Dan Silveira is a major contributor to Deep World Wide Magazine. His aim is to provide exciting articles that provide technical insight to the sport of freediving and spearfishing. 

Cover Shot of Dan Silveira with a 76 pound California White SeaBass!!!

The West Coast Adventure

By Dan Silveira

 There are four parts to this series. Enjoy!!!

Series One:

"The lost Coast of Nor-Cal"

Series One can be found in Deep World Wide Magazine - Issue # 7

            Deep World Wide Magazine is proud to present a new series called “The West Coast Adventure”, by Dan Silveira. This series will take you on a journey from the Northern most dive sites of California to the Mexican waters of Baja. The remaining parts of the series will be featured in subsequent issues of the magazine.  The series will include tips for being a successful hunter-gatherer in the mostly unexploited waters of California and Baja. Throughout our journey, we will also focus on the equipment needed to dive each region, places to dive, and species to target for consumption.

            If you want to measure yourself as a freedive spearfisherman, come to California. While the diving may not be deep like in the Mediterranean, it is among the toughest in the world. If you succeed in donning your thick 7mm wetsuit, while the chilly wind turns you into a popsicle, then you may have the opportunity to explore the longest coastline out of any state in the United States. The abundant marine life and tasty fish still amaze local divers because there is much more water than divers who are willing to explore the vastness of this coastline. It is almost impossible to dive every dive site in a lifetime, let alone dive it to a point that you know the reef like the back of your hand. Out of all the places in the world that I have dove, including the Atlantic, Adriatic Sea, Indonesia, and South Pacific, I still believe that California is the best place to spearfish in the world.

            One of the difficulties of diving California is the challenging conditions. The waters can be cold, murky, and the surf entries can be impossible at times. Despite all these challenges, this stretch of coastal waters top many of the best dive sites on the planet. When conditions cooperate, divers can experience the beauty of swimming though giant kelp forests with visibility exceeding 80 feet and may encounter hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates without ever needing to dive past 50 feet.


            Remote and isolated by nature, Northern California is an explorers’ delight. This region offers towering mountains that plummet into the Pacific Ocean along with rich waters that host vast amounts of fish and possible dinner solutions for anyone hungry enough to brave the cold 48˚F waters. The experience will be unforgettable and might even take your breath away. This region is composed of Humboldt, Mendocino, and Sonoma counties. From the Oregon Border to the Russian River, this stretch of rugged diving is also known as the abalone divers seventh heaven. Thousands of red abalone, a large-sized edible sea snail, Haliotis rufuscens inhabit this region and are perfect for freedivers to harvest, because it is illegal to take them on SCUBA.

            The ocean temperatures range from 46˚ to 52˚F and the visibility usually ranges from the length of your arm to 15 feet on a good day. The North coast is sometimes called Braille diving because you know you are at the bottom only when you hit it. Fortunately, this is not a limiting factor when searching for abalone. If you are in a good spot, the abalone will not get away and even with less than a few feet of visibility, divers can still get a limit of three in a short amount of time. Another difficulty of diving in these locations is the distance of hiking needed to reach many of these dive sites. Boat diving is not as common as in Southern California. Divers equip their floating devices with backpack straps and venture from Highway 1 along the steep bluffs to the little coves that are found every couple hundred yards. 


When picking a dive site, remember the topography of the land mimics the bottom contours and reef structure underwater. Nor-Cal is exposed to all swell directions (N, NW, W, SW, S), but often the prevailing swells are from the north and northwest. With the understanding of the prevailing swell, it is useful to select coves that are sheltered from the big waves. The best dive sites do not have soft sandy beaches. They have boulders and rocky bottom. It is crucial to plan your dive, picking a safe entry, and even safer sheltered exit point. It is advised that when choosing a diving spot to consider the possibility of receiving aid from a rescue service in the event that an emergency occurs. Several of the remote dive sites are not accessible to safety crews and may take up to several hours to receive aid. Cell phones do not receive signal in most of this region, so tell someone where you are going diving and bring a diving buddy.

            When diving Northern California, you will find massive rocky reef systems, which are covered in encrusting coral, algae, sponges, anemones, and kelp beds. The success of a hunter in this region depends on understanding how the underwater topography and habitat draw fish to certain locations. You should start with locations known as good areas for habitable structure. The name of the game in this area is all about finding reef systems that have several holes and cracks that provide shelter to small and large fish. If you look closely, you may also find several abalone crammed into the cracks and holes. These pinnacles will usually have small blue rockfish and perch schooling in mid water; the larger carnivores will be lurking by blending into the surroundings below. There are several ways to find the structure. First, before you enter the water, watch from the bluff to see where the swell gets larger. This is often a great way to find the areas of the reef that rise quickly. Use caution when diving those areas as the swell is much stronger and may push you around. Use rough days to spot the reef systems from shore and then dive them on calm days. Once you are in the water, you can follow the kelp to show you where the reefs are located in deeper water. The kelp from Sonoma to the Oregon border seldom grows from deeper than 45-50 feet, so if you find a thick patch of kelp alone and further out from the main kelp bead, then chances are that you are on top of the pinnacle.

Edibles you may want to target:



The abalone season is open from April 1st to November 30th,with the exception of July. The current 2010/11daily limit for abalone as posted by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) is three per person. This limit is also a possession limit, which means that even on a multi day trip, you cannot have more than three abalone in your possession at a time. The annual limit is 24 abalone per diver.  The minimum size is 7 inches and the diver must have a 7 inch caliper gauge and a pry bar, not a knife or sharp object. In addition to having an ocean fishing license, a diver must also have an abalone punch card to tag each of the 24 abalone taken per year. See the CDFG regulation for further information on how to legally harvest abalone. www.dfg.ca.gov

Sea Urchin (Uni):

            If you are sick of being pricked by these spiny marine invertebrates, then it is time for you to take revenge. The inner part of the urchin is loaded with a seafood delicacy called roe. The best types to target in California are the red or purple sea urchin, which are among the largest members of the urchin family, and can grow up to 9.4 inches in diameter (including spines). They range in color from bright red to dark burgundy and also purple. They are located on almost any rock surface in California.

The best urchins come from Northern and Southern California where constant upwelling sends nutrient rich water up to the shallows where they live. The best way to harvest them is to use some type of metal device such as a hand held, 3-prong garden rake. You simply scratch them off the reef and load them into a canvas bag, as mesh bags will become entangled with the spines. According to the 2010-2011 CDFG regulations permit a daily bag limit of 35 sea urchins and the harvest season is all year with no size limit. These regulations are subject to change and one should refer to the current regulations for updates before going diving. www.dfg.ca.gov

            To clean the urchin, flip the urchin over and cut a small circle around the orifice. Drain the loose content and crack the urchin open. The orange roe in the female (which is sweetest) or yellow gonads in the male (less sweet) is what you want to remove for consumption. You can simply eat the roe in the raw form with a bit of lemon juice and Tabasco hot sauce, or you can mix it with cream cheese or sour cream and serve it on a cracker.



            As a side note, the CDFG only allows spearfishermen to harvest 20 fish in total combination of sub-limits per day.


            Rockfish are among the most abundant species of finfish that you will encounter in Northern California, and on any given day, a diver can shoot a handful of different rockfish. The blue rockfish are probably the easiest to find and shoot, as they are mid water fish. They usually school under the kelp beds in the summer and are both easy to spear and tasty to eat. Their close cousin, the black rockfish, looks very similar in color and shape but can grow much bigger. While the blue rockfish average two to three pounds, the black rockfish average three to five pounds. When you are hunting along the bottom, you might see gofer, china, copper, and grass rockfish. All of these are easy to spear but are usually smaller, averaging about two pounds with the exception of the grass rockfish which can grow up to five pounds. All of these sub-species are located over rocky bottom and seldom seen over sand.

