Ever had that odd feeling you are being watched? How about having that feeling only to get back on the boat to hear your buddy tell you that not one, but 4 sharks were checking you out real close? That for sure is not the best feeling in the world, but a manageable risk we take when we dive in an environment conducive to those conditions and hazards. As a spear fisherman, especially diving in the Gulf of Mexico, we all know that sharks and other hazards are present. It’s not that we don’t think about them, we just choose not to dwell on them or we may never enter the water or “The Food Chain” as my buddy calls it. For the uninitiated, spear fishing combines hunting, fishing, and diving all into one.
Leaving out of Port Fourchon, LA (just about where the road runs out) we headed out about 60 miles into blue water this last weekend in search of few big trophy fish and a little adventure to boot. We splashed late Thursday afternoon just before sundown, which was a bad idea because sundown and night is when the sharks come out and the viz drops. Apparently we really needed to get wet because we just couldn’t wait until morning. Just below 30 feet the water cleared up, but because of diminishing light the viz was not great. So I do as I always do, take position on top or near where 2 huge pipes join on the rig and stalk my prey below. Looking around I see my buddy below me looking up, but he was bear hugging the rig pylon and looked like he wasn’t breathing. I sort of thought that odd, but oh well I‘ve seen stranger things I thought. Come to find out, back on the boat, he went still hiding from 4 sharks about 6 ft in length that were scoping me out. I thought to myself…I never saw them, nor would I of never known probably if they would of hit me either? The next day we splashed with me in the lead and setting up on a pylon. Hovering below me was my buddy and a school of AJ’s (Amber Jack). It was like the shooting gallery at the arcade as they swam by one after the other. It was basically take your pick and squeeze the trigger. Well I did and boy do I know how important a well placed shot can be now. I just missed the spine area and the fight was on! Even at only about 40 pounds, an AJ can be a formidable opponent. He went straight down trying to take me with him. I put a leg locked onto the rig and began to fight back. He ended up wrapping part of me in my on line before I could complete the kill. About that time my buddy is going crazy getting my attention…guess what, another shark. I know my luck just can’t be that bad, or can it? I did what any self respecting MAN would of done, I got the heck out of the water. After 2 dives and being hunted by 2 groups of sharks, I still did not see any of them. The next dive was going to be different. This time, no buddies around just me. I go down and set up on my stalk, and all of a sudden there it comes. About a 6 foot bull shark cruising through the rig. Wow what an awesome sight! This time I was the hunter (for a change) and I watched him until he swam out of sight. After that I was on cloud nine and pumped. I made a “deep” dive to recon any schools of fish that may be below to report to the other divers. Wow what an awesome time! We ended up with our limit on AJ’s and Red Snapper, and got a huge grouper and lemon fish.
Let me just say that spear fishing can be very rewarding, challenging, fun, adrenaline filled, and dangerous. If you plan on doing this, I HIGHLY recommend going with someone who is experienced and knowledgeable with spear fishing. There are things you really need to know about safety that are NOT taught in your basic open water class. You may want to try fresh water spear fishing first to get a feel for things before you enter "The Food Chain" in the ocean. Remember, ALWAYS keep a clear head and make good sound decisions with this type of diving or any type of diving for that matter. YOUR actions will determine HOW you leave to go home.