Pioneer Spearman – The story of Jim Linquist

This is the story of Jim Linquist By Ron Cox

When the war finished in 1945, Jim Linquist returned from the Islands to his home town of Cudgen, situated near the borders of Queensland and New South Wales. With his return he brought back a vast knowledge on the art of spearfishing.

Jim LinquistJim’s fondness for the rocky foreshores of the Cudgen Creek made him realise that, by the clarity of the water and the knowledge he had gained in the Islands, it was apparent the waters around his home town must contain fish worthy of spearing. The idea did not remain dormant and, in a short space of time, a very hurriedly – made set of equipment was forthcoming.

The outfit consisted of a lead belt, weighing about 12 pounds, a mask made from an old inner tube, and a hand spear.

The spear bore little resemblance to the spear gun used today. It was made from a broom handle, cut to about five feet long, and to the end a fire poker, shaped to a point, was fastened as a spear head.

Thus equipped, Jim swam a few yards off shore and submerged. But a few seconds had passed before he surfaced with a large black bream attached to his spear.

The few people that had gathered to watch, were very critical of Jim’s efforts. In fact some were openly amused. Their amusement soon changed to amazement after four or five fish had been brought to the surface, and remarks such as, “I’d never thought it possible” and “The man’s not human” were heard from the crowd which had now grown to a considerable number. Thus the first attempt by a white man to spear fish underwater (in the tweed area) had been made.

From that time onwards, whenever Jim went spearfishing he always had a large following, many eager to find out more about this new sport.

Jim considered that recognition had been achieved when members of a sporting body approached him and asked if he could help them by spearing some fish for a dinner they were holding that night. To this request the “human fish” surpassed even his own ideas, by producing 135 luderick in just under three hours – a record that still stands today.

It was not long before Frank Kirkham (1954’s Australian champion) and I, were drawn to this new sport, and we made a point of meeting Jim Linquist in the hope of getting him to pass on some of his knowledge.

Jim gave us every encouragement and endeavoured to teach us all he knew. We soon found out that, to be told how was easy, but putting what we were told into practice was something very different.

Jim Linquist was only of average build, but he possessed a big pair of lungs. These, coupled with his ability to dive to great depths, and being gifted with what one may call “second sight” in his ability to see fish underwater at a considerable distance, were among the chief factors as to why he was so successful at the sport.

Another of Jim’s outstanding features was that he was able to cast his fish ashore from as far as 50 yards. This was done in a method similar to casting a rod. By shaking the fish to a suitable position on the spear, and holding the spear slightly to the right behind his head, Jim would send the fish sailing through the air to the beach.

It was only a matter of weeks after the first attempt at underwater fishing that Jim realised his equipment would have to be improved; he therefore set to make a better and more efficient handspear. He never bothered with such things as swim flippers or snorkels. He still maintains his dislike to these additions.

Within a few months of the first attempt at spearfishing, Jim was not alone in the sport. There were many others like myself, anxious to spear bigger and better fish, and not being satisfied with the spearing around the rocks and estuaries we decided to try our luck further afield.

Encouraged by the “pioneer” and benefitting by his knowledge, we set to and built surf skis. With these skis it was possible to venture out into the deep seas around Cook’s Island, some three quarters of a mile offshore. Here was our chance to catch really big fish, but it was evident that they could not be handled on handspears. This setback was soon remedied by the making of a powerful speargun capable of being handled underwater.

It was an unfortunate day when Jim had to consult his doctor complaining of bad headaches. It was soon found that water was affecting his sinus and, acting on the doctor’s advice, he had practically to retire from the sport he did so much to foster.

To finish this story on a happy note, Jim has now a fishing launch for deep sea line fishing, but I must confess that occasionally when it’s too rough to go outside, the urge of spearfishing is too strong for Jim to resist, and he can be seen getting a feed of fish underwater or perhaps spearing a few mud crabs.

From: Fishing Digest & Shooters Monthly April, 1955 pgs. 105/130.

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