Harpoon fishing or spearfishing is generally regarded as the oldest form of fishing practiced by our prehistoric ancestors and it’s not hard to see why. A few sharpened prongs tied around a longish pole with some leather strips and you’re good to go. It was fish for dinner! Today, harpoon fishing (along with fishing harpoons) is a little more complicated than it was when cave painting was all the rage, but it remains an effective and enjoyable way to bring in the day’s catch. Modern elastic and pneumatic powered spearguns and polespears have pretty much replaced the fishing harpoons of old, of course, but the fundamentals are not too different.
Harpoon fishing while free diving is still common, and the best spear-wielding anglers can hold their breath for as long as four minutes while diving to depths of 60 meters. SCUBA gear is a game-changer, but even when you have a tank helping you breathe, you need to be fit to fish with a harpoon. That means being able to swim for 200 meters without fins or other assistance – and a medical history that doesn’t include issues like asthma. If you’re not sure if you have the stamina required to do your fishing in the water, train up and fish safely!
In terms of harpoon fishing gear, do your research before settling on any one piece of equipment and read plenty of reviews. There are as many different types of spearguns as there are anglers, and all of them come with pros and cons. As for what’s de rigueur among the harpoon fishing set, you’re going to want to don a rash guard and trunks if nothing else. You’ll be swimming around in rocky waters where things like barnacles, jellyfish, and oysters like to congregate, and you’ll come out of the ocean with smoother skin if you put something between you and them. Better yet, especially if you’ll be doing any real diving, invest in a quality wetsuit. Did we mention spearfishing gloves? Dorsal spine punctures hurt unprotected hands! Oh, and don’t forget your mask – there’s no point in fishing for what you can’t see in this angling arena.
Now some fishing enthusiasts are wary of spearfishing aficionados because there have been issues with overfishing in areas where species unafraid of swimmers were targeted unceasingly. Yes, that was absolutely detrimental to local ecosystems, but trust us when we say fish adapt fast. Those fish who lived to breed another day will spawn whole generations of fish who can spot a fishing harpoon a mile away. And harpoon fishing is actually pretty environmentally friendly in that has no by-catch, doesn’t naturally lend itself to overfishing, and doesn’t require the use of exhaust-belching boats. In that sense, it is one of the most sustainable forms of fishing.
Give harpoon fishing a try! You’ll be glad you did!