We have seen a huge increase in interest in spearfishing on the gulf coast this spring.  The warm winter and especially clear gulf waters are just the invitation many spearos need to get wet.  The main target species, red snapper are plentiful and the fish are getting bigger.  The other side of that coin is that the recreational quotas will fill faster with more large fish expected to be caught.

NOAA Fisheries Service is currently investigating a proposal that, if implemented, would increase the 2012 and 2013 quotas for commercial and recreational red snapper harvest. The quotas are expected to increase, because recent population assessments show that over-fishing has ended. The red snapper allowable catch would be increased from 7.185 million pounds whole weight in 2011 to 8.080 million pounds in 2012.  The recreational allocation will be 49% or 3.959 million pounds.

That sounds like a lot of fish, but with more anglers and spearos seeking to put filets on the grill, this quota will get filled quickly. The increased quota is a step in the right direction, but the reality…it is equal to the amount of snapper caught last year, since we exceeded the allowable limit by 730,000 pounds!  Sorry NOAA Fisheries.

In addition, if implemented, the rule would eliminate the fixed recreational red snapper closed season of October 1 – December 31. By eliminating the October 1 fishing season closure date, NOAA Fisheries Service would be able to re-open the recreational harvest for red snapper if any remaining quota is available.


The gulf will be a busy place on the traditional opening of red snapper season, June 1st.. The season will close 40 days later on July 10th.   And for those divers that have a competitive edge and enjoy the excitement of tournament fishing, June 1st will find them sighting down their spearguns at the wall of red snapper we have been drooling over all spring.

The Red Neck Riviera Spearfishing Tournament, held from May 18th – June 9th 2012, gives hunters 3 weeks to get underwater.  1st place Amberjack is the most sought after trophy with winning fish rarely under 80lbs. If you are primarily an “AJ” hunter, the Red Neck Riviera Tournament is your only shot at a trophy this year, since amberjack season will be closed during the Alabama Spearfishing Rodeo later this season.  The Red Snapper sizes are always impressive and promise to be even larger this year with such an abundance of fish.  A 30lb. Red Snapper may not even land a 3rd place prize in this competitive rodeo.  This is a fun tournament for all divers regardless of experience level.  Fish can be weighed 9am-6pm, mon.-sat. at Gulf Coast Divers in Mobile.

As spearfisherman, we usually come back to the dock with full creel limits on all the usual suspects, and an average aggregate weight higher than on the fishing boats.  Even if you don’t shoot a trophy fish, it still goes on the grill at home or donated for the awards ceremony fish fry.

Call Gulf Coast Divers at (251) 342-2970 and ask about advanced training and spearfishing.  You can be geared up and ready for this tournament season.  We can have you ready for the novice category in just a few training sessions.  So don’t keep saying, “One day I’m gonna try spearfishing” Make that “One day” this year.



Now that our short red snapper season has come and gone it is time to shift back into amberjack mode.  These are the hardest fighting fish species that we target as spearfisherman.

New underwater hunters look at this fish as a goal to work towards with good reason.  Most spearfisherman that have an “uh oh” story, usually has a big amberjack as the main character.  It usually involves a bad shot or bad decision by the hunter, but no matter the reason, the situation still has the spearo attached to hard fighting fish.

Fisherman can relate stories of sore backs and rods pinned to the gunwales by big amberjack.  These are the same “donkeys” that we target, but unlike anglers that have the stability of a boat deck to fight from, we don’t have a foundation to fight from.  A poorly shot “AJ” will easily drag a diver around.

It doesn’t take a large AJ to put up a healthy fight, though.  My largest fish taken by speargun was in the 90lb. range, but the fish that beat me up the most was a 30lb. adolescent fish.  I took a long, poor shot in the fishes tail and the fight was on.  He came back around and head butted me in the chest, took my breath away, knocked my regulator out and flooded my mask.  After putting all my gear back in place and subduing the fish.  I laughed at what a hand-full this little guy was, all because I didn’t get a good shot and just attached myself to him.  I usually experience much less fight with bigger fish because with a bigger, stronger fish I take more time, resulting in a better shot.  I always breath a sigh of relief when I “stone” a big ‘un.