            The prized rockfish is the vermillion, also known as the red or red snapper in California. This fish is bright red, but commonly seen, at depth, as purple or black due to the lack of colors that appear below 30 feet where these fish are commonly found. Yes, you will have to dive a bit deeper than usual for these rockfish, or venture off the beaten path to find a virgin territory.

These rockfish are slow growing and are not as abundant as the other species. When you get one, you know you are doing everything right. You are diving at a spot that few people dive, you have good technique, and you used good fish sense to spot the vermillion. These rare but highly prized reds are located at the base of a pinnacle and often near a boulder field where they use the cracks and tunnels as highways to navigate their territory. Once you find one, chances are that the area will produce time and time again. If you don’t get an opportunity to spear the fish on the first dive, and do not spook the fish, don’t worry; the fish will likely be there on your next drop.

            According to the 2010/11 CDFG regulations, a spearfisherman can harvest 10 rockfish per day (throughout the entire year) with the majority of rockfish not required to be a specific size. The rockfish is part of the RCG complex, which includes rockfish, greenling, and cabazon. The total of these fish and their sub-limits cannot exceed 10 total fish. Please note that these sizes and bag limits change yearly, so check the current regulations for updates. www.dfg.ca.gov


            “Wow”, is the word that people say when they see divers with a 20-pound lingcod on the beach. This is the “Big Game” fish of the North coast reaching weights in excess of 25 pounds. The lingcod is fairly abundant and relatively easy to spear once you know how to find them. They will always be under or near a food source. They eat small fish such as perch or blue and black rockfish. When you find a pinnacle with the food source congregating around it, it is time for you to start looking in the holes and cracks with an underwater flashlight. Often there are hundreds of possible holes, so this can seem daunting.

            If you want to minimize the about of effort and time you put into this task of becoming the hero on the beach, then look for cracks that are about 6 inches to 1 foot tall. The lingcod prefer holes that are about the height of their head. If the hole is more like a cave with no tight cracks, then you will not see any lingcod. The crack or hole must also have good depth to it so the lingcod can hide in the darkness away from the eyes of its prey.

            Finally, you may want to first look at holes that are sheltered from the prevailing swell. The lingcod does not like to have sand and debris drifting back and forth in its hole. Once you find that perfect lingcod hole, mark it with land marks or a GPS, because the next time you go back, there is a really good chance that another lingcod will be there waiting for you. As the local divers say, “Once a good hole, always a good hole.”

            According to the 2010/11 CDFG regulations, a spearfisherman can harvest two lingcod per day (during the months of April through the end of November) and the minimum size must be 24 inches. Please note that these sizes and bag limits change yearly, so check the current regulations for updates. www.dfg.ca.gov


            The nature of the cabazon, averaging four to twelve pounds, is very much like the lingcod because they too prefer to live in holes. The big difference between them is what is on their dinner menu. These fish prefer to eat crustaceans such as crab, shrimp, and will even consume abalone when they are able to get one off the rocks. Their diet is what makes this fish so tasty, and a prized target for spearfishermen. If the cabazon is not in a hole, it uses the corralling algae to hide in, as their camouflage is perfect for this habitat. They will blend right in, and often divers do not see them until they have spooked the fish. In this situation, simply follow the direction it swam and you should have another chance to take a shot.

            According to the 2010 CDFG regulations, a spearfisherman can harvest 2 per day (throughout the entire year) and the minimum size must be 15 inches. Please note that these sizes and bag limits change yearly, so check the current regulations for updates. www.dfg.ca.gov


            There are many species of perch in Northern California and they live from the shallow waters out to 100 feet deep. When hunting them, I prefer to target the shallows during the summer months when they are abundant. Out of all the different species of perch, the rubber lip is the biggest, tastiest, and most difficult to spear. They are gold in color and have large rubber-like lips, hence the name. They are a bit shy, so take the biggest first and try to make a perfect shot as to not disturb the others. A fighting fish will often send the entire school astray and you will have a much harder time finding them again. According to the 2010 CDFG regulations, a spearfisherman can harvest 10 per day (throughout the entire year) and there is no minimum size. Please note that these sizes and bag limits change yearly, so check the current regulations for updates. www.dfg.ca.gov

            As one should conclude after reading this catalog of sea game harvest, the sea life in California’s ocean is quite abundant, and on any given dive, a sperfisherman can come back with a meal fit for a king. It is yours for the taking, but an ethical approach should be used, by only taking only what you can eat. If you spend a little bit of time reviewing the fish and game regulations, equip yourself with the proper gear, and have a good dive buddy, then you will be ready to reap the benefits of diving the “Lost Coast” of Northern California.

            The next series will appear in the next Magazine issue and will be titled "The Colliding Waters of Cen-Cal". The series will continue our path from where we left off (in Northern California) and continue south with helpful hints about gear, hunting techniques, and species of edible game. Stay tuned!


Series Two:

The Colliding Waters of Cen-Cal

By Dan Silveira

Series One can be found in Deep World Wide Magazine - Issue # 9

            Deep World Wide Magazine is proud to present the continuation of the new series called “The West Coast Adventure”, by Dan Silveira. This series will be comprised of, tips for being a successful hunter-gatherer in the largely unexploited waters of California and nearby countries. One of each series will be featured in each subsequent magazine issue to treat you to a journey from the Northern most dive sites of California and continue with a Southerly direction into the Mexican waters of Baja.

            If you want to measure yourself as a freedive spearfisherman, come to California. While the diving my not be deep like in the Mediterranean, it is among the toughest in the world. If you succeed in dawning your thick 7mm wetsuit, while the chilly wind shrivels your skin into a Popsicle, then you may have the opportunity to explore the largest stretch of coastline out of any state in the United States. The abundant marine life, and tasty fish still amaze local divers, because there is much more water then divers who are willing to explore the vastness of this coast line. It is almost impossible to dive every dive site in a life time, let alone dive it to a point that you know the reef like the back of your hand. Out of all the places in the world that I have dived, including the Atlantic, Adriatic Sea, Indonesia, South Pacific, and more, I still believe that California is the best place to spearfish in the world. When I am away diving the clear blue waters, of tropical destinations, I often find myself wishing I were back home in California for reasons that skeptics would call me crazy for.

          One of the difficulties of diving California is the more challenging conditions. The waters can be cold, murky, and the surf entries can be impossible at times. But, despite all these challenges, this stretch of costal waters top many of the best dive sites on the planet. When conditions cooperate dives can experience the beauty of swimming though giant kelp forests with visibility exceeding 80 feet, may encounter hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates without ever needing to dive past 50 feet.

            Our Journey down the coast of California will start from the Northern most dive sites (showcased in the last issue), and we will work our way through the famous central coast (This issue), down to Southern California where we will escape the mainland and venture out to the channel Islands and finally, we will take a peek over the Mexican Boarder to see what Baja California has to offer. Throughout our journey the equipment needed to dive each region will be an area of focus along with places to dive and what species of sea life are good to target for consumption.


CEN-CAL (Part two of the series)

            Three hours South of San Francisco gives birth to some of the richest marine life in the world. The colliding waters from the North and the South allow for a diverse mixture of fish species, not to mention the fact that several of the dive locations may have never seen a diver before. For a spearfisherman this is the ultimate frontier of new Exploration in search of their next tasty dinner.

