Coffs Harbour Report: December 2009 by Mark Kallman

Weather

Mark Kallman with a 31kg+ daga salmonFor the first time in a long time, we started to get a better mix of conditions. The sea is warming up and we are at least getting some reasonable diving days. As an indication of how poor it has been this last year, we were getting Dorado in October in 2008. The EAC is running strong pushing the warm water passed us but for a change we are getting a few light southerlies bringing that warm water back to us from South-West Rocks.

2010 Classic

Coffs Harbour Bluewater Freedivers run a fantastic competition every year in the Australian Bluewater Freediving Classic. It is one of the prestige comps in Australia and sees upwards of 60 divers competing. Only gamefish and highly migratory fish are targeted. Fish normally recognised as gamefish are targeted but jewfish and snapper are also allowed. Prizes this year are exceptional and the spearfishing community is being very generous in providing some fantastic prizes. It is also a desire of the sponsors to see everyone get a shot at the prizes and as a result, most prizes will be awarded on a lucky draw basis. This gives the new people in the sport a great opportunity to pick up some top of the line gear.

The great thing about Coffs harbour as a venue is that we have a good airport that is readily accessible from anywhere in Australia as well as New Zealand.

Fish

The big schools of gamefish have not made their appearance yet but a trickle of the traditional warm water species is coming in. I will ignore our bread-and-butter fish for the time being and consider the bragging species. The first Wahoo has been landed together with the first mackerel (couta). The fish are not particularly big but they are arriving.

One of the things that is very different here when compared with South Africa are the methods employed by commercials. They place fish traps close to the edge of the continental shelf to catch deep water species. These traps are marked with a large array of surface buoys and you won’t believe it but they attract Dorado, who would have thought it? Rather tongue-in-cheek but we have seen some 13-14kg specimens being taken out wide and they always make a welcome addition to the plate. Some mantas and big black rays are around with their entourage of cobia. On occasion a single ray may have a school of 50 fish following it.

I struck gold early in December with a good jewfish (kob) of 31.7kg. The fish was holed up with a small school of similar sized fish in one of the few cave systems we have in our area. The fish will secure me first place in the club’s annual jewfish best-of-the-best standings.

There are good numbers of crayfish still being taken with a preponderance of the very tasty slipper crays. Divers scratching around the bottom are finding mangrove jacks, snapper, pearl perch, gold-spot wrasse and bluebar parrotfish.

For the adventurous type, marlin are making a solid appearance with a large number of black marlin in the majority but some stripeys and blues out wide. One of my friends recently teased a big blue up behind his boat. He jumped in and swam as close as he dared to what he could see was a large fish. He took the shot which fell well short reminding one to get as close as possible no matter how big you think the fish is. 

What to expect

January should be good and if conditions hold, even the rock-hoppers will be solidly into the Spanish. There are also some early reports of Spotted mackerel (similar to Natal Snoek but they have big spots on them). There are still a good number of yellowtail, Samsonfish and amberjack including sangoras being found. As conditions stabilize after December we may even see the big schools of yellowfin.