Big Bend Florida
Dive Tip # 1
Rig a Gear Line
Getting back into the boat is hard work when you are tired from a
dive. The heavy equipment makes the job even tougher. If you have
somebody in the boat to take your gear, doffing your tank and BC
before you get back into the boat makes the process easier.
is a rig that will allow you to doff your gear if there is nobody
aboard to help.
Splice a short length of line to one or both of your stern cleats.
Splice a large snap to this line. Make sure that this line is not
long enough to get into your prop if it is somehow left in the water.
Snap your gear to this line; doff your gear and then board. After
relaxing a minute, haul your gear aboard.
Dive Tip #2
Consider the Moon
Phase When Planning a Dive Trip
a look at the tide table. All other factors considered, the tide will
be fastest and water the muddiest around Full and New Moon. Fast
tides are dangerous for divers and muddy water isn’t much fun.
You guys in the Panhandle don’t have the
problem with tide speed like we have here on the Nature
Coast. Your tidal range isn’t as great and you only
have 2 tides per day. Some days we have close to 5’ between high and
low tide and only 6 hours to move all that water. Add in our very
shallow water and there is a helluva mass flow of water. Consider
this; with 30 feet of Parachute Cord on a gallon Chlorox jug, the tide
sometimes pulls the gallon jug under water.
Three years ago I dropped over the side to check out a spot in about
fifteen feet. I surfaced about 20 feet behind the boat. I didn’t
make a dive; the current swept me that far in a heartbeat. I had to
swim for all I was worth to get back to the boat. If I had lost my
grip on my swim platform, I would have drowned because I was
absolutely worn out. If I had been wearing scuba gear, the only way I
could have gotten back to the boat would be to pull myself along the
bottom and hope I came up close to the boat.
Dive Tip #3
Rig a Safety Line
years ago, the dive club I was a member of made several trips each
year on a charter boat out of Ft. Pierce. We ran to Mantinella Shoals on the Little Bahama Bank
for two days of diving and spear fishing. Capt. Roland Matranga
deployed a three hundred foot safety line off the stern of the
Barefoot each time we entered the water.
free diving, I’d hang my fish stringer on the safety line rather than
swim pulling the fish I’d speared.
safety line had large, brightly colored net floats every few yards and
an inner tube with a large dive flag at the end of the line. The
safety line was wonderful, especially toward the end of the second day
of diving. It is a lot easier to pull yourself back along the line
than it is to swim against the current.
additional benefit of the safety line is that it marks the area you
are diving so powerboats are aware of your position.
Dive Tip #4
Stowing Your Dive
easiest and neatest way to stow your dive safety line is to loop it
back and forth between your stern cleats. It is, out of the way and
easily deployed. When you are not using the safety line, 300’ of
Diamond braid ski rope with 3” net floats will fit in a 5 gallon
bucket. The inner tube and flag will have to be stowed separately.
Dive Tip #5
Protect Yourself and
your Friends from Spear Points and Gaffs
Broken or frayed bands from your spear gun still have value. Cut one
inch sections of these bands and stretch them over your spear points
and gaff points. This is an easy way to prevent a nasty injury.
Dive Tip #6
Storage for Extra
always had at least half dozen spare free shafts aboard back when I
was seriously into spear fishing. I stored them in 2” PVC Pipe with
cemented cap on one end and a slip on cap on the other. When I put
new shafts into the pipe, they were clean, dry and wiped down with a
light coat of STP. They did not rust.
Dive Tip #7
A Better Fish
Stringer for the Spear Fisherman
stringer used by most spear fishermen is not a very handy device. If
you don’t have a lanyard on it, you must hold it in your hand, close
to your body. A big Shark or Jewfish that is turned on by your fish
will try to take them away from you. This is marginally ok if you see
him first. When one slips up and grabs the stringer out of your hand,
this is another and very different story. After this happened to me
in water way too muddy for fun and safe diving, I decided there must
be a better way. My first stringer worked but it evolved into more
than a stringer, making spear fishing easier, safer and more
is a list of materials needed to make my Stringer/Gaff.
~6’ of 400# test Monofilament.
3 leader sleeves for the Mono.
1 500# test snap or snap swivel.
~ 20” of 5/16” Stainless steel rod.
