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By Cameron KirkConnell
Take a look-and listen-to what’s going on down there.
One of the most challenging things for me as a fisherman is knowing what is actually going on below the surface.
Some of the best in the world have never seen what happens when a mutton snapper picks up a bait, or how slowly a wahoo is usually swimming. They just have theories based on experience and the feel of the bite. You can have everything perfect. The right bait, hook, fluorocarbon to braid knot. You’re marking fish on the recorder. But you don’t get hit. It’s frustrating, but sometimes that is what it takes to get even the most stoic angler into the water.
As a Florida Sportsman, you likely have already gone scalloping on the West Coast or to the Keys for lobster season. Swimming at the surface with your mask, snorkel and fins, you at some point had to hold your breath and leave the comfort of unlimited air for just a few seconds to grab dinner or check under a coral head. Little did you know you are now a freediver.
You stopped being a snorkeler the second you left the surface and entered a new realm and a sport that will challenge and reward you and combine three of your favorite things: hunting, fishing and diving. As with any other sport on the water, there is a lot to learn and safety is the number one priority with anyone wanting to go past the snorkeling phase.
Freediving can be a dangerous sport when not done properly and before you do anything else, please take a freedive class. Over the next few months, I’m going to share tips, stories and techniques on freediving, spearfishing, lobstering, and fishing that will help you get the most out of your time above and below the water, but nothing can replace the knowledge you will gain in an actual class.
Personally, I am a hunter. If I am leaving the surface and heading down 30, 60 or 100 feet, something is coming back up with me. I grew up watching my father and mother, cousins and extended family freedive and catch lobster, conchs and spear amazing fish in the Caribbean and here in Florida and there was nothing I wanted more than to be a part of that contagious excitement of each dive.
That thrill is one of the coolest parts about spearfishing and freediving. No matter what your age, you can freedive. Granted, the better the shape you are in, the more relaxed you are, the better you are going to dive, but in two days most freedive classes will have you diving 66 feet, holding your breath for three minutes, and teach you the safety to protect both yourself and your friends as you dive.
Each time you are in the water you are going to be more relaxed and everything around you will react accordingly. If you are swimming like you’re being chased, all the fish are going to think the same and not stick around to see what is chasing you. Act the way you want them to act.
The same goes for fishing. When you run up to your spot on a full plane and then do five circles over it before ramming it in reverse and dropping anchor, how do you think the fish are going to react?
When you are in the water, the sound of the engines going in and out of gear can be equated to a cannon shot and I’ve blamed more than one missed fish I was lining up on whomever was running the boat (not my poor marksmanship). Whether it is a school of tunas or groupers on a wreck, be mindful of your approach with the boat and even more so while you are diving.
Dive safe, fish smarter and each day on the water is going to be better than the last. FS
Editor’s Note: We’re proud to introduce a new FS Seminar Dive column with contributions by Cameron Kirkconnell, a globe-trotting, record-holding spearfisherman and resident of Southeast Florida. Kirkconnell will be covering a range of topics, from safety tips to gear selection to trip-planning.
First published Florida Sportsman August 2016