Amberjack are so named because of the distinctive amber color and bar that runs through their eye.  The spanish name Pez Fuerte, is a much better description meaning “strong fish”.  They are very common in our area of the gulf and considered the ultimate target in spearfishing.  Even though red snapper is the “star of the show”, it takes little skill to shoot a snapper point blank.  Amberjack, locally called AJ’s or Donkeys, require true shooting skill and very good diving skills.  Most new underwater hunters develop their hunting skill on smaller species like scamp, snapper, gag, flounder and sheephead.  Once you have learned your gear and found your aim, you can start on smallish amberjack and slowly increase your target size.

Most stories involving lost and broken spearguns involve a large amberjack and a novice spearfisherman.  Safety is the key with any adventurous sport and even more so when you are underwater!  It is much better to let that big fish keep swimming, than to come by the dive shop, singing the blues about a broken gun or having a fish get you in a close-call situation.

Call Gulf Coast Divers at (251) 342-2970 and ask about dive training and spearfishing.  Training can be completed in a couple weeks and you can be geared up and ready sooner than you think.



Shooting Line:

Shooting line is the line that attaches your spear shaft to your gun, float line or reel (depending on your setup). The ideal shooting line is very light (to reduce the drag on the spear while it is in-flight) and fairly stiff (to avoid tangles and knotting). There are two popular choices for shooting line: big-game monofilament fishing line and 49 strand stainless steel cable. The cable may be coated with a thin layer of vinyl to make it easier to handle. Uncoated cable has a little less drag than coated cable but the plastic coating tends to protect the strands from breaking for longer.

The stainless cable is the strongest system for attachment, but has it’s own list of drawbacks. Because the cable is heavier it has increased drag on the shaft which can limit the flight of the shaft on long shots. Also, when the cable strands start breaking they make it impossible to slide the cable through your hand without tearing gloves and skin. Another important consideration with cable is a weaklink or clip in-line, to allow the hunter to release a poorly shot, large fish without losing the entire gun. I won’t rig any diver’s gun with stainless cable without putting a small brass clip at the muzzle attachment point. I may never be able to figure out how my wife’s mind works, but I do understand how a spearo thinks…he may hold on to that gun a little too long, and risk getting hurt, with a $600 speargun on the line. But be more likely to release that monster fish sooner, if only losing a shaft and tip.

I rigged all my guns with stainless cable for 15 years, until I discovered 450lb. monofilament. I prefer the lightness of mono, plus it is very resistant to tangles. Heavy monofilament wants to be straight, so springs off the guns line drop quickly and doesn’t kink as deeply as cable. The added bonus is I don’t have to rig a clip in-line because I can cut the shaft free at any point in the shooting line. Mono isn’t as durable as cable so it needs to be inspected often for nicks. I keep several measured and pre-crimped lines in my save-a-dive kit to quickly change out a frayed line.

Mono is durable and will last for many spearfishing trips, even shooting around barnacle encrusted oil/ gas rigs on the gulf coast. I feel my guns shoot more accurately with the lighter mono and there is no question it is safer than cable.

Another economical option is a pre-rigged shooting line with built in shock cord. There are many good options available from nylon, tuna cord, kevlar or spectra. I carry a pre-rigged spectra shooting line for a quick fix on the boat. They are economical and are cut to length to fit any gun. While this all sounds great, the major drawback to them for permanent rigging is that they tangle bad. You don’t want to be staring at a 30lb. red snapper at 5′ away while sorting through a hopelessly tangled rig. 

