Feb

27

GUN SHAFT

Gun length is one of the most important considerations in choosing a speargun.  When we get into discussions about gun length, we are really discussing shaft length.  In general, longer shafts will increase your shooting range.  But, too much gun can be a mistake for many hunting applications.  A larger gun has more mass to swing through the water making it tougher to track swimming fish.  You also, don’t want to be blasting through your fish and hitting the reef, wreck or rig behind the fish.  This practice is dangerous and will have you replacing tips and shafts often.

Too small a gun will contribute to very frustrating dives, as a fish tears off and swims away because you didn’t get good penetration or the shooting line will stop the shaft just short of that perfect shot.

Shaft diameter will affect accuracy and penetrating power.  A smaller mass shaft (9/32”) is lighter and tends to be more accurate than a larger shaft, but is more susceptible to getting bent during a tussle with a larger fish.  Lighter shafts have less momentum when hitting a hard surface (reefs, wrecks, or rigs), so less tip damage is done when shooting through smaller fish.  A heavier shaft will retain more punch power for better penetration and is less likely to get bent, but  the increase in mass results in a drop in trajectory.  A common compromise is a 5/16” shaft size.  It is heavier than a 9/32” and lighter than an 3/8” shaft.  It is the most common shaft diameter for spearos on the gulf coast.

GUN BANDS

Speargun bands play an important role in the power and accuracy of any gun.  A speargun is really a system of components that must be matched to maximize the performance of that gun.  We commonly get new divers in the shop that want to increase the power of their speargun with larger and shorter bands.  This is possible to a small degree, but over-powering a gun can make it more difficult to load and will greatly effect it’s accuracy.  A shaft that is over-powered will “whip” when it is released from the trigger and will fly in an unpredictable pattern.  It  also, creates more recoil in the gun which will cause a shaft to fly low.  This is because the recoil causes the front of the gun to jump up as the shaft is leaving the muzzle.  This upward motion of the gun carries the rear of the shaft up as it leaves, causing the front of the shaft to drop, resulting in a low shot.  

Each powerband adds a fixed amount of power to the shaft which is a function of diameter and tightness.  A typical high-quality 9/16” powerband will add about 80 lbs. of force and 5/8” band will add 100 lbs.  The power is linearly additive, so three 9/16” bands will have approx. 240 pounds of force.  The bands lose power with age and lose power with duration of stretch.  Some high-tech spearos will have 3 bands on their gun and only load two.  If they swim for awhile without shooting, they will unload a stressed band and reload a fresh one.  Rotating bands between shots is time consuming and less stealthy so it isn’t a common practice, but to each his own.

The points above are just a few of the topics discussed in our spearfishing class.  I will continue these  posts with general information for spearfishing on the gulf coast and equipment specifics relating to guns and local species in this series.  I will try to post a new article every week discussing different spearfishing topics.  Watch this blog for new articles and call me at (251) 342-2970 to ask questions on these or any other  topics.

Feb

22

Divers on the Oriskany

It’s time to dust off the dive gear, get your tanks filled, get your annual service done and see how much your wetsuit has shrunk. Gulf Coast Divers has a boat going to the Oriskany on March 27th. Space is limited so call your dive buddies,  but do it quick, spots will be going fast. Dock time is 6:30 am in Pensacola, the boat leaves at 7:00 and we should be back at the dock around 1:30 pm.  We will do both dives on this historic wreck.  We are lucky to have  the world’s largest artificial dive site in our backyard.  So suit up and let’s go diving.

Feb

17

Spearfishing can be an exhilarating way to put seafood on your family table.  It is, without question, the most selective way to harvest fish with very few lost fish and zero bycatch.  We spearos have a responsibility to land most of the fish we shoot, which means minimizing lost fish due to “tear-out”.  If a strong fish is shot in the belly or if the spear didn’t penetrate far enough through the fish, that fish may tear off, swim away and die.  A powerful, accurate speargun can help reduce this type of loss.

The most common reason for lost fish is a poor shot.  Choosing the right speargun for your hunting style and locale will maximize your results and increase your enjoyment.  Using the proper tip, such as breakaway and slip-tips, also helps reduce lost fish.  Ideally, you may want a variety of different guns to suit the various types of hunting conditions you will encounter.  Some of the things you should take into consideration are water clarity, game size, proximity to fish and gun rigging.  I use a pole spear for flounder and shore access dives because it is easier to handle around jetties, fish species are smaller and visibility can be limited.  You never want a gun that will shoot outside of visible range.  I recommend a 36” to 42” gun for smaller game fish such as triggerfish, scamp, black snapper and sheephead.  These species usually allow for closer approach which reduces the range the gun has to propel the shaft.   If your target species are amberjack, cobia and red snapper you will want more range and power and a 48” to 52” gun may be more appropriate.

