History of Spearfishing - Origin and Background of Spearfishing

Spearfishing is method of fishing with a spear and is one of the oldest ways that humanity used to catch fish. Early civilizations used sharpened sticks for spearfishing and these were one of the first spears.

Picture Of Indian Spearfishing

Many ancient civilizations used spears for fishing. During the Paleolithic times they used barbed poles (harpoons). Famous Cosquer cave in Southern France, that has art that is preserved for 16,000 years, has images of seals that look like they have been harpooned. Paintings on the wall of the tomb of Usheret in Thebes represent fisherman with a spear that is throwing the spear into the water from his boat. Bible mentions fishing spears in Job 41:7 where it talks about Leviathan. According to the Greek historian Polybius that lived between 203 BC and 120 BC, spears were used for catching swordfish which he talks about in his “Histories”. These spears were barbed and had detachable heads. Earliest text that survived to this day and which talks about various means of fishing in its entirety is “Halieutika” written by Greek author Oppian of Corycus. He describes their standard spears with one point and tridents. Peoples that lived on India's Andaman and Nicobar islands used spears that had long cords and could be retrieved when thrown without the need for a fisherman to move.

From the simple spears (pointed sticks, sticks with barbed metal points and tridents), developed different types of spears. “Gigs” are one of these and they are multi-pronged spears. They are used for fish but also for frogs. Before modern spears appeared, people spearfished in shallow waters. Invention of speargun allowed fishing in deeper waters. Spearguns can be powered with elastic cords or compressed gas and spearfishing with spearguns can be done while free-diving, snorkeling, or scuba diving. Some countries don’t allow spearfishing while using scuba equipment while other don’t allow use of mechanically powered spearguns at all.

After the improvement of diving gear and spears themselves in the first half of 20th century, different types of spearfishing developed from there. The most common way of spearfishing today is “shore diving” where divers enter the sea from a beach and hunt around ocean structures. To catch a fish, divers use Hawaiian slings or spearguns and catch reef fish. “Boat diving” is similar to shore diving but boats are used to access locations that are inaccessible by land like, oil rigs, Fish Aggregating Devices and reefs that are further from the shore. “Blue water hunting” is diving and spearfishing in open waters of seas and oceans. Fish is usually baited (chummed) with fish parts and blood and then hunted. Divers usually hunt marlin, tuna, and giant trevally. To catch fish with a spear it is not necessary to dive. Fish can be spearfished from land, shallow water or a boat like it was done for thousands of years.

Spearfishing is considered responsible for extinction of some species while in other places it is regarded as the greenest way of fishing because it doesn’t have by-catch, it causes no habitat damage, nor it creates pollution.