Basic Underwater Hunting Technique’s
Basic Underwater Hunting Technique’s
There isn’t one right or wrong way to hunt fish. Techniques will vary with factors including water clarity, fish activity, fish reaction and school size vs. individual fish in the area. I will stick with what I know best “green water” and focus on that. However, many of the techniques discussed below apply to all types and areas in underwater hunting. Each species of fish requires a different hunting method and these methods can change day-to-day. Some days lying still on the bottom with long breath holds works best, and on other days running the fish down and shooting them on the “fly” is best. You have to judge fish reaction to the day and technique, and apply the correct technique of hunting for that day. The techniques I will mention below are basic hunting techniques for all species. I will break this down into four parts, demeanor, body state, shot and sixth sense.
Let’s start with demeanor, having “no demeanor” is critical when hunting fish yet, most new and intermediate underwater hunters don’t understand demeanor or the importance of it. No demeanor equals no threat. Here is an example of a common negative encounter that happens to many people who I speak with, and why it is related to demeanor. You are lying peacefully on a fish-less bottom with no demeanor. You are calm, motionless and your heart rate is settled due to there being no fish to excite you. You look over and there is a nice fish on your side. Your first thought is “That’s a good one” second thought “I want it”. When you make that change in attitude and shift the gun at the same time, the fish will spook due to your demeanor. If you had no demeanor while shifting the gun you likely would get the fish in that same scenario. Have that “I don’t care attitude”. Any and all demeanor under water will be taken as an aggressive threat. Think of a log lying on the bottom. It doesn’t matter how big and unnatural it is, fish will swim over under and around it. Why? It is an inanimate object with no demeanor, it poses no threat. With practice you can be nearly as inanimate as that log. I have had fish and fish schools swim so close to me that they graze against me. I have drifted into and through the middle of bass schools without any demeanor, not kicking, not moving at all, just glide right into the middle of the school and with a small twist of my fin blade turn onto my side and take the biggest fish out of the bunch. Also, never look at the fish; instead you should look past or through the fish like it’s not there. Looking hard at a fish will scare it. To achieve this you have to be dialed into your surroundings both mentally and physically. Let’s discuss the physical or the body’s state and its importance in the underwater hunting equation.
By body state, I mean you must be physically fit to be an efficient underwater hunter. Why? Two words, “heart rate”. The importance of low heart rate is commonly overlooked while hunting. I am convinced that fish more than anything else, sense heart rate. If your heart rate is up you will see few fish. They will spook before you know they are there. When you consider the fact that you are suspended in 100% fluid (the ocean) and your body is 72% fluid as a whole. The lungs are nearly 90 percent, and the lungs surround the heart. It makes sense that the beat of the heart carries through the water column and the fish sense it. I have found that if I drink coffee in the morning before diving, my heart is accelerated by 15 beats per minute. Not only do I have trouble diving but when I am near fish they are spooked. We want to dive with a very slow heart rate. I feel I need to be below 40 beats per minute to hunt efficiently. At 30 to 35 bpm I can all but touch fish. You can achieve a low heart rate through cardiovascular exercise and yoga types of training.
By “shot” I am referring to shooting the gun. Everyone can shoot straight with the gun stretched out in front of them. It is the easiest way. Unfortunately, in green water this is not an efficient way to shoot fish at all. One of the best things I tell you is learn to shoot from any and all angles. I will and do shoot fish regularly upside down, on my back, on my side and most of the time from the hip. It has been few times that I have been able to reach my gun out at full arm’s length and take a shot looking down the shaft in the NE. I would say 90 % of my shots are from the hip. The main reason I shoot from the hip is to avoid spooking the fish. The act of moving the gun out toward the fish will show demeanor in your body language. Remember the more you want that fish the less likely you are to get it. The fish cant in any way think you are after them or want them. When a fish comes up on my side, I don’t look at it, I look through it and at the same time I move the back of the gun so I have the shot and fire. Little to no movement involved and zero demeanor. When shooting from the hip, aiming the gun is done with the rear hand or trigger hand. The front hand stays still and acts as a pivot on the back 1/3 of the gun. You have to level (elevation) the gun by moving the trigger hand up and down. Side to side (wind-age) adjustments, are done by moving the trigger hand side to side. By doing this the only movement is that from the trigger hand that is hidden against your body. This has proven to be a lethal method of hunting, the fish never get warning. This takes practice, but once you get it you will never lose it. Your success at underwater hunting will be much higher.
A sixth sense is a skill that develops over time. You are working with two senses when diving, eye sight and hearing. Yes hearing! It is a sense underwater hunters often don’t utilize or trust. Not only can you hear fish underwater but you can judge the size of the fish and the specie type. Each fish has a distinct sound when swimming. The deeper and stronger the percussion of the fish the bigger they are. Stripers have a very distinct sound as do scup (porgy). They are all very distinguishable. Try this technique to learn the different sounds of fish. Lie on the bottom, relax and close your eyes and listen. When you open your eyes identify the fish. With practice you will become efficient at this. You will also note how much closer the fish will get to you when you do this. I think I briefly discuss hunting techniques for “Morone saxatilis”.
Morone saxatilis or The Striped Bass. I will talk about the best basic method of hunting them that I have found. This is my method 95% of the time. Striped bass are a fish that you have to let come to you. They are curious most of the time. So don’t go to them and be sure to have no demeanor when hunting them. When a school is in front of you, the big ones will almost always be in the back of that school. To get to these bigger fish, your dives must be strong, movement limited and demeanor non-existent. Here is the technique you should try. Lay on the bottom on your belly with your non-dominant elbow up over/above your head and resting on the bottom. The back 1/3 of the gun is resting in this hand. You should be looking over this non-dominant arm or resting your chin against it so your mask is peaking over your arm (hiding part of your face). Your dominant elbow is back off your side against the bottom and the gun trigger is in this hand. Your fins must be flat against the bottom. Lay and wait for the fish move in on you. Be still, relaxed and have no demeanor. You will have to get used to being in this position because it is very low compared to how most hunt. See how close they will get to you in this position and state. You will be surprised, I promise. Your shots will be close but more importantly so will the big fish in the school.
by David Hochman