The best way to become a good “spearo” is to dive with spearfisherman and watch how they approach, shoot and string fish, then dive alot and practice those skills.  Before you can become a good hunter, you must be a great diver.  New divers ask me often to recommend a number of logged dives as a goal before picking up a gun.  My answer is, there is no magic number.  A more accurate determination is skill level.  When you shoot your first fish, your attention will automatically zoom in on that fish and the fight.  But, you can’t forget about air consumption, depth, time, navigation, proximity to buddy and ascent rate, to name a few.  My recommendation is don’t start diving with distractions (spearguns, cameras, scooters) until your fundamental dive skills are automatic.

The points above are just a few of the topics discussed in our spearfishing class.  I will discuss general information for spearfishing on the gulf coast and equipment specifics relating to guns and local species in this series.  I will try to post a new article every week discussing different spearfishing topics.  Watch this blog for new articles and call me at (251) 342-2970 to ask questions on these or any other discussion topics.

Feb

7

Lawren and I decided to make a mid-week dive at Morrrison Springs  last thursday. While the weather wasn’t exactly inviting, with rain and temps in the 40’s, we stuck to the plan and arrived at Morrison’s around midday.  We commenced to setting up our camera rigs and dry suits.  After getting all kitted up we started our dive, upon entering we found that the conditions were a bit green in the spring pool, but once we descended into the cavern things cleared up and visibility was great.  Lawren and I took turns snapping pics and posing for each other and generally had a good dive,  logging a max depth of 90 ft. and a dive time of 54 min.  This was my first dive at Morrison’s and I was suprised to see the depth of 90 ft.  After a few more photo ops we came out of the cavern and did our safety stop on “the log”.  The entire safety stop I was mentally preparing for a quick and chilly break down of dive and photo gear.  All in all it was a great day of diving and a suprisingly fun way to get in the water during a dreary and cold winter day.  In the past I’ve always turned down invitations to join others at the numerous springs on the gulf coast, always opting for a trip on my boat to shoot fish.  But, I’ll admit for this salty spearo, I enjoyed the spring diving experience alot.  So next time the seas keep us in the slip…I’ll load up and venture to the local springs for some freshwater fun.

 

Feb

6

If you don’t live in Florida you may not have heard the state of Florida is considering closing 53 state parks and aquatic preserves in order to save money. The list of proposed closures spans the state and, if the closures actually take place, could directly affect diving in Florida, particularly diving along the gulf coast. The proposed closures have been widely reported in Florida media. The following are links to some of the stories that have appeared.

Holmes County Times Advisor, Chipley, Florida

Examine.com

Audubon of Florida

Tallahassee.com

Some of the proposed park and aquatic preserve closures that would directly affected divers, snorkelers, swimmers, kayaking, boating and beach activities along the gulf coast are:

State Parks

Ponce de Leon Springs State Park, Ponce de Leon
Crystal River Archaeological State Park, Crystal River
Madison Blue Spring State Park, Lee
Peacock Springs State Park, Luraville

Aquatic Preserves

Alligator Harbor Aquatic Preserve
Apalachicola Bay Aquatic Preserve
St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve
Fort Pickens Aquatic Preserve
(Fort Pickens)
Rocky Bayou Aquatic Preserve
St. Andrews Aquatic Preserve
(St. Andrews jetties)
Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve

Many of these locations have been diving destinations for decades. Closure of these and other parks and aquatic preserves will decimate diving and outdoor opportunities all along the Florida gulf coast. Not only will divers loose popular dive sites but the local economies surrounding these sites will pay a further price in an already difficult economy. You should also note there are numerous dive sites, Morrisson Springs for instance, that appear to meet the criteria for closure but do not appear on the list. Such sites may also be at risk for closure.

All divers, not just those in Florida, need to act quickly to express their dissatisfaction with the proposed closures. Let new Florida governor, Rick Scott, and the Florida legislature hear from you now before it is to late.

Gulf Coast Divers
1284 Hutson Drive
Mobile, AL 36609
(251) 342.2970

Feb

5

How’s that title for an attention grabber?  All are invited to join Gulf Coast Diving Society for All-You-Can-Eat Mullet @ Ed’s Seafood Shack on the Causeway monday, March 7th @ 6:30pm.  These events are great way to meet new dive buddies or catch up with old ones.  Get the latest news on local trips, international excursions, new equipment or just hang out and eat, drink and be merry. Share your latest pics and videos.  It’s FREE to show up and hangout and most folks will probably be ordering dinner.  Bring the whole family or your diving Valentine for date night. Please RSVP to Gulf Coast Divers @ (251) 342-2970.  We need to have an idea of how many to expect to let Ed’s know how much room we need.