A lesson in spearfishing

in Adventure Travel / Bahamas / Life at Sea
lobster spear fishing turf to surf

Before we left New York back in October, Ryan did a lot of research into island life and what “water toys” we should have on board for our trip.

We didn’t own any snorkeling gear, since it wouldn’t have been much use in the brackish waters of the Hudson River. So, before we left, we bought ourselves some flippers, goggles, snorkels and wet suits so we could explore the underwater world of the Bahamas.

We also said we’d buy a fishing rod, so we could learn to catch our own food. But rods can be expensive and we didn’t want to start with fancy fishing gear since it seemed, with our lack of experience, that we’d be more likely to break or lose a rod than catch a fish. So we held off on buying fishing equipment until we hit the flea market in St. Marys, Georgia, where a local fisherman taught us a few basics and sold us a used trolling and bottom fishing rod for $35.

Whatever possessed Ryan to buy a spear, though, I have no idea. I just know that it arrived in the mail one day, along with our snorkeling gear, and Ryan was beaming like a little boy when he took it out of the package. It was like watching Ralphie open up his Red Rider BB Gun on Christmas morning in the movie A Christmas Story. “We don’t even know how to fish,” I’d said at the time. “And you think we’ll be able to spear our dinner?!”

The idea still seems ludicrous, since it turns out our fishing skills didn’t improve much even after we bought a rod. The possibility of spearing a fish seemed about as high as catching a fish with our bare hands. So, for the past five months, there sat our unused spear, hanging out beside the pile of shoes it turned out I would never wear, until we met up with our friend Brian on s/v Rode Trip in George Town. After confessing that we’d never even tried our spear, Brian offered to take us out and show us how to use it.

So, on our last night in George Town, we weighed anchor and moved Hideaway over to Hooper’s Bay so Ryan and I could chase the pretty fish in circles around a reef and watch them swim away while Brian expertly speared two lionfish and a lobster.

It looked like Ryan and I were going to need a lot more practice at this skill. So, over our lionfish, lobster and pasta dinner on board Hideaway with our friends from Rode Trip and Senara, I consolidated a few things I learned from Brian about spear fishing:

  • Wet suits make you more buoyant and therefore hinder you from swimming deep into the coral to go after fish. Note to self: Leave the wet suit behind next time.
  • Lionfish have no predators, so you can swim right up to them and line up a shot without fear of scaring them away.
  • You want to be about a foot away from the fish when you shoot. If you’re too close, the spear will just push the fish away. You need some space for the spear to gain momentum and pierce the fish.
  • Lionfish are poisonous, so you have to be careful not to touch the spines on their skin. 45 minutes after they’ve died, though, the poison also dies and then they are safe to touch and eat.
  • Lionfish are overpopulated in the Bahamas, so it is encouraged to kill and eat them. Which is fantastic because they are delicious.

Our spear fishing skills are about as poor as our rod fishing skills, but like any skill, mastery requires practice. And experimentation.

So, we’ll keep on practicing and experimenting until we get a fish on board ourselves. Until then, though, we’ll keep our fridge stocked with plenty of food. Because if we had to live off the sea alone, I’m pretty sure we’d starve.

spear fishing lionfish turf to surf

Brian (s/v Rode Trip) with his first catch of the day, a lionfish

lionfish spear fishing sailing

Brian’s spiny lionfish catch

lobster spear fishing turf to surf

Brian with his prized lobster catch

cleaning lionfish spear fishing turf to surf

Brian waits 45 minutes for the poison in the lionfish’s spines to die, then he starts cleaning the fish.

cutting off poisonous fins lionfish fishing

Brian uses scissors to cut off anything spiny looking, just to be safe.

lobster spear fishing catch turf to surf

Brian, getting ready to show me how to clean a lobster

lobster dinner turf to surf sailing blog

Cooking up Brian’s lobster…yum.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jay March 28, 2013, 3:57 pm

    Well done guys! …you pulled that lobster out of Hooper’s Bay?..noiiiice! 🙂

    • Tasha March 28, 2013, 3:59 pm

      Well, our friend Brian did! I had the pleasure of cleaning and cooking it! 🙂 I’m working on spearing my own catch!

  • Marv March 28, 2013, 9:40 pm

    Tasha .. . we are totally enjoying your blog .. thanks so much for putting it together and posting all of your updates .. . question – what type of camera equiptment do you have .. above water ?? .. below water ?? .. . Carol and Marv

    Carol and Marv Market Box 1628 Fort Myers, FL 33902-1628 Cell Phone (239) 560-1166 Marina Fax (239) 461-0776 Phone (239) 560-1166 Bahamas Cell – 242-423-2214 E-mail Address: marvboater1@aol.com or marvboater@gmail.com Website – http://www.DeeLightWebsite.com – ‘click’ here .. Dee Light Website . please excuse any typos as this message is being sent from my iPad

    • Tasha March 29, 2013, 10:09 pm

      Hey Marv,
      Thanks for the comment! As for camera equipment, we have some very nice above water cameras (Canon Rebel SLR and a Canon G15). My underwater camera is a GoPro Video Hero3.

      Thanks so much for the compliments and please also check us out on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/turf2surf – we update more regularly there, if you’re curious where we are at any given moment 🙂



  • Julie March 28, 2013, 10:13 pm

    Great work! Lionfish are not only overpopulated, they are non-native. So all the native Caribbean fishes have no clue what is happening when this predator comes up to them for a snack – when you don’t evolve with a predator you have no defenses against it. Lionfish are adding yet another pressure to the already stressed reefs in the Caribbean, *sigh*. That said, humans are so good at overfishing maybe we will actually do some good by overfishing this population! So spear those lionfish and feel good about it!!

    • Tasha March 29, 2013, 10:11 pm

      Hey Julie!
      Thanks for the message! We have heard about the damage lionfish are doing in the Caribbean, so we didn’t feel guilty at all, though they’re such pretty fish!

      They are delicous, which helps!