Spearfishing is becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand and Australia. It's a great way to explore the ocean and collect fresh seafood to feed the family and for those summer BBQs. But if you've never gone spearfishing before, how do you get started? In this spearfishing guide, we'll give you a quick introduction to the gear you need, safety considerations, and general advice to get you in the water and spearing fish in no time.
  • 1. Observe - Image 1

1. Observe

Before you go and get all geared up with a wetsuit, dive mask and fins first go and see if spearfishing really is for you. Find someone you know who's into it and tag along for a day.

By observing, you'll learn what to expect and what gear you'll need to get started. You'll get a feel for the right way of doing things and this will help you feel more comfortable when you get in the water for the first time.

If you're already an experienced scuba diver, fisherman, or ocean swimmer, you may be able to skip this step as it will be familiar territory for you. But for anyone who's starting from scratch, I highly recommend getting acquainted with ocean exploring and ocean hunting before investing in gear.

For some people, spearfishing looks cool on Instagram, YouTube and your favourite fishing shows, but it can be quite intense and uncomfortable at times in real life. Best to know what you're getting yourself into. 

2. Get Geared Up

You may be able to borrow some gear to start with, but you really need gear that's the right fit for you. You don't need to rush out and get the best-quality spearfishing gear straight away. But you do want to be confident that your equipment is capable of keeping you safe and performing in the water.

Here's a list of the gear you're going to need:

1. Wetsuit 

Unless you're living on a tropical island or warm climate, you'll need a decent wetsuit for spending extended time in the ocean, especially in the cooler months. We have a complete guide to choosing the best spearfishing wetsuit here.

There are many different types of wetsuits so make sure to do some research. A general rule of thumb in the north island (and upper south island) of New Zealand and most of Australia is that a 3mm wetsuit should be fine from late spring to early autumn and a 5mm suit should cover the rest of the south island year round and in the cooler months for the north island and Australia, 7mm suits are often used by divers in the deep south and commercial divers who are spending extensive periods of time under the water.

The most important factors when choosing a wetsuit are the type of neoprene, thickness, seals and stitching (to ensure it won't leak), and the fit and comfort. A wetsuit should fit nice and snug with enough flexibility to comfortably move your arms and legs as you swim underwater.

Check out Seabuck's spearfishing wetsuits here

2. Dive mask

A good dive mask is essential for spearfishing as it's what allows you to have vision underwater. You can find masks of all shapes, sizes and colors. A couple of things to look for are dual-tempered anti-fog lenses - you don't want to suddenly lose sight during a dive. Getting a low-profile dive mask that sits close to your face is also a good idea as it provides optimal peripheral vision, and a low-volume mask means less air is needed to equalise (more on equalising below).

See Seabuck's spearfishing and dive masks here

3. Snorkel

A snorkel is a must-have as it allows you to float on the water's surface while searching for fish below. When you're starting out, the quality of your snorkel isn't going to make or break your experience. But you may want to go with one that has decent flex to reduce drag when you're diving and resurfacing, and for getting through smaller gaps in rocks and coral. 

Grab yourself a Seabuck snorkel here

4. Fins

Fins are a spearfisher's engine. They will propel you through the water faster than Ian Thorpe's size 17 feet. There are a whole lot of theories about which type of fin is best and which angle is most efficient. When you're just getting into it, it's not going to matter that much. The main thing to consider is softness/stiffness. If you're a heavier person (over 70kg) you're going to want to go with a harder/stiffer blade, whereas if you're under 70kg you'll want to go with a softer blade. This has to do with how much effort and energy is required to propel your body through the water. The type of fin is also very important, generally, beginner divers will be fine with a plastic fin. As you get more experienced and require a lighter fin with more thrust, you may look into composite or carbon blades.

The other main thing to be aware of is size. Some foot pockets (the "shoe" part of the fins) are designed to be worn with dive socks and therefore the sizing won't be the same as your usual shoe size. I'd recommend popping into a store to try one on, or if you're keen on getting Seabuck fins, just flick us a message and we'll happily help you choose the right size.

