. The 500 lb. cordura strap loop will allow you to connect to the Float if your Float Line is already equipped with a Snap Clip.
- An emergency rescue whistle is attached to the back end of the float as an important tool to signal boaters and/or call the attention of your diving buddy.
Don’t forget about the sharks in the water
I love sharks. I’m at our local aquarium far more than I’d like to admit just watching these giants of the deep swim around. But sharks are a menace should they decide they want your catch, and they’re undeniably fast in the water.
When you’re spearfishing, you need to have eyes on the back of your head. A dive buddy also works. Constantly scan the water to ensure there’s no sharks sneaking up on you. It’s also important to kill your fish as soon as you catch them (the vibrations from a dying fish attract sharks far quicker than blood), and be prepared to stand up to a shark with a good poke in the nose should they get too close.
Because sharks don’t really want anything to do with you, what they want is the fish you’ve caught. If they do bite you, chances are it’s because the shark is being inquisitive, that’s all. And a strong poke with your speargun (don’t fire it, just steer them away) is usually enough to get them moving in the other direction. Of course, if sharks present a particular challenge in your local area, you need to get your hands on the shark shield. Scientifically proven to keep sharks at bay.
- ★ SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN ▶ The world’s only scientifically proven and independently tested electrical shark deterrent. Proven to deter great whites.
- ★ HOW IT WORKS ▶ Capable of generating an electric field via the trailing antenna that’s attached to a power module while being worn on your ankle, this shark deterrent can help reduce the risk of an unwanted shark encounter when you’re in water as deep as 50 meters (164 feet).
- ★ UP TO 6 HOURS PROTECTION ▶ Used by the US & Australian Navies, and included as a mandated safety equipment in some industries, this shark protection gear comes equipped with a lithium rechargeable battery that’s good for 1000 charge cycles, with an estimated six-hour battery life per charge.
- ★ COMFORTABLE & LIGHTWEIGHT ▶ Featuring a lightweight design and neoprene Velcro pouch, our electric repellant comes equipped with a lithium rechargeable battery that’s good for 1000 charge cycles, with an estimated six-hour battery life per charge. Each package comes with power adaptors for Australia, USA, Europe, and Asia.
- ★ 30-DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE ▶ We are so confident in the quality of our anti shark device that we back them with a 100% 30-day money-back guarantee. We won’t hesitate to give your money back if the shark diving protection gear doesn’t meet your expectations.
Shallow water blackouts are a common spearfishing accident
Finally, it’s important for us to cover the biggest risk of all when you’re spearfishing. The shallow water blackout. When you’ve held your breath for too long your body shuts down, and you lose consciousness. Often it happens right at the surface, but it can turn deadly fast if you’re out spearfishing solo and don’t have a dive buddy.
Where accidents happen is that the risk for shallow water blackouts increases as you get better at holding your breath for spearfishing. You push the limits of your body further and further, and suddenly you’re gone. You lose consciousness, your body shuts down, and you cannot get back to the surface alone.
To overcome the risk of an accident like this, make sure you’ve got a dive buddy watching your back as you dive, you take adequate time on the surface to recover before your next dive, and remember that there’s no warning before you blackout. I use a dive watch to ensure my surface intervals are long enough, and also make sure that I’m not pushing my breath hold for longer than I should be.
Lesson: Do your best to avoid these spearfishing accidents
Avoiding an accident while you’re spearfishing is rather simple. You just need to remember that the ocean is a wild place, and you’ve got to have your wits about you while you’re spearfishing. Because you are no longer at the top of the food chain.
To me, I like to think that a lot of these tips for avoiding spearfishing accidents are common sense, but they bear repeating. Don’t go spearfishing alone, don’t point your speargun at anyone, don’t go spearfishing when the conditions are bad, use the right safety gear when you’re spearfishing, and don’t push yourself to a shallow water blackout. That’s how you’ll stay safe when you’re spearfishing.