Eating Wild: Getting hooked on spearfishing

As part of my life goal to achieve a certain degree of self sufficiency in food products, I’ve taken to the seas. At home, fish plays a pretty regular role on our dinner plates. On my Mothers side of the family is a Mediterranean (Maltese) background, so inspired by this we’ve been blessed with all sorts of delicious meals incorporating numerous fish of the fin and shell variety. It’s safe to say that I love a good bit of seafood, however since becoming a debt embracing student, fish hasn’t been very prevalent on my taste buds. There are probably several reasons for this but two stick out to me;

Firstly, fish is often more on the pricey side of life for what you get when compared to a good old packet of 4 chicken breasts (FREE RANGE OF COURSE). Secondly, for me, buying fish is more of a battle of ethics than buying most other meat products. For most meats such as beef, the important welfare boxes can be ticked with a simple scan of the main packaging label. It’ll tell you location, diet fed and farm welfare standards straight off the bat with all the niggilty details being within the small print. When it comes to fish, unless your buying fresh from the fish counter, it can be very difficult to understand what you are buying and where from. I’m always looking for line caught products but there is also the point that even if its line caught, its probably done on mass, taking from a wild stock with little control of things such as size and age of a caught individual until its hauled out of its environment onto the deck of a boat (at which point for some species too much damage has already been done). This said if you’re going to buy fish at your local super market go for line caught! It is still by far the best method of commercial fishing and I’m not trying to downgrade it in anyway. My point is simply that for these two reasons, as well as being located in Cornwall for the next couple of years, I felt as if starting my self sufficient food journey by supplying my own source of fish would be a good beginners challenge.

There is one issue with what I’ve just said above. I have the same mentality and patience of an excited black Labrador when I’m near the sea. Therefore fishing pole in hand and standing on a rock won’t do it for me. Enter… Le Spearfishing.

Getting my spear on

Last year I spent four months in the Bahamas collecting data for my research project. Here I noticed that almost every long term resident on the campus I stayed at would go spearfishing during their weekends. At first I thought it was just a cool method to help reduces the numbers of invasive lionfish around local reefs and get yourself a little meal whilst doing so. That was until I begun to hear of people creating all sorts of delicious goodies from a whole host of species including lobster. I mean LOBSTER!! Popping out, having a laugh and casually grabbing yourself a lobby with a few lionfish to slam down on the side of a beautiful meal that you share with friends over a drink or two FOR FREE!? Sorry, where do I sign up for this?

It wasn’t until about 2 months into my time there that I finally got give this revolutionary activity a go. I had the mindset of getting a lionfish, I’ll do my part for the ecosystem and fill my belly up with its glory. If you haven’t guessed lionfish are super bad for the Bahamas, but that’s for another time.

This idea was actually harder to achieve than expected. Firstly I had no equipment of my own, I either had to borrow a spear from someone who wouldn’t be going out that day or make a proper rag tag spear like device of my own. Luckily on a dive around some reefs I came across a metal single point spear head and pole that some one had clearly shot and lost a while back. I took it back, cleaned it up and borrowed a spare make shift pull and release elastic attachment to give it some thrust. It wasn’t anywhere near as sharp or powerful as the common spear but I figured it may do the job on a soft bodied fish. I also went full wild man with a couple of others one day. We each made our own spears using long straight branches of the local invasive tree species, duck taping knifes to one end or carving the branch into a sharp point. We were a crew.

The second difficulty was pretty much everything. Currents, lung capacity, elusiveness, knowledge, confidence, currents and lung capacity.

My lack of experience meant that I didn’t have the confidence to identify legal species before they had darted off into the dark. Therefore I pretty much stuck to hunting slow and obvious things like the good old lobster or channel crab. Over the next two months I managed to get myself around three lobsters and 2 channel crabs, with the help of the stabby stab crew (we did give ourselves a decent name but I can’t remember it now). Honestly it was such a brilliant feeling coming back to the campus with some top grub and whacking it onto a BBQ.

Anywho, I was officially hooked. I had to take this experience back to the UK with me. After a tonne of pestering to ye old girl, I was treated to my very on spear on Christmas day. It was the same design as what many people had out in the Bahamas. I believe its known as the Hawaiian sling. Super simple, super easy, and appeared to be very effective out there. Its basically a fibre glass or carbon fibre (if you’re a fancy devil) pole with a metal head attachment consisting of 3-5 hooked prongs, all propelled by the release of an elasticated band that you pull up from the rear of the pole and hold until you get too excited. I had no excuses now, it was time to get out into that frigid water and start this life goal of mine.

I. Was. Stoked.


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