Check out Seabuck fins, blades and foot pockets here

5. Gloves and Dive Socks

If you're going after crayfish or shellfish, you're definitely going to want a nice pair of spearfishing gloves. They're also pretty handy for keeping your hands warm in the water - your extremities always feel the cold first. A 3mm glove is usually enough for most conditions as you want to maintain plenty of hand and finger mobility. But 5mm might be needed in colder temperatures. Comfort and durability are the key factors here. Look for gloves that have some heavy-duty reinforcing on the palms and/or around the fingers and knuckles. 

Dive socks are great for navigating around rocky coastlines to find your spearfishing launch spot and for generally keeping your feet warm in the water. Again, look for socks that have some abrasion and slip-resistance built-in. They need to be able to withstand a bit of wear and tear.

Take a look at the Seabuck diving gloves here and dive socks here.

6. Weight Belt

Spearfishing wetsuits can be quite buoyant so it can be helpful to wear a weight belt to assist your dive underwater. A general rule of thumb is to go for a weight belt that's roughly 10% of your bodyweight, but you'll find the right balance through trial and error. It's better to start light and up the weight if you need to because whatever you dive down with you've got to swim back up with. Note: You typically buy a weight belt and lead weights separately.

7. Speargun

And, of course, you're going to need a speargun. There are so many different styles and sizes available today, so how do you know the best speargun size for you?

As a general rule, the smaller 75-90mm configurations are more suited to beginner to intermediate spearos, South Island conditions, shallow water, reef environments, and smaller fish, such as butterfish, blue cod, kahawai, trevally, gurnard and snapper. The larger 110-120cm configurations are suited to experienced spearos, open water hunting around the top of the South Island and North Island, and larger snapper, trevally and kingfish. However, they can also be used around rocks and reefs. I know many spearos say 110cm is good size for the average person wanting to hunt a range of fish species.

There are other items you may want to pick up, such as a good knife, weight belt, and dive watch, but these are the speargun main things to focus on when you're getting started with spearfishing. 

3. Safety First

It might be third on the list, but safety should absolutely be your first priority when you're spearfishing, whether you're just getting started or a wily veteran.

One of the best ways to learn how to spearfish safely is by taking a spearfishing and freediving course, which are available in various locations around New Zealand and Australia. This will ensure you learn the skills to stay safe in the water, including breath holding, weighting, entry technique, fining, and equalising. You'll also learn how to rescue a fellow diver or spearfisher should you need to. Knowing this stuff is going to make your spearfishing experience so much more enjoyable and successful. At the very least, study some YouTube videos or learn from a friend and get some practice in before you go on a proper mission. Please don't think you can just "wing it". I don't want to be a down buzz, but there are many serious risks associated with spearfishing in open water and it's important to be well-prepared. As the saying goes, it's not tiddlywinks!

Beyond learning the basic spearfishing skills, here are some safety tips that you need to know before you head out on the water.

1. Never go spearfishing alone

You should always buddy up when you're spearfishing. That way, if something goes wrong you've got someone who can rescue you and vice versa.

2. Be seen

You should always use a float and flag to alert boat traffic to your location in the water. This is essential when you're shore diving or rock hopping, but it's equally important when you're diving off a boat. You can also rig your speargun to the float using a float line. This is helpful if you happen to spear a large fish that puts up a fight. You can let go of your gun and resurface to take a breath, find your float and use the line to recover your speargun and, hopefully, your fish.

Check out Seabuck's spearfishing floats here

3. Check the conditions

If in doubt, stay out. When you're new to spearfishing, you want to practice in decent conditions. It's best to avoid wind and choppy water. You can use a website like Swell Map to scope out your local spots. Wind, swell, tides, currents, and rain are all factors that affect safety and visibility in the water. You do have to learn these things through experience, but just be aware of your limits when you're starting out.

