By Steve Waters
As captain of the United States Spearfishing Team, Francisco Loffredi has high hopes for his freedivers who are competing this week in the 2021 Spearfishing World Championship in Arbatax, Italy.
Loffredi is a former competitor at the Worlds who splits his time between Hollywood and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His team includes former Divers of the Year Andrew Geist of Palm Beach and Miguel “Mojarra” Guinovart of Islamorada, the winningest Florida state spearfishing champion, as well as Spencer Haskin of Hawaii and alternate Nicholas MacLaren of Fort Lauderdale.
A skilled spearfisher, Loffredi has hunted fish and lobsters with Jim “Chiefy” Mathie, a retired Deerfield Beach fire chief and the diving expert on the Nautical Ventures Weekly Fisherman radio show, which airs from 6-8 a.m. Saturday on WINZ 940-AM and live-streams on the Nautical Ventures Facebook page.
Freediving is more labor intensive for Loffredi, but it does give him a couple of edges over Mathie and his scuba-diving crew.
“It’s not as easy as a tank,” said Loffredi of diving for lobsters, “but there’s so many lobsters it’ll take me half an hour longer than Chiefy.
“The only advantage is I can do it all day. The guys with tanks eventually run out of air.”
“It’s fun to be out with him and mix it up a little bit,” said Mathie, the author of “Catching the BUG: The Comprehensive Guide to Catching the Spiny Lobster,” which is available at local dive stores and at www.chiefy.net . “It makes it a little longer day because we’re doing scuba stuff, too.
“He has an advantage spearfishing because fish don’t hear him. Fish hear you on scuba. Lobster it doesn’t matter, they’re going to stay there whether they hear you or not. When we’re scuba diving for lobster, we’re in the reef, looking in all the nooks and crannies.”
As Loffredi, who can hold his breath for about four minutes, swims underwater he looks for lobster antennae sticking out from holes in a reef, as well as prime lobster habitat.
“Since I have less bottom time, I can’t waste my time on stuff that doesn’t seem lobstery,” Loffredi said. “So in a way I have to have a sharper eye.”
He uses a snare to catch lobsters and brings one bug at a time to the surface, where he places it in a mesh bag attached to a float with a dive flag and a line attached to Loffredi’s belt.
Loffredi and his spearfishing team have been in Italy for several weeks scouting for fish. During the competition, which has 25 countries competing, three-man teams dive for two days for five hours each day. There are more than 30 eligible species of fish, each of which has a minimum weight to count. Points are awarded for each fish species and its weight, up to 10 kilograms, so a diver can’t win with just one huge fish.
“As the captain, I’ll be going back and forth between the three boats making sure everyone’s shooting fish on a certain (spot),” said Loffredi, who is seeking Team USA’s first world title – the team has finished second twice. “I always think that the hardest part is not shooting the fish, it’s finding the fish.”
For more lobster diving information, as well as where to find fish whether you’re fishing with a speargun or a rod and reel from Mathie and the area’s top saltwater and freshwater fishing guides, listen to The Nautical Ventures Weekly Fisherman radio show every Saturday morning from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. live on 940 WINZ, an iHeart station. You’ll learn where the fish are biting and how to catch them. If you can’t tune in live, the Weekly Fisherman radio podcasts are available through:
iHeart Radio: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/53-weekly-fisherman-28270572/
You can also watch the show on Facebook Live by liking our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/The-Nautical-Ventures-Weekly-Fisherman-Show-136020173136939
You can watch past Facebook live shows at: https://www.facebook.com/The-Nautical-Ventures-Weekly-Fisherman-Show-136020173136939
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