YES! Shooting massive Yellowfin Tuna is nothing new in the freedive/spearfishing world. It has, however, continued to become more attainable for anyone with the serious desire to test their hunting abilities (and patience) on these incredibly strong fish. Advances in spearfishing gear has made this possible. Powerful spearguns, heavier floatlines, and inflatable floats that can withstand the pressure of being dragged down to the 3rd or even 4th atmosphere have completely changed the game! If you’ve ever hooked a yellowfin tuna on rod and reel, then you understand the sheer power these creatures have. So how can it be possible to jump into their environment and shoot one? And the bigger question is, how do you land one? The answer is to let the gear do a majority of the fighting for you. Work SMARTER not HARDER!
The basic setup for what we freedive spearfishermen call “bluewater spearfishing” is a larger 3-4 banded speargun in the 60”- 65”(120cm-150cm) range, a floatline and an inflatable or “hard float”. The typical shaft size is a 5/16” shaft with a slip-tip and either cable shooting line or Dyneema/Spectra. A slip-tip works like a dart tip on a harpoon and allows the shaft pull out of the fish to prevent excessive tearing, which can cause fish to shake free in some situations. Although it’s not necessary, I highly recommend using slip-tips for any larger species when spearfishing.
Spearmaster Slip-Tip Rigged with Spectra
Next is the floatline, which is used to connect your shooting line (or your entire gun) to the float. I personally recommend using what is known as a “breakaway” system so you never have to watch your gun disappear into the depths and pray you see it again! This system connects a longline clip directly from the floatline to the shooting line and “breaks away” from the gun entirely, allowing the diver to keep the gun on the surface. This is especially beneficial if you're planning on hunting around serious structure where your fish may end up entangled, such as an oil rig or shipwreck. Most divers hunting these yellowfin tuna will use a 75-100ft bungee float line or 75ft non-bungee line with a 15-25ft bungee line in combination. The bungee is incredibly important to act as a “shock absorber” to eliminate some of the pressure the fish has on it. Less pressure = greater chance of landing the fish.
Neptonics Breakaway System on 68" Custom Blacktip Speargun
This leads us to final piece of the puzzle, the float. There are two types of floats: inflatable floats such as a Riffe 2ATM Float (the most popular) and the “hard floats” such as a Rob Allen 30L Hardfloat. My advice is to go with an inflatable float. 30 L is a great size. If you're planning on diving in deep water (500ft+) I would highly recommend using at least two floats with a stretch of 25 ft bungee or regular floatline connecting them. If one float is smaller make that your first float connected to the float line and the largest float to be the last float on the line in order to progressively add more pressure as the fish attempts to pull them under. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THESE FISH! Be prepared. Double check your gear. Triple check your gear. Nobody likes losing fish to an avoidable mistake like gear failure!
30L Spearmaster Float, 11L Rob Allen Float, 75ft Riffe Bungee Line and 25ft Riffe Bungee Line
So, now you have your gear all set up. How do we hunt these elusive fish? As you probably already know, tunas of every species are known for a couple characteristics aside from their brute strength and those are eyesight and cautiousness. A matured yellowfin tuna will vanish just as quickly as they appear if they suspect any bit of threat. It’s important to gain the trust of the fish. Once the fish has decided it is in no grave danger, they’ll begin to come closer and closer until they are in range for a shot. How do we accomplish entering their environment without posing as a threat? Body language! This goes for every species of fish you’ll ever hunt. Although some don't seem to care about our presence as much as others, yellowfin tuna are not on that list.
The key to hunting these fish is to blend in as much possible. There are plenty of other large creatures they encounter such as sharks, whales, turtles, etc. None of these larger creatures scare off a tuna – why? It’s because these animals are not actively pursuing the tunas. They are minding their own business and coexisting. Perhaps one of the biggest changes you can make in your underwater hunting is to simply SLOW DOWN. This will help in every aspect of your diving; breath hold, body language, ability to analyze what’s going on and you may even see things that typically elude you simply moving a bit slower.
So the fish is in range – where do I shoot it? Contrary to what most people would think, you’re not actually interested in shooting this fish in the brain – what we would call a “stone shot”. The reason being is that these fish are typically moving too fast to hit that small of a target and if that target isn't hit, the surrounding area of the tuna's brain is very vulnerable to shots ripping out. The best place to shoot these fish is actually towards the tail in a thick part of the fish between their “sickle” fins. The shot will hold best there and you're essentially hindering the “motor” of the fish by the pressure pulling from his tail.
Remember! Your gear is monumental in your success as a spearfisherman, especially when hunting a fish like a yellowfin tuna. Choose your gear wisely and always double check it! Practice slowing everything down and you’ll master great body language. Focus on a good holding shot as opposed to the “hero” shot of “stoning” a Yellowfin Tuna. Now get out there and shoot some sea monsters!!
Freediving Instructors International Level 1 Instructor
Florida Freedivers Team Diver