When it comes to holiday gifts to and from divers, dive gear can be tough.
First, few items are below one-hundred dollars, even fewer under fifty dollars. Many items have to fit just right, or with divers, being the way they are, the item has to be just the right model, make AND color. No wonder it’s so tough.
But there is one department in many local dive stores that could fill many holiday gift giving needs — underwater hunting. Most underwater hunting gear is relatively inexpensive, most is “one-size-fits-all” (with very few color choices to worry about), and there’s an added bonus if you’re the gift giver— you could reap some of the seafood rewards of your gift giving (no guarantees here). Also, the gift receiver need not even be a certified scuba diver as many underwater hunting activities can be done snorkeling.
First and foremost, make sure your gift receiver is open to the concept of underwater hunting. It would be a massive faux pas to give a speargun to someone against the practice of spearing fish. Their views are to be respected. But while somebody might be adverse to spearing a fish, they may be open to taking lobster or abalone. Ask.
Before you head off shopping, or send somebody off shopping for a gift for you, make sure the shopper is heading for a store with an underwater hunting department. Some dive stores have full-blown sections with everything the seafood diver could ever want. Others have just the basics. Many have nothing at all with regards to underwater hunting gear (often for philosophical reasons).
Below are some suggestions of underwater hunting gifts for under one-hundred dollars and then at the end, a few good values for just over that amount:
Fishing License: This is perhaps the best possible gift for the underwater hunter. My wife gets me one every year. Current fishing licenses expire December 31. It is often a forgotten item in a hunters cache or “gear,” and could prevent an embarrassing fine later in the year if its purchase is forgotten. A basic license and an “Ocean Enhancement” stamp will run under $35 and will cover most of what you need, including most freshwater fishing. For the abalone diver you’ll also need one of the new “Abalone Stamps” and the punch card that goes with it. Fishing licenses can be purchased at most sporting goods stores or by phone by calling (916) 227-2244.
Game Bag: Always a good buy. It’s a must for the beginner and the experienced hunter always seems to need another, either because of wear and tear or just to have a spare. The best game bags are tough cloth on top and mesh on the bottom. The mouth should have a sturdy frame, a wide opening that opens and closes easily, and a latch that you can secure with just one hand.
A solid metal ‘D’-ring is a must for clipping to the diver. An extra outside zippered pocket is a nice feature. Small game bags are useless. Go for medium to big. A game bag of this type is used for lobster hunting, rock scallops, clams, and sometimes fish.
Lobster Gear: Lobster season in California is in full swing now so these gifts would be quite appropriate. In addition to the above mentioned game bag, lobster hunters will need a gauge (very inexpensive but a good stocking-stuffer) and a good pair of gloves. Night diving is best for lobster diving, so you can consider additional stocking-stuffers like diver location lights and/or chemical lights.
Night diving lobster hunters will also need a primary and a back-up dive light. The nice thing about dive lights is you cannot purchase a finer flashlight. I have bought dive lights for non-diving friends and family and they continue to rave about them for years after, praising their waterproof toughness. Small lights work well as back-up lights and can be easily found for under one-hundred dollars. Primary lights, however, should be as powerful as possible. Here you will cross over the one-hundred dollar line but your money will be well spent.
Abalone Gear: Abalone can only be taken north of San Francisco and only during the months of April, May, June, August, September, October, and November. Consequently, you do need to take into consideration if your gift receiver will be diving the North Coast and that this gear may not get used for a few months. On the positive side, abalone hunting gear is inexpensive and the activity does not involve scuba diving (although it does require good water skills).
Consider three gifts for the ab hunter (or potential ab hunter): First, a good abalone iron. It is a fundamental tool but a tool just the same and some people really get into their tools. Some ab irons a finely machined works of art. Something like this speaks pride of ownership. Second, consider a caliper which is a measuring device for gauging abalone. Abalone must be a minimum size (7″) to take but that is not what we are talking here. We are talking about a tool for the serious abalone diver. Hard core ab divers will often not take anything under 9 or 10″. Special caliper gauges are made for these sizes. And finally, ab divers need a place to store there catch while they are on the water hunting. This usually comes in the form of a tough fabric wrap over an inner tube. They are relatively inexpensive and for the serious ab diver must be replaced often.
Spearfishing Accessories: There is a whole cadre of spearfishing bits and pieces. Stringers, speartips, and replacement rubbers are good stocking-stuffers. Make sure you have the right size speartip (thread size to fit the shaft) or replacement rubber.
Speargun: Again, these are tools but tools can be finely crafted objects that can speak pride of ownership. A well made wood speargun will look good under the tree. You will break far beyond the one-hundred dollar limit but your gift will last a lifetime. Choose a speargun that is of high quality and is fully equipped.
Whether you are the gift giver or receiver, a gift of underwater hunting gear could be just the perfect present for this holiday season.