Anyone for Spearfishing?
Spearfishing is not likely to be at the forefront of your mind when you think of activities to do in Cornwall. But spearfishing aficionado Tony Eynon argues that it is a fun and accessible activity which almost anyone can enjoy. As well as making you feel like James Bond, it is a unique activity where you get to see the Cornish coast from a whole new perspective.
Spearfishing is the sport of free-diving down to the bottom of the ocean on a single lungful of air and actively hunting yourself a nice fish for the BBQ. There is no breathing equipment used in this sport like the air tanks you see the scuba divers using. In fact spearos strongly believe that the playing field should be as even as possible and that tanks would give too much of an unfair advantage.
Most hunting tends to happen between 5 & 15 meters under the ocean surface but some people go far deeper. It’s not unusual to drop down to 25 meters to check out a reef to see if there’s much activity going on and worth exploring further.
One of the first things you notice when you start spearfishing is that it’s scary as hell. There is nothing eerier than dropping down 10 meters and hiding deep in some thick kelp. It can feel really spooky. Sometimes you can experience a type of green mist that limits your view and the whole thing can seem reminiscent of a scene out of Silent Hill!
Exploring an Underwater Paradise
However that all soon passes as you feel more comfortable in your new environment and the beauty of this new underwater paradise slowly reveals itself. Being engulfed by shoals of sea bass, discovering lobster holes, inquisitive seals and the occasional visit from an ocean roaming basking shark are everyday stories for the common spearo. On top of all that, as your skills progress, you’ll find yourself coming home with bigger and tastier fish!
It won’t be long before you start laughing at how small the supermarkets fish actually are and yet how much they charge for them. You’ll enter an elite class of citizen who has the right giggle at all those customers paying a fiver for a sea bass that you wouldn’t even aim at. You eat like a king now and nothing but a super-sized, super-fresh meal will do. Crab, lobster or scallops for starters and a 10lb bass for your main – all taken from your new ocean market only a couple of hours ago.
At the heart of every great spear-fisherman is a great free-diver. The ability to hold your breath for extended periods while undertaking a physically demanding sport is no easy feat! Try seeing how long you can hold your breath for while running –it’s not easy. Thankfully there are loads of techniques’ and the sport is riddled with kind people willing to help.
Cool Spearfishing Gear
One of the coolest things about spearfishing is gear. You now have a legitimate reason to strap a mean looking dive knife to your leg, wear a stealth black or camo wetsuit and dive into the ocean carrying a big speargun like a navy seal.
The guns are normally made out of aluminium or carbon, are about a meter long and powered by a couple of incredibly powerful bands. There are a lot of good European guns available but most serious spearos tend to opt for something designed for bigger fish like a Rob Allen speargun or a Riffe.
Most of the UK’s south coast is great for spearing however Cornwall has turned into a bit of spearfishing mecca. Beautiful coastlines coupled with clean oceans and sandy beaches to die for. Under the waterline is the richest and most diverse marine life you will find anywhere in the UK. The kelp flourishes which make a perfect habitat for Pollock, sea bass, grey mullet and an array of shellfish. The Lizard is peculiarly ideal for spearfishing offerings mile after mile.
The season starts early May and lasts until late September, while those with boat access can spearfish all year round at the outer reefs. During the winter months the hard-core spearo’s will brave the cold weather in the search for scallops and flatfish.
Give Spearfishing a Go
While you may be feeling that this sport is daunting to try out, it really isn’t. Most spearo’s started out with cheap snorkelling gear and basic speargun. Just make sure you act sensibly, wait for a nice clam day, let family know what you’re doing and start somewhere popular like Swanpool or Kennack sands. Use your common sense, spearfish well away from everyone and know your limits. Don’t push yourself too hard and never shoot more than you can eat.
Remember that there are loads of clubs to help you get started and heaps of free resources to learn from. The ultimate way to try out the sport is with an experience day or with a couple of spearfishing courses. There you can get expert training to accelerate the learning curve, become safe in the water and master your hunting techniques. There is no faster or safer way than to learn with an expert.
About the Author
Tony Eynon has spearfished all around the world, broken several world records and tangled with 18 foot tiger sharks plus many many more. He is the director of Spearfishing Ltd which runs www.spearfishing.co.uk – a website dedicated to selling the best spearfishing equipment, sharing information and helping people experience the activity on highly recommended spearfishing courses and taster days.