IN FLORIDA, where we are nearly surrounded by open water, finding a recreational activity to do in the water is not a challenge. So with all of the various possibilities, why should a sportsman (or sportswoman) consider spearfishing?
In a lot of ways, spearfishing is one of the oldest methods of harvesting fish, dating to before written records existed. However, as more efficient or less intensive methods were invented (cast net fishing, rod fishing), spearfishing fell out of favor. At least, until sport fishermen rediscovered the practice in the 1930s.
For most spearfishing enthusiasts (or “spearos,” as they refer to themselves), the appeal of spearfishing is the combination of “exhilarating peace” of freediving with the thrill of hunting. Yes, spearfishing has more in common with hunting terrestrial game than fishing with a rod and reel.
Unlike fishing with a rod and reel, spearos are able to pinpoint exactly which fish they want to target. From a conservation standpoint, spearfishing is less impactful on the environment and on controlled populations.
“There’s very little bycatch,” says T.J. Konitzer, owner of Off the Wall Adventures & Outfitters in Lakeland and Brandon, as well as an avid recreational and commercial spearfisher. “Bycatch” refers to other marine life caught when fishing, either the wrong species, or undersized specimens of the same species.
Konitzer has been spearfishing recreationally for 21 years, and for the last 10 years has also spearfished commercially, offering spearfishing charters through Off the Wall Adventures. He typically takes charters to the Florida Middle Grounds, a reef in the Gulf of Mexico approximately one hundred miles west of St. Petersburg.
“We take them out and show them both the recreational and commercial aspects of spearfishing,” Konitzer explains.
“A lot of places only want to take out very experienced divers, but I don’t mind taking someone who’s learning. You have to learn somewhere, and we have good instructors.”
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