NZ Spearo Articles by Dan Silveira


            Rafting down rivers, drifting in the ocean, eluding sharks, breaking equipment, and eating spicy food, this trip to Bali has its place for every adventure seeker. Amongst the kayos of busy streets and into the land of the unknown, I found serenity beneath the sea. The ocean is pure and honest, humbling even the most skilled divers.


            I started the trip out looking for “Fish Attracting Devices” or “F.A.D.’s”. These oceanic structures are hand made out of bamboo and anchored to the bottom, hundreds of feet below. FAD’S offer refuge to small baitfish which intern brings in bigger fish fallowed by giant pelagic fish. Normally the local fishermen own the FAD’s and control who can fish it. After using a native interpreter, I was able to negotiate them into taking me out diving for 30,000 Rupia or $33 U.S. dollars. The charter included a traditional canoe with a captain that did not speak English. There seamed to be a mutual understanding of loyalty among us and I knew that he would keep a close eye on me.


            These FAD’s are known to have wahoo, dorado, barracuda, amber jack, tuna marlin, and even oceanic whitetip sharks. About 3 miles offshore I could see the bamboo FAD bouncing in the swells. I started to get excited as I prepared my gear. The trip out seemed to take forever as we chugged along at a whopping 5 miles per hour. Just as the heat on my back started to become unbearable, we arrived and I jumped in the water. Instantly, I was welcomed by a large barracuda and a few racing skipjack. I had a good feeling that this spot would produce big fish. I was using my Omer 130 rail gun with a breakaway system set up to a bungee and my buoy. After about 30 minutes of diving without seeing anything special, it was time to break out my deadly weapon, “the flashers”. Flashers are a great way of luring in distant game like wahoo closer for a shot. Sure enough, 2 drifts later as I was quietly waiting at 30 feet when 2 large wahoo came in for a peak. 10 feet beneath the surface and slipping through the water with ease the wahoo were out of range. I gradually swam upwards to them until they started to swim away and BANG! I took a long shot about 18 feet away hitting the fish mid body sending it off like a bullet, skipping my buoy across the surface. After 10 minutes of fallowing the buoy the fish tired and I was content with the 1st day’s success.


            Once the trade winds calmed down on the island after a few days, my friends and I decided to go to a secret spot where the currents are almost certainly the strongest in all south East Asia. This happened to be an important date for us because is was the highest and lowest tidal change this area of the world had seen in 11 years. That meant that the currents would be raging up to 12 knots and the tuna would be thick if we could even get in the water. I was both excited and terrified at the same time.


            On the boat ride out we discussed some serious issues that had my heart pounding. This was a spot that has taken the lives of many divers and one of my friends experienced loosing his dive partner there a few years back. He was really concerned with the current, but also knew that if you dove smart there would not be any issues.


            The biggest problem with the current is getting stuck below it, because it is impossible to swim through it. We saw it as a sheet of ice. The only way back up is around it.  Finally I got in the water. Quickly I scanned anxiously looking for clear water, but I couldn’t see anything. The white wash from the current was like swimming through a snowstorm. I quickly swam to the backside of the rock and away from the ridiculous current to let my nerves unwind. One of the divers fallowed and I was relieved to know that other experienced divers also needed a break to relax.


            Soon we were diving in the beautiful blue water. I could faintly make out the bottom some 70 feet below. This was a nice sight for me, having been used to the cold murky waters of Northern California where I live. I descended to 75 feet and waited patiently for a passing tuna, but as I glanced up I saw a LARGE BULL SHARK headed straight for my friend on the surface. The shark was about 60 feet away from him and he still had not managed to see it yet. I quickly bolted up towards the shark with my gun extended ready to defend my friend, Soon enough the shark turned and swam away into the blue. I shouted to my dive partner “Shark”. Quickly, I explained the situation and before I finished we looked down to see 2 more BIG BULL SHARKS swimming aggressively only 10 feet below us. By now it was apparent that this was their territory and we had to get out.  With a shout and a few waves of the gun, the boat was pulling us in.


