If you are used to spearfishing in the Mediterranean or Hawaii, Maldives or The Bahamas, Florida or Croatia, brace yourself, because you are in for a completely different game. Canada's north west, is home to extremely difficult, cold and dark waters. Even though it has an abundance of species, the conditions are, to say the least, challenging. Large tidal fluctuations, heavy currents, low visibility, freezing water, strong thermoclines and pretty much pitch black at around -30m! So even though spearfishing in Canada can be very rewarding, it also poses a very large safety & diving challenge.
Alchemy partner Luca Malaguti, owner of Sea To Sky Freediving and The Freedive Wire, explains in this tell-all new video everything you need to know about spearfishing Canada's pacific north west.
What's Up Luca?
The pacific northwest of Canada is home to some of the most beautiful waters in the world. It is a stunning place to spearfish, with an abundance of species and it's also one of the most sustainable and fun activities you can do in the water. However, the conditions of freediving and spearfishing in the pacific northwest are a little bit different than somewhere like the Mediterranean. We have very challenging conditions including large tidal fluctuations, currents that are very strong, low visibility, cold water, strong thermoclines and pretty much pitch black at about 30, 40 meters, so spearfishing in the Canadian pacific northwest can be extremely rewarding, but it also poses a very large safety and diving challenge. The goal today is just to give you a few tips and tricks that i've learned personally while spearfishing and also teaching others to spearfish as well as harvest in the pacific northwest of Canada and also to give you my point of view about the equipment i use to make my life easier when i'm spearfishing in these conditions.
Do Your Homework
Some of the best places to spearfish in Canada are technically challenging and at times also very unsafe. For example, some spots where the tides can change from zero to five knots in just a matter of minutes, often tend to be the best spots to spearfish, because these tidal fluctuations mean that you're going to have a lot of marine life and that's where at times you can find some amazing amazing fish.
We have an abundance of species and a large biodiversity and it's important to recognize that each species tends to prefer a specific environment so we need to study the environment very closely in order to know and find successfully the locations of these species. For example lingcod, a fish that grows up to a meter and a half that is delicious, can be found in large underwater rocky outcrops where we have these massive boulder fields underwater, anywhere between 15 to 30 meters, and you can find some incredibly large lingcod, depending on the time of the year and the location. Greenling can be found in kelp forests and being able to spot the forests from the surface, before jumping in the water, increases your chances of finding a location where you have a lot of greenling, which happens to be delicious in ceviche as well. Rockfish in vermilion tend to be found in these underwater cracks, sometimes often very deep, so being able to find these locations with these interesting geological features underwater in areas that have a lot of anemones and other marine life, tends to increase the likelihood of finding rockfish. When we harvest crabs, red rock or dungeness crabs, we want to find areas that are sandy with certain features, in high current locations, with a lot of eelgrass for example. These tend to favor the living environment for different types of crabs.
First off, for deep dives where i'm planning on going maybe 25-30-35 meters, to catch a lingcod or another type of fish, i will use large fins, like my alchemy V330. I'm a huge fan of these fins because they give me the power i need when coming back up with a large fish. When harvesting will tend to be in shallow water, when catching crabs or rock scallops, so a shorter fin like the V3PRO is a bit better. You have more agility, more maneuverability and you're less likely to bump into rocks and scratch your fins. So when catching something like a rock scallop or some crabs, it's a little bit better the short fin i find you're more comfortable especially if you're going to be closer to the bottom.
Gloves with kevlar palms, these are fantastic for grabbing anything or also provide an excellent amount of grip on the hands. Always carry a knife, super important, we prefer wearing it on the inside of the leg rather than the outside because as i mentioned we'll often dive through kelp forests and i have had my knife caught into the kelp and it's not fun, so keeping it on the inside allows you to be more streamlined and decrease the likelihood of something catching. I like a watch with multiple depth alarms and time alarms as well as a watch that allows me to look at my profile when diving, that way i can learn how more efficient i can be, where i was wasting energy. As we know in freediving we would rather have a v-shaped profile but in spearfishing we will favor a u-shaped profile because we have some bottom time, so studying your profile and learning from it is actually very valuable for spearfishing.
Lastly, let's chat a bit about the most important piece of spearfishing equipment, your speargun. This is the Sphyrna Mokarran and it is my favorite gun to use, it's also handmade in Canada. The idea behind this gun is that it has the length of a reef gun but it has the power of a blue water gun. What do i mean by this? A blue water gun tends to be very long, 1.60, 1.80 sometimes, because it needs that power and that length to shoot something like a tuna. A reef gun needs the maneuverability and the agility of a smaller gun, because you're going into cracks you're going into boulder fields and into kelp forests. This gun combines both worlds. It has the power of a blue water gun because as you can see it has three bands so when all three are loaded this is strong enough to take down a tuna, but it has the length of a reef gun, so it's still short enough to be able to maneuver and be agile through something like a kelp forest.
Another very important piece of equipment of course is your wetsuit and how it differs from wetsuits from other places. Well in Canada it's very very cold, we can have up to 10 degrees on the surface with a thermocline down to six or five degrees of depth depending on the time of the year, so having a good warm wetsuit is super super important. Of course I love Oceaner Freediving, they are made in Canada and they are very warm custom made wetsuits. I will wear something like this, that is a 7mm top and a 5mm bottom. Even if the water's six degrees i stay pretty warm with gloves and booties, and the reason i like to wear a 7mm top and a 5mm bottom is because since i'm moving a lot i don't need as much buoyancy on the bottom. As long as i have my 7mm top, i will stay very warm.
From a safety point of view, there's something else that we have to consider, the fact that we cannot see our divers after a few meters. We tend to have these strong thermoclines in the pacific northwest, where the first few meters there is some fresh murky turbid water and the deeper you go it clears up, but it tends to be a little bit darker. So although we have better visibility at depth, we cannot really see each other from the surface and that presents an important safety consideration when spearfishing in Canada. Because of these thermoclines because of these changes in the salinity of the water from the surface and at depth and because we cannot see our buddies, we need to have different communication plans, we need to have different systems as well in how we dive down, in the direction we go, when we plan on coming up, how to time each other, how to discuss the depth we plan on going and as well about tethering the gun to the buoy, in order to be able to let go of the gun, just in case we need to come up.
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