Spearfishing 101: an interview with Luca Patillo

Spearfishing

Today I have a super exciting post for you. If you follow me on Instagram, you have probably noticed that I spend a lot of time in the water. There is a particular human who I spend most of this time in the water with... Today I am interviewing a pretty cool fish :)

Luca is not only a killer spearfisher, he also happens to be my boyfriend and partner in crime! We have shared many awesome adventures together over the past couple years, a lot of them in the water. This morning we sat down for coffee and I got him to do an interview all about his love for spearfishing.

Hope you enjoy! 

 

Can you describe for everyone that doesn't know, what exactly is spearfishing?

It is a very non-intrusive way of catching fish. You are in the water with the fish and you get to select the one that you want to catch. It involves diving underwater with a speargun or pole spear (Hawaiian sling). But, there is so much more than that. It is a way to connect to nature on a way deeper level. There is something about being out of your element and being in the complete silence of the ocean that is so special. It is just you and this new world you have to explore that is so different each time you dive down. To me, spearfishing isn't just this manly sport to get the chance to kill a fish, instead it is this strange connection I get with the ocean, perhaps a connection to my more primitive ancestors. It is an indescribable feeling, but a powerful one. 

 

 

Spearfishing Amelia Wachtin

How did you get into spearfishing?

Well, while I was traveling in New Zealand about 6 years ago, I was shopping in the New Zealand equivalent of Wal-Mart called The Warehouse when I first saw a Hawaiian sling (pole spear). It was hanging on the wall, and it just struck me. This was the first time the idea of spearfishing dawned on me. I had never heard of spearfishing before that. Just the thought of it made my heat beat faster, it made me feel so excited and I knew I had to try it. So, spontaneously I bought the Hawaiian sling along with a mask and snorkel. Two weeks later I caught my first fish! I was in Cape Reinga and I cooked it up right on the beach. It was hands down the best meal I had ever had. It was so fresh and knowing I had sustainably caught it myself added to the experience. It was in that moment I knew I had discovered my greatest passion. 

However, once I moved back to B.C. I was intimidated by the wild and cold Pacific Northwest waters. I searched for years and never found a fellow spearfisher. Sure people dived, but no one got in the water without a scuba oxygen tank. It wasn't until I moved to Victoria in 2013 that I rediscovered it. I met the new owner of the surf shop Hto, Mick, he had just started carrying spearfishing equipment in his shop. I was ecstatic. I was finally able to get back into the water. 

Spearfishing Amelia Wachtin

So what equipment does someone need to dive in our cold Northwest waters?

I personally dive in my surfing wetsuit which is a 5/4mm. Ideally you want at least a 5mm to stay warm and comfortable. Honestly, the water temperature only fluctuates a few degrees between the summer and winter. It is just getting out of the wetsuit at the end of a winter dive that makes it tough! You will need gloves, booties and a hood. You really want to have as much of your body covered as possible. A mask and snorkel are also a necessity as well as a set of fins. To really be able to dive down you will need a quick release weight belt with a minimum of 8lbs of weight. A dive knife is needed for safety in case you get caught or tangled in anything. When you are ready to take it to the next level you can purchase a speargun or pole spear!!

 

So do you just have free reign on any type of fish?

No! You definitely need to do your homework. You can check online with the department of fisheries and oceans to see what is in season. It can seem a little confusing, but if that is the case you can always call the DFO. Some fish like greenling are open all year, depending on where you are spearing. But, others like ling cod have very strict regulations. Crabs for the most part are good year round, but you always want to check first as fines and penalties can be quite harsh. Also, salmon can never be speared!! 

You will also need a salt water fishing license, which is less than $40 for the year. Seeing how much you will save on food it is worth it in my opinion! 

Freediving Amelia Wachtin

How do you know where the good spots to spearfish are?

It is a lot of guess and check. I will usually do searches on google earth and check hydrographic maps (depth charts) to see where good areas will be. However, you never really know until you get in the water. You usually want to find a place with lots of rocks or kelp if you want greenling or lingcod. Flounder and crabs will be in more sandy areas. For the best experience you want to make sure you have good visibility. This can fluctuate depending on the time of year, weather, currents or tides. Usually the best visibility is in the winter on slack tide (in between the switching of tide when there is no movement!).

 

Can you touch a bit on the safety of spearfishing?

There are so many safety rules I could go over, but I will focus on the most important ones. 

  • Make sure to stay above the water breathing at least twice as long as your last dive to expel the build up of CO2. 
  • Don't push yourself until you are completely comfortable and experienced enough. 
  • Always have a dive buddy with you who can make sure you are ok. Plus it is always more fun to share these experiences with others!
  • When you dive under, take your snorkel out since it can be a hazard if you black out.
  • Do not have your speargun loaded with no safety on around other people! You should only take the safety off on the descent when you are ready to get a fish. A simple google search of "spearfishing accidents" will make you quickly realize why... 

It is important to educate yourself on the dangers of shallow water blackouts before you start free diving. If you take it slow and always swim with a buddy you should be fine! I don't want to scare anyone away. Just be aware of the potential dangers to keep you safe! 

On a lighter note, can you tell us what it is that you love most about spearfishing?

The fact that once you are all set up equipment wise it is free! You can go as much as you want and enjoy the ocean and see new things every time. It allows you to escape the daily stressors of everyday life. Being in the ocean reminds you how small you are and how small your daily problems are. It is strangely healing in a way. 

 

To wrap up this interview do you have any last advice for someone who is thinking about getting into spearfishing?

Just make the step to get in the ocean with a mask and wetsuit! Go experience this whole other world that is right at our doorstep. There are so many experienced free divers and spearfishers that love to introduce people to this world (myself included). Just get out of your comfort zone and ask! You don't even need to kill any fish, you can just explore and appreciate this whole new world like I do most of the time. 

 

Spearfishing Amelia Wachtin

Thank you so much Luca for taking the time to sit down for this interview!! Your passion for being in the ocean is super infectious. I am so happy we share this love!

If you have any questions about spearfishing or purchasing equipment feel free to email Luca at ldgpatillo@gmail.com. 

Be sure to shoot him a follow on instagram @lucapatillo