          This diving zone is known as Cen-Cal, with the best diving locations located between Santa Cruz (at the North), all the way South towards Avila beach (to the South). Some of the well-known spots are Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, and San Simeon. With the mixture of water currents and varied temperatures, this area has been gifted with an assortment of fish from Southern California during the occasional years of EL-Nino (Which is caused by a interruption of the ocean atmosphere system causing the weather and climate to warm up considerably in California.) 

           Apart from the occasional warm water years, the average temperatures in Cen-Cal are between 45° and 55°, and the visibility ranges between 10 to 30 ft vis in the summer months and 30 to 80 ft vis in the winter. The differences in visibility are caused by the different amounts of plankton growth or by large swells. Fortunately the visibility is relatively good due to the cold-water upwelling. The continental shelf is very close to the shore and in some spots of Carmel the depths plummet down to 2000 feet, just a few hundred yards off shore. This close access to deep water also offers divers a glimpse at an occasional whale, dolphin, or Mola Mola (also known as Sun fish).

            The key to successfully hunting these waters is having the proper exposure suit to withstand the chilly waters, and understanding the terrain. The fish of Cen-Cal are creatures of habit, therefore frequenting the same terrain and reef structure time and time again. On Average any diver can enter the water with little knowledge and spear a few nice fish for dinner, but for the adventurous, there are some fish the require a welth of both knowledge and talent to catch. 


           Without a doubt, the most important piece of diving gear that is needed for diving in California, is a proper 7mm freediving wetsuit. This is different than the standard scuba suit because it has no nylon on the inside, but rather opened neoprene. Secondly the freediving wetsuit does not have any zippers and the hood is attached. These suits allow for much more mobility and provide ample warmth for a few hours in the 50° waters. The wetsuit is critical to maintaining a low heart rate and a relaxed disposition while stocking fish.

            To compensate for the positive buoyancy of the wetsuit, proper weighting is essential. The amount of weight that should be used with a two-piece 7mm farmer john freediving wetsuit varies depending on the target depth of the dives. A good starting point is to weight yourself so when you take a deep breath at the surface (with the weight belt on) your collarbones should be at the surface. This should put your neutral buoyancy between 20 and 33 feet deep. On average this amounts to 10% of your body weight (+ or – a few pounds). For example, If I weigh 170 pounds, I would start my test with 17 pounds and subtract or add weight depending on the target depth.

            Usually the entries and exits in Cen-Cal are not as difficult as on the north coast. This allows divers to maximize their euiptment choices by using long fins more frequently. These freediving specific fins provide exponential performance for the amount of effort that would be needed if a diver were to use standard scuba fins. Essentially the propulsion of a diver is contributed to the amount of time the blade is bent with each kick. Because the visibility is better in Cen-Cal, than up North, the dives tend to be deeper and the fish tend to be more plentiful; hence, the reason for a good pair of freediving fins.

            When picking a speargun, the diver must consider the behavior of each target species. (See “Edibles you may want to target” below for details). Normally the fish tend to be a bit shyer, and this might be a factor of the good visibility. To compensate for the finicky behavior of some of the fish, the diver has two options. Either get really good at allowing the fish to come in close, or use a slightly larger gun that offers more shot range. The best range of spearfgun sizes are between 75cm and 90cm. This size still allows for hunting in the holes with a flashlight but provides the range on larger distant fish. Obviously the 75cm gun is more maneuverable and easier to hunt with when the visibility is poor, and the 90cm gun offers more range and the potential to be used in Southern California. A float line or reel is a good accessory to add when hunting Cen-Cal because the fish often retreat into holes after being shot and it is better to not risk loosing your gun in low vis.

Edibles you may want to target:

            The California Department of Fish and Game (www.dfg.ca.gov) requires salt water fishing licenses for all anglers including spearfishermen. While we do have some exemptions to hunt certain species of fish for longer periods of time than traditional hook and line fishermen, it is advised to check the regulations before each outing to make sure you are following the law. The fines for fishing violations in California are expensive and charges are stiff.

            The overall limit of fish in California is 20 per person with the exception of a few species that have no limit. This 20 fish total aggregate bag catch has sub limits depending on the species you want to target. The Rockcod, Cabazon, Greenling (RCG) complex is a sub-limit of 10 fish total out of the 20 fish max. The Cabazon has a sub limit of three at 15 inches each, and the green has a sub-limit of one at 12 inches. After you have reached your RCG limit of 10, you can fill in the rest with other species, with consideration of their individual sub limits and sizes. When looking up the limits for fish and their size regulations, it is important to look under Centural California Region to get the proper regulations for the zone you will be diving in. Here is the link for the Cen-Cal region: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mapregs4.asp

Here is the link to the 2011/2012 full text PDF regulations booklet:


            Finally before you start hunting, you have to review the maps provided by the California Fish and Game to make sure you are not spearfishing in a Marine protected Area. Each protected area is listed by both land marks with GPS coordinates, and on a visual aid map in the fish and game regulations booklet. Many marine protected areas allow spearfishing, but it is critical to know which ones are allowed and which ones are not. For more information on where you can hunt in Cen-Cal, visit: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/ccmpas_list.asp

Rockfish (Sebastes sp.)

            The rockfish is the most plentiful and easy to harvest species of fish in Cen-Cal. There are several different types of rockfish with several of them prized by spearfisherman for their edible quality and difficulty to hunt. Among these prized rockfish are the Olive rockfish, Copper rockfish, and Vermillion rockfish. According to the 2011/12 CaDF&G regulations, the recreational fishery for rockfish is open year-round to divers. The daily bag and possession limit is 10 fish in combination of all species within the RCG Complex (includes all species of Rockfish, Cabezon and Greenlings) per person. 

            The Olive Rockfish is one of my favorite rockfish to hunt for several reasons. The first: being that they reach sexual maturity very quickly and are more sustainable to harvest than some of the other rockfish. Although they are edible size in a short time, they can reach weights op to 6 pounds. The average weight is about 3 pounds. The second reason is that they are weary to divers and must be stocked with a non-threatening form. My third reason is that they have a very flakey white meat that cooks beautifully with little seasoning. The Olive rockfish like to hang out in mid water, often schooling with Blue rockfish, or they can be found hiding in vertical cracks.


The Copper Rockfish is one of the more rare species to find, but Cen-Cal offers the perfect habitat for them. They prefer areas where pinnacles or boulders meet with sand, but can only be found in waters less than 50 feet when the ocean is very calm. When it gets rough they move out to deeper water. The average weight is 2 to 4 pounds and a large copper might get up to 6 pounds. The Copper Rockfish has one of the best edible fish textures I have ever had. They cook beautifully on the grill or oven broiler with a lemon citrus olive oil with sautéed garlic and onions to top it off.



Finally the Vermillion rockfish is at the top of most Cen-Cal hunters trophy fish list. They are bright red in color and commonly referred to as Red Snapper in California. They are not red snapper, but taste very good. They can reach weights up to 8 pounds and are often speared between 3 and 5 pounds. They are not as abundant as the other rockfish species and much harder to find, but when you do they are usually deeper than the other rockfish. While they have been speared in 20 feet of water, they seem to be found more often past 50 feet deep. When diving in 10 foot visibility, with big swells, lots of kelp, and 50° water, anything over 50 feet deep becomes a triumph of skill and determination for any diver brave enough to spend the entire day hunting for “REDS”.



