With the calmness of summer, the waters of the Florida Keys fill with boaters from throughout Florida. With the added population comes added pressure to our resources. So it’s a perfect time to go beyond your normal boundaries to explore places you haven’t gone before.
As a child, my experiences and boundaries grew as did I. I remember my dad limiting me to about a square-mile in front of Sombrero Beach. At some point I was allowed to make it to Washerwoman Shoal. At the time it was like going to Indonesia on a dive trip — coral formations I had never seen and depths I had never encountered. It’s comedic to me now but, the fact remains: The more you go, the more you grow. I relive this feeling now through young local spearos. Traveling beyond your comfort zone can be nerve-racking but when you’re looking at a new underwater geography, lots of learning happens.
Summer weather patterns often mean many days of flat, clear water. On days such as this I like to spend half my day diving and half my day searching for new spots and areas. Having these extra spots really helps lift the pressure off the ones that you count on throughout the year.
Many fishermen practice this method as well. Overfishing is a problem in all corners of the world and managing it correctly is the key to the future. Finding these new spots will make you glad to have more tricks in your bag. I try not to go back to a spot more than once in two weeks. Although fish migration has something to do with choosing a spot, most the fish targeted by spearfishermen aren’t quite as migratory.
As your underwater experience grows, you become keen to the areas in which fish live as well as their habits. Expanding your waypoint list not only gives you opportunity to find fish at other spots but also lets you encounter new bottom topography in which to hunt. Each type of bottom suggests a different type of fish or a different type of reaction to you by the fish. Only going out and seeing it with your own eyes will give you the knowledge in which to know whether to go straight down on top of the fish or to approach it in some other fashion.
For example, when approaching a black grouper I would most often go to the bottom and approach it on its own level. But sometimes the black grouper is in a position to swim away quickly. In this case I use a method I like to call “bomb-diving” on the fish. This is when I notice the fish when it is directly underneath me. At this point, I either have to swim away to approach it from another direction without spooking it, or swim straight down. When “bomb-diving” the fish, the spearfisherman presents a much smaller silhouette than when he or she is laying parallel to the surface. Sometimes this makes the fish a little more comfortable with your presence.
There is no way to coach someone on how to interpret each fish’s reaction to a spearfisherman’s presence. This is where the experience comes into play. Expanding your knowledge of the reef system and the fish that inhabit it will drastically expand your ability to get close to them. Keeping a log can also help you. When I go out, I write what spot I went to, what I got, and anything else I can remember about the experience along with the date.
In the end it’s about taking home a healthy dinner and using a formula to protect our future.
James Simcic speared his first fish when he was eight years old and now he hunts in the big leagues for gamefish. He is a licensed captain, avid spearfisherman and ambassador of the sport. He also owns and operates spearcrazy.com, a spearfishing line of apparel and accessories. For more information, visit www.spearcrazy.com.