Having spearfished in Canada and the U.S East Coast (New England), I can tell you that the Lebanese waters do not have the fish abundance and sizes like those we get here. But there are a lot more varieties
there. But as for the sizes, I mean we regularly shoot striped bass in the 5 to 10 kg class! Last week, my diving companion, René Potvin, landed a 16 kg bass (45 inches!) in Beaver Tail, Rhode Island... If I'd see that bass in Lebanon, I'd probably celebrate it with
champagne! The biggest fish I ever speared in Lebanon was 17 kg only!... we hunt porgies (scups, sargos, silver breams or sea perches) which rarely exceed 1.5 kg . These are reef fish which inhabit the rock cavities and crevices. We do not have kelp (Not that I've ever seen), nor do we practice Blue Water
hunting. Only reef hunting between 4 to 35 meters at the most... the average is 5 to 13 m deep.
Our best target fish is the grouper, of which we have 4 species; the
white grouper, which is the highest priced in the market; depending on the season,
as the kilo would sell anywhere between 40 to 75 U$ . This grouper specie is around for a limited time only... mainly between October and December.
Also, the comb grouper, with its bigger head and very slightly firmer meat ... still it remains a delicacy... we spear this one year around, along with its cousin, the easiest shot of them all, the
dusky grouper. Other grouper species are found there, year round. These are among the tastiest fish in the world. I've tasted groupers in Europe, the Far-East, the U.S. and Canada, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea: They are definitely not as tasty. Something to do with the habitat and feeding ground, I
The Mediterranean parrot fish. I've rarely seen any bigger than 1.5 kg, but I know they are found in deeper
waters. During the best season, from September to December, we hunt the Palamida (Greek name for the small blue tuna or bonito), but it's a very inexpensive fish, as it doesn't really taste great. This one could reach nice sizes... (but NEVER what I hear of the yellow tail or the blue fin!). Maybe 10 kg (?). We also hunt for the amber and trevally jacks. These ones can grow really big (I've seen some over 25 kg caught by fishermen. The record in Lebanon was an 85 kg
jack). I've shot several of these in the 1 to 5 kg size.... They are a lot of fun to hunt...Also, the trigger fish ( It's gray and round and it emits sounds just like a pig... That's why our local fishermen call it "sea swine". It bites and could seriously hurt you after you've speared it if you're not careful! This fish can reach a nice size too... But the biggest I've speared weighed 4 kg ... Fun is, once you've located the school, you can retrieve a great supper for the whole family!!! One diving companion shot 4 in a row, in less than 20 minutes time!... the biggest was 4 kg .The gray mullet is very abundant and could be speared in very shallow waters.... Very difficult to get though. It's the fastest of the gang ... Fun is, it's there all year around, like groupers and sargos.
If we dare to go further and deeper, we could hit the abundant white, red and pink snappers species
and dentex... For baking, the pink snapper is much praised for its delicious
meat and is very expensive. It is almost never less than one kg a piece and I've seen many caught by the fishermen exceeding 10 kg a piece ...
I personally shot only a couple of them in 15 to 22 m deep water. They are very spooky and fast swimmers...
There are probably many other species which I never tried to go after yet, since I only travel to Lebanon couple of months a year (I live in Montreal, Canada)...One day, I'll take a really long vacation, and scan the whole area with a BOAT! I'm sure I'll be discovering a totally new and fascinating
As for the rules and regulations, a year round license is about 12 U$!
The use of a flashlight, night spear fishing and bug spearing (sea bugs or
Mediterranean lobsters) is illegal.
In the summer, the water temperature is close to 30 degrees Celsius! Even in November you do not need a wet suit really, unless you plan to free dive for long hours. The lowest temperature I've recorded was 18 deg. C in January! Some local SCUBA divers told me that it may drop as low as 10 deg. C in hard winter
days. I personally wear a wet suit jacket only in the spring, just to be comfortable. Water temp is around 20 to 23 degrees C then. But in August, you may want to wear a "surfer"
Lycra suit, because of the abundance of medusas (jelly fish), as an involuntary wrong contact with one of them could cause painful burns.
Visibility is usually poor to good (which is my favourite, as this is when the fish also can't see me
clearly). It becomes excellent only from October and on... In October and November especially, we have the most fun fishing and diving, as the sea becomes crystal clear, and calm like a Canadian trout lake, swarming with abundant fish species... The weather then is just perfect... There is no weather in the world more beautiful and as perfect as Autumn in Lebanon...
In 1996, the Lebanese government has allowed SCUBA divers to
spearfish for the first time. I am very disappointed, because they will
be getting the big reproductive species, all year round, at any given
depth (In the SCUBA limit). It costs an extra 25 dollars for that
permit. ( I am not sure how much a foreigner has to pay, but Lebanon's
policy is very tourist friendly).
Montreal, Sept. 1997