(An old spear shaft worked for me)
~ 12” of 1” wooden dowel. (An old
broom handle worked for me)
first step in making the Stringer/Gaff is to bend a 5” hook in the
Stainless rod. Second, sharpen the hook to a keen point.
Third, drill a 1/8” hole through the shank of the gaff ~ 3” from the
Drill a 5/16” hole about 2” deep in one end of the dowel.
Drill a 1/8” hole through the dowel at the mid point.
a 6” length of 400# mono. Insert it through the 1/8” hole on the dowel
and secure with a leader sleeve.
Attach the Gaff hook to the stringer by passing the mono through the
1/8” hole and secure with a leader sleeve.
Attach the snap swivel to the other end of the 6’ length of mono. And
secure with a leader sleeve.
the snap into the loop on the Gaff handle and the Stringer/Gaff is
is the completed Stringer/Gaff ready to use.
Here is a pic of the
Stringer/Gaff in its safety mode.
Here’s the Stringer/Gaff
ready to use as a gaff.
string a fish, insert the hook point in one eye and pull it out the
other. Slide the fish to the dowel end of the stringer.
your fish is alive and at least 90% are at this point, the safest and
most humane thing to do is to kill him at this point. To kill a fish
with this rig, insert the point of the gaff hook deep into the fish’s
skull at the midpoint and just behind the eyes. You will feel the
fish give a violent shudder when he dies. When the fish dies, his
heart stops pumping blood out and the fish no longer gives Shark
attracting distress noises.
can hook the Gaff into rock, wreck or coral and back off the feet or
so. Often curious fish will come out of hiding to see what is going
on and are like shooting fish in a barrel.
cannot swim off the hook end because the stringer leaves the hook in
the middle of the shank rather than at the end. To remove fish from
the stringer, un-snap the snap and shake the fish right into your
Dive tip #8
Spear Fishing Tip:
Improve your Accuracy
Here is a spear fishing tip that I have never seen in print. This is
one that you can easily prove for yourself.
When you cock your spear gun, take a look at your flipper. (WING) Is
it up, down, left or right? If it is oriented any way other than down,
it is definitely affecting your shooting.
the end of the flipper is flared too much, it will affect your shot.
This tiny flare on your flipper acts like a trim plane. With the
flipper down, this tiny trim plane counteracts gravity by adding a
little "lift" to the tip of your spear so you can shoot flat longer.
Conversely, with the flipper on the top side of your shaft, it tends
to make your shaft dive prematurely. Flipper on the right makes you
shoot left and vice versa.
This is another problem we face that is easily explained by Elementary
discovered this while on a dive trip to
Mantinella Shoals. I lost a flipper and replaced it on the
boat. Unfortunately, I put the flipper on the top of the shaft rather
than on the bottom. I went from a dead-eye to a total dud. After
blowing a tank with very poor results, I changed spear shafts and
immediately started killing fish again.
Dive Tip #9
Care for Spear Gun Bands
Before you put
your spear gun up until next trip, take the bands off, wash and dry
them and store them in a cool, dark place. Heat and sunlight are not
good for rubber.
Dive Tip #10
A Little More about Spear Gun Bands
new bands, not the ones on display.
Powder them lightly with talc or baby powder and vacuum bag them.
Keep them stored out of the sun.
Dive Tip #11
Make your own Bands.
Making your own bands is easy, much cheaper than using factory bands
and absolutely essential if you shoot a gun longer or shorter than
standard. If you want ultimate power and range, make your bands as
short as possible. If you want the bands to last a long time, make
them a little longer.
Don’t make the mistake of reusing the old wishbone. I’ve seen them
break and once saw a severe injury caused by a broken wishbone.
solid wishbones, not the cable type. I’ve tried them both and
absolutely cannot understand why anybody would use the cable kind.
Insert the balls of your wishbone into the ends of the band
material. Using 130# test hollow core Dacron, secure with a Timber
Hitch backed up with a Square Knot. I’ve made lots of bands and do
not recall ever having one slip.
Dive Tip #12
Notching a Spear Shaft or Modifying a Notch
easiest way to notch a spear shaft is to use a round grit blade on
your hacksaw. This is so much easier than making multiple cuts with a
regular hacksaw blade.