Hunting fish with a spear was one of the earliest skills learned by ancient prehistoric man. Today this ancient life skill is now hobby to a growing legion of spear fishermen who take to the depths while on the lookout for monsters of the ocean. Mississippi, with its 359-miles of tidal shoreline and chain of barrier islands, offers its own challenges and rewards to those who would spearfish the 228.
Spearfishing is the ultimate blend between a hunter and an angler. It takes the sportsman into the underwater lair of the gamefish it would normally only see once it broke the surface. The sport allows the angler to become a stalker, a visiting sniper in a foreign water world, and is unlike any hunting or fishing that you have ever done before.
Safety in diving in general and spearfishing in particular are a must. It is commonly said that there are 100 ways for a speardiver to die and some serious thought, preparation, and planning need to accompany every trip. Never dive alone, always use your ‘diver-down’ flags, and shadow an experienced spear diver on your first trips. Stay at least 200 yards from jetties, docks, and shipping channels. Carry a knife as monofilament line is often found along any reef or wreck and can be a hazard. With that said, spear fishing is an amazing experience once you get the hang of it.
Spearfishing in the Mississippi Sound is not ideal difficult due to the chocolate-milk visibility of the shallow waters between the coastline and the barrier islands, but not impossible. Spear anglers in the sound often see huge Sheepshead and the sport brings a new dimension to those who would snorkel for flounder, stripers, and reds without the investment in SCUBA gear. Inside the Sound, some of the large rubble piles offer decent gamefish opportunities. Lionfish, one of the worst invasive species in the Gulf, are great targets for spear fishermen and every one of them assassinated is a win for the fishing community on all levels.
When going outside of the sound, the rigs starting about five miles south of the islands are the best bet as the water column clears fast once you descend below twenty feet and some very large gamefish haunt these offshore jackups. Many of the offshore reefs such as the Liberty Ships, the Ship Island Barge, and others are good for snapper, AJs, and cobia and are not as far out there as the rigs.
Regs and gear
DMR regulations for spearfishing are elusive to find on their website but in general keep to the recreational fishing limits, have your license beforehand, and keep away from shooting at borderline legal fish as once you spear a fish its yours to keep, legal or not. For more in-depth info on the regs, you can call DMR at (800) 374-3449.
Several of the local dive shops, in particular Jerry and Dan over at The Dive Shop in Diberville, are spear hunting gurus and can help you out with local tips and tricks as well as the best gear. A small and eclectic group of Mississippi spear divers has formed Menfish, a support group for their habit and you can visit them at http://www.menfish.org.
The use of spear guns is not legal in the freshwater of Mississippi-, which is all water north of Hwy 90. Buffalo, carp, gar, catfish, shad, bowfin, and Freshwater Drum may be taken throughout the year with a bow and arrow, crossbow, and hand thrown-spear or gig. Catfish may be taken with a spear or gig during the period from July 16- April 30. Handheld spears and gigs, and crossbows cannot be used at any State Fishing Lake. Again these spear regulations are for spears that are thrown or hand-held –not shot out of a spear gun of any type so be sure to restrict your spearfishing to ‘south of 90’
So with that in mind, shop around for your spear gun, but keep it in the 228. There are plenty of targets down there for it.