You don’t have to be a die-hard spearo to hunt underwater in the Bahamas. While this Caribbean paradise can easily spoil any angler, spearfishing in the Bahamas is a real treat. It’s a must-do for any avid fisherman and even nature lovers. And for good reason!
It may seem as though the Bahamas were designed specifically for spearfishing. There are over 700 islands and 2,400 keys (or cays) with a myriad of fish species waiting to be discovered. It’s hard to describe the beauty of the Bahamian underwater world; it’s something you’ll just have to experience yourself.
In this guide, we’ll do our best to prepare you for spearfishing around the Bahamas’ gorgeous reefs so that you get closer to feeling at home on the oceans. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.
What does Bahamas spearfishing look like?
So, is spearfishing legal in the Bahamas? The first thing you need to do know about your Bahamas spearfishing adventure is that any kind of underwater air supply, such as air compressors and scuba gear, isn’t allowed.
In addition to that, using spearguns is also illegal. Your weapon of choice, therefore, is a Hawaiian sling, while hunting itself will include snorkeling or freediving. But this just makes Bahamas spearfishing even more interesting, right?
Normally, freediving takes place near the reefs in waters 30–60 feet deep. Most Bahamas spearfishing charters prefer diving with experienced adults, although you can find guides that work with beginners. Before you begin your trip, the captain will show you how to use the equipment to make sure you have a safe and fun experience.
Bahamas Spearfishing Gear
As we mentioned above, spearguns aren’t allowed in the Bahamas. Instead, you’ll be using either a pole spear or Hawaiian sling, the underwater version of a bow and arrow. Some guides also use a Portuguese sling, although it’s not that common.
Here’s a list of the spearfishing equipment you may need in the Bahamas:
- Low volume mask. It’s not uncommon for divers to experience “mask squeeze” at deeper depths, so using a lower volume mask is a good idea. It equalizes the space inside the mask and helps you conserve more air.
- Wetsuit. Even though you’ll most likely be diving in warm water, it can get quite chilly when you come back to the boat.
- Weight belt. This may sound a bit extra, but a good weight belt actually helps you stay down on the bottom easier and prevents you from floating.
- Gloves. Using gloves to protect your hands (and keep them warm, too) is never a bad idea. You don’t necessarily have to purchase a special pair of spearfishing ones – surfing gloves work just fine.
- Freediving fins. As you dive deeper into the water, longer freediving fins may help you save energy. Some locals suggest getting anything from quality plastic fins to carbon fiber or fiberglass ones.
- A pole spear. A pole spear has a spear and a tip with a rubber sling attached to it.
- A Hawaiian sling. As we mentioned earlier, a Hawaiian sling is a good alternative to a pole spear.
Top Bahamas Spearfishing Targets
It’s time to talk about what you can target on your Bahamas spearfishing adventure. There’s a plethora of vibrant fish that are both delicious and nutritious, a great reward for spearos of all levels.
Depending on where you’ll be heading, the list of your potential targets may vary. There are warm coastal waters, coral reefs, wrecks, and deep waters all at your mercy. So, what can you put from your spear to your plate in the Bahamas? Let’s start with the most obvious choice.
As locals say, spearfishing Lobster – or Crawfish – in the Bahamas is nothing but pure joy. You get to wade or free dive, and once you’ve spotted your Lobster, you’ll use a spear and Hawaiian sling to strike it. As well as that, you can try catching your Lobster using just your hands. In fact, some spearos prefer this method to others, since you can easily overdo it with a spear and damage the Lobster’s meat. Just make sure to wear your gloves!
Bahamas Lobster season opens on August 1 and lasts all the way until March 31. Lobsters are in abundance throughout the country, although Spanish Wells is considered the “Lobster Capital.” Look in and around shallow reefs – that’s where Crawfish usually prefer to hang out.
Snapper & Grouper
So, what about other fish? Snapper and Grouper are also popular targets on Bahamas spearfishing trips. Lane, Queen, Mutton, Yellowtail, and Red Snapper are on the menu here, along with Black, Gag, and the absolute superstar – Nassau Grouper.
You can usually find Snapper around all types of reef structure or even in the open water. Depending on where your spearfishing trip takes place, it’s always safe to count on shallow reef areas and rocky points with deep gutters. Snappers tend to hang out beside rocky structure and weeds, hiding from bigger predators.
Groupers also love structure. It’s actually not uncommon to go for both Groupers and Snappers on the same trip. Look for wrecks, rocks, drop-offs with shelves, holes, and under ledges for a hungry Grouper.
It’s hard to argue that spearfishing for Hogfish is absolutely iconic throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. And the Bahamas are no exception. Shallow waters, ledges, reefs, and rocky bottoms are perfect spots to look for Hogfish.
Just like Grouper, Snapper, and Lobster, Hogfish are abundant in the Bahamas. They’re the perfect target for beginner spearfishermen, being a prized fish that isn’t that hard to catch. Hogfish are also available throughout the year, with peak season coming in February and March and then from June through August.
With such an abundance of fish species to hunt for, the list of potential targets doesn’t end here. You’ll have the opportunity to (carefully) target the infamous Lionfish, along with Amberjack, and even Black Bream – or Margate, as it’s often known. While hunting for Lobster, you may also go for Conch, a delicious mollusk that can be found along the seafloor.