            We moved to another spot where the current was not so bad and I jumped back in. This was not a spot known for Bull sharks, but stories of huge Tiger sharks were told about where I was now diving. The skin on my back was still prickly and I had to force my self to relax. In only a few moments my friend dove down and shot a small Giant Travelli. He played it out to see who might come in, and like clock work the dogtooth tuna showed up. I dove down and waited for the school to turn back around. I lined up on the lead fish and placed a perfect shot. The 50 pound fish took off for the bottom, but mortally wounded the fish gave up quick and we had the first tuna on board.


            Now we knew where the fish were. All I had to do now was learn their pattern of hunting and stay put. Soon I found a rock that sat in a patch of sand 70 feet below. This looked like a good spot, because on my left the water was raging down current, to my right the water was back flowing up current, in front of me was the backside of a reef, and behind me the drop off continually sloped towards deeper water. I parked my self there continually making drops to 60 feet for 1:30 then fallowing up with a 1:30 surface interval. In Just a few dives I had the timing down perfectly and I would see 3-5 tuna on every drop. The tuna I was seeing were mostly about 20-30 pounds, but occasionally I would see a hog over 100 pounds. After a few hours of consistent diving. I saw a Large shape appear 50 feet in front of me fallowed by 3 or 4, 60 pound tuna. I was in perfect position, 15 feet off the bottom, and right above the rock.  As the fish swam closer, I  lined up on what ended up being a GIANT DOG TOOTH TUNA.  I pulled the trigger from about 16 feet away. The shaft went into his upper back and came out near the gill plate in the other side. Quickly, I grabbed on to the float line and started pulling, but the fish was too strong and I found myself going deeper. I had already been down 1:45 and it was time for air, so I let go of the float line only to see all 4 of my hard 11-liter Rob Allen buoys sounding towards me. I bolted for the surface and watched my buoys 50 feet below me. I knew this was a big fish, but I did not expect the immense power, when all of a sudden my buoys came back up. I quickly pulled in my float line thinking that the mono must have broken, then realized it was actually the 500 pound spectra line that connected the shaft to the slip tip. I was extremely disappointed that the line had snapped, but all I have to say now is “I will no longer be using spectra on my slip tip”. We speculated that the fish was some where in the range of 160 to 180 pounds. It would have been nice to land a Dogtooth tuna of this size, but these fish always seem to test our equipment.


            Over the next couple days, I managed to land many tuna in the 30-50 pound class. On one of my dives, I was coming up from a long breath at 70 feet when I saw a BIG GIANT TRAVELLI on the surface above me, so I swam full speed towards it. It didn’t even know I was there, so I shot it from below piercing the shaft through the top of its head on the way out. I STONED the huge 60-pound Giant travelli. It was the weirdest shot that I had ever taken, right from below the fish.  I quickly threw the fish in the boat and jumped back into the water as a pod of dolphins came by to inspect the commotion. I felt fortunate to see the dolphins this time instead of sharks, and knew that the area was safe to dive. I quickly went back to my spot and dove down to end up shooting a nice 70 pound tuna about 20 feet away. I knew that shot was long but I took it and for a moment the fish was paralyzed. I started pulling it in but when the shaft came out of the fish toggling the slip tip on the other side the fish came to life and stripped the line though my gloves. Wak, the hard buoy hid my hand and pulled me back down. Quickly I remembered the words of my friend “do not get caught below the current”, so I let go of the buoy and watched it power through the swirling down currents. The fish went straight for the center of the raging current where he continually bounced my buoy like a cork. After about 15 minutes the fish started to relax, I yelled to the boat Capitan who dropped me in the water to retrieve my prized catch. It was exciting to spear 2 huge fish back to back, and I figured I had achieved my goals on this trip. It was now time to rejoice and drink a nice cold Ben Tang beer.


Trema Kashi — I thank the Indonesians for all their hard work and knowledge of the sea.

Until the next story… 

Dan Silveira


A cold beer, a plate of fish tacos, a view of hot girls on the beach, and a guy wearing a sombrero, are the typical thoughts one may have of Mexico, but for a selected few, their thoughts are bigger – more extreme. Hunting tuna, marlin, dorado, and eating ceveche reminds me more of Mexico than any other colorful combination fun in the land of tequila. Yes, the sun is hot and I should be on the beach getting a tan, but that would simply go against my genetic code. I am a spearfisherman and I rather be looking for the real prize – giant fish!


