Feb

15

The fish, a spectacularly colored grouper, paused and opened its mouth. Finning only slightly to maintain its position just a foot (30 cm) or so above the reef, this brightly colored red and blue-spotted grouper waited patiently for another fish, a cleaner wrasse, to provide its services. Within only a few seconds the cleaner approached and went to work, moving from the tail toward the head along the grouper’s body. The cleaner paused every few seconds to pick at the skin of the grouper.

Like other cleaner species, cleaner wrasses help rid groupers and other host animals of irritating ectoparasites that can be found on the skin of the hosts. In doing so the cleaners gain a meal while the host benefits by getting cleaned.
My dive buddy and I followed the grouper as it slowly moved down the reef. We watched as another fish, the same general size and shape as the cleaner wrasse, appeared. Looking quite confident that additional cleaning services were about to be rendered, the grouper paused and opened its mouth. In the blink of an eye, the fish I thought was a second cleaner wrasse swam up and bit a chunk of skin out of the side of the obviously startled grouper.
Clearly, the attacker was a mimic, a species that does a good enough job of imitating a cleaner species to fool groupers and other fishes into thinking the mimic is the real deal. It’s a risky business to try to fool well-equipped predators, but if well-done, the act of deceit can provide a mimic with a meal. If done badly, no more meals will be necessary. This mimic was a tiger blenny, a fact that, like the grouper, I realized only after the daring blenny had enjoyed its success.
After the dive I excitedly asked my diving buddy what she thought of the scene we had just witnessed, and much to my surprise, her only comment was, “that big fish sure is pretty.” At first I thought she was putting me on, but I soon realized that she had missed both the cleaning and the attack. She had noticed that the grouper had its mouth open rather wide, but she wasn’t sure why. She thought the fish might have been injured.
Observing marine life is like putting puzzle pieces together. When you look at one fish, you see only one piece of the puzzle. Yet when you connect the pieces — say a fish to its habitat and to other creatures within that habitat — you begin to see the inner workings of a marine ecosystem.
But how does one go from fish watcher to underwater naturalist? First, the more you dive, the more you will begin to see various subtleties, and the better observer you will become. You’ll find that your awareness of the underwater world increases with time, the number of dives and the variety of habitats you get to explore and enjoy. Second, it helps to learn about what’s going on under the waves so you are more likely to recognize the happenings that you encounter during your dives.

Find Out Who Lives Where, and Why

When looking for a particular marine animal, it helps to know where to find it. Marine life identification books and regional dive guides are excellent resources for learning what types of animals you’d expect to see in a given area. Water temperature and geographical distribution are key factors in determining which species live where. For example, you aren’t likely to see a blue shark on a tropical reef. Blue sharks tend to inhabit the cooler waters of the open ocean in temperate, not tropical, seas. Conversely, you aren’t likely to see an angelfish in a California kelp forest. Angelfishes require warmer water.
Those examples might sound obvious, but being aware that within the same geographical area there are a variety of habitats, and that different groups of animals typically occur in different marine ecosystems isn’t as readily apparent to beginning divers. Keeping these facts in the forefront of your diving mind can be very helpful when it comes to becoming a better observer of marine life.
After all, it makes sense that fishes and other animals that inhabit the sand possess a different set of adaptations than do animals that inhabit reefs or live in mid-water. But because most of us haven’t had a ton of ocean experience when we first take up diving, it can be helpful to have this type of information pointed out to us.
For example, many sand dwellers have extremely low profiles. With few structures that offer hiding places in the sand biome, it should not be surprising to learn that most animals that live in the sand are excellent burrowers, able to rebury themselves rapidly if they get exposed, able to stabilize the substrate around them so they can remain in one place, or they are masters of camouflage. The behavior of creatures such as sea pens, tube anemones, clams, sea stars, sand dollars, stingrays, angel sharks, razorfishes and flatfishes illustrate these points.
In contrast, most reef inhabitants are better equipped to maneuver in the tight confines of a reef, grip the substrate, or blend into backgrounds of varied patterns and hues. Thin-bodied butterflyfishes, angelfishes, sea fans, crinoids, sculpin and other multicolored striped, spotted and mottled fishes provide classic examples that illustrate these adaptations.
Animals ranging from jellyfishes to sharks, whales, dolphins, manta rays, billfishes and tunas are better equipped to inhabit the open sea. Most fishes that live in the open ocean are designed to be superb cruisers but they lack the maneuverability of many reef fishes, and creatures such as jellyfishes would certainly be injured if they were constantly bumping into hard reefs.
On a tropical reef, the creatures encountered on the reef flat, top of a wall, shallow wall and deep wall are often different. This fact might not be so obvious the first few times you explore tropical reefs. If you are like most divers, it takes a while to get your bearings and know where you are in a reef ecosystem, much less to begin to positively identify and distinguish various species and to recognize behaviors.
In fact, I think it’s fair to say that to new divers, many marine creatures look alike. And just as a lot of marine creatures seem to look alike when you first begin to dive, it is not always immediately that different niches exist. In other words, the various niches in a coral reef kingdom or kelp forest can look the same to divers when we lay eyes on coral reefs and kelp beds for the first time. The good news is that it doesn’t take long to begin to get oriented and to recognize that different species occupy different niches within a larger ecosystem.
If you pay attention, as you gain experience you will quickly realize that the animals that occupy one niche are often different from those that occupy another niche only a few yards away.
For example, in many tropical reef systems you are likely to see schools of tangs and surgeonfishes along the tops of reefs, but you aren’t likely to find them in deeper areas. At the same time you are likely to find creatures such as lobsters, crabs, shrimps and octopods close to areas that are filled with cracks, crevices, ledges and other hiding places.
While there are way too many species to mention, you want to realize that the ocean, and even a single reef area, is not just one generic place. There are many different habitats, and different species tend to occupy the various habitats.
Of course, as soon as I make that point, I must point out that there are plenty of exceptions to that general rule. For example, you might see a school of feeding jacks, eagle rays or a reef shark cruising various niches in a reef system.
Divers that explore temperate seas will find that a variety of habitats exist in kelp forests as well as in the rocky reefs. Close to 800 species inhabit Southern California kelp forests, but different creatures live in the floating canopy near the surface, on the fronds, on and around the holdfasts, in and on the surrounding reef, in mid-water and on the nearby sand flats.
While you might encounter creatures that range in size from inch-long, rainbow-colored nudibranchs to lobsters to giant seabass on a single dive in a California kelp forest, the odds are high that you will find various species in different parts of the forest and surrounding habitats.

