Coffs Harbour Report: February 2009 by Mark Kallman

Conditions

This has been a month of extremes. It started with severe flooding a few hours North of us in Queensland and within a week, the long drought in Victoria had culminated in the worst natural disaster in Australian history when bushfires resulted in countless millions of dollars of damage and over 200 deaths. We were comfortably in the middle enjoying a mild summer but then the rain got to us. Almost 2 full weeks of no sunshine, strong S winds and rain, lots of rain. Coming from SA you get used to hearing about heavy rain in so many tens of millimetres. To give you an idea, in 2 days they were talking about 0.5m of rain. When rainfall gets expressed in metres of rain, that is a lot of rain. Needless to say, most of February was binned because there is no viz in chocolate milkshake.

Fish Scene

The month kicked off with the first club competition and at this stage we were really limited by the thermocline hanging around 15m. On the sea surface temperature maps, we had the vestiges of the cold winter water locked in the eddy off Coffs. The area up N, around Woolgoolga and Arrawarra has been considerably better than Coffs. The Cobia are here in big numbers and sizes. Typically they are found hanging around Mantas or Black Rays. Sometimes a school will appear out of nowhere to investigate some disturbance like just after you spear some small insignificant fish. Small Black Marlin are being encountered quite frequently and some big ones too. I heard of a novice diver literally kakking himself and leaving the water after bumping into one of these big Blacks.

Most of the month was lost to the massive amount of rain turning the sea into a Wimpy chocolate milkshake. The good news was that the cold water was flushed out, leaving lovely warm water off Coffs. At the moment the fresh water has not mixed with the seawater properly and we have a silted layer on the surface but below that is clean warm great Spearfishing water.

All things considered it has been a really quiet month. In fact it has been a quiet season considering what the older divers are saying. We seem to have missed the Samsonfish run, the Wahoo have been quiet and even the Spanish are not here in the sizes normally encountered, lots of rats and mice but very few big bruisers. There is still stacks of bait around and huge schools of small Dorado. Still maintain that after this heavy S system we should be into the best spearing that this area can offer. Regarding the bait, I have found that Darts (look like Wave Garrick) usually indicate the presence of a large pelagic but now the next piece of the puzzle: Bulls-eyes. Small yellow-finned fish similar in shape to Moonies but much smaller indicate the presence of demersal targets. Especially when encountered hugging the bottom. We have found Purple Cod, Blue-bar Parrotfish and Mangrove Jacks around these schools and I am told one could expect Pearl Perch too.

One also needs to watch the bait’s behaviour. In really mucky viz, Michael encountered a school of fusiliers balled up and obviously nervous. He hung around watching the edges and soon picked up a small Spanish that was in the process of haranguing the baitfish. In poor viz that fish would probably have been missed if it was not for the behaviour of the bait.

Sharks

Here I go again. My predictions unfortunately proved true. Surfers have experienced several White attacks off Sydney and a suspected Bull Shark encounter nearly cost a Navy diver his hand. The State government is even re-considering legislation regarding shark nets. Unfortunately one thread seems to follow through these attacks. Surfers getting hammered early morning and late afternoon. This coincides with what some spearos report on shark behaviour. During the day a shark may be sedate and well-behaved but as the sun goes down its demeanour changes completely and the once sedate calm animal becomes a very real concern.