Where can I spearfish in the Bahamas?
The short answer is – anywhere. All the islands, bays, and coves of the Bahamas are perfect for spearfishing, hands down. You’ll need to look for areas around coral reefs and wrecks with shallow water that’s easier to spearfish.
Here’s the list of our top picks for spearfishing in the Bahamas:
- Andros Island. Fancy spearfishing in one of the longest barrier reefs in the world? Sure you do! Andros Island is the perfect place to dive for Black Grouper, Nassau Grouper, Margate, Yellowfin, and Hogfish in blue holes, deeper reefs, and drop-offs.
- Cat Island. Located in the eastern Bahamas with the Atlantic to the east and the Exuma Sound to the west, Cat Island has some of the biggest hills dropping to hundreds of fathoms. It’s a real diver’s paradise, especially when you take into account all the Sharks that patrol the local waters.
- Grand Bahama Island. Grand Bahama has some of the clearest and deepest waters in the Caribbean, if not the whole world. It’s also home to beautiful reefs with various Snappers, perfect for a curious spearo.
- Guana Cay. Guana Cay is a small, narrow island just 8 miles away from Marsh Harbor. It’s located near Gumelemi Cay, in the center of Abaco Island. It’s perfect for a spearfishing trip, since you won’t usually find too much fish traffic here.
- Walker’s Cay. Lying 53 miles to the north of West End, Walker’s Cay’s beautiful reefs serve as the northern getaway to the Bahamas. Here, you may want to jump on a boat and head to slightly deeper waters to search for Hogfish or many other spearfishing targets.
- Nassau. Who wouldn’t want to spearfish right in the capital? As the administrative and cultural center of the Bahamas, Nassau is also the perfect spot for spearfishing. There are various suitable places throughout the city, although you might need to consult with a local guide whether you’re diving near a “family island,” which is forbidden.
- Shark Wall. A coral nursery for various marine life, Shark Wall is located near New Providence Island. As you might’ve guessed, Sharks frequently patrol the local waters which, in turn, can give you a spearfishing experience like no other.
- Spanish Wells. Located off the northern tip of Eleuthera island, Spanish Wells is the go-to place for Lobsters. Spearfishing in the “Lobster Capital” is so popular that, whenever the season starts, almost every local here can be a Lobster fisherman.
Any spots where spearfishing in the Bahamas isn’t allowed?
There are certain spots where you won’t be able to hunt underwater. Spearfishing – or any kind of fishing actually – is forbidden in National Marine Parks. As well as that, spearos can’t fish within 200 yards of any of the Out Islands, including the Berry Islands, Rum Cay, San Salvador, Ragged Island, Long Island, Mayaguana, Bimini, the Abacos, Andros, Acklins & Crooked Island, Inagua, the Exumas, and Eleuthera.
You also can’t spearfish within one mile of the south coast of Grand Bahama Island and New Providence. When spearfishing in Nassau, you’ll need to be at least a mile off the coast and 200 yards off any island with residents on it.
Bahamas Spearfishing Season
So, when is the best time for a Bahamas spearfishing trip? The tourist season here begins around mid-December and lasts through April. And although this Caribbean country is blessed with great temperatures all year round, the Bahamas sit on the “Hurricane Belt.” The hurricane season lasts from June to November.
Coincidentally, the best time to spearfish is during the summer months and in September. Most of the species come to the warm waters around the islands, which you can use to your advantage if you’re flexible. The only things you need to keep in mind are last-minute cancellations and weather conditions.
Another important thing to keep in the mind is sizes and restrictions. For example, Lobster spearfishing is “off” season from April 1 to July 31, and you’ll only be allowed to keep 10 tails of 3-3.8-inch carapace length (or 6 inches tail length) at any given time. Egg-bearing female Lobsters are forbidden to harvest. Plus, you can’t keep more than six conchs per vessel.
There’s also a closed season for Nassau Grouper from December 1 through the last day of February. Bag limits also apply: you’re allowed to keep no more than two Nassau Grouper per day.
If you book a trip with a local guide, you’ll be able to worry less about regulations and concentrate on enjoying the experience. Fishing with a licensed charter is your best option to make sure you’re fishing within the law. A knowledgeable guide will go through all the local regulations and restrictions before you dive into the water.
Do I need a special license to spearfish in the Bahamas?
As we mentioned above, fishing with a Bahamian charter service is the safest and easiest option. All the necessary gear, including Hawaiian slings, is usually provided by the crew. As well as that, you don’t need to purchase a license to spearfish if you book a trip with a licensed charter.
If you prefer to go solo, you’ll need to have a license to spearfish in the Bahamas. You can obtain specific authorization to use a spear while applying for your sportfishing permit. Feel free to learn more about it here.
Spearfishing in the Bahamas – Beyond The Beaches
Beyond the casinos and beautiful beaches with white sand and tasty cocktails lies a different Bahamas. After just one dive, you’ll get the chance to see that Bahamians truly take care of their marine life. Sure, there are strict rules you need to follow but in the end, it’s all worth it. You get a chance to be a real underwater hunter in one of the hundreds of islands with waters so beautiful and fish so abundant that it makes Bahamas spearfishing almost too good to be true.
Have you ever been spearfishing in the Bahamas? What did you catch? What is the most delicious target this Caribbean paradise has to offer? Let us know in the comments below!