My first great amberjack

After the seabass and the brown croaker, spearfishing Champion and instructor Gabriele Delbene tells secrets and hints to catch the amberjack.

The great amberjack…the first amazing amberjack cannot be forgotten. My personal unforgettable emotion generated by this fantastic predator happened when, still a boy and with no great catches in my experience, I was still reading on the magazines the secrets of the champions indicating how to encounter the mith of such enormous fish.  I was used to catching in the foam the very fast and attent breams of Liguria region, in Italy. The exclusive spearfishing action written on the magazines seemed so far from my possibilities, and reserved only to real experts of the sea and of those spots where “the passage” of fish was. Palmaria, Tini and Tinetto, the 3 islands south of La Spezia, in Liguria, my preferred spearfishing area, even though extremely spectacular, where not comparable to the amazing see floors of Sicily, and the granite areas of the North of Sardinia. 

One sunrise of July though…the effect of the weak and almost horizontal sunrays, that only partially had come up from the coast skyline, gave the sorroundings and the animals a sense of slowness, at the start of the day after an extremely hot and still Summer night. Some awkward sound from a seagull and the silence of the morning underlined the sensation of lazy awakaning. 

All of a sudden everything changed…in the cristal and warm water, on the tip of the Secca di Dante, I was hit by a small mullet on my mask, as the fish was swimming at all speed in a desperate escape for safety.  Still, in waiting technique, I watched for dozens of seconds the heard of mullets, hoping for seabasses passing after them, as they usually were present in such area. Seconds that seemed eternal, in the emptyness of the blue, after having been hit by numerous tails of the mullets, the….ghosts. Two enormous shapes non well visible were apparently very slowly coming closer. As if they were pulled by invisible lines, the two enormous amberjacks felt somehow my still presence. The first, extremely big, but smaller the the following one, come close up to 1 and a half metres from the spear. The enormous one with the round eye and the look falsely calm, was alarmed by the kick of the fin of the first one, that, satisfied its curiosity, turn around with a suspectful angle just a couple of meters from the bigger amberjack.  My blood froze seeing it raising its dorsal fin and almost paralizing at a distance almost double the reach of my ridiculous sling gun with soft rubber bands. That was the moment of admiration mixed with terror of seeing the amberjack moving away. In a moment when the fish was moving inertially and in a controlled way thanks also to the pectoral and ventral fins, also rowing to keep the position, I could well see the spectacular details of the amberjack. The fish still for neverending moments, except for the attent round eye, had a sudden gasp curving its back, showing its predatorial nature opening its mouth where the silver tail of a mullet not yet complitely swallowed. Two dark parasites, fat lampreys where visible on the amberjack. Then, suddenly, it happened. The great ambejack lowered the dorsal fin and as in a slowmotion it came close. A long and difficult action post shot left on my chest a wound when, in an impetuous movement, almost filled with passion, I finally embraced the fish. 

Delbene Ricciola Amberjack


Habits and where to find it

The great amberjack is a mith for the spearo, a mith full of mistery that is going to grow more. Unfortunately, the uncontrolled industrial fishing has made this fish rare and suspicious. 

Being a pelagic carangide, the seriola dumerili lives most of the cold months at high depths and far from the shore, hunting anchovies, sardines and other blue fish. It likes in particular those areas where there are great depth changes, and so loves tips of the coast that go down deep and steeply, or the rocks in open water coming up from deep depths. This is onown as also the fact that the amberjack loves artificial platforms full of tubings and metal scaffholds, suspended at depths of at least 40 meters. The reason for such love by the amberjack to specific areas of the sea is probably due to fact that it catches with ambush technique using obstacles as hiding places. It happened to me to catch one amberjack on a vertical wall, and the fish appeared from nowhere, in the middle of a forest of light gorgonian , that the fish was evidently utilizing to hide from a heard of saddled breams that were swimming nearby. I have noticed the same behaviour in a great amberjack on a relic of a ship, and in that occasion the preys were wonderful black seabreams. The amberjack has also been called in the past “fish of the relics”, for its habit to be often present around them. The bigger fish I have noticed tend to be present when the relkic come up at least 3 or 4 meters from the sandy sea floor. In the case of deep and extremely deep relics the amberjack can be found also at the water surface, generally in the early morning, while during the rest of the day they prefer to swim at mid depth, moving lazily waiting for the possible prey.  


