How to become an Underwater Hunter - Force-E Scuba Centers

How to become an Underwater Hunter

  • Posted on
  • By Jim “Chiefy” Mathie
  • Posted in Scuba Tips
How to become an Underwater Hunter

Mastering the skills needed to be a successful underwater hunter it is important to want to do the research.

As the author of two books, Catching the Bug-2nd Edition and Catching the Spear-it!, I’m often asked how do I become an underwater hunter? After becoming an Open Water Diver, the thought may enter your mind to learn the skills to harvest marine life. This basic drive of hunting extends as far back as the caveman and it’s helpful if as a diver you’ve had skills of being a land hunter.


The most important component is to be relaxed underwater and have a complete mastery of your diving abilities. It’s hard to focus on spearing a fish if you still having to properly clear your mask and adjust your buoyancy. It’s easy to get distracted while hunting underwater, so I always recommend being at least Advanced Certified along with Nitrox Certified, as our reef topography is plentiful in the deeper depths. Self-reliance is important, even while diving with a buddy, as you can easily become separated while hunting. Some teaching agencies do have specialty courses on spearfishing or underwater hunting, which may give you the opportunity to get an underwater one-on-one instruction.


Additionally, from an in-water perspective while hunting, I prefer whoever I’m hunting with be side-to-side, not behind me or in front of me. Depending on the visibility, that can range from 10 to 20 feet.


As an underwater hunter you’re adding more gear which requires another level of understanding and competency. Depending on the season, I suggest adding one area of focus at a time.


Dive it All

Spiny Lobster:

If it’s spiny lobster season then get the finding, catching and eating down with your new equipment. You’ll need a lobster bag, and I always recommend the trap door, lobster hotels, where “the guests check in but don’t check out.” You’re required to have a measuring device underwater but it’s best to figure how to attach it to you and make it easily accessible. I have mine on a cord attached to my lobster bag. The choice of a snare or net and tickle stick is a personal comfort one, however, I recommend attaching it to your BCD in a consistent location. I’m right-handed, so my lobster gear is on my right side.


If it’s lobster season, concentrate on getting your gear where it’s easily accessed and you’re comfortable using all of it. And don’t forget to zipper or close your lobster bag!!!


Of course, I recommend getting a copy of my book Catching the Bug-2nd Edition as a great resource to finding, catching and eating the lobster.



As you get more experience with catching the bug, then add in lionfish harvesting gear. You’ll notice lobster and lionfish are found in the same area of the reef. They are great indicators and harvesting lionfish helps the environment and the best part is they’re very good to eat.


Most of us use a small spear and I do have heavy sheers attached to a retractor to trim them underwater. When I’m actively harvesting lionfish, there’s nothing better than the zookeeper®.  It needs to be attached to you and don’t place your hands near the opening but only use the handle.


April is a down time for hunting as lobster season ends March 31st and grouper and hogfish re-open on May 1st in the state of Florida. April is when the Chiefy crew do some cleaning of the reefs of all lionfish and we participate in several local lionfish derbies throughout the year. 



There’s a lot to spearing a fish and I look forward to just spearing fish. Don’t get me wrong, the Chiefy crew carries a speargun throughout the year, however, the months of May, June, and July except during mini season, are strictly spearing fish. It’s a nice change to leave the lobster gear at home and just carry a spear gun.


A great starting point is to get a copy of my other book, Catching the Spear-it!, as it gives you the ABC’s of spearfishing. It’s the three R’s and four S’s of spearfishing, which is a helpful way to organize your thoughts.



Dive it All

  • 1st R-Fish Recognition
  • 2nd R-Fish Regulation
  • 3rd R-Fish Range
  • 1st S-See the Fish
  • 2nd S-Stalk the Fish
  • 3rd S-Shoot the Fish
  • 4th S-Secure the Fish


Spearfishing is a lot like driving on a highway, as the tactics change from lobster and lionfish hunting. If your hunting on Scuba or freediving, you want to be as high off the reef as the visibility to allow you to hunt. Finding lobster and lionfish is like driving around the city streets, as you’re looking in the reef. This requires great buoyancy control to not damage the reef, but spearfishing gets you high off the reef. You’re looking down the reef for fish to spear as opposed to looking in every area of the reef.


Depending on the time of year depends on what underwater hunting you want to focus on for the best results. The disclaimer is I’m mainly focused on south Florida, and this changes as you go to different areas of the country. Either way, it’s important to have complete mastery of your diving skills as you add other abilities to successfully achieve underwater hunting.


The many benefits of harvesting your own seafood are numerous but I enjoy being able to add spiny lobster and fish to the dinner menu so I eat like a local. Focus on one area at a time and soon enough you’ll be mastering the skills needed to be a successful underwater hunter.


Jim 'Chiefy' Mathie
Jim "Chiefy" Mathie is a locally-known lobster slayer for more than 30 years and author of "Catching the Bug, The Comprehensive Guide to Catching the Florida Spiny Lobster-second edition" and “Catching the Spear-it! The ABC’s of Spearfishing.”