Consider Form and Function

The body shape of marine creatures plays a very important role in how and where various species live.
As examples, most torpedo-shaped, or fusiform, animals such as dolphins, barracudas, tunas and open-ocean sharks are built for speed. These creatures live in the water column, not on the sea floor or in the tight quarters of reef communities. Laterally compressed fishes such as triggerfishes, angelfishes and butterflyfishes are built to efficiently slip into and out of the latticework of reef formations, but on the whole they are less capable of generating the speeds attained by more torpedo-shaped animals.
Animals such as rays and angel sharks are flattened from top to bottom. These creatures are well-equipped to maintain low profiles and are typically found along the sea floor in areas where they can go generally unnoticed. These animals often bury themselves in the sand, a great way to go unnoticed by potential predators and prey alike. Armed with this knowledge, you can often discover rays and other sand-dwelling animals by noting the outline of their buried bodies.
Sea snakes and eels have a long, more attenuated shape that is ideal for slinking around in the crevices of reef communities, and that is where you are likely to find them.
By noting and considering the shapes of animals you find in very specific areas, you can begin to acquire valuable insight that will help you put together the marine puzzle. And once you begin to put part of the puzzle together, so many other pieces begin to fall into place, and that is the real payoff in being a good observer. By knowing about behaviors, lifestyle and shape, you begin to anticipate where to find various species. At that point you can pat yourself on the back a time or two, because you will be on your way to becoming a good observer.

Become Aware of Adaptations

To survive, marine animals must adapt — both to their environment and to overcome their limitations. After all, not every species can be the biggest, fiercest, fastest, most superbly camouflaged and most clever. One of the most fascinating aspects of nature and the underwater world is that there seems to be such an endless variety of adaptations that are accomplished in countless ways. Shape, as just discussed, is one of those adaptations. I’d like to point out a few more just for the sake of providing examples, but keep in mind that every animal, or closely related group of animals, possesses some adaptation, or adaptations, that make them unique. Being aware of those adaptations can be the key to enabling you to become a good observer of marine creatures.
Here are some examples. Many brightly colored animals are venomous or repulsive in some way. It’s true of lionfishes, stonefishes and sculpin. These fishes are not among the fastest swimmers. They don’t have to be. Nor are they quick to give ground when approached, because nature has equipped them with other means of defense analogous to the way that snakes and porcupines are created. When on the hunt these animals must be able to strike quickly and overpower their prey. This is equally true for other relatively slow swimmers such as frogfishes and toadfishes.
Using bright color as a warning is not unique to fishes. Many nudibranchs, shell-less mollusks that are closely related to garden slugs, have soft bodies and they are rather slow crawlers. And many species stand out prominently because of their bright colors. These nudibranchs steal the protective stinging cells of corals. Then they place them in the tissue of their own back where those cells serve to repel animals that do not pay heed to the warnings of their bright colors. In this case the colors are intended to say “leave me alone.”
In the case of other invertebrates, you will want to consider the very basic question of whether an invertebrate is permanently attached to the substrate or whether it is mobile.
If an invertebrate is mobile, can it swim like squid and octopods, does it crawl or does it simply go where wind and current take it as is the general case with jellyfishes? Because jellyfishes are at the mercy of the prevailing conditions, their stings can be quite potent. The same is true of anemones and corals. If an animal cannot pursue its prey, it better get it while the getting is possible.
Consider whether an invertebrate has a shell or hard skin. If it has a shell, what does it do when it needs to grow? Does it swap shells, as is the case with hermit crabs, or molt, as is the case with lobsters, crabs and shrimps? Some shelled animals such as snails keep their shells for life, so they need to maintain it. That is the job of their colorful organs known as mantles. Shell-swapping crabs often attach other organisms to their shells so that a host animal is less obvious.
By considering these adaptations and the challenges that each animal faces, you will gain much better insight into how different species live, who eats whom and when, where and how to find various creatures.

