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BlueWater Hunting and Freediving Excerpts

Terry Maas (All rights reserved) –

World renowned freediving spearfisherman and author Terry Maas has graciously agreed to submit excerpts from his book "BlueWater Hunting and Freediving" and other personal experiences to allow those of us out there new to the sport ( and those who aren’t) to experience some of his insights and travels as a hunter and freediver.

Exerpt #1

My own Guadalupe Island trip, exactly a decade earlier, netted a world record that still stands. Bait fish began to gather over the rocks, stepping from 60 to 90 to 120 feet below. I had that special feeling experienced divers get when they know conditions are favorable for big fish. Sure enough, big yellowtail appeared in schools. I yelled to my Hawaiian friend and teammate Dennis Okada, ‘Don’t shoot the yellows, I think tuna will show!’ Two dives later, into the 150-foot visibility water, I watched Dennis try to ignore a 40-pound yellowtail swimming toward him. Unable to resist, he shot the fish and headed back to the boat with it. Alone, I was diving the now famed ‘tuna alley’ of Guadalupe Island, Mexico.

Having trouble with the then-experimental lifeguard float system, which kept deploying its 100 feet of line in the heavy swells, I pinned the line inside the float. I reasoned that if I shot a fish, I could get to the pin and release it as the buoys passed me.

A school of ten, 50-pound bluefin, 100 feet away, mesmerized me. They swam so close to the surface that they occasionally disappeared from my view in the large oceanic swells marching overhead. Toward the end of a dive, I glanced down, looking beyond the reef edge into deep water and noticed two small distant tuna swimming in my direction. I froze. Slowly the tuna grew, soon becoming giants. I kept waiting for them to get close enough to make out detail on their bodies before I took my shot. When the closest fish just started to veer away from its course toward me (about 15 feet away), I simultaneously thrust my four-banded gun forward and kicked. I fired. My intent was to give as much forward momentum to the near horizontal spearshaft as possible. The fish took off so fast that it was impossible to catch my release pin as the two buoys streaked by, almost hitting me. Still joined by the pin, the buoys descended at a steep angle. Seconds later, they started to float back toward the surface, a sure sign my fish was lost. At least I could release that pesky pin.

Suddenly, the floats took off again, towing me in a large circle. I caught sight of the huge tuna, having completed a full circle on the surface, heading straight toward me. I began untangling myself from my float lines and preparing to dodge the monster fish, when it rolled over and started sinking, about 30 feet away. I struggled to stay afloat as the giant tuna’s dead weight kept pulling me under. Finally, the chase boat arrived with my second gun. I dove and made a good second shot securing my fish just as the last wing of the first spearhead slipped free. We lassoed the 398-pound world-record by its big tail and brought it back to the mother boat, Sand Dollar. We tied it to the boat’s swim step while we devised a plan to get it onboard intact.

I’ll never forget the unbelieving expressions on the faces of the returning divers, as one by one, they caught sight of that monster fish hanging from the back of the boat.

Expert #2

Bluewater diver Peter McGonnagle tells the story of his world-record catch:

"I was employed as a deck hand for a fishing boat working out of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We headed for a huge school of dorado about 20 miles out. Most of the fish were female weighing up to about 45 pounds. The fishermen onboard caught 12 fish until they ran out of bait. Now was my chance to slip into the water. "I was immediately engulfed by female fish, but I could also see several large 60- to 70-pound males stealthfully cruising the outer edges of the school. I found that the largest fish stayed way out on the periphery as long as I stayed with the school but became curious when I left it. It would follow me a short distance until we made eye contact and then dart away. Keeping its distance, it would then follow me back to the females. This fish and I kept repeating this dance until I changed my tactic. "I laid perfectly still in the water for 30 minutes, gun at my side, floating like a drifting log. The big fish would approach, circle me and then dart away again. Finally it came close, almost within range, then darted straight down. I lay perfectly still as it reversed course and came within 10 feet, close enough for a good shot. "My shot was true, hitting it behind the gill plate. It jumped out of the water and then headed straight down, instantly stripping 150 feet of line from my reel. Pressure on the reel’s drag finally stopped it. The fish stayed deep, continually swimming on its side. Half an hour of gentle pulling passed before I was able to move it toward me. On the surface, it darted around in circles as I reeled in my loose line. I finally pulled it close enough to shove my hands into its gills. That’s when I realized how really big it was. I held it, bear- hug fashion, until I could swim back to the boat, where everyone onboard was impressed with its beauty and size."

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Cliff Etzel
Cliff Etzel
Cliff is the former Freediving editor of He is now a freelance journalist and film-maker.