Coffs Harbour Report: July 2009 by Mark Kallman

Conditions

July heralded a calming in the extreme weather we have been experiencing recently. The month started with me seeing my first tornados ever. In the space of approximately 10 minutes I saw no less than 4 water-spouts form and move around, not more than 1km off-shore. Fascinating from a safe vantage point on land but I imagine hair-raisingly scary if you find yourself caught by one at sea. The weather has certainly backed off, allowing more diving days, but the cold water offers limited possibilities.

Fish

Our finned friends are around, as several divers’ bags have shown. Probably the best fish I have heard of is an Ember Parrotfish. To the guys in Natal that does not sound like much, but here, Parrotfish have almost a cult-like status. However we normally find Bluebar not Ember. This fish represents a probable new state record, the fish weighed over 5.5kg. He was extremely lucky to bag the fish during the club competition and deservedly took “Best fish of the competition”. For the rest of us, it has been Kingfish as usual. I was lucky enough to bump over a small Samsonfish too, which made a welcome addition to the dinner table.

One of the problems encountered with Kingfish (Yellowtail) is an infection which causes the flesh to go soft after cooking. Something very reminiscent of ‘pap snoek’. Divers are probably less keen to take fish because of this. I have found that smoking the fish provides a means of overcoming the problem. You can prepare several pieces and if any are soft, they are merely discarded after smoking. The balance of prepared fish can be stored for a short while in the fridge and make for a delicious snack whenever the need arises.

Some visitors from Sydney managed to find Mangrove Jacks on a deep ledge at the Big Island. Reports were that they found a school of approximately 8 fish and took 2 fish from the school. The presence of the Jacks is well known but they are in deep water most of the time. It is also a question of finding the cave they are using based on prevalent ocean conditions.

Promises

The marlin have moved in and the game-fishers are getting into them already. There are reports of large numbers of baitfish on the continental shelf and we spent a day out there looking for Yellowfin Tuna. Unfortunately we were unsuccessful but with perseverance I am sure we will find them. South of us in Bermagui they are getting Yellowfin, Bluefin and Long-fin. Imagine getting all 3 species in one day of spearing!

Green Menace

Ill informed environmentalists are probably the worst enemy encountered by spearos. So often these people are bubble blowers and see us as marine murderers. The subject of Blue Groper protection has reared its head in Sydney. Blue Groper are protected from spearfishing but not line fishing. The Scuba fraternity have been feeding some ‘pet’ groper off Sydney and are concerned these fish may be ‘interfered’ with by fishermen or spearos. So they have decided to call for a marine protected area off Sydney. The area has no particular relevance to warrant protection as it is in a disturbed and polluted area. Interestingly, the video footage of one of these Groper showed a scuba diver feeding the fish a crayfish. It is illegal to gather crays on Scuba and I hope fisheries officers are able to trace the person concerned and throw the book at them.

The divers feeding these fish have created a problem in desensitizing these fish to human presence. The ocean is not a source of pet animals. It is a dangerous and exciting environment. This sort of ill conceived environmental activism represents the worst kind of threat to our sport because they create the problem and now rely on ill-informed public opinion to force politicians into making bad decisions.

It is more important than ever to become actively involved in supporting your spearfishing clubs and organizations to fight for and protect your right to practice your sport.