Way back, when I first moved to Houston in 2020, I put Spearfishing on The List. My thought was, now that I live in a coastal area I should try my hand at something exciting in the ocean. I figured spearfishing would be something I could just run down to Galveston and knock out some weekend. Kind of like learning to surf. Not so fast. Pump the brakes there fat boy.
Well, as it turns out it’s not that easy. In addition to a mask, snorkel, and a speargun, you need clear water with good visibility. That’s something you’ll not find in Galveston. You also need a fairly calm sea and an expert to spot and tell you which fish you can and can’t shoot. Looks like this one’s going to be more difficult than anticipated.
In 2021 and 2022, I booked spearfishing trips in Cabo. Both trips were ultimately canceled. Once because of weather and the second due to poor visibility. I was really bummed out on both occasions.
On Black Friday last year, Jamie’s friend Amy emailed us with details on this amazing deal for a 5-day trip to Playa del Carmen. The availability dates for this special offer would have us going in September; Hurricane season. Hey, it was such a great deal at a super hotel, that I was willing to roll the dice. We’re in.
I think Jamie enjoys the game that is “The List” as much as I do. Or maybe, she just enjoys seeing the charge I get when I complete some fun or crazy adventure. Either way, a few weeks back she booked me a spearfishing trip with Easy Spearfishing Playa del Carmen.
We flew from Houston to Cancun on Thursday. Man were my arms tired after all the flying! Haha. I love that joke. Sorry. My fishing trip was initially set for Saturday, but the owner of the company, Ruben, messaged Jamie and said he had an opening on Friday morning. Jamie asked me, “Wanna go spearfishing Friday instead of Saturday?” My answer was Yes. But, of course, my answer’s always yes.
On day one in Playa del Carmen, we had a fairly late night on the town. Regardless, I was up and out the door by 7:00 AM for my fishing trip. I was to meet Ruben at his boat at 8:00 AM. I ate a quick breakfast and left the resort. The spot where I would meet Ruben was about a 20-minute walk up the beach. As I walked toward the boat, I started thinking about swimming in the open ocean. I just learned to swim a few years ago. I hope I don’t drown. I then started to think about the ocean’s apex predators; sharks! I said to myself, “Okay, Chris. Sure, plenty could go wrong. How about we instead focus on what could go right?”
Ruben was a really fit guy in his late 20’s. “Hey, Chris! I’m Ruben. Come on over.” Ruben and I hit it off immediately. I could instantly tell he was a pro and I was in good hands. We chatted for a while as we waited for two other people to join us on the adventure. About 10 minutes later, Laura and Rand, young newlyweds from San Diego came walking up. Rand does a lot of Spearfishing back in California. Laura was a newbie like me. Ultimately, Laura decided she was more about snorkeling than Spearfishing. We all hopped into the boat and we were now on the hunt!
We motored out for about 20 minutes. While en route, Ruben passed out gear and told us about how much fun it was going to be free-diving down 20, 30, and even 50 feet to shoot a fish. What? Whoa. Full stop! 30 to 50 feet! No way, Jose; Errr, I mean Ruben. I can barely go that deep with scuba gear. There’s no way I can hold my breath that long. Oh, and once you get down there, that’s when the hunt begins. I told Ruben this might be a problem for me. He said not to worry. I’d be fine. I trusted Ruben. He’s a pro.
When we reached our first dive spot, Ruben went over a bunch of hand signals we would use underwater. We also covered the workings of a speargun. It’s a badass piece of equipment. “Always keep it pointed down and please don’t shoot me,” Ruben said smiling. He then showed us pictures of which fish to shoot and warned us about keeping an eye out for sharks. He said not to freak out if they come around. “We mainly encounter Bull Sharks in this area.” I felt a little blast of anxiety go through me, but then I remembered I’ve got a freaking speargun. Move over Jason Mamoa! Today I’m Aquaman. I put on my swim fins, weight belt, snorkel gear, and over the side of the boat, I went. It was on!
It took a while to acclimate to the gear. When you spearfish, everything is connected. The spear is connected to the gun. The gun is connected to a float line. The float line is connected to a bright orange buoy. He showed me the proper way to aim the gun by fully extending my shooting arm. We also practiced a few dives. I wasn’t so good. We had only been in the water for about 20 minutes when a school of Bar Jacks swam beneath us. Ruben gave me a hand signal to make sure I saw them. Once he was sure I saw them, he gave me a thumbs up and the shoot signal. The fish were silver and about a foot or so long. One fish in particular caught my eye. I dove down, eased in close, and fired. I hit it! Now what? It was a good hit and went all the way through the fish. The fish dove for the bottom and tugged on the gun. Ruben swam over and motioned for me to drop the gun and pull the fish up by the monofilament line attached to the spear. We then surfaced and finished retrieving the fish. The first catch of the day was then tossed in the boat. Mission accomplished. Here is a link to the video of me reeling in the fish.
A few minutes later, Ruben dove on this big fish that was way down deep. It took him about 30 seconds or so just to reach the bottom. Once there, he swam slowly and then made a shot at the fish. Another hit! Ruben then began swimming up towards the surface. It seemed to take forever. In total, he was down for what must have been 3 minutes. Later, he showed us a monitor on his wrist that recorded his dive at 82 feet. Wow! That’s incredible.
After about 90 minutes in this location, we moved to another. We shot a few more fish there. Rand said he saw a shark. I guess I missed it and I’m glad I did. If I don’t see it then it’s not there, right? We saw all kinds of marine life. It was all so beautiful.
We called it a day after fishing the second spot for about an hour. This was fine by me. After all, we had several fish in the boat. Ruben’s assistant drove the boat and Ruben sat in the front of the boat with me. Ruben announced it was time for lunch. With the boat bouncing across the waves, Ruben pulled out a cutting board and knives. Right there, he began cutting up two of the day’s catch. Finely chopped onions and cilantro along with sliced avocado completed the prep work. With the cutting and chopping done, Ruben layered everything on a serving tray. He squeezed fresh lemon and lime juice over everything and then some soy sauce too. A little salt and pepper was last to go on before our fresh fish lunch was served. I’m sure I had a big smile on my face when I took my first bite. I was kind of in disbelief at all that had just happened over the past four hours. Minutes ago, the fish on this tray were just swimming along off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, and I’m now eating them in gourmet fashion as we motor in a small fishing boat back to port. What an incredible experience.
It took us about 20 minutes to reach the longboat port. Once there, I thanked Ruben for the awesome experience. I also gave my departing well wishes to Rand and Laura. I hope they have a happy marriage. Whenever I finish an adventure, my feelings are mixed. I’m happy I did it, but I’m also a little sad that the anticipated adventure is over. Having something to look forward to is one of my three keys to a happy life.
As I walked back down the beach to my hotel, I reflected on the day. I’m not sure it could have gone any better. I’m so thankful that Jamie lined this up for me. She’s the best. For me, life is all about living well and making good memories. Today, I did both and I’m very grateful for it. As always, I hope you Find Your Adventure and Live Your Life. Also, if someone ever asks if you want to go spearfishing say yes. If they say you’re going with Ruben from Easy Spearfishing in Playa del Carmen then say hell yes. You’ll be glad you did.
PS-I broke a toe of my left foot and lost the nail on my pinky toe. Now my left foot looks as beat up as my marathon-mangled right foot. I’m glad I’m done running for a while.