 (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus) is another fun bottom fish to hunt for. They can be challenging due to their camouflage skin. They blend in with the corralling algae in the shallows or can be found deep in cracks and holes. They can reach weights up to 15 pounds but are commonly 3 to 8 pounds. According to the 2011/12 CaDF&G regulations, the recreational fishery for Cabazon is two per person per day with a size minimum of 15 inches. After you spear a Cabazon in a hole or crack, check the same hole at a later date and you may find another, or even a big lingcod. The usually like the same type of homes.


             The Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) is the largest reef fish of Cen-Cal reaching weights up to 35 pounds, but frequently speared between 10 and 20 pounds. They live in holes or cracks, but may be found hunting for food on a ledge. An easy way to find them is to locate their food source. Small Blue rockfish or Rubber lip perch congregating around a pinnacle is a good indication that there may be a lingcod near by. If you see fish with white scars on their body then that is a sure sign that a hungry lingcod will appear if you spear a blue and leave your shaft with the fish laying on the bottom. Always have a second speargun ready to use in this situation. Lingcod frequent the same holes even if you harvest one; so check the same locations often. They are great to eat and are great for fish and chips. According to the 2011/12 CaDF&G regulations, the recreational fishery for Lingcod is 2 per person per day, and the new minimum size limit is 22 inches.


 (Paralichthys californicus) is another delicious species to target, but can be very tedious to hunt because they blend in with the sand. During the summer months the Halibut come into the shallows to feed on the sponging squid or grunion baitfish. The best way to hunt them is to look for where the rocks break way to sand. Halibut will lay in camouflage in the sand ready to ambush the fish that live on the reef. It is critical to use a powerful gun with a double flopper tip so they don’t tear off. When hunting for these fish, look for any disturbances in the sand like a gill plate or the edge of a fin. Sometimes they are 90% covered in sand, which makes them very challenging to spot. They can be found up to 60 pounds, but on average they are 10 to 30 pounds. They come into the shallows during high tide, so add some weight to your weight belt if you are hunting less than 15 feet deep. If you go deep, be prepared to spend a full day combing the sand because it can take several dives to spot one. According to the 2011/12 CaDF&G regulations, the recreational fishery for Halibut in Cen-Cal is 3 per person per day with a minimum size of 22 inches. 

En Nino fish:

            The Sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher) is a fish that is commonly found in Southern California, but made their way North during the El Nino years of the 1990’s. They have flourished in the Cen-Cal habitat and can be found anywhere from Monterey South. They are commonly referred to as “Goats” because they have a big white chin, large teeth, and chew on the reef for small critters. They are a bit shy, but can be lured in with patience or by scratching the reef with another rock. This scratching simulates another fish feeding in their territory and they will cruse by to see who it is. That is the moment when you can take a shot. I prefer to hunt them with a 90 cm gun because they can grow quite large (up to 25 pounds in Cen-Cal). The Males are black and red in color and have large heads, while the females are pink and have a slender head. If you know how to prepare them properly, they can be a appetizing treat.


              Calico bass (Paralabrax clathratus) otherwise known as Kelp bass also found their way North to Cen-Cal during the warm water years. They are few and far between, making them a very difficult fish to find. They are very shy by nature but will frequent the same areas, so take note when you spot one. Their table quality is top rate and prized by Cen-Cal divers. They can reach weights up to 6 pounds in Cen-Cal, but most commonly found around 3 pounds.

             Finally, if you are a true thrill seeker with lots of patience and determination, you may find the illusive White         Sea Bass, which is also a Southern California native. They occasionally make their way up to Monterey in the late summer (September) and are the toughest fish to find in Cen-Cal. The best way to find them is to swim slowly through the kelp at a depth of 15 to 20 feet. You must look into the haze for a long silver shape. They are very sensitive to movement, so dive gracefully and quiet. If you see one, there is a good chance that you may see another. I typically like to use a 90 or 100cm gun to hunt them, because they can reach weights up to 80 pounds and are very difficult to get close to in Cen-Cal. These are one of the few species of fish that are good to eat raw, but you must put in many many hours of hunting before you spot one.

Other fun things to hunt for:

            Cen-Cal has several beaches that load up with Dungeness crab (Cancer magister). They are wonderful to eat and a great option to hunt when looking for halibut in the sand. Catching them is simple. Simply pin them to the bottom and cross their pinchers forming an “X” at the front of the crab, and they will not pinch you. Measure them with a 5 ¾ inch caliper guage and if they are legal size then put them into a mesh bag. Once you bring them to shore, you can simply boil them for 20 minutes or chop them in half and clean them for consumption at a later date. According to the 2011/12 CaDF&G regulations, the recreational fishery for Dungeness crab is 10 per person per day and they have to have a minimum size carapace (shell) of 5 ¾ inches. See the regulations for more detail on how to measure them. (www.dfg.ca.gov)


           When you get tired of hunting for fish or crabs, you may want to try your hand at finding some Jade rocks. Yes, this is the type of jade that sculptures use to make jewelry and artwork. The type of jade found in California is called Nephrite Jade. It is very similar to the Jadeite Jade found in Asia, but with a weaker matrix. Jade is formed in areas of the world that have subduction zones.  Subduction occurs when two of the earth's plates collide and one plate dives under the other. The lower plate takes the necessary minerals to the depths, pressures and temperatures needed to form jade. Usually it is formed 100 miles below the Earths crust and can take 1 million years for it to end up in the ocean. The rock is harder than steel and very heavy. The colors are outstanding and can range from bright green to dark blue or black. The only place legal to harvest jade in California is Jade cove, which is about 1 hour south of Big Sur. The legal amount that can be taken is limited to the amount you can carry by yourself. The jade can be very hard to find, but if you look in the shallows after a big storm, you might find a few small hand pieces that have been polished smooth by tumbling among the cobble. These pieces are easy to spot because they are usually bright green and sparkle in the sunlight.

            As one should conclude after reading this almanac of sea game harvest, California is quite abundant, and on any given dive, a sperfisherman can come back with a meal fit for a king. It is yours for the taking, but an ethical approach should be used, by only taking only what you can eat. If you spend a little bit of time reviewing the fish and game regulations, equip yourself with the proper gear, and have a good dive buddy, then you will be ready to reap the benefits of diving the “The Colliding Waters of Cen-Cal”.

Endless Summer of So-Cal". The series will continue our path from where we left off (in Central California) and continue South with helpful hints about gear, hunting techniques, and species of edible game. Stay tuned!

The Endless Summer of So-Cal

By Dan Silveira

Issue 11

Deep World Wide Magazine is proud to present the continuation of the new series called “The West Coast Adventure”, by Dan Silveira. This series will be comprised of, tips for being a successful hunter-gatherer in the largely unexploited waters of California and nearby countries. One of each series will be featured in each subsequent magazine issue to treat you to a journey from the Northern most dive sites of California and continue with a Southerly direction into the Mexican waters of Baja.

So-Cal (Part Three of the series)

If you have never had a California fisherman’s stew, then get your tail out here and come join us on a trip to So-Cal.  The months of May through October are the most anticipated for all California divers who dream about chasing tail! Yes, tail, the good stuff that people Oooo and Ahhhhh about at on the beach. Your mind may have just wondered as you thought of hot girls on the beach, pressing their bodies into warm sand in the sun. But, we Cali. Divers salivate over a different kind of tail - yellowtail, lobster tail, and all types of fish tales. These divers rummage through their backyard sheds for gardening gloves to cultivate the ocean floor and bring home the bounty of the sea. While much of the North Coast becomes infested with plankton blooms (aka red tide) the offshore islands of California (Channel Islands) maintain great visibility with prolific marine life. As the water temperatures warm up, so does the fishing. These warmer currents bring large pelagic fish into our waters. White seabass show up first when the water temps are between 61˚ and 67˚, then as soon as the 68˚ water shows, so do good numbers of yellowtail, also known as Hamachi at your local sushi bar. Later in the season it is all fair game and lobster season opens in October. 

