Coffs Harbour March 2011 - Mark Kallman

Classic

The entire preparation of the Classic hinges around the weather blessing us with calm conditions. I used to think it was funny when spearos called it the Brown-Water Classic but once you have invested time and effort in getting this competition off the ground, you tend to become very sensitive about the jokes. Fortunately we had good weather this year and the results reflect the conditions. A full account of the 17th Australian Bluewater Freediving Classic can be found elsewhere on this website.

One point that must be raised is the issue of the pairs. Unfortunately the glitch in the computer program filtered through into the final results of the pairs. As it turned out, Brad and Grant Arnott were the actual winners of the pairs competition. They have very graciously accepted the mistake in their stride. Hopefully all the issues with the spreadsheet have been cleared up and next year should see it running smoothly. There is very little room for error with the results being released only a couple of hours after the end of the competition. As a committee, there is obviously a need to address the potential for errors.

Weather

Southerlies have predominated the weather this month which is not a bad thing. It has meant that when it is howling, conditions are poor but once it clears the good water is in close. Dorado continue to be in good numbers at the FADs and wave-recorder. They may also be found in good sizes at the fish-traps along the edge of the continental shelf. Fortunately, good water is flowing down the EAC strongly and there are a bunch of great fish coming with that water.

Inshore we have good numbers of 'couta together with spotted mackerel (similar to Natal Snoek but a different species). We also have a lot of wahoo around. Some of the fish seen to date are huge 40kg+ and in big schools, sometimes 50+ fish. Some tuna have been seen, a few longtail and bluefin together with good numbers of yellowfin. Problem with tuna is your perception of the speed they are doing is always way out. They move at impressive speed displaying remarkably little effort which usually means missing the fish unless you are burleying.

The black rays and mantas have their entourage of prodigals sometimes 30 or more fish on an individual. I have found the cobia with black rays easier to approach than with mantas. This may just be the behaviour of the 'host' as mantas seem to be quite shy when approached but black rays are usually inquisitive. There have been some really big prodigals around with their own groups of smaller prodigals following. A club member recently took one of 35kg. It pays to aim carefully when shooting a cobia near a raybecause if you hit the ray your gear will disappear in a flash.

There have even been some big Green Jobfish around at the northern end of the Big Island which is a strong indication of how warm the water is. These fish are sometimes in the range of 10kg. Dogtooth tuna have not been seen and we are expecting some with the warm water. Smaller fish are landed every year but I suspect we may see some of the bigger fish in the tuna schools this year.

Snapper

Line fishers are taking good numbers of snapper off reef that often looks barren when we dive it. Snapper make jobfish seem easy but there are some tricks. Burleying is one trick but this does not appeal to everyone. The other option is stalking but using other fish as cover. Fishers report sawtail surgeon as an indicator of snapper. When you lie still on the bottom, the surgeon will often form a tight school around you and this increased activity may encourage snapper to come in for a look. Any sound sends them scurrying away so absolute quiet is a requirement. Long shots are frequently the order of the day and it pays to put in some practice ahead of the time.

We should have some good settled diving as we move toward winter. Wahoo should stay in good numbers and I expect to hear more about good fish being landed. I would like to get a good fish myself and will be making a concerted effort to target quality fish in the next few months. Divers interested in participating in the Classic next year should pencil in 16th, 17th and 18th March 2012. It would be great to see some international divers in the field. If you are interested please contact me so that we can make arrangements for you.