I prepare for the long 50 mile run out to the fishing grounds by meticulously checking every piece of my equipment, knowing that the potential to boating large tuna was good. To hunt for these magnificent fish takes time, money and determination. Several trips have yielded less fortunate rewards for me, but time eventually gives in and we bag hefty game that would satisfy even the most extreme sushi connoisseur. For many divers, yellowfin tuna is considered to be the ultimate fish to spear. I have been on many trips where every 20 minutes I see schools of large yellowfin in the 200 pound class. While there may be many, it does not mean they will end up in the boat. These fish roam the vast blue, and never settle in one area. One week the fish could be there and the next they could be gone. These fish are also extremely wary of divers therefore judging distance is extremely hard. It requires patience and persistence to have a good day hunting Yellowfin Tuna.


I planed the trip to Mexico like usual, six months in advance. I have gathered a few hardcore divers that are committed to the hunt. Tom Fiene, Joe Sarapochillo and Mark Debolski. The time had come for us to make the ultimate vow. We emptied 3 massive coolers and agreed that we would not come back home till they were full of fish.

Upon our arrival at the airport the lady, at the bag check, thought we were crazy for caring huge empty coolers up and down the isles. We checked our bags and thought about all the gear we had packed the night before. We had enough equipment fit for an army.

My weapon of choice for this trip was a custom, teak wood, BIG GAME speargun. It is 70 inches long and shoots a 11/32in  by 72in shaft by means of five thick bands. I designed and customized every piece of my equipment to insure perfection and success. While I would hunt with my BIG GAME gun most of the time, I also stocked my quiver of guns with euro style 130cm guns for other potential fish that we might encounter in shallower locations.


After driving for 2 hours by boat, we were finally in the middle no-mans land. The open ocean tipped the boat side to side as the Capitan looked for the seamount. I prepared my diving gear, and loaded my gun. I was the second diver in the water and within 20 seconds, just as I came out of the prop wash, I saw a large 250-300 pound blue Marlin, headed straight for me. I froze and kept my profile as slim as possible. Just as I started worrying that the massive fish was going to spear me, he turned broadside about 18 feet away. We were both on the surface, and I did not want to spook the fish, so I took aim and squeezed the trigger. Wak!!! I hit the marlin right behind the gill plate. The shaft went into the fish and protruded from the other side. The shot was a bit high, but I figured it would hold.


            The marlin took off like a freight train. I grabbed on for the ride and Yelled for the Capitan. “ I shot a marlin, Get the others for a back up shot”!!! I was excited and now clipping along at a fast rate. Getting my snorkel back into my mouth as the wash of bubbles screamed over my mask was a difficult task. Suddenly my buoy pulled out of my hand and sank. My line deployed and I watched the buoy disappear 100 feet below. I grabbed my second float and WAM, it went down also. I was getting worried that I was going to loose my gear on the first dive, of the first day of the trip, so I pulled hard on the fish only to see all the buoys coming back up. After fighting this fish for 20 minutes, I was now almost a mile from where I had originally shot it.


            The cable of the slip tip had sawed through the upper portion of the fish. It will live, but I lost it. These fish are so powerful that  it will test your equipment to the extreme. I was very disappointed that I had lost the fish, when suddenly a bull dorado came right in on me. I re-loaded my gun with one band and BAM!!! I shot it. This time I did not put as much pressure on the fish and managed to land it.


            WOW, I had shot two nice fish in 20 minutes. When I got back on the boat I expected to see loads of fish. I figured, if it had been that good for me, then it must have been the same for the others. I jumped into the boat with my dorado, and to my surprise, they had not yet seen anything. I was hoping that the trip would continue with this amazing luck.


            The next few drifts seemed good as we were learning where to position ourselves just outside the bait to hunt the tuna. I saw one school that was in the 150-pound range, but they were at the edge of visibility. About 1 hour later, I spotted 2 nice wahoo. I dropped down as stealthy as I could and shot the lead fish in the gill plate. Instantly it was stunned, but suddenly the line went zipping through my hands at lightning speed when I started to retrieve the fish. I love shooting wahoo for their fast runs and elusive nature. Wahoo can appear out of thin water when you least expect it. You may look left then look right, with nothing in sight, but when you look back to the left – there’s a wahoo ten feet away from you. During the fight I managed to get the fish back into sight rather quickly and noticed that another wahoo had joined the excitement. I called Tom over and he took a quick shot, but due to the small target presented and their soft flesh, he lost it almost immediately.