After you have booked your trip to the land of sunshine, it is time to pack your dive bag with the essentials. 

The Channel Islands are classified into two sections by the locals. The Northern Channel Islands (from South to North: Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, and San Miguel Island). The second section is the Southern Channel Islands (from South to North: San Clemente Island, Catalina Island, Santa Barbara Island, and San Nicolas Island)

If you want to spear white seabass, halibut, and harvest scallops, the Northern islands will be your best bet, but be ready for cooler water. In May the water temps are still in the 50’s, but by June and July the water will be in the low 60’s. In September and October the waters will occasionally reach 70˚. While the waters stay in the low to mid 60’s, the white seabass are THICK and just about every kelp-bed has schools of white ghosts swimming through it. Many divers never see these fish, but that is because they are very skittish and sensitive to movement. When choosing a wetsuit, buy a 5mm to 7mm freediving open-cell wetsuit with a camouflage pattern. Anything you can do to increase your chances of success is worth its weight in gold. When choosing your fins, grab a pair of soft, flexible, long blade fins. The smooth movements of the soft blades will lessen the chances of spooking fish. You want your movements to be calm and non-threatening; hence, the reason why you do not want a pair of stiff fins. There is no need to dive deep for white seabass, because they are most frequently found between the surface and 40 feet. 

Halibut and scallops may be deeper, but you will not find yourself needing to dive past 60 feet. Make sure your weight belt has removable weights so if you want to dive deeper, you can simply unclip a weight or two and be neutrally buoyant at greater depths. Maintaining a calm disposition is very important to increase your catch success. If your weight is not perfect, you will struggle to stay down at neutral buoyancy, and vice versa if you have too much weight on your belt. An easy way to evaluate your buoyancy is to take a deep breath while on the surface with your body in the vertical position, stop kicking, and see if your collarbones are at the water line. If so, then you will be neutral around 30 feet (+ or – a few feet). You can add weight or remove based on your target depth. A good practice is to record your ideal weighting systems for each thickness wetsuit, so when you pick up that 7mm wetsuit for the trip, you know exactly how much weight you will need. 

When picking a gun for the Northern Channel Islands, consider the type of fish you will be hunting most of the time. Will you be hunting reef fish or pelagic fish? Also consider the visibility will not be as good as the southern islands, so pick a medium sized gun with power and accuracy. A 100cm to 120cm gun with two bands is the perfect choice for any type of fish you may encounter. If you really want to hold out for a 60+ pound white seabass, then add a third band to your gun and you will be able to penetrate even the largest game. 

If you decide to embark on the longer trek to the Southern Channel Islands where the visibility is greater and the water is warmer, you will need to make a few modifications to your quiver of diving gear. You can replace your thick wetsuit with a 5mm, and reduce the amount of lead you have on your weight belt. Your gun should also be longer to manage the greater visibility and the greater distance between you and the fish. A gun from 115cm to 140cm is a better choice, and make sure your bands match the power needed to take longer shots. Don’t forget to add a double wrap of mono to your spear shaft. Finally, add some reflective tape to the tips of your fins. The shine and shimmers of light that will reflect off the tape can draw fish to you, again improving your chances of finding fish. 

How to hunt each species:

When hunting White Seabass, find their ideal water temperatures as mentioned above, then talk to the local dive shops and fishing charters to figure out where the fish are. Always anchor the boat away from the kelp bed you are going to hunt. Quietly slip into the water and start to scan for signs as you pursue through the kelp towards the up current side. Look for frantic schools of bait with scars and scales missing. This is often a good indicator that larger fish are feeding on the bait. Focus your dives between 10 to 20 feet with a bottom time of 1:30 to 1:45. If you cannot hold your breath that long, you can opt for the easy way out and simply look for them from the surface. Many large fish have been taken in this manner, but the purists will argue that it is not sporty, so don’t brag about how you speared your fish from the surface. The final thing to remember is NEVER MAKE SUDDEN MOVEMENTS when hunting white seabass. 

According to the 2011/12 CaDF&G regulations, the recreational fishery for white seabass is: 

“(Section 28.35 of the regulations book)

(a) Minimum size: Twenty-eight inches total length. 

(b) Season: Open all year.

(c) Limit: Three, except that only one fish may be taken in waters south of Pt. Conception between March 15 and June 15.”

If the white seabass is not becoming a fruitful endeavor for you, hone your skills by hunting kelp bass (Also known as calico bass). They are usually in the same kelp bed and are less shy, but a perfect fish to practice on in order to learn if you are doing things right. They are anywhere from the surface to the bottom, average about two to five pounds, and taste great. Once you can make dives and stalk the fish without spooking it, you are ready to go back to hunting for white seabass. 

According to the 2011/12 CaDF&G regulations, the recreational fishery for kelp bass “calico bass” is: 

“(Section 28.30 of the regulations book)

(a) Minimum size: Twelve inches total length. 

(b) Limit: Ten in any combination of species.”

Yellowtail hunting is more like blue water hunting than reef hunting even though they often appear near reef walls or structure. They prefer warmer waters above 67˚ and the best visibility for hunting them is 25ft to 50ft. Use the bait as your eyes and ears. Swim to the edge of the bait and watch their movements. When the fish disappear, make a dive and be ready, while looking in the opposite direction of where the bait swam to. Once you spot the fish, refrain from eye contact and jerky movements. Act as if you have no interest in the fish and that you are just taking a nap. Yellowtail is a curious fish by nature if you let them. This is where hunting becomes a game of patience and whit. Be smarter than your prey and be ready with a big powerful gun rigged with a reel or a float line. Once you shoot these fish you will be hooked up to a hot and powerful game fish. Some divers have various tricks for luring the fish in closer. They wiggle their fingers, grunt, or even strum the bands of their gun. These tactics can occasionally work against you, so when in doubt, just be a silent hunter.  

While you are hunting Yellowtail, you may get tired of not pulling the trigger. When that happens, take a shot at a barracuda or bonito. Both are great to eat and a great way to perfect your shot. Barracuda are skinny and can be shy. The bonito are fast and do not offer a large target. If you shoot a bonito, bleed it, and get it on ice right away. Then for lunch, slice it up for Japanese sashimi, Hawaiian poke, or Mexican ceviche. The texture and flavor of fresh bonito will be one you will savor forever. 

According to the 2011/12 CaDF&G regulations, the recreational fishery for yellowtail is: 

“(Section 28.37 of the regulations book)

(a) Limit: Ten

(b) Minimum size: Twenty-four inches fork length except that: Five fish less than twenty-four inches fork length may be taken or possessed.”