Shock Cord:

Shock absorbers are usually located on the muzzle end of the shooting line when attached to the gun. This piece of thick rubber absorbs the energy from the shaft when it reaches the full extent of it’s length. This keeps the shaft from jerking violently on the muzzle when you miss a fish. When properly rigged, the stretch of the shock cord will also, keep the shooting line snugged on the gun’s line drop.  Only invest in a top quality shock cord with line running thru the rubber absorber.  The “el cheapo” shock cords are just tubing with a loop of string in each end that just ties on.  As soon as the rubber dry rots or breaks you say goodbye to shooting line, shaft and tip.  How bad would it feel to think your $8.00 savings just cost you $90.00!

I use a heavy duty shock cord with stainless snap swivel that allows me to release and reattach the shooting line with a quick snap.  This is a much quicker way to get the fish off the shaft than closing the tip barbs and pulling it back thru the fish. The swivel on the shock cord will keep your shooting line from getting twisted when that amberjack starts his powerful, twisting fight.

For more information on spearfishing call Gulf Coast Divers @ (251) 342-2970 and make sure and read our monthly spearfishing articles in mobile’s Coastal Angler magazine.



Spear Tips

There are two types of shafts in common use today.  The first is a “flopper” shaft.  These shafts are a shaft- tip combo with a rock-point end and floppers, or wings riveted on the shaft.  These flopper shafts come in two styles, Hawaiian or Tahitian.  If the wing lays down on top of the shaft when it is loaded in the gun it is a tahitian.  This style is considered the most streamlined, but if the wing gets bent or stuck, it can obstruct the hunter’s view.  If the wing hangs down when loaded in the gun, it is called a ‘Hawaiian flopper”.  The flopper is pushed up against the shaft with the forward motion thru the water.  The simplicity of this system makes it popular with some hunters, especially free shafters and is more economical up front.  However a bent shaft or tip requires replacment of the entire shaft.  Also, the tear-out rate is higher with some big fish because you are relying on one wing to hold the fish.  Shot placement is more critical with this type system.

Threaded shafts are far more common on the gulf coast, because they allow the hunter to choose the appropriate shaft size and tip for the targeted species.  It is easier to change tips as they get dulled or change the style for the targeted species.  The 3 common tips are fixed, break-away and slip-tips.  Fixed tips can be solid or spinners.  The solid spearpoints are more economical but can be spun off by a fighting fish.  The rotating design allows for 360 degree spin, providing greater holding power and minimizing the chance of your tip unthreading from the shaft as a result of a fish “rolling” in battle.  The 3 common type of fixed tips are rock point, arrowhead and tri-cut.  Rock points are designed to perform even after impact on rocks and reefs and are the most common tip for free-shafters.  They are more foregiving after rock impacts but don’t penetrate as well as the sharpened points, having to “punch” their way into the flesh.  The arrowhead has a broadhead design expanding the cutting surface and actually cutting it’s way into the flesh resulting in better penetration than rock points.  The  rotating tri-cut boasts 3 cutting edges combined with a precision point. 

All three styles (rock, arrowhead and tri-cut) are also, available in breakaway styles.  The breakaway design allows the tip to release from the shaft but stay connected with a multi-braid stainless cable.  These tips hang on no matter how hard the fight while minimizing damage to your spearshaft.  The connecting cable will allow you to grab the shaft but the fish can still twist and turn without having a firm purchase to pull against.  The result is fewer tear-outs and bent shafts. 

The slip tip is the ultimate in breakaway designs. Also called a tournament tip,  this design penetrates the fish and  turns sideways for maximum holding power.  Although the best in holding power, the drawback to a slip tip, is it can be difficult to remove the fish while underwater.  If the tip penetrates fully, you can feed it back through the wound channel.  If the tip turns inside the fish, however, it requires alot of cutting to reseat and push through or remove.  The slip tip isn’t the best choice for shooting multiple fish on a dive.

For advice on tip selection bring your speargun by the store and talk to Lawren or Todd about your target species and diving style.  Happy Hunting.