            This was a great day for me. I had shot a Marlin, Dorado and a wahoo. I was happy, but not finished yet, so we went to another spot where the seamount was shallower. I dropped down to 65 feet and watched a large fish swim up to me. It was a curious amberjack. I waited until it turned broad side about 14 feet away and let him have it. I put the tip into his head and the 30-pound fish started to sink. I stoned him!!! Once I was back on the boat, I was smiling from ear to ear. This was just the first day of our four day trip. I knew right them that we would fill the coolers!!!


            The second day we headed back to the same spot. I was ready for some more action and I know Tom was itching to spear something nice since he lost his wahoo the day before. On my second drop, I was hanging near the edge of the bait when 2 nice 40 pound wahoo came right up to me. I aimed and took a 12 foot shot. I hit this one in the gill plate also. Shooting these fish in the gill plate insures that they will not rip off.  This is the strongest part of the fish and they seem to fight less when shot there. I pulled the fish closer and saw that it was being fallowed by another wahoo. I yelled for Tom and he made a quick dive to 30 feet. He took aim, but the fish bolted right before he could take the shot.


            Now that Tom had lost his second opportunity with wahoo, he was really eager to spear a fish. Two hours later when I got into the boat to head up current, I herd Tom Yelling. We stepped on the gas and I yelled back to him, “ What did you shoot?” He replied “TUNA!!!” I quickly threw my buoys back into the water and grabbed the video camera. As I approached Tom, I could see that this was a LARGE TUNA. I dived down with the camera in one hand and the gun in the other and I placed a good shot directly into the tunas head. With the tuna secure, we battled the fish as he tangled the lines and kept our hearts beating fast. Once the yellowfin was on the boat, it weighed in at 190 pounds. This was a dream come true for Tom and the team.


            I was excited for Tom, but I was determined to shoot one myself. I jumped back in the water and had a couple more brief encounters with some distant tuna. The day had come to an end and I had not achieved my goal yet.


            Day three was my lucky day!!!! I have always done well on the third day of any spearfishing trip and I had a good feeling about this one. On my first drift I dove down to  forty feet and After one minute ands 20 seconds, I looked over my shoulder and saw a nice 40+ pound wahoo. I steadied the gun slowly, took aim and squeezed the trigger. The shot was over 25 feet which was the longest shot I had ever taken with this gun. CRACK!!!!! I stoned the wahoo. As I surfaced, I saw Tom above be. He was so excited to have seen everything. He watched me stone this massive wahoo from 25+ feet. Yes, this was going to be my day!!!


            Two hours later I had been doing drifts over this high spot that was loaded with bait, when suddenly the bait disappeared. I started my dive and caught a glimpse of yellow in front of me. It was a Large 200 pound yellowfin tuna swimming right in front of me. I swam harder to close the gap, but this turned out to be a fruitless effort. I slowed my kicks until I came to a stop, when all of a sudden tuna started passing me from behind. They had been fallowing me like I was the lead fish!!! I turned the gun and lined up on one that was heading right at me. Just as he started to pull away, I squeezed the trigger. At that very moment everything went into slow motion as I watched the shaft enter the left backside of the fish and come out near the bottom on the other side. As the fish rapidly bolted, I could see the rear second third of my shaft bending as the line drew taut.


            The battle was on! The fish swam straight for the bottom as my buoy started to sink. He leveled off at about 170 feet and started to swim West. I yelled for the boat and my good friends were quick to get in the water with the camera and the second gun. Joe Sarapochillo was on the camera and he swam hard to keep up with me, as the fish was still pulling fiercely at that point. After about 15 minutes of fighting the large tuna, we started to see color. Tom had the second gun and made a deep drop to 50 feet where he placed a good shot in the fish. Now I knew I was going to land the fish. I screamed for joy and hugged Tom. I pulled the fish in and was amazed at the size. It was a 160-pound Yellowfin Tuna!!!! We called it a day after that and decided to get some rest.