Spearfishing techniques

The number 1 technique is the waiting technique on a steep sea floor, but also gliding down on the fish or waiting in the blue at mid depth in the passage areas is possible. Rarely ambush can be effective. 

Amberjacks are abitudinary animals and year after year they keep passing in the same zones. Information kept by local spearos and fishermen are precious. It is always the same spot on the shallow rock, the same tips of the coast line, the same platforms, same areas with strong current that start the food chain, ther same relics in the same period of the year. 

The periods of the year that the amberjack gets closer to the shore start the end of May, beginning of June, with the passage of small heards of fish. From July for all Summer period (in the Mediterranean sea) encounters in the passage areas are possible. Referring to the bother generated by industrial fishing, it will be easier to encounter calmer fish at the end of June, and more nervous ones in August, when to the industrial fishing action there will also be noise pollution generated by  nautical traffic. 

If fish is calm, it will come close during waiting technique without having to hide particularly well, while it seems perfect immebility can help. On the other hand, it has happened to me to be felp by far away fish that swam immediately away from me. 

Still considering calm fish, it is possible to utilize the techniques of gliding on the fish or waiting at mid depth. In some cases it has happened to me to encounter, out of the cost of Corsica, great heards of amberjacks aggressively hunting for food together with tunas, making heards of anchovies gather in a ball shaped group. In some cases it is possible to utilize the technique of initially directing towards the fish, and then change direction completely. Often it happens that seeing the very slow glide of the spearo they become curios and tend to follow the diver laterally reducing distance.

23 kg amberjack caught gliding at – 16 meters by Roberto Brera, student of Gabriele Delbene, at Giglio island, Tuscany, Italy

Evidently, the very long spearguns, with greast reach and capacious reels, will be able to pass through the fish with the spear. It is best to aim to the last third of the body of the amberjack, if one has time to aim properly, so to limit the caudal movement of this great predator. Cartilagineous and fragile gills should be avoided, but also the cranial cap, extremely hard and difficult to transfix. If the shot is particularly long distance it is better to aim the womb, soft but still with good resistance if penetrated with a double barb shaft.

The amberjacks with which one can start making good experience are the shoals of 1 to 2 kg fish that from the end of Summer to the end of Autumn are present along Mediterranean coast (Italy in particular in such period). These amberjacks concentrate in particular in shallow water with rocks off the coast or around rocky offshoots along the coast. Much liked by these shoals the brakewaters rich of small fish which are the perfect food for the amberjacks.

It is convenient to wait for the right moment to shoot aiming for the closest fish. This will permit a second or third catch. The shoal will move deeper in the water and will become more nervous, but will still be approachable with a long waiting. Another technique also permits multiple catches: if the shoal is intercepted midwater, it is possible to shoot but not take hold of the prey immediately, leaving the fish to move along the line using the reel. The curious amberjacks of the shoal will stay around the shot fish and will be catchable with slow and well controlled glides.

Gabriele Delbene

Gabriele Delbene, year ’66, born inLa Spezia, Liguria, Italy, is a great Spearfishing Champion, who has reached important results in International competitions. Gabriele has also a degree in Osteopathy and Physical Education and inventor of the “global ascent manouvre”.

Main spearfishing titles

World and European Teams Vice.Champion

Winner of 5 International trophies

World Record Abyssal Spearfishing (- 62,4 meters)

Stage by Gabriele Delbene

Gabriele today organized extremely intersting, useful and deep spearfishing stages, that he describes this way: “Spearfishing, as any other human activity, can be taught. The experience of a spearfishing stage needs great effort, buti s also strongly educational. Stage is organized with maximum 4 people and for such reason it is thought to define and solve individual technical issues. Important focuses are aimed to working on the breathing of the spearo, who has different needs compared to the freediver, to optimize performance still maintaning the hoghest elvel of safety. All work is focused on spearfishing, si entrance tests, spearfishing actions of the student, commented video during the technical point in the evening in front of a wide tv screen, lessons applied to the episodes and encounters of the day, all are part of the experience that strongly and quickly improves statistics of sighting of fish, and so consequent catches.



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