How to Get Started With Spearfishing

If you know how to swim, you might feel tempted to jump into the water and start immediately, but you should not underestimate spearfishing. It requires training, knowledge, and skill. You even need a fishing license.

1. Join and Complete a Spearfishing Course

You can expect to gain expert knowledge about how to take care of your diving gear, how to identify fish, how to operate a speargun and the safety guidelines associated with the sport.

The cost of a class will vary depending on the location and how comprehensive the course is. You can expect to spend anywhere from $200 to $1,000. California Ocean Adventures offers a great 2-day course that goes over all the essential skills needed. It also offers students with no diving experience a $650 course that includes a 3-day freediver course.

2. Secure a Fishing License

Following the laws where you plan to practice this sport should be a priority. This list of states requires you to get your license before you start jumping into the water.

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Florida
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Washington

Depending on your state, you can get your state license for anywhere from $20 to $60. If you’re wondering where to apply, you can get your license online.

3. Join a Club or Organization

A spearfishing club organizes social events for its members and assists with lessons on licenses and fishing spots. You can expect to fork over anywhere from $25 to $40 for an entire year. This is an inexpensive price when you consider the ongoing support you’ll receive from your fellow members and the competitive events you’ll be a part of.

4. Get the Right Spearfishing Gear

Friends shopping for spearfishing gear.

Now we can start on the fun part – getting your first spearfishing gear. If you are an experienced diver, you should have most of the equipment you’ll need, but there is still the hunting aspect to consider.

Pneumatic vs Band Powered vs Hawaiin Sling vs Pole Spear

The most crucial piece of equipment is your speargun, and there is no shortage of variations to choose from. Each type has its advantages and optimal situations for use. Here is a short explanation of the main choices you have.

TypePneumaticBand PoweredHawaiian SlingPole Spear
How it works Powered by pumped air pressure.Powered by bands that work as slingshots.Uses a band to shoot a spear like a bow.Uses a band to launch a spear through tension.
ProsTypically has minimal recoil. Offers great impact and penetration on larger fish.Very silent firing and easy to reload individual bands.
Sports great range and lightweight. Great for beginnersThicker pole spear is good for large fish.
Replaceable tips.
ConsExpensive and loses power when you spearfish deeperMore bands will equate longer reload times.Shafts can bendHas a short range
Size optionsComes between sizes 50cm and130cm.Comes between sizes 50cm and130cm.Typically comes in sizes between 150cm and 190cm inches.Comes in sizes between 4 and 9 feet.

Wet Suit

ZCCO Wetsuits Men's 3mm Premium Neoprene Full Sleeve Dive Skin for Spearfishing,Snorkeling, Surfing,Canoeing,Scuba Diving Wet Suits(XL)

A wetsuit traps a layer of water against your skin that will remain warmer than the temperature in the ocean. It can also protect against jellyfish and other harmful species you may encounter underwater. You can also wear a shorty spring-suit if you wish to keep your core warm without losing too much mobility.


Leaderfins Blue Camo Freediving and Spearfishing Fins (EU 45-46 / US 11-12, Medium)

When looking for fins to buy, you should consider three things: foot fit, stiffness, and materials.

The fin must fit around your foot without having any wiggle room. It should also have the optimal stiffness for your body type, and finally, with materials in your price range. Generally, plastic fins are the cheapest, but if you want efficiency and don’t mind spending extra cash, go for some carbon fiber.

Snorkel and Mask

Cressi Nano Crystal, Black/Black (DS365050)

There are many mask types to choose from, but you will perform best with a freediving mask. As far as snorkels go, you will want to look for a J-tube snorkel because it’s suitable for speed diving. They also don’t use valves, which tend to create bubbles that scare off fish, not to mention that they are effortless to use for beginners.

Weight Belt

Seac Nylon Buckle Rubber Belt,130 cm, Black

Because of the buoyancy of your wetsuit and body, you will end up needing a weight belt to keep yourself under the water. The goal with a weight belt is to turn the positive buoyancy of your body into neutral buoyancy while not adding so much weight that your buoyancy turns negative.

Naturally, each diver will need a different total weight depending on their body type, but you can start by adding around 12% of your total weight as a benchmark and work from there. As for materials, you should pick up a rubber weight belt since they are very durable and conform to your body easier than nylon.

Other Accessories

  • Knife: A diving knife is a small but sharp tool that you can use for cutting ropes and lines in case you find yourself tangled underwater.
  • Gloves: Gloves won’t just keep your hands warm. They will also provide a better grip on the fish you catch.
  • Dive Computer: A diving computer records your recovery time between dives. This will decrease the possibility of a shallow water blackout.
  • Booties: You can also make use of diving boots or fin socks to protect your feet from sharp objects in and out of the water.

5. Find a Spearfishing Buddy

Spearfishing buddies swimming.

Diving of any kind can be dangerous, even for professionals. If anything goes out of your hand, your spearfishing buddy can provide immediate help. You can always ask or invite other club members to be your spearfishing buddy. Alternatively, you can visit online spearfishing forums or sign-up for spearfishing group tours.

6. Plan Your First Trip

On the off chance you don’t have a friend or access to a local organization, here is what you should look for. You need to be on the lookout for sheltered waters, low boat traffic, and low swell and wind for visibility. Be cautious with low and high tides.

Safety Tip: Going out diving under less than perfect conditions is still okay, but you should follow local advice to prevent yourself from running into things like tidal currents.

Finally, you need to have planned your entry and exit points. These will serve as guidelines for your trip and should be a priority. Decide on multiple exit points in the case of an emergency.

7. Shallow Waters First

A person spearfishing in shallow waters.

Before you jump into the deep end, you will need to have some practice in the water, and there is no better place to do it than in shallow waters. Once you get used to the movement of fish, you can go deeper and get a more practical experience. 

8. Get To Know Your Weapon

No matter what model you decide to use, always make sure you know how to operate your speargun before jumping in the water. Instructions can vary from model and type. We suggest going over the manual and watching online tutorials.

As for handling, loading a band-powered speargun is a matter of pulling back the bands over the shaft until it clicks. Learning how to aim and shoot will come naturally with practice, but you should be ready to handle any recoil.

9. Practice Your Aim and Freediving


There is no set method for aiming a speargun, but most people tend to align their prey with the shaft of the speargun and take the shot. There are other ways to take your shot, but most divers will discover what works best for them once they are in the water.

Aiming Tip: Always aim for the fish’s head for a more efficient and humane kill.

Most spearfishing uses freediving since it offers the most mobility and is accessible without costly equipment. However, you should still practice and improve your skills before moving into deeper waters.

10. Always Follow Safety Protocols

Above everything else on this list, you should always follow safety protocols to ensure that you and any other diver with you are free from potential dangers. Aside from following standard safety guidelines, you should create a diving plan that you adhere to. That means knowing the area where you will dive and how long you will be diving for. Be sure to communicate this with your friends.

Then, we have to discuss your speargun. You should consider this a lethal weapon. Never point a loaded speargun at someone, and always handle it with care.

What’s Next?

Now that you’ve read this comprehensive guide, you should be ready to explore and hunt deeper. Be sure to talk to plenty of fellow enthusiasts that can provide you with local context on the area where you plan to dive. Happy Spearfishing!