            When we got in the water on our final day of spearfishing in Mexico, we wanted to hold out for some big fish. I spotted a 60 pound wahoo, but I could not get him to come closer. Later, I saw a large black marlin that was in the 300 pound range but also could not get it to come in closer. Tom saw a marlin, Joe saw a marlin and Mark saw a dorado, but this day the fish were hesitant to come close to us. I guess we had shot enough fish at that spot, so we moved in to a shallower area. I dropped down and speared a 60 pound amber jack. I love shooting those fish because of their power. Joe Enjoyed hunting the reef also and managed to shoot some large jacks. The fish we caught on the last day was donated to the people that lived in the town we stayed in.


            While the trip had come to an end, I had a sence of euphoria. I was finally at ease. The journey of hunting Yellow fin tuna was 3 years of great diving and spending time with my best friends. I must say that hunting this fish has helped me become a better diver and I look foreword to another trip next year.

Until the next story… 

Dan Silveira

            Wooooohaaaaaap, I take a deep breath, creating 4 negative pressure zones in my lungs in rapid succession until I am inflated like a compressed human balloon. I bend at the hips and kick my right leg out of the water 30 degrees past vertical, pre equalize my ears, remove my snorkel and use my arms to propel me into my first kick cycle. With perfect precision, I pump into my large kick cycles through the first atmosphere below the surface, fallowed by graceful kicks till my sink phase. I become a human computer analyzing my depth, heart rate and perfect posture. At 95 feet I go through an uncomfortable zone where my stretch receptors create the first urge to breath. The bodily response is natural and I keep pushing on till the light begins to fade and my heart rate calms to 20 beats per minute. Finally I pull my arms out and flip into the upright position at the rock, 150 feet. I pull hard on the line with my right arm and like a bullet, both of my arms slice though the water above my head as I fallow with kicks that push my carbon fiber fins to propel me at exactly one meter per second. 80 feet away from the surface, I have my first breathing contraction, and my heart rate drops again. I focus not on the intense urge to breath, but rather on becoming the most perfect freediver possible. I concentrate on relaxing every muscle in my body and maintain the form of a world record freediver. With the last atmosphere of water above me, I use a breaststroke to give me one final push towards the surface, as I exhale a few feet from the surface. I explode from the water, as I hit the surface, with a giant gasp for air – Wooooohaaaaaap – Puuuuusssssshhhhh – Wooooohaaaaaap – Puuuuusssssshhhhh – Wooooohaaaaaap – Puuuuusssssshhhhh – “I am OK” – now lets start analyzing the pieces of the puzzle…


            It is always hard to predict who will be on the U.S.A. Worlds Spearfishing Team, let alone stand a chance against the rest of the world. The U.S.A. Worlds Team is selected by choosing the top three competitors in two National competitions. After hundreds of competitors took a shot on the East coast, then West coast U.S. Nationals, four fortunate and talented divers secured their spot on the U.S.A. International Team. Justin Allen, Dan Silveira, Sean Moreschi, and Alternate John Modica became the youngest team to ever achieve this undertaking. (Each under 25 years old or younger) The 2010 CMAS world spearfishing competition will be held from September 14th – 19th in Mali Losinj, Croatia.


            Since the diving in the U.S. is fairly shallow and the fish are abundant, it would not only take quick acclamation to hunting new fish but also a dire need to become better freedivers. The USA team captain, Brian Lee, contacted world record holder and freedive instructor Martin Stepanek for freedive training. Graciously Stepanek, from Freediving Instructors International, agreed to sponsor the team knowing that the diving in Croatia, for the 2010 Worlds, will be 100 feet plus. His goal was to refine our techniques and make us safe divers who understood the complexity of human physiology and how to read our bodies like gauges.  


            The progression from tournament spearfishing to studding the honed theory of professional freediving brings a whole new dimension to my world underwater. I have grown up a spearfisherman for most of my life giving me approximately two decades of water time. During the last five years, I have traveled to several top spearfishing locations around the globe and succumbing the realization that there are hundreds of gifted spearfisherman. Questions boggled my mind as to how they became so good and my verdict was that they not only had natural hunter instincts but also great freediving abilities.


            The human physiology shows us that we humans have several adaptations that are well suited for the aquatic world. We can equalize our ears, contract our spleen, increase the number of red blood cells in our body, and lower our heart rate dramatically after our first breathing contraction. A 100 foot dive is well within most freedivers capabilities, it just takes practice and a great amount of attention to detail.


