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2018 AOTY/DOTY Entry

Topic: Incidental Take While Spear Fishing  (Read 357 times)

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  • Manatee
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October 26, 2017

Question:What happens if a spearfishing diver spots a large fish and shoots and spears it without realizing until too late that itís a giant (black) sea bass or another prohibited species? Then after the fish is speared and brought to the surface, the spearfisher realizes they have a fish they canít take or possess, so they promptly return it to the ocean. Has the spearfisher violated any laws?

The reason I ask is because if an angler catches a prohibited species while fishing for other species, they can argue that the take was unintentional/incidental. Could the spearfisher successfully make a similar argument? (Steve H.)

Answer: Spear fishermen are responsible for identifying their targets before they pull the trigger and can be held accountable for shooting a prohibited species. They are also responsible for ensuring that any fish they shoot meets the minimum size limit requirements for that species, again, before they pull the trigger.

A short lingcod or illegal giant sea bass, for example, is unlikely to survive after being shot by a spear fisherman who has the ability to select his target carefully first. On the other hand, while an angler fishing from a boat cannot selectively target which individual fish he wishes to catch, when he does catch a short or illegal fish, those fish are much more likely to survive being hooked in the mouth and then immediately released by the angler.

If a diver is unsure about the size or identity of the fish they are aiming at, the diver should choose a different target. Shooting a fish that youíre unsure of could end up being illegal, and many spear fishermen would consider it unethical as well.

These same principles also all apply to hunters. No one with a rifle, shotgun, spear gun or even a bow should pull the trigger unless absolutely 100 percent sure that their intended target is of legal size, species, gender, etc. An accurate (or even lucky) shot made, but with an error in judgment, is not worth the repercussions of breaking the very laws enacted to protect the stateís fish and wildlife.

Dale L

  • Sea Lion
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There really are stupid questions

Mojo Jojo

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There really are stupid questions
So ifin I done did shot my 8 point deer 1/2 mile away and it turns out to be one o them ther elk thingys can I throw it back and keep fishiní ??? Hi my name is Dicktardo Azzholio ...... really? Can someone explain why Darwin hasnít took care of that person yet  :smt044

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  • Sea Lion
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Just oractice shoot and release.


  • No stinkin'
  • Sea Lion
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Just oractice shoot and release.

Make sure to use spears without floppers.  :smt005