Coffs Harbour Report: August 2009 by Mark Kallman

Conditions

The weather has certainly started ringing the changes. The EAC is pushing down and a finger of warm water has appeared offshore. We only see the benefit of this when southerly fronts push this water inshore. The month started off with some promise and toward the end of the month gentle southerlies provided ideal diving conditions. 25-30m viz and warm spring water around 21C.

Fish

Coffs Harbour and the Solitary Island Marine Park are blessed with an abundance of fish species. However, many of them are of little interest either because they are too small or because there are better tasting fish to be found. Spearos employ the greatest effort in targeting pelagic species as there are fairly few demersal species that perk one’s interest. At this time of year, Yellowtail Kingfish (Cape Yellowtail) provide most of the sport, with some divers actively hunting Jewfish (Natal Salmon/Kob) around headlands and in channels around the islands too. Toward the end of August, Samsonfish can be expected, another member of the yellowtail family, endemic to Australia.

Some good Jewfish have been shot, a 22kg and a 19kg that I have seen, and a couple have been lost too. I saw a good kingfish of 17kg come from the little wash and have seen large individuals that would possibly eclipse that one in size. Big fish do not grow big by being stupid and these fish display a high level of suspicion when confronted by a diver, unlike the small plonkers that are easily speared. A good Samsonfish of 15kg came from the big wash recently and deep water spots are likely to start producing a fair number of these fish in due course.

One thing we are not finding is crayfish. Historically one could expect crayfish to be crawling all over their normal hidey-holes. I have found 3 small crays and have been looking for them quite actively. A group of diving friends did find a crack full of Abalone recently and sensibly kept the location to themselves. We also have problems with poachers when it comes to abalone.

What can be expected?

September looks like it is going to be a cracker. The weather seems to have eased off the extremes and we are enjoying warm calm weather with light breezes at the moment. The northerly fronts do tend to stir the water up but by moving offshore, you will probably find some Dolphinfish moving to the wave recorder or FADs. Perhaps we are about to enjoy the great diving all the baitfish promised at the start of the last season. Cobia should make their showing soon, which means watching any large black ray for its entourage. As the good conditions continue, we can expect the Spanish mackerel and eventually the Wahoo to make their showing.

Great Fright

I could not help smiling at Gyula’s predicament recently. One of the locals could empathize with him after doing a rock-hop early in the month. He found a school of Australian Salmon (not anything like Atlantic salmon). There is a myth that Whites follow the Salmon schools. Well this school did have one with it and the shark came over and had a good, long look at the diver. One thing these stories share is the initial thought that the animal was a whale and then disbelieve at the animal’s immense size. Fortunately this shark went on its merry way without doing anymore.