When hunting halibut, dig your eyes into local diving guidebooks and scan for any details about where divers spotted halibut in good numbers. Find out what time of year the fish frequent that area, and be ready to spend hours looking in sand. The halibut like to lay in sand as camouflage, but they love to do so adjacent to rocky structure where other ecosystems of fish congregate. The grunion run (a spawning of bait fish) is a great place to start your research. Halibut will follow the bait into shallow bays and fill their bellies only to lay fat in the sand for you to spear. When looking for halibut, strain your eyes to see any changes in shape of relief. You may only see the edge of its jaw, fin, or eye while the rest of the fish is completely covered in sand. You may only see a bulge in the sand that does not look normal. These are good indications that you may be hovering right above your dinner, so act quick, determine the size, and pull the trigger. When placing your shot, opt for a center punch, because some of these fish are right eye dominant and some are left eye dominant, meaning that the fish may have most of its shootable flesh to the right or left. Divers occasionally shoot for the wrong side, hoping for a spine shot, only to shoot the sand on the wrong side and watch the fish swim away. The ideal gun is short, 85cm to 100cm, and your tip should have a double flopper or a detachable tip. The flesh of the halibut is soft and their soft flesh makes for a nasty cocktail of lost fish for those who are not prepared. 

According to the 2011/12 CaDF&G regulations, the recreational fishery for California halibut is:

“(Section 28.15 of the regulations book)

(a) Limit: Five in waters south of a line extending due west magnetic from

Point Sur, Monterey County, and three in waters north of a line extending due west magnetic from Point Sur, Monterey County.

(b) Minimum size: Twenty-two inches total length.”

After a day of good spearfishing, you might want to try your hand at diving for lobster at night. The California Spiny lobster is a seafood delicacy that is both fun and challenging. While many scuba divers may hunt the deeper ledges, a freediver can reap the benefits of staying in shallow water where scuba divers seldom swim. The trick to hunting lobster at night is to keep swimming until you find a good area with many lobsters. Once you have spotted the bug with your light, immediately take the bright light off the lobster and make a slow calculated approach. Once you are within striking range of your arm. Slowly bring the outermost beam of light towards the front of the lobster. It is critical at this point to make sure that you are positioned so the lobster is facing the hand with the light and your other hand is approaching from the tail. This is a perpendicular approach that brings greater success to the diver. Once the beam of light is about six inches from the front of the bug, it will start feeling for that light by lowering it’s antennas, offering you a clear chance to grab the lobster. 

According to the 2011/12 CaDF&G regulations, the recreational fishery for California spiny lobster is:

“(Section 29.90 of the regulations book)

(a) Open season: From the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October through the first Wednesday after the 15th of March.

(b) Limit: Seven.

(c) Minimum size: Three and one-fourth inches measured in a straight line on the mid-line of the back from the rear edge of the eye socket to the rear edge of the body shell.” 


The California Department of Fish and Game (www.dfg.ca.gov) requires salt water fishing licenses for all anglers including spearfishermen. While we do have some exemptions to hunt certain species of fish for longer periods of time than traditional hook and line fishermen, it is advised to check the regulations before each outing to make sure you are following the law. The fines for fishing violations in California are expensive and charges are stiff.


Till the next adventure - Dan Silveira

"On The Way to Croatia"
By Dan Silveira

Representing the USA in the 2010 Worlds Spearfishing competition is more than just about putting up a good score. It is about building the community of spearfisherman that we have threaded into our lives and become a part of. The triumphant path towards the Worlds Competition in Croatia has been exhilarating to say the least. What was once a leisurely pass time, for us, soon became more of an obsession. Over coming obstacles, endless scouting, vigorous training, numerous competitions, and countless hours of diving were just a few of our weekly habits we had grown so fond of.

            To qualify for the USA Worlds Team, three divers and an alternate are selected by process of adding the highest scores from two consecutive national events. Top divers from each council are sent to compete in the National circuit and over 100 total divers put their best talent on the table for a shot at making it to the USA Team. After two long years of national competitions, the four top scores were compiled and gave birth to one of the youngest USA Dive Teams ever. Justin Allen, Dan Silveira, Sean Moreschi and alternate John Modica were chosen. With an average age of 24, only time will tell if this young team will deliver promising scores. 

        We knew that our shallow diving and ease of shooting abundant fish, in the shallow and murky waters of the U.S., would not translate well into the Worlds Competition. Knowing our dilemma, we got together with our coach Brian Lee to discuss our options. Croatia is located in the upper portion of the Adriatic Sea and is home to clear water, smart fish and excellent divers. To be competitive, we needed the ability to freedive beyond 100 feet and that was a comfort zone none of us yet possessed. Our final verdict was that we needed to become better freedivers, so we contacted Martin Stepanek, from Freediving Instructors International with hopes that his experience of training top freedivers for deep diving would help us.

    During our training with Stepanek, we realized that there was yet another level to freediving and understanding our human physiology. After several weeks of reading books, attending lectures, hours of pool time, and several trips out to deep water, all the divers on the team were finally able to dive beyond 140 feet and some even broke the 200 foot barrier. The questions about deep diving that plagued our minds for so many years soon became clear. We were slowly tapping into our mammalian instincts and our bodies became gauges by which we could interpret the signs and symptoms before, during and after a dive. We now know how deep we can dive, how long we can stay down and how much we can push our bodies.

            While holding our breaths for long periods of time and diving deep was our primary goal, we soon found out that is was second to safety. Stepanek trained us to work as a team and we promptly worked as a cohesive unit with proper safety and conservative dive profiles. The experience we gained is paramount to being able to compete with the rest of the talented divers worldwide.

            We have come a long way in the last two years by dramatically improving our gear, techniques, and ability as freedive spearfisherman. We have been working hard to help promote the sport by working closely with sponsors, supporters, and the community. Thanks to them, we are slowly raising the necessary funds to make it to Croatia. We have to raise every penny on our own and it is like a full time job, for us, to advocate the event and the USA team. For more information about the USA Worlds Team, check us out at:




Thanks for your support and best of luck to everyone!

If your are interested in a copy of this issue #4, see the Deep Worldwide Magazine online:


DEEP World Wide Magazine 

added Dan Silveira to their 

Hall of Fame in issue #6

  Dan Silveira - Sunset - Temple of Poseidon - Greece 

Dan Silveira – interview questions.

1. What are your feelings for qualifying in the World spearfishing champion ships? What do you expect? Name your personal and team goals/ ambitions.

    I am elated with emotions and it is an honor to represent my country in a competition of this caliber. It was a lot of hard work and determination to make it onto the USA team. Years of preparation, scouting, local and national competitions, high scores, and lots of fundraising are just to name a few of the daunting tasks I had to overcome to make this a reality. I expect the Worlds Competition to be a life long experience that will exponentially take my freediving and spearfishing abilities to an entirely new level. Although I will be competing against 60+ of the best divers in the world, this competition is one against my self. I want to perform at the best of my ability and see the results against the rest of the best. Whether I take 1st or last is not the goal, I just want to know that I did everything possible to put up my personal top score. In the end I will have grown as a freediver, spearfishermen, and individual.

    We want to dive at a level, which the rest of the world has rarely seen from USA competitors in the past. We have spent countless hours training to dive deep, modified every piece of equipment and spent 2 weeks spearfishing in the Med with a couple of the best spearfisherman on the planet – Dimitris Kollias and Staveros (need last name). In the end, it would be nice to see team USA at the podium, but our handicap is still difficult to overcome. These waters are still foreign to us and the tournament zone is huge and hopefully the fish will cooperate and maybe we will have a bit of luck. We will do our best and see where we stand in one of the most difficult seas on Earth – the Adriatic sea – Croatia.

Dan Silveira - Spearfishing - TEAM USA

2. How hard do you think it will be to catch a fish in Croatia?

Will it be easy - NO!

My reason for this is because of several reasons.

·       The lack of fish

·       The depths a freediver has to dive to get fish

·       The clear water averaging 80 ft.