            We, the USA team started our training by evaluating our equipment. It was time to stray away from the off the shelf plastic fins, scuba masks, and poor fitting wetsuits and move into the professional arena.


            Like transformers, we suited up into custom fitted Yamamoto 45 suits, Carbon fiber fins, and super low volume masks. The difference in our diving ability was dramatically improved. It took us several extra kick cycles to reach our sink phase at 66 feet, and much of our air equalizing our masks, we were now reaping the benefits of proper freediving equipment.


            If only we had been professional swimmers, the concept of water-dynamics would have been easier for us. Our first dives proved that we lacked much of the streamlining needed to make deep drops. Our elbows were sticking out as we equalized our ears, our heads were looking up to see how far the bottom was, and our arms were at our sides on the way back up. From Stepanek’s point of view, we were typical self-taught spearfisherman with a largely untapped landmine of talent.


            He worked with each one of us to break our old habits and develop proper muscle memory till we dove like well oiled machines. Our form had changed dramatically and we achieved optimum freedive speed at one meter per second.


            It was time for us to break away from the pack of divers with unsafe habits. Diving with one minute of bottom time and one minute surface intervals may have worked in National competitions but will not be a safe or fruitful practice in Croatia. Since our dives will most likely consist of dives greater then 80 feet and possibly down to 140 feet, we will need to spend much more time at the bottom to bring the fish in closer, which will result in spending several minutes on the surface re-oxygenating our blood. The Bends was a concept that we had only associated with scuba until Stepanek informed us that several deep freedives deeper than 100 feet, with short surface intervals in succession, could result in a freediver getting bent.


            The USA spearfishing team trained hard in the pool, the classroom, the ocean, in the sun, and even in the rain. We were determined to become the best freedivers possible. We pushed our human capabilities to know where the limit was. In the controlled environment we were all able to see and feel the effects and symptoms of blackout. As scary as it may seem to blackout, it is much better to experience it in a pool when you have a trained safety diver there to pull you out of the water and revive you. None of us had ever realized the importance of having a safety spotter, a dive partner that knows how to properly rescue you in the event of a blackout. Each diver had different limits and signs of when he was pushing the envelope. We learned how to evaluate each other to determine if we were ready to go deeper or not. During a dive, I can meet my dive partner at 66 feet on my way back up from a 150-foot dive. He will be watching my eyes, posture, contractions and form. At any point in time, if I am not looking OK, he is there to offer a supporting hand.


            After several courses were taken and dives down to 200 feet were accomplished, the U.S.A. team is starting to look good for the 2010 worlds, but the preparation has only begun. I am now on a strict diet and training routine. I do Yoga for flexibility two times a day and to add to my weekly habit of diving two times a week, I also do static breath holds at home to increase my O2 and CO2 tolerances. We are a team that strives to break the mold of U.S. competitors. We are putting the pieces of the puzzle together and realizing that to become a better spearfisherman, we need to become better freedivers.


            The U.S.A. team is working hard to raise $30,000 to get to Croatia by offering seminars, selling t-shirts and working closely with our sponsors. For more information on the team check out our websites:




Here are what U.S.A. team members found most interesting in their training: 

Jutsin Allen:

I had never realized that shallow water black out is so real and can happen at the blink of an eye. 

Dan Silveira:

I am in awe with the power of facial immersion and being able to lower my heart rate by controlling my mind.

Sean Moreschi:

I appreciate being able to analyze every step of my dive from A to Z in order to save oxygen. 


John Modica:

Never in my wildest dreams did I believe I could make a dive to 140 feet with exact precision while never taking a look at my dive watch.


Brian Lee

"I am extremely honored to have been chosen to be the captain of the 2010 team. These guys are the absolute best group of guys I have ever had the pleasure to work with. They are ALL sincerely open and willing to learn new techniques and to refine existing techniques to be the best divers they can possibly be. They are not just great divers and spearo’s but they are all tremendous people who are genuinely humble ambassadors of our sport of spearfishing. I am very proud to be working with them together to reach our final goals in Croatia, September 2010."


Until the next story… 

Dan Silveira

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