I spend several months in the Bahamas each year and I love to free dive to get my dinner. In the Bahamas you are not allowed to use a spear gun or any device that has a trigger for shooting fish. It is also illegal to use scuba or hookah devices while taking fish or lobsters. This leaves you with two choices, a pole spear or a Hawaiian sling. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. To use a Hawaiian sling it takes two hands and usually requires the diver use more weight to get a an equal buoyancy. It is an acquired skill that takes practice. You are shooting a free shaft and you can hit targets at a longer distance. However, you may also lose your shaft to a large fish or a deep crevice. The sling is the choice of most native spear fishermen.
I can use both but prefer a good pole spear. The spears I use a solid aluminum with a 14 inch stainless shaft in front. I use a JBl single point, break away head. I find I can get back under ledges a most of the time pull the fish back out. It also works well during crawfish season. During the day most big lobsters stay way back in the hole and the long pole comes in handy. The other thing that I like is the fact that I can hold on to the reef with one and still use the pole spear. You can usually shoot larger fish and let go of the spear and most fish will not swim off with your spear. This does apply to grouper; you must choose your shot wisely. Groupers will rock up in their favorite home and you will lose fish and spear. I don't kill small fish. Ten pounds is my starting point. I have landed many fish in the 25 to 30 pound range. Anything larger than that is very difficult. You must hit the fish either in the top of the head or mid-body just behind the gills. In other words a kill shot. You can get tangled up with these larger fish and get hurt if not careful. The other major concern is Sharks. In many parts of the Bahamas the sharks a very aggressive and will try to take your fish. Sharks consider you a competition and have been known to give a nice bite to let you know you are invading their territory. The months of July thru August seem to be the worst. The safest way to dive is to leave one person in the boat and as soon as a fish is shot have the boat handler come over and get the fish. If another diver is in the water, the other diver should come over and watch for sharks as the fish is pulled out of the water. A few people have been bit handing the fish out of the water. To add some insurance to my safety program, I recommend a SHARK SHIELD. It is a rechargeable electronic device that hooks to your ankle and admits a small electric charge about like a dog fence. Yes it will zap you occasionally but it does hurt and a least you know it is working. I have experimented with the device while deep propping and I can attest to its capability. I don't shoot fish without it on my leg.
There are lots of good areas that hold fish and it’s not necessary to free dive 40 feet. I have shot lots of big Hog snapper and Grouper in 15 to 20 foot.
The truth is I enjoy swimming around the reef and taking pictures of all the different creatures that make the coral reefs their home.
Be Salty and be safe
Captain Don Combs