The Yellow that made the Banana’s Green

Len Turners report back from Nationals 2003

Len Turners saily (30kg) and Willem Pretorius Yellowfin Tuna s(40kg) shot on the Aliwal ShoalThe SA National Spearfishing Championships were held in Durban from the 2 – 6 June 2003. The Natal guys somehow managed to organize the best day of the week to hold the competition and the worst day of the week to hold the second day of the comp. Thursday’s weather was so bad with huge swells and gusting South Wester’s that the comp had to be cut short after it was clear that the Gauteng spearos were in danger of puking themselves to death on their duckie dubbed “Kots-koets”.

Needless to say the enterprising Vaalies ended up falling over to beat each other ending respectively 1st to 5th last in the comp. One small ray of light (and a couple of Bronzies) from the author allowed him to end 17th overall. This embarrassing finale needed some retribution and so we invited the legendary Antman (Anthony Dunne) to accompany us for a social dive on the Shoal on Saturday 7 June 2003. The ulterior motive, of course, was to purloin a couple of secret GPS way points from the tight-lipped Brusher King.

We had an interesting launch through racked and stacked breakers at Umkomaas that left my knees still shaking when we arrived at Aliwal Shoal 7km’s later. Anthony was slow to volunteer himself to bakkie first (we helped him right) and took us to the southern side and then over to a reef which Mickey Toth calls Deep Cracker, but which is not really the actual Cracker Reef. On my first dive down, I could see why he called it Cracker because there was a mother of a Musselcracker right under me. I slipped down with the tact of a Cruise Missile and took a lucky shot which dropped far short. I surface and cringed under the scathing attack of Adriaan Marais who informed me in no uncertain terms that he was better positioned to get the fish that I had chased away.

With my tail between my legs, I decided to swim off on my own and meditate for a time. I was just reveling in the blood-warm water and gut-wrenching swells, floating along minding my own business, when out of nowhere a big Sailfish appears. I thought that my meditation techniques were really working well and my Mal de’mer mootie was kicking in and that this was merely an apparition of hope. But when the Saily came circling back again I decided to try out a “mock-attack” anyway. When the Billfish saw that I was in the mood for play, it starting kicking down. I took another desperate shot and was very surprised to see that I had actually hit the fish in the tail. I don’t think the Saily was hurt in any way at all, because it took off with all the alacrity of the Sacred White Racing Camel of Ethiopia being pursued by the Hounds of Hell. Before I could even think of holding onto my personal float, it hit me on the back of the head, and left for Zanzibar at a rate of knots.

I screamed for the boat and we gave chase, but the float was long gone. We did a hopeful grid search in the general direction of exit and then I remembered what Ryan Burmeister had said when I shot my last Saily. “Sailfish always circle back to where they have been shot, in the hope that they can also impale the offender”. This urban legend was worthy of closer consideration, so we went back to the scene of the crime. Sure enough – there was my red buoy bobbing on the surface (thanks again Ryan) with the tired but barely wounded Saily slowly swimming around looking for someone to blame. The Antman came to help me and after dispatching the wary creature with a blue neon inducing well placed shot, we had 30kg’s of saily sushi on the boat.

Of course I was banned from getting back in the water and had to bakkie for the next hour as punishment. The hour kinda stretched to two hours and no pleading or cajoling could get anyone to relieve me of my duties. So, I tied my buoyline onto the duck and got back into the water anyway. I was having great fun missing Garfish, when I heard my name mentioned loudly before and after some 4 letter words. Well it’s nice to be in demand so I jumped back on the boat and went to see what’s up!

Now, whilst I was sightseeing, Willem Pretorius had been chumming great gobs of gooey sardines with the hope of luring an unwary gamefish into his kill-zone. Sure enough, a huge Yellowfin Tuny started getting into this game of hide-n’seek and was doing its best to drown Willem by darting in and gobbling up pieces of sardine, but staying well out of shooting range. Then Willem finally gave up on this creature and feigned disinterest, not even looking in its direction, on a slow glide down. Out of the corner of his eye, Will amazedly saw that the Yellow had swam placidly right up to him. Now Willem has got a big gun, with double rubbers, double wrap and double everything. This elephant gun was in the right place at the right time and bazooka’ed the Yellowfin properly. Strangely enough the Yellowfin Tuny did not race off into the wild blue yonder like the Saily , but fought dirty, going straight down to the bricks and banging the spear on the reef so hard that you could hear the clanging from miles away. When the ‘Fin saw that this was to no avail and that the barb held good, it started pulling Willem around like a rag doll for the longest time. By the time I got up to Willem he was physically exhausted. He looked up at me, with his big brown eyes and said shakily “Please help”. Luckily I was still fully kitted up and dived straight off the boat down to the Tuny and gave it a mortal shot (or so I thought) and grabbed it by the tail and by the gills. But the fish was still very much alive and shook me around like a terrier shakes a rat. It kicked me so hard on the right hand and broke my knuckles that I am typing this out with my left hand right now.

Eventually we managed to subdue the fish, get it to the surface and kill it properly. By then the boat was 200 metres away. I could not swim with a broken hand so Willem had to go and fetch the boat. We went to load the other divers with faces beaming and bodies covered with rich red gore. The Yellowfin Tuny was as round and fat as a real Gauteng Boere Tannie and weighed in at 40kg’s.

I guess once again we made the Banana Boys Green with envy. I love it when a plan comes together ! It seems as if our unorthodox inland style pays off sometimes.

Len Turner