Generally, it's a way of life for them. They're two professional spearfishermen based out of Hudson who are federally licensed to commercially fish and then sell their catch to local fish houses and restaurants.
But MacMahon and Hampton also use spearfishing as a sport. They may not do it as often as some, but they compete in tournaments, including the SBO Blue Storm Classic from May 15 to 18.
"To us, it's the most fascinating sport on the planet," MacMahon, 49, said. "It combines the aspects of boating, diving, exploring, hunting, fishing — you basically have all of those in one thing. And you're going out 100-200 miles from the dock and diving things that no one has ever dived before. It's so exciting because you never know what you're going to run into out there."
MacMahon finished eighth, while Hampton came in second. There's also a best boat category, where a boat with at least three fishers has a nine-fish limit, however, there is a weight cap on the fish. Say a fish caught is 28 pounds; the boat gets only 20 points. MacMahon and Hampton have won best boat four times.
"We do this for a living, so some people see us as professionals and those same people feel that we shouldn't be in the tournament," MacMahon said. "When the tournament opened, I had grave reservations about entering and competing against recreational divers. But it turned out everyone wanted us in the tournament. The vast majority of the people were like, 'Well, if we beat these guys, then we've really accomplished something.'"
The two men, who are brothers-in-law, have some impressive resumes. They both have been spearfishing since they were kids, been in business together for nearly nine years, and MacMahon says he once caught a 403-pound warsaw grouper, and Hampton, a 348-pound one.
"The amount of hours we put in, doesn't equal the pay you get out of it," Hampton said. "That's just the bottom truth, but the freedom we have on the job makes up for that.
"When we get to do it for fun, the competition is another great aspect."
MacMahon and Hampton, despite their years of experience, still had concerns about living off spearfishing. MacMahon worked in a corporation for nearly 20 years and when he pitched the business to Hampton, it was just a matter of time and budgeting before they took off.
"I thought, 'Can we make a living out of this?'" Hampton said. "There was no doubt in my mind that (MacMahon) could put us on fish because he been doing it for so long. It was a matter of putting up the numbers that could make it work."
Despite the tri-monthly trips on rolling oceans and days out at sea, the job itself is invigorating.
"We both enjoy the freedom of the job," MacMahon said. "The amount of the physical work of this job is astounding, and you don't take this job to get rich."
But then there's the adrenaline factor. Spearfishing could easily be considered an extreme sport, in the same line as cliff diving or mountain climbing. Its a sport that's recreational, and for MacMahon and Hampton, they love not only being on the water, they'll always get a kick out of it.
"It's an excellent sport," Hampton said. "Like any sport it has it downfalls, such as being very dangerous, but most sports that are very interesting have that aspect, and that's what this is — it's very interesting.
"You just never know what you're going to see on your next dive, and that's the thrill of it."
Community Sports Editor Mike Camunas can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 544-9480.