Coffs Harbour August 2011 - Mark Kallman

Conditions

Apologies for not submitting an article for June but there was little point. We were hammered by rain and wind which turned the ocean into a maelstrom. During the course of events, a fisherman was literally swept over the local harbour wall by a rogue wave. Record wave heights were recorded and at times the wind speeds topped 100kph, south of Coffs Harbour. To the best of my knowledge, even the commercials ended up being confined to the harbour. Briefly, it was dismal, and unfortunately, looked as though July was going to deliver the same. It was a pleasant surprize to experience some of the balmy days we have had this past month. Absolutely no wind, glass-out and clean water 20m+ viz. The sea had cooled but there were still some rare opportunities that presented themselves.

Diving

I can confidently predict the days of great diving weather. When I am at work, conditions will be amazing and just as soon as I get some time off, it becomes a mess out there. However, I cannot complain as I have had some great conditions dusing July. The fish have been loose, is the only description. Jewfish (kob) are the usual targets at this time of year and they have not disappointed. The guys exploring the islands as well as the rock-hoppers have been treated to some fantastic shoals of these magnificent fish. It still amazes me that you can swim into a gulley, get in under the white water and almost be on the rocks before you encounter the school of fish. Don't make the mistake of thinking the schools are uniform in size either. Some of the fish we have seen milling around in the bottom of these schools have been behemoths. Several fish over 30kg have been taken in really shallow water. Pearl perch are a bit of an open secret off our coast. This is principally a deepwater fish, having massive eyes, which is almost their trademark. Coffs has been associated with schools of these fish in shallow water. Traditionally the schools have been small and widely spread but this season has seen ever increasing numbers. Admittedly, spearos are very secretive of their pearlie spots and will jealously guard any knowledge of their existance. They also tend to err on the side of caution when targetting these exceptional table fish by taking very few fish from any one spot. With cooler conditions, the last fish that were expected were mackerel, Spanish or spotted. It was fantastic to hear that several spearos succeeded in bagging some of both species. There are accounts of large schools of big Spanish being seen. Interestingly, the spearos in Brisbane have not seen very many yet. Perhaps the rumour of global warming is true. No complaints here, especially if we get Spanish (couta) all year. We waited with baited breath to determine if our legendary cray spot was going to provide the abundance we encountered in the last season. We may only take 2 Eastern Rock Lobsters between 10.4 and 18cm carapace length. Last season we struggled to find crays small enough to take! In fact, one of the shed carapaces we found must have been 3x the upper size limit. It was exciting to hear that in very poor conditions a friend found the nests and they were full of the giants. Apparently the commercials no longer trap this area because although they get full traps, all the crays need to be released because they are too big. Well as a freediver, it is easy to select the obviously smaller crays, quickly measure and bag your limit, ofetn in a single dive.

Spring

Spring is looming and we have had minimal rain for a change. The weather remains glorious with all the weather warnings issued, failing to occur. Makes a pleasant change to some of the conditions we have endured and it seems we may be in for an early warm season. There are massive numbers of baitfish on the reef highspots and the lack of diving pressure has calmed many of the traditionally flighty species. So bluebar parrots are easier to approach and many divers have reported friendly snapper rushing to get into their eskies. With great conditions like these one is advised to make hay while the sun shines, so you can bet my lawn will be unkept while the good conditions hold..