The Keys where Spearfishing is King

 By Josie Koler

The hunt is on with Adolphus Busch V.

“Grab the line and follow me. Make sure you keep up,” Adolphus Busch V demanded of me as we prepped on the surface for a drift dive off the Middle Keys.

He was armed with an A.B. Biller 36 Special and a UK Blue Tang Titanium SCUBA Dive Knife  fastened to his right calf with a 16” Rubber Knife Strap.

Knives are used for two reasons while diving. Most importantly, they’re necessary to have on hand to cut yourself or your gear free of any entanglement – primarily fishing line. This is important for any SCUBA diver. An inability to free yourself to swim can result in running out of air before you can make your way to the surface. Hunters also use their knives to polish off their prey.

Busch and I sunk to 70’ and started scouring the bottom for Hogfish and Black Grouper. We coasted over the diverse ecosystem of Smooth Starlett Coral, Golfball Coral, Brain Coral, anemones, mollusks, crabs, sea stars, sea cucumber and dozens of other life forms. We cruised over a Lionfish, and then halted.

Dinner was going to be Hogfish.

Busch had the rubber band pulled back, and just like hunting a deer on land, pointed, shot and stoned the fish.

“People want to make spear fishing sound more complicated than that, but it’s not,” one Lower Keys sportsmen and law enforcement officer commented. “You either hit, or you miss.”

Busch “hit” and used his knife to finish off the fish.

A student at Colorado State University who vacations in the Keys for “the Hunt,” Busch fits the profile of a spear fisherman. He started young under the guidance of his father and practices sound SCUBA skills above and below the surface. To ensuring the tropical fish and protected species aren’t disturbed by the sport make sure you leave the Parrotfish, Angel Fish and Jewfish for the recreational divers to enjoy. Snapper, Grouper, Mutton Snapper, King Fish, Hogfish and Mackerel are game.

The arsenal of weaponry for a typical spear fishermen can usually look like this (give or take a few guns.) Three 48s, a C-Hornet and a couple of JBL Elite Sawed-Off Magnum Spearguns, an A.B. Biller Mahogany 42, 36 or 32 Special and an Omer Cayman HF Camu 3D 110 CM.

“I just take the tip off when I see a Lionfish and kill the sucker,” one sportsman says.

To kill the invasive species, which have no known predators except man, the Lionfish Polespear Paralyzer is a 2.5’ x ½” easy-to-handle pole spear has become one of hottest weapons added to an arsenal.

After Busch and I landed back on the boat and headed to the next spot for an 85’ dive, that’s exactly the dagger his dad choose.

“We have one mission,” Adolphus Busch IV told me. “To kill the Lionfish.”

We submerged at our next spot and left eight of the poisonous suckers dead at the bottom of the Atlantic and brought two, over ten inches in length back to the boat for sushi sandwiches.

 See the entire 70’ drift dive, hunt, kill and ascent here.


  1. Excellent article Josie. I haven’t had a chance to dive the AB Wreck , but I felt as i was right there on the descend while reading your article . Thankyou Michael Balbuena

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