Hole hunting is what separates the advanced spearos from the intermediates and shows in the size and volume of their catches. It’s a far more active form of hunting over the passive ambush techniques, can be rather acrobatic and benefits greatly from a good breath hold. It’s also the most rewarding form of hunting in my opinion.
The theory is that even fish need to rest, and like us they prefer it to be as safe and secure as possible. They don’t like to rest out in the open but in little caves, chunky cracks and can also dig out new spaces. Normally under those big boulders you sometimes see on the sand beds.
The best holes hold the best fish and the best thing about taking a great fish from these spots, is that a week later there will be another great fish in it. Yes that’s right; it’s a bit of drive through scenario going on. If you find a big fish in a hole then it means it’s a great hiding place as far as the fish are concerned. And if you remove the biggest dominant fish from it, it will be refilled by another similar sized fish when they realise it’s free. So when you find a great hole make sure you memorise where it is as it’s a ticket to great meal every time you pass. Some people take out a GPS and mark every hole they find.
The main technique is exploration. It can feel a bit scary at first as you need to get right into all those nooks and crannies. You need to get right on the bottom and slowly start getting a feel for your surroundings and where those hiding places might be. Don’t be afraid to get right in there with a head torch and explore it properly. However do be sensible and be very, very aware of potential snagging issues or the possibility of getting stuck – never ever take a risk if you are unsure.
Ideally you want a short gun for this, between a 50 and 60cm is perfect, and while you are moving around you need to be as silent as you can. This is by far the most important aspect that you need to be mindful of while hole hunting. You need to move around as stealthily as possible, try not to move any surrounding kelp, be mindful of churning up sand and make sure you don’t bang your speargun or weights on the rocks beneath you.
You are in assassin mode now so need to act like it. Keep your gun very close to your body; you don’t need to be waving that thing around. Try and slide smoothly around corners and slowly peak into new areas and holes. You want to be very tight to the floor or the surface you are manoeuvring around. If you see a nice specimen then don’t keep moving towards it, smoothly stop and start manoeuvring your gun into a shooting position. You don’t have all day to take the shot but at the same time you can’t turn Rambo and go in gung ho. Extend your speargun as smoothly as you can, using the most direct action, i.e. not swinging your gun in but extending your gun past your body and into the firing position. This is where the shorter gun makes all the difference.
Take the shot and do your best to pull the fish out the hole straight away. The last situation you want now is for the fish to shoot off out through the other side of the cave and snag your line around a bunch of rocks. Once it’s out of the hole you can start relaxing and use your normal technique of administering the last rites.
Overall the main thing to remember is that you are in stealth assassin mode not Rambo mode. Think Assassin’s Creed, not Call of Duty. Think Liam Neeson in ‘Taken’. Sure, there is a lot of action coming up but you need to be incognito first. You want to hug in tight, glide around corners and slowly peep over holes, be an explorer and see what you can find. Remember to remember where your holes are. By the end of the season you will have a big list of bountiful marks to check every time you are in the area
Above all else, the most important that you must always remember: when you have discovered one of these fast food outlets… never tell a soul where it is 😉