Spearfishing with a friend, Morgan Halas, a Laie local well known on Instagram for his underwater photography, said his friend Kawika was a few feet below the surface, cutting up an old rotten fish to attract other fish, when he noticed a big tiger shark swim up a few feet over his friend’s head. “The shark noticed me staring at it and got scared and skittish and swam off in a rush. When me and Kawika came up for air, [Kawika] had no idea what had even happened.”
Spearfishing can be a dangerous, thrilling experience allowing people to feel as if they are swimming in a “whole new world,” said BYU-Hawaii students and locals as they shared their experiences.
Jared Ward, a senior from California majoring in exercise science, said his favorite thing about spearfishing is “it takes me completely out of the world I’m living in, and it drops me into a brand new one.
“It’s a whole new world … and I think because of that it helps me forget about all of my worries above the water; my to do lists, all of the things I need to get done; all of my stresses and allows me to enjoy the moment I’m in this brand new world.”
Ward said the most interesting thing he ever saw was when he was spearfishing in California. He said he was with a friend when they heard sonar beeping off in the distance. He said the visibility of the water was very unclear that day, but “we ended up seeing what we thought was a small private submarine.
“After doing research to see if there had been any other sightings or if it was from the military, we came up empty handed. Still to this day, we don’t know what it was or what they were doing. We were kind of freaked out by it, but it was a cool experience. “
Ward continued, “Another amazing thing I’ve personally seen in the water was when I was doing depth training about a fourth-mile outside of Shark’s Cove. We were 85 feet deep and a 10-foot tiger shark stumbled upon us. It was one of those experiences that you don’t know whether to be afraid or in shock. But it was an almost calming sensation, understanding that you have no control in the situation and that you’re in the water with a creature so much larger than you.
“When I first started, I was always afraid of sharks, but then after diving and having interactions with different kinds of sharks, I’ve realized they are the least of my problems and now I’m actually more afraid of eels.
“They’re like the snakes of the ocean. They will pop right out of holes and come charging out at you. They’re really aggressive.”
There are many dangerous factors that come into play when spearfishing. Hales said. “I’m scared of getting stuck down there and getting caught on the reef, but my biggest fear is getting bit by a moray eel. The eels are big and have gnarly teeth. They are all over and really slice through your skin.”
Nick Gruen, a junior from California studying marketing and photography, said he has been spearfishing for more than eight years.
“The most interesting sea creatures I’ve seen [while spearfishing] have been sharks, which I love. It always is a funny feeling and a bit eerie being in the water with them because they are there hunting for the same food as you.”
Ward said he got into spearfishing because “I got tired of not catching many fish with a [fishing] rod. I grew up fishing with my dad, but when I was about 15, I saw a couple of guys spearfishing.
“I thought it was the coolest thing ever, watching [spear fishermen] come out with a ton of fish, because there were a lot of guys fishing from land and they weren’t catching anything. This caused me to think that the people spearfishing must have figured something out that the land fisherman didn’t know.”
Diving since he was a little kid, Hale said, “Growing up, all of my family spearfished. Whenever we would have big parties, we would go catch the fish for that night’s dinner.”
Hale said, “I like to spear fish because it’s good for you and makes you feel better. It’s a healthy sport that gives you a rush but is relaxing at the same time.”
Gruen said, “I spear fish because I love the ocean. It’s such a beautiful place and it’s full of things that we don’t always get to see. Underwater, everything is mysterious and unknown. There is always a new crazy experience to be had.”
To those who interested in spearfishing for the first time, Gruen suggested, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t go out. Find someone who is willing to teach you and dive with you. You never want to dive past your comfort zone. There is no point to push yourself when spearfishing because it is not a controlled environment and it is not safe. The most important part of all of this is to be respectful to the ocean and the island and its people. Don’t take more than you need and don’t be wasteful. Always catch what you eat and eat what you catch.”