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March 20, 2024

The History of Spearfishing

Finz Dive Center

Spearfishing is one of the oldest types of fishing in the world, dating as far back as 16,000 years ago or longer. Initially, harpoons (barbed poles) were used to spear fish and other animals like seals. 

Through history, spearing implements became more advanced. The Harappans used copper harpoons, and the Mincopie people of India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands, used harpoons attached to long cords. To this day, traditional spearfishing uses a simple spear or trident. 

Spearfishing can also be done using a pole spear, which has a long pointed shaft attached to an elastic loop used for propulsion. They come in a range of materials and can be folded for easy transportation.

A Hawaiian sling is another instrument used for spearfishing. Originating as early as 1917 and popularized in the 1950s, the Hawaiian sling is similar to a bow and arrow, with energy stored in rubber tubing connected to the spear shaft.

Many cultures around the world continue to rely on various traditional types of spearfishing methods for their livelihoods.

Today, spearguns are the most popular tool used for recreational spearfishing. Spearguns are designed to fire a spear at fish underwater. In the 1920s, spearfishing became popular among freedivers in France and Italy–this led to the development of modern snorkeling equipment and later scuba diving equipment, as well.  

In the mid-1930s, Alec Kramarenko patented a gun where a compressed spring propelled a spear. A spring propulsion gun soon followed, invented by Maxime Forlot. The banded speargun was invented in France in 1947 by Georges Beuchat. Known as the Tarzan, this gun was powered by the first ever propulsion system powered by elastic rubber bands. Gunpowder, carbon dioxide, or compressed air (pneumatic) were later used in other types of spearguns. Modern spearguns used recreationally are typically banded or pneumatic. 

As spearfishing became more popularized in the 1960s and 1970s, certain fish stocks became depleted because it became so easy to catch fish using these methods, and many spearfishermen sold what they caught. With modern perspectives on the importance of sustainable fishing practices, there are new regulations governing which species can be caught with spearfishing, and which locations are open for this activity. It is now common practice for spearfishermen to only catch what they will use, to help preserve fish stocks for future generations.

Spearfishing can take place in reefs, in open blue water, and in freshwater environments. It can also be done while snorkeling, scuba diving, or freediving. There are now thousands of different variations of spearguns available. Selecting the proper speargun for your particular needs is key to a successful and enjoyable experience. Let Finz Dive and Tackle help you choose the right speargun for you today. Give us a call at 305.395.0880 or stop by our shop in Key West, FL.

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