WATCHING A SURFCASTER pull in a striper from the shore or seeing a tern dive for bait a few yards from the sand, it’s easy to believe the ocean is crawling with life. That’s because the ocean comes alive around structure — the shoreline, reefs, wrecks, buoys, and other interruptions to the deep, dark water and the rolling underwater hills of the sea floor.
The big, blue ocean is becoming a desert. Sizable life is few and far between, and finding big fish is challenging. With modern fish-finding technology and super-fast boats, catching a trophy marlin, tuna, or mahi mahi is difficult, but it can be done. And yet Peter Correale thought catching a fish out there with a rod and reel was too easy. Instead, he wanted to hold his breath, dive way down, come face to face with a 200-pound pelagic beast, and shoot it with a sling-powered spear. He’s among a small group that’s figured out a way. Until a few years ago, nobody was spearing pelagic (that is to say, deep-ocean) fish in the Atlantic off Montauk. But persistence has paid off. Searching around little-known man-made structures in the ocean three hours from the dock, Correale and his friends have confounded other anglers by spearing 100 to 200-pound fish.
Originally from New Canaan, Conn. and now splitting his time between Panama and Montauk, Correale, 32, has been a waterman since childhood. “My father got me into it: surfing, sailing, fishing,” he said recently. “It went from there and it became an obsession.” That obsession has grown into a business based in Panama, where he is one of a handful of spearfishing guides who take clients deep into the water, and around the world, to hunt and photograph fish.
Correale grew up inshore spearfishing for smaller species like striped bass and sea bass, and he still spends a few days a week diving around the Montauk Lighthouse. But, when the weather is right, he and his friends load up their 32-foot boat, Dog Tooth, and head to their secret spots to hunt deep under the surface. For his dives he descends up to 130 feet, holding his breath for up to two minutes.
Photography was a natural progression of this obsession. He and his friends wanted to document what they were doing and seeing. The following images are all from the waters in and around Montauk. But, exactly where, he’ll never tell.