·       The increased number of spearfisherman.

·       The thousands of years of overfishing with nets and lines.

·       The witty nature of the fish.

The above list is only the beginning as I am sure after the Worlds Competition I will be able to add pages and pages of why it is hard to catch fish in Croatia. A diver must be well trained both physically and mentally. The fish blend-in with the environment and it takes an educated eye to even spot them. Each fish that I spear will be a huge accomplishment for me.

Silveira manages to spear a massive Dusky Grouper in Croatia!

 3. What are the differences between the Med and the ocean? Are there any similarities? What do you like the most and why?

The ocean is huge while the Med is small in comparison. The ocean is susceptible to large tidal exchange, and longer wind fetch which results in larger swells that deliver big waves when it hits the shore. This movement of water often mixes warm and cold waters together where the sea becomes rich with biodiversity from microorganisms, such as plankton, to enormous fishes and mammals. Visibility can range from just a few feet of visibility to over 100ft. The fish are abundant but tightly located in specific habitats. In other words it would take a lifetime of diving in the ocean to see every species. Many of the species are relatively shallow and easy to spear.

The Med is saltier then the ocean forcing divers to use more led on their weight belts to get down. There is less current than in the ocean and often one could dive for hours with out ever feeling any current at all. The fish are less abundant and the species are less varied than in the ocean and require extreme differences in depth. Either the diver needs to hunt in super shallow water, or go very deep. The fish have been over fished for thousands of years and have been trained to stay away from divers. The visibility in the Med is often up to 100ft and the only way to spear prized fish in the Med is to be a phenomenal freediver and spearo. Occasionally one can happen upon luck and spear a trophy fish in shallow water and with little experience.

Silveira with a Dusky Grouper

 4. Are you following any particular exercise and diet program?

After the last Nationals I vowed to myself that I would not to drink alcohol till after the worlds. I try not to eat much junk food and I rarely drink soda. I try to drink at least one gallon of water per day and I do Yoga and stretching daily. Ultimately there is no replacement for training other then diving as often as I can. I dive two to three times a week off my kayak which I paddle miles on end. When the seas are too rough to dive, I go to the gym where I weight train, run, and swim in the pool. I try to stay as active a possible, because if I don’t, I do not sleep as well as when I do.

 5. Describe us an average spearfishing session back home.

California is extremely large and offers a wide array of fish to hunt from Rockfish and Halibut to white seabass and yellowtail. During the winter, I hunt for Rockfish and lingcod from my kayak, but when summer comes along, I head down south to dive for halibut, sheephead, calicos, white seabass and yellowtail. There is rarely a day that I do not come in with a great catch. The fish in California are abundant and moderately easy to spear. This type of spearfishing allows me to pull the trigger several times a day and helps me with my fish instinct, a combination of predicting the fishes movements and analyzing the varied signs on the fly.

 6. Which was your deepest and biggest catch?

Combining the size of fish with depth is something I do not do often because of the great risks that associated deep freediving with big powerful fish; however, I recently speared a 175 lb yellowfin tuna at 80 feet with a breath hold of 1:45.

 7. What is your favorite spearfishing technique?

Allowing the fish to come to me or accept my presence is my favorite style of spearfishing. When I am hunting reef fish, I enjoy aspetto, waiting for fish to come in close while I lay hiding at the bottom. When I am spearing large pelagic fish such as yellowfin tuna there is nothing more exciting then swimming in the middle of a massive school of 200 pound fish. Finally, when I am at home in California, I love hunting for white seabass. I use the large kelp stocks to ambush fish from. I swim slowly till I find a spot with agitated bait and allow the fishes curiosity to bring them with in range of my gun.

 8. What kind of gear are you using?

I am sponsored by Omer USA and Sporasub USA, now both under the same company of Technosport. Their line of equipment is top rate. The suits, masks, fins and accessories offer me a full line of equipment to pick from. I use everything from 7mm wetsuits in California to 3mm wetsuits in warm water. My guns range from 65cm for spearfishing in the holes to 130cm guns for large pelagic fish.

Dan Silveira - Spearfishing - TEAM USA

 9. Why are u a spearo? Name the biggest benefit of spearfishing.

Without a doubt spearfishing has thought me a lot about life. Self-reliance is number one when diving. I often dive with a dive partner, but I like to put my self in the mind-set that if anything happens, it is only up to me to take care of the issue. I have also been able to travel to different places around the world spearfishing diverse species of fish, but what still amazes me is seeing the different cultures and ways of life. It has been a humbling experience to see them live their life so simply and even more humbling to dive with such great divers. My experiences spearfishing have often been some of the greatest in my life and I have found that attention to detail is the name of the game, both in freedive spearfishing and in life.

 10. Do you have any particular idol or a role model? Are you being influenced by someone?

My passion for freediving all started with my dad. He is from the island of Fail, Azores. At the age of seven, he started freediving with me and soon after, I stared spearfisahing. Diving in the Azores was always inspiring for me because all of my cousins were great speros with top quality gear. It was at the ripe young age of eleven when I really wanted to perform better. Soon after I saw the cover of a book called spearfishing by Terry Mass when I realized that I wanted to spear big fish such as the massive World Record bluefin tuna that Mass was holding on the cover. Later I went to work at a dive center in California and had David Laird as my mentor for a few years. He trained me to freedive better, spear larger fish, lead trips, take photos and write for magazines. Those are only a few of my mentors that have greatly influenced me, but the list goes on and on. I think it is important to have people to look up to because it gives me a guideline as to what I can focus on next. It is rare to find one person who is great at everything, but rather they will specialize in particular areas of freediving and spearfishing. 

Silveira with Greek Spearfishing Champion Yanis Sedaris
Silveira with 3 time World Champion - Pedro Carbonell
Silveira with 2008 World Champion - Joseba Kerejeta

Till the next adventure - Dan Silveira


Greece – Revealed for Speros

By Dan Silveira

Silveira with a white grouper speared at 118ft deep - Greece 

-The ultimate test of a spearfisherman is not how many fish he has caught or how big the fish was, but rather where he caught the fish. The Mediterranean Sea is a body of water that breeds many of the tastiest seafood delicacies, smartest fish, and best freedivers in the world. -

            I took bearings on the island in front of me to mark the exact rock that I was about to dive to. The chop on the surface was blurring my vision so I quickly swam into position. Breath after breath my heart rate slowed as I stared into the blue water. This was going to be a deep dive so my dive partner, Sean Moreschi, stayed close. He held onto my left fin, relocating my position constantly as the current was moving me away from where I needed to be. This technique allowed me to relax my muscles and oxygenate my blood. Finally, I gave him the OK sign and he squeezed my foot telling me I was going to get a push. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs to the max. I bent at the waist, lifted my right leg out of the water and Sean pushed on my left leg giving me an express delivery to 30 feet. I kept my head tucked in a neutral position, gun at my side and my body streamlined, as I continued to kick to my sink phase. At 65 feet I began to glide towards the bottom. My heart slowed and my mind became focused as the bottom approached. At 100 feet I leveled out, preparing for a soft landing at 107 feet. Out of the corner of my eye a familiar shape immerged from the rocks. A white grouper was sitting 15 feet away. I extended my gun just as the fish lifted from the bottom, but before I had a chance to take a shot, the fish turned towards the deep. I followed the grouper to 118 feet where I quickly took cover behind a rock, only exposing the tip of my gun to the fish. I waited and waited until the suspense got the better of me and when I lifted my head from behind the rock, the grouper had turned around and was swimming back to the tip of my gun! At 12 feet away, I pulled the trigger placing a holding shot on my prized fish. My ascent back to the surface was picture perfect. I kept the grouper off the bottom while releasing enough line from my reel to effortlessly kick back up. At 40 feet Sean was waiting and I happily gave him my gun, as I was now in need for air. Hitting the surface I took several breaths in rapid succession and gave him the OK sign. This had been the deepest I had ever shot a fish and the success was a result of being flexible to change and willing to adapt to different conditions.

