Today we are going to meet Matt Newman. A new member of Subandcast Team.
Hi Matt! Tell us something about you.
Hi my name is Matt I am 29 years old and I live in Cornwall UK. I am a Fully qualified engineer specialising in CNC machine work. I grew up in Dorset on the south coast of the UK spending my childhood years snorkelling, kayaking and fishing. After my parents saw my passion for the sea and fishing, my father combined the two and made me my first “hand spear” – a sharpened piece of steel with a notch cut into it and a heat shrink handle. Armed with this and my cheap surf wetsuit my buddy joined me for our first underwater hunt. After a couple of hours I returned home to my parents with 2 fine plaice one weighing 3.5lb and the other weighing over 6lb. A year later I was allowed my first speargun and from that moment I was hooked.
Tell us about your favourite places to go diving. What is your favourite technique/techniques?
I regularly dive along the south coast in Cornwall mostly targeting big pollack in deep tidal water, using an agachon or aspetto technique. I also try to dive around Sussex a lot with my 70 year old friend and mentor. The diving here is very different to Cornwall with different techniques required to target big bass, cod and flatfish. I enjoy the diversity Sussex offers in terms of species available and find I always learn new techniques and can see a visible difference in the level of spearfishing I am at.
My favourite type of spearfishing is hole fishing, which often involves short guns, dirty or dark water and very spooky fish at close range.
Talking about fish, what is your favourite target and the ones you remember most?
My most memorable catches include watching my brother catch his personal best pollack in 2017.
In 2018 I had a trip to Sussex where I caught my first cod shortly followed by another two, my first black bream, my first conger eel and a nice plaice, this is by far the best days spearfishing I have had. Also this year at a national competition I caught 8 mullet up to 2.5kg in 2 hours, in what resulted in a hard competition for everyone. After speaking to my brother who was fishing nearby and hearing he hadn’t seen a fish yet I let him fish my area whilst I moved off. He managed to catch a fish which was great as we were in a team together. At the weigh in I finished in 2nd place by one fish which was my best ranking in a national competition. A shame as I had 2 fish rip off and moved away from a good area, however I really feel it was a team effort and I was proud of my brother.
What equipment are you using?
I have 2 lengths of gun that I use a 75cm and a 90cm gun. For competition use I have a single 17.5mm band with a single wrap of monofilament and a bungee, paired to a 6.75mm sandvik stainless spear. Both of these guns are marked with nail varnish at various intervals to show minimum size measurements of fish for quick reference.
For social diving occasionally I use a 75cm gun with single 17.5mm band and a titanium trident head connected to a reel. This is a specialist gun for diving holes and wrecks where there is a high possibility of my spear getting stuck. But most of my diving is done with a 90cm gun with a single barb 6.75mm sandvik spear and single 17.5mm rubber. I use a reel with this setup as I often dive up to 20m in areas of tide and very thick kelp, the pollack have a tendency to dive for cover in this kelp so a reel allows me to surface and retrieve the fish on another dive.
I mostly use a 5mm wetsuit with my preference being a smooth skin jacket and open cell Lycra lined high waist pants. I use some custom made fins that are very reactive and help with long surface swims.
What is your opinion about competitions. What do you like most of them. And what don’t.
I regularly compete in competitions throughout the UK and have competed in a popular 2 day competition in Norway. I really enjoy the competitive side of spearfishing and feel it is a very quick way to improve your technique and understanding of conditions, venues and fish behaviour.
I started doing competitions with the idea of diving new areas with new people and learning off some of the best spear fishermen and women in the country. I try to help and pass on advice to others as much as possible and take great pride in helping someone achieve a new personal best or see a noticeable improvement in their ability.
As spearfishing is becoming more popular in the UK I hope that other divers take the time to teach and help beginner or upcoming spearfishers, as they are the future and I am a strong believer in giving something back as many people have taken the time to teach me over the years, from British champions offering advice over the phone or email, top international spearfishers giving me small tips and answering my questions and even just diving with new and experienced divers. There is always something to learn if you are willing to observe and ask.
I have always idolised UK spearfishermen such as Eric Smith, Peter Crawford and Kevin Daly, and regularly read stories about international legends such as Pedro Carbonell, Renzo Mazzarri, Jose Amengual, Jean Baptiste Esclapez and Massimo Scarpati.
What is your opinion about spearfishing in UK? How is the situation now and what do you expect in the future.
I think there is a great community of spearfishers within the UK with divers of all levels and abilities forming friendships and enjoying the sport with friends and family. This will help spearfishing to be more recognised and hopefully expand to a level where we as a community are considered and maybe even consulted with for future regulations, as we can provide an insight different to other forms of underwater activities and I believe this insight could be valuable to scientists and the government in monitoring and safeguarding fish stocks in the U.K. to allow future generations to enjoy fishing as much we do at the moment.
Did you have any accidents in spearfishing. What do you think it is the most dangerous in spearfishing. Or the higher risks on it.
I have been spearfishing for 15 years in total and I have taken it seriously and looked to spearfish at a higher level for the last 8-10 years. Whilst I have learnt a lot and I have been lucky to have good guidance from respectable and well known spearos, I have had accidents and near misses that I have learnt from.
I have encountered bad stings from sea anemones in my mouth, had limbs and fins snag between rocks, been heavily overweighted and struggled to get off the bottom and come close to blacking out due to severe dehydration and pushing my limits.
Shallow water black out is a very real risk within spearfishing and something that all spearfishers should have in the back of their mind. No fish is worth a human life and I encourage people to ignore the figures like bottom times and how deep they dived.
I think there is too much emphasis on this, partly due to YouTube videos that show very experienced divers shooting fish in very deep water or staying down long times to get fish. In reality most fish are caught relatively shallow in the U.K. with bottom times around 1 minute being more than enough. I would encourage the intermediate divers to enjoy their dive and let their body naturally progress to deeper or longer dives instead of pushing for them early on.
Dive with a buddy and join a club, learn off experienced spearos and learn to listen to your body. The rest will come with patience and slow progress. Countries such as France, Spain and Greece have several spearfishing accidents and deaths in a season, it never gets easier for friends and friends dealing with these tragedies and unfortunately a lot of these could be prevented. Although these countries generally have a much higher population of spearfishers, they also have conditions that are different t the U.K. with bigger fish, more emphasis on diving deeper water, clearer water and more high end divers pushing limits.
Instead of diving with a buddy operating a one up one down system using surface marker buoys and suitable boat cover, many spearos in these countries dive deep water by themselves in the hope of matching the abilities of the top athletes. They often do not see the hard work and slow progress these athletes have put in and the experience they have gained over hundreds or thousands of hours. I feel in these countries there should be more emphasis on buddying up and advertising available spaces on dive trips to reduce the number of solo spearfishers pushing themselves in dangerous circumstances.
What is spearfishing for you?
Spearfishing for me is all about enjoying the underwater environment, adapt and learn to become a part of it and appreciate it but never lose respect for it. Share your encounters with others and if you can allow others to enjoy your success and appreciate your hard work with the fresh fish you provide.
A wise spearo once told me there are 2 learning curves with spearfishing, the first learning to hold your breath and shoot a speargun. The second is a lot more complex and includes learning about conditions, weather systems, fish habits and habitats, water movement and of course learning your own talents and abilities. This is where you will see progress with your own spearfishing and this is where you will develop the most, but enjoyment is key.
Thank you very much for your time Matt. I hope we can share a dive together very soon.