Blue Water Hunting and Freediving - Digital Version 1 - Page 222
bluewater hunting and freediving
The farther of the two was larger . I had learned to take the first possible shot with white seabass , because the slightest annoyance can send these skittish fish bolting for safety . I set my sights on the closer , smaller fish . I could see it sensed me , as it commenced a slow glide to my left . Luckily , its head passed behind a vertical kelp stalk that blocked its view of me . I used this opportunity to increase my speed and close the gap . As its head reappeared , my 45-years of experience cried out that it was ready to bolt .
Knowing I wouldn ’ t get any closer , I gently squeezed off a “ kill shot ” from ten feet away . My detachable tip penetrated just behind the left pectoral fin and luckily toggled in its gills on the right . Water erupted as the giant plunged quickly for the 60-foot bottom . Since the gillshot severed its lifeline to the sea , it was difficult for the white seabass to fight effectively . Every white seabass diver knows this fish ’ s modus operandi — once speared , they head directly for a kelp stalk on the bottom and swim aroundand-around it until they become fully mired and engulfed . Mindful of this tactic , I applied steady , constant pressure on the shooting line and guided the line away from the kelp stalk it aimed for . Once I saw that the shot was secure , I quickly “ horsed ” it to the surface . As it got closer , its massive size just kept growing . Its scales reflected in the sun , glowing with iridescent waves of purples , blues and greens . Finally in my hands , I finished it off by knifing its brain . I could now see that the spear likely pierced its heart , which explained the short fight . With only a small hole in its side , the fish appeared to be in pristine condition , showing no signs of the fight . Alone on the reef , I basked in my glory on this perfect day , knowing I had just completed the perfect dive . I knew I was lucky . In two dives , barely five minutes in total time , my whole
216 diving experience seemed to culminate in this single , extraordinary moment . Transporting the huge fish almost a mile to shore was my next challenge . With careful balancing , I managed to slide it through my board ’ s hatch opening . When I arrived at the beach , I could only drag it 50 feet at a time . The 62.5-inch fish weighed 93.4 pounds on the IUSA certified scale . It shattered the previous , decadeold spearfishing record by 12 pounds and the all-tackle angling record by ten .
In Southern California waters , white seabass are one of the most cherished and cunning of all game fish . I thought it fitting that a shorebased diver like me , living in Malibu , captured this once-in-a-lifetime fish . Whether just living day-to-day or trying to spear a world record , my goal is to get the most from every day spent
in natural , beautiful surroundings .
White seabass numbers are not threatened by freedivers . We have seen gillnetters wipe out whole schools of fish . It is not uncommon for line fishermen , in one day , to take many individuals from a single school when the whites are feeding on squid . Bluewater divers are happy to take one or two fish from a school .
To summarize , here are my top ten tips for hunting white seabass :
QUIET , QUIET , QUIET . Be quiet . These fish are extremely sensitive to any noise you might make , which includes splashing fins , ear clearing , gear clanking and even snorkel clearing at the surface .
SMOOTH , SMOOTH , SMOOTH . Swim smoothly . Besides having keen hearing , white seabass have a very sensitive lateral-line system , which can sense the smallest of pressure waves you might generate from swimming jerkily or swinging your gun .
LISTEN . Because white seabass are comfortable in very dirty water , they rely on their ears and lateral lines as major sensors of their environment , and they communicate by croaking .
NETWORK . Most successful white seabass hunters have a close-knit group of friends who