Silveira with a Dusky grouper - Greece

            Prior to diving in the Mediterranean, my success spearfisihing had been based on shooting big fish, winning competitions and traveling to many parts of the world, but the diving in Greece changed my mind about what difficult spearfishing really was. It took 10 days of spearfishing with Dimitris Kollias and Staveros Kastrinakis to learn the skills and techniques of spearfishing in the Mediterranean to be moderately successful.

           The first day in the water was difficult on my stomach. The great visibility played tricks on my mind. What seemed shallow was 4 times further than I calculated. Not only was I far from the bottom, I was far from the fish, which would elude me before I had even broken natural buoyancy. Deep, deep, deep was the lesson I learned as the fish continued to swim into the invisible safety zone, which very few divers ever approach.             Dive after dive, I saw nothing but bait fish. I was astonished that I had not pulled the trigger after the first hour, so in a last ditch effort to salvage my withering reputation, I swam over to Dimitris and he pointed towards the bottom. He had seen a golden grouper swim into a tight crack and signaled to me to make a dive on it. When I hit the bottom, I looked into the hole that was about the size of my head and saw nothing. After returning to the surface empty-handed, Dimitris asked me how deep it was – 100ft! The fish was spooked he said and continued on. I thought he was crazy for searching in holes at that depth because at home, California – USA, I wouldn’t even think of doing that past 70ft. It was at that very moment that I realized that everything I had ever learned spearfishing would never have prepared me for this trip.               

        Again Dimitris called me over and told me that the fish we had been looking for all day were deeper than we had been diving. At 110 feet there was a ledge that dropped off to 125feet and that was where the cooler water was. I made a descent to 80 feet and proceeded to crawl another 70 feet along the bottom, as to not spook the fish. At 115feet I could see the drop-off and it was covered in fish. Dusky, golden and white grouper were everywhere. I took aim on a large golden, but realized that I had been down far too long and I let the fish go. When I hit the surface 2:10 min later Dimitris was holding my arm and reminding me to breath. I had a loss of motor control (LMC) and my breathing was a bit sporadic. I was embarrassed and humbled at the same time. I knew that if I wanted to be successful, I needed to start back at square one.

            The first thing I learned was that after a long flight to any destination, the human body needs a day or two just to acclimate to the conditions. This is the body’s prerequisite to safe diving and can take a day or two. This essential step was clear to me just after the first day of diving. I needed to use the first day in the water as a warm up. The time zone, water temperature, visibility, fish behavior and the depth are just to name a few of the foreign obstacles we had to grow accustomed to. The body is a tool that has to be programmed for the job (freediving). It was an eye-opener to learn that even the best divers in the world respect their bodies with a day of acclimation diving.             

            Once the body is ready to dive, it is time to figure out where the fish are. The waters around Greece offer plenty of places to dive but few hold fish. We were in search of virgin reef but to do so we employed a technique of scouting called “Towing”. Using a 5/8” thick rope that was 120 feet long, we attached one end of it to the boat and the other to a short stick. We placed the stick between our thighs and the rope follows over our back and connects to the transom of the boat. At a towing speed of 2.5 to 3.5 mph the boat pulls us through the water. By pitching forward I got pulled down and vice versa for the return back to the surface. With this system of quickly covering large areas of water I can troll at 50ft for two minutes per breath hold. Without delay we found several new spots to dive and made GPS marks for the following day.

Silveira with a white grouper speared at 118ft deep - Greece

            With good locations secured, we needed to investigate the spots to find out where the fish were hiding. To achieve this undertaking at 100 plus feet we used another technique called pendulum diving. This system utilizes a heavy weight attached to a buoy by means of a 120 feet line. The diver is under weighted and when ready, releases the weight from the buoy, allowing it to take him to the bottom effortlessly. On his return back to the surface he has less weight on his weight belt (making it a safer dive). With this method, we not only were able to observe the fish, but we also had ample time to spear them. Two of my other dive partners, John Modica and Justin Allen, were able to secure large mottled grouper and croaker at 125 feet.

           Now that we have acclimated, found the fish and learned their behavior, we had to put it to the test and hunt them by means of self-reliance. We used pendulum diving to become accustomed to deep diving but the question was; how are we going to get down there on our own? We learned that a flexible wetsuit was very important. Luckily we all had custom fit Yamamoto 45 wetsuits. While they are easily torn, they are extremely comfortable and offer maximum movement. Haiawa neoprene is also a good choice of rubber that is still durable and still offers good mobility. When we take a breath we need to have the least resistance and that is why we use high waist pants rather than farmer john bottoms.

            When it came to fins, there was no comparison to carbon fiber. They have the most response with the least effort. When choosing the stiffness we went as soft as possible for deeper diving. The reason for our decision is that softer blades mean that we can make smaller kicks while keeping our legs as straight as possible and use the least amount of energy. Everything we do on deep dives is focused on relaxation and streamlining. We do not use float lines connected to the gun, but instead we use reels with plenty of line and a smooth drag. The fish we were hunting do not swim far after they are shot, so the reel is mostly to allow me to get back to the surface.

            We found that the ideal size guns for the Mediterranean are between 60cm to 85cm, for hunting in the holes, and 105cm to 120 cm, for stalking larger fish like grouper and dentex. The stalking method is known as agguato in Greece. It is a very useful way to approach timid fish from a distance. We quickly realized that a 5 second wait is essential before stalking when we first land at the bottom. This gives  a chance for surrounding fish to settle down and accept our presence. After, we keep our profile small and we use structure to hide our movements. Our most successful way to advance on fish was to use our free hand to crawl across the bottom and once the fish was in range we did not hesitate – we pulled the trigger immediately.

Silveira with an Amberjack - Greece

The other technique we used quite often was espeto or hiding and waiting. This method was great for peaking over a ledge to see if any dentex were around. If so, we would play hide and seek with them while grunting a few times to lure them in for a shot. At first this was tough to do in deep water, but after a few days of diving we had no problems and always had a safety diver waiting for us at the surface. The beauty of this technique is that every molecule of O2 is conserved while lying motionless on the bottom. It allowed me to stay calm and completely focused. I had the advantage of using mental imagery to anticipate where the fish would come from, judge the distance, and position the gun for maximum radius.

            Every bit of what I learned while in Greece was absolutely vital to the total outcome of being successful. There is not just one trick that will make a spero successful. It has everything to do with the several small details that hone ones techniques and gives them an increased percentage of what many call luck. What separated the best divers in the world from everyone else is clear as day to me. They can read their bodies like a map, knowing how hard they can push it, and when it needs to rest. They use their equipment as an extension of their body and surprisingly they swim more than they walk. Their mind is always anticipating fish with every turn of their head and their index finger is accurately awaiting the squeeze of the trigger when the moment presents itself. I can say that the short amount of time I spent in Greece was far too short, but at least I am starting to put it all together and I feel that I am becoming the diver I have always aspired to be. The last 15 years of diving were kind of like an experiment and the next 15 will be a result of my unquestionable passion for freedive spearfishing.

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