Hone Your Fish-watching Skills

Next time you dive, instead of simply looking at a fish, challenge yourself a little by trying to put the fish in context with its surroundings. Consider its shape and other adaptations it possesses as well as what you know about its lifestyle. See if you can determine whether the animal appears to inhabit a relatively small territory or whether it is in transit. If the fish tends to stay close to one area or repeatedly swims over the same patch of reef, look for a nest site or mate. You won’t always find them because they are not always present, but in many instances by applying a little common sense you will discover a nest, mate or perhaps a food source.
As examples, with the damselfish known as the sergeant majors that occur in tropical seas and California’s state marine fish, the garibaldi, you will often discover a male that is manicuring or protecting a nest, or trying to woo a female. It’s great fun to watch a protective damselfish attempt to ward off other egg-stealing fishes and invertebrates such as sea stars, snails and sea urchins.
If a fish is a member of a school, try to determine if the fish in the school are feeding. If they are, ask yourself if they are feeding in mid-water or along the sea floor. If they are feeding on the sea floor, as is often the case with tangs and surgeonfishes, look to see if any smaller fishes such as territorial damselfishes are trying to push them out of their territory. On the whole, damselfishes are relatively small, but they seem to have no idea that this is true. They will defend their realm against almost all intruders.
Schooling is a good way for fishes to gain access to a mate, and often in schools of hundreds, or even thousands, of jacks you will see male and female pairs, or you will see spawning activity. Next time you see a school of fish, look to see if perhaps they are feeding or if you can locate a male/female pair.
One of my favorite ways of getting oriented in any tropical reef I have not dived is to look for cleaning stations. Cleaning of some kind can be found on the majority of reef dives, and the cleaning stations are often a great place to find interesting activity that centers on fishes and some other animals. Cleaning stations are often found around prominent outcroppings such as a big coral head or sponge that is on a point. If you find cleaning activity in a given place on one dive, you will often see cleaning there again on subsequent dives.
Of course, you can conduct a similar exercise with any group of animals, but fishes are present almost every time you make a dive, and if you are a good observer, watching them closely will help you learn a great deal about the animal you are watching and about life in the sea.
Learning to be a good observer of marine life is more of an art form than an exact science. Everyone brings a different background to their diving experiences and as a group, we learn to dive in a lot of different places. After learning we travel to different places and experience different phenomena.
When you are new to diving and when diving in an area that is new to you, my suggestion is to first learn about the bigger ecosystem. Getting a grip on the big picture provides you with a frame of reference so you “have a place to put” the smaller pieces of the puzzle. By understanding the big picture you can begin to understand where, when and why you are likely to find the creatures that live in a particular ecosystem. And once you start to understand that information, it will be far easier to understand and anticipate their behaviors.

You’re Watching Them, They’re Watching You

In almost every encounter with fishes, turtles and other big creatures, it has served me well to do whatever I can to make myself appear nonthreatening and unobtrusive. For example, when I first encounter a turtle, instead of trying to get as close as I can as fast as I can, I often avoid eye contact and try to appear interested in something else. In this way I think I appear to be nonthreatening and my behavior often seems to encourage the turtle to acclimate to my presence instead of speeding off into the distance.
When observing marine life, move slowly and be patient.  Avoid chasing subjects and barging into territories like the proverbial bull in a china cabinet.  As a rule, animals will flee or hide, and even if you get close to the animal, you often fail to get the most out of the opportunity, because you have disrupted the animal’s natural behaviors.

from Dive Training Magazine

May

3

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.

Feb

23

Maybe you are on your way to your first open water dives, or your first dives in awhile and you become aware of butterflies in your stomach. Perhaps you recognize it the night before the big day, and the apprehension keeps you from getting a good nights sleep. These are symptoms of the “pre-dive jitters”.  At one time or another every diver will experience this nervous feeling.