4. Tell someone your plans

Just like when you go hiking or hunting, make sure to tell someone where you're heading and when you're expected home. It's self-explanatory really. 

5. Practice gun safety

A speargun is a deadly weapon and should be treated like one. Never point it anyone and never load it or shoot it out of the water.

6. Never carry fish

Keep the fish you spear at a distance when you're in the water. Sharks are known to take advantage of easy meals and you want to make sure you're not the meal... right?

7. Watch for boats

This should go without saying, but avoid diving in areas with high boat traffic. It's just asking for trouble.

4. Know the Rules

What are the rules for spearfishing in New Zealand and Australia? For the most part, spearfishing has the same rules as regular fishing. So if you're a keen fisherman you'll be familiar with the dos and don'ts.

In New Zealand, you don't need a license to fish in the ocean, but marine reserves and conservation areas are protected. The main things to be aware of are staying within the legal catch and size limits. The Ministry for Primary Industries specify the following rules on its website:

"If you want to spearfish in New Zealand, you need to follow these rules:

  • You cannot spear crayfish, salmon or trout
  • The usual size limits and catch/bag limits apply. You cannot be in possession of undersized or excess fish (even if they're dead)."

You can find more specific information here. I also recommend checking out Spearfishing New Zealand's Code of Practice, which outlines the expectations when you're spearfishing in New Zealand. 

In Australia, you do need a license to spearfish. It seems that different states have slightly different rules and processes, so I recommend checking-in with your local government authority to make sure you're abiding by the law.

You can also find the Australian Underwater Federation Spearfishing Code of Practice here for a solid overview of best practice.

5. Spearfishing Tips

So you're all sorted with some awesome spearfishing gear, you've learned the basic techniques and safety measures and you're ready to head out into the water. As with everything in life, practice makes perfect with spearfishing. But here are a few tips that will steer you in the right direction when you're getting started.

1. Stay calm

The best thing you can do to improve your spearfishing success is to stay calm in the water. I recommend learning a few breathing practices that can help put you in a calm state of mind and lower your heart-rate. Staying calm will allow you to hold your breath for longer, make better decisions, and conserve energy. It's easier said than done though because spearfishing can be exhilarating.

2. Be patient

One of the biggest mistakes new spearfishers make is they start swimming around and "chasing" after fish underwater. This is just going to drain your energy and scare away fish. A better approach is to dive down and wait for fish to come to you. If you want to explore, use slow, fluid movements. You want to be as inconspicuous as possible so learn to move like a fish.

3. Practice breath-holds

Increasing your breath-hold time/lung capacity is going to be really helpful when you're in the water. You don't need to obsess over this, but it's pretty easy to increase your breath-hold by 30-60 seconds or more in a relatively short space of time. Staying calm is the number one thing that will help with your breath-hold.

4. Do your homework

Scope out your local spearfishing spots and learn about the optimal conditions, which fish species to expect, and any other quirks that might take you by surprise if you just turn up and hope for the best. Being prepared helps with tips #1 and #2.

5. Ask questions

If there's something you're not sure about, don't be too proud to ask someone. If you've got friends who spearfish, you'll have no problem. But you can also reach out to us via email and we can steer you in the right direction or even post anonymously on a forum. Experience spearfishers are always happy to help people who ask genuine questions. There's no such thing as a stupid question! 

Finally, the number one tip for spearfishing is to have fun. Spearfishing can be one of the most rewarding experiences. Not only are you exploring our vast underwater environments, but you're helping to provide yourself and others with healthy, fresh, delicious food. Spearfishing can be a social occasion or a peaceful escape from the stresses of everyday life. If you're just getting started with spearfishing we wish you all the best and if you have any questions or think we missed some important information in this article, please don't hesitate to get in touch. 

Shop Seabuck

Check out the Seabuck range of spearfishing wetsuits, dive masks, snorkels, spearguns, floats, weight belts and more below. Also, if you want to grab yourself a deal you can get one of our Seabuck Bundles, which includes a wetsuit, dive socks and gloves all in one.