It is normal to be a little nervous about a new dive experience, but it’s important to recognize that butterflies are an indication that more practice and experience are needed to become a totally confident diver. The way to get this practice is by diving and continuing education.

Before your first dive, assemble your gear at home and adjust all straps, check assembly procedure and function of every item.  Having to adjust unfamiliar gear aboard a boat prior to diving can force you to rush. Rushing leads to anxiety which contributes to pre-dive nerves.

Owning your own personal gear reduces anxiety because you are familiar with it, know how it’s been maintained and have a proper fit. Proper fitting, well maintained equipment reduces stress, increases mental and physical comfort, and maximizes enjoyment.

Pay close attention to pre-dive plans and divemaster briefings and never hesitate to ask questions if you don’t hear clearly or don’t understand what was said.  If you have apprehensions, anxieties, questions or problems, please ASK FOR HELP from the group leader or divemaster. The key to overcoming pre-dive jitters is not to keep them a secret. Remember the divemasters job is to help with these issues. When informed, they will help you go at your own pace and develop your skills and confidence.

Our unique “Real-World Diving” class is a great way to learn what to expect on your dive excursions.  You’ve learned what to do underwater…this class teaches you how to do it.  Some of the topics discussed: charter boat diving, shore diving, private boat diving, how to rig your boat for diving, oil rig diving, buoy diving and international travel. New and experienced divers will learn something new in this class.

Enrolling in a continuing education course provides a great opportunity to build confidence through knowledge as well as a chance to work with an instructor to fine-tune your diving skills.  The more you dive, the more comfortable you become.  The more comfortable you become, the more fun you will have.  For information on becoming a more confident diver call (251) 342-2970.

Jan

10

How Anti-fogs work

Mask fogging results from warm humid air inside the mask meeting a lens surface cooled by water. Warmer air is capable of holding more water vapor (water in gas form) than cooler air. Therefore, when air is cooled, a portion of its water vapor condenses into tiny liquid droplets, or “fog”.  Anti-Fogs prevent fogging by creating a thin, invisible film on the lens which creates a “sheeting effect” – eliminating the formation of condensation droplets.

Divers that say, “Defog doesn’t work for me” are usually not applying it properly or are washing it out.  The procedure that I have always had the best luck with is to apply an oily-style defog (orange-top Sea Drops are my favorite) to a dry lens, rub around the inside of the lenses to fully coat, then scoop some water in the mask and swish.  I dump the suds out and scoop and swish one more time, then empty the mask put it on my face and don’t take it off until I’m done diving.  Many divers prefer the 500 PSI brand defog because it lasts longer.  It is much thicker so you have to rub a lot to coat and clean.  It is a slightly longer process to treat the lens, but the reward is 2-3 fog-free dives.

Remember for any defog to work the lens needs to be clean and ALL new mask must be scrubbed prior to using.

Dec

10

Even though the modern personal dive computers are very reliable and rarely malfunction, the possibility still exists.  Looking down at your computer in the middle of a dive and seeing a blank screen can be stressful sight.  Most computer issues are battery related or caused by flooding.  The flooding usually follows an improperly sealed battery compartment or a crack in the housing caused by trauma to the computer.  The problem is the crack was probably suffered in your gear bag during transport and you don’t even realize it until it is too late.

Because of the possibility of a dive, or entire dive day, being ruined because of a computer issue, most divers dive with 2 personal computers.  Oceanic’s new B.U.D. (Back-Up Dive) computer is the perfect addition to your dive kit.  It clips to your B/C and tracks all your dive info. and can be used as a primary computer, quick-glance status, back-up or spare.

The B.U.D. is small enough to clip to any d-ring on your B/C and you will hardly even know it is there, but has an easy to read display.  It has full computer functions, including nitrox compatibility.  Economically priced at $329.00.

Nov

22

Oceanic VT4.0 – Scuba Diving Magazine Gear of the Year

The Oceanic VT4.0 was featured in the most recent issue of Scuba Diving Magazine and was one of only three dive computers in the whole industry to be awarded with ScubaLab’s coveted Testers Choice, Best Buy and Editor’s Choice designations. The VT4.0′s easy to read display and intuitive menu system have been earning it a great reputation since its release. Oceanic’s patented Dual Algorithm was specially pointed out, a feature that separates Oceanic’s dive computers from the rest. Here’s what they had to say about the VT4.0: “Featuring a wide array of user settings at a reasonable price, ­Oceanic’s new VT 4.0 was an easy ­selection for ­Testers’ Choice. The VT4.0 includes a sweet-looking three-axis digital compass, the ability to monitor up to four transmitters, an intuitive interface and easy-to-read data display. Perhaps most impressive was the ability to change decompression ­algorithms — to make it more ­liberal or ­conservative — in a ­compact wrist-mounted package.”

May

14

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.

Mar

29

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.