Coffs Harbour Report: November 2008 by Mark Kallman

Weather

The start of the month saw the tail of the fronts moving up the coast. Conditions seemed to swing from NE to S at a moment’s notice. The sea stayed pretty rough and dirty. There were a few days when conditions favoured diving but the viz remained patchy and the water cold. I watched on the CSIRO website as the EAC was being systematically pushed closer to land. Then it seemed to settle around our vicinity just as a series of massive storms battered the coast. Brisbane took a pounding several days in a row after a series of super-cells smashed the city. Then it was Sydney’s turn. We were in the middle and got off very lightly.

The patch of warm water stayed put, with the rough surface seeming to act like a protein skimmer, literally clearing the water as you watched.

Fishing Reports

The local newspaper publishes regular rock-and-surf as well as offshore fishing reports and I find these very useful in determining what to expect when diving. From the middle of the month, fishing started improving, probably the effect of the warm water. Jews and Snapper were being taken from the beach and headlands and even a good Yellowtail was taken by a rock-and-surf angler. The offshore guys also started doing well, then the storms put an end to their success. Not before a new NSW record Blue Marlin was landed.

Spearfishing

At the start of the month, conditions had not been particularly good, although some Yellowtail were picked up. If you persisted and had good local knowledge, there were fish to be had in spite of the poor conditions. There were Pearl Perch about and some made their way to happy spearos’ dining room tables.

Rainy weather set in from the middle of the month but the ocean conditions improved just the same. Reports reached us of Spanish Mackerel being landed S of Coffs. Usually the fish migrate S, out deep in the EAC, then back N against the coast. We had landed some good Yellowtail, Amberjack as well as some small Samsonfish. The news of Spanish filled us with glee.

In the interim, a great Jewfish was landed by one of my diving buddies. It went over 20kg but was pretty beat up. Probable spawning injuries because all the fish in the school seemed to have similar injuries. Conditions looked like they were improving daily with some really sought after species like Blue-Bar Parrotfish and Venus Tuskfish being shot. The Mangrove Jacks were about but proved very difficult and I have not heard of any being taken yet.

Now, at the end of the month, we are starting to see some really great conditions. Just yesterday S of the Big Island (North Solitary Island) we encountered heaps of baitfish together with huge numbers of pelagics. We took Yellowtail and Rainbow Runner but the highlight of the day was the school of Spanish. Unfortunately my wishbone had come unstuck and I just did not have the confidence to try the long shots on the Spanish. There were lots of Whalers around, always a good indication that the joint is firing. Down on the bottom we bumped into some big Amberjacks and I even heard that there were Snapper thrown into the mix. We had headed out on an afternoon stint and I had to be back to write my skippers license exam. We did take a look at a Mangrove Jack cave in 30m of water. The fish were out but given a longer period of time with similar conditions, I would gladly go knocking at all the local cave doors to find these big Jacks.

Getting Offshore

The boats used by the spearos here are dramatically different to those in SA. The Pacific appears to be much more forgiving than the Indian or Atlantic Oceans. The boats are around 5m long and resemble deep-V bass-fishing boats, think Bassmasters. They are equipped with one massive engine with serious horsepower (115-225Hp). The boats go like the clappers, traveling at 55-65kph with some as fast as 80kph and one traveling at a staggering 105kph! Somehow I don’t think Ola Evinrude ever contemplated motors doing this, even in his wildest imaginings. Having been on the receiving end of a boating accident in Plettenberg Bay, during the 2007 Nationals, I can best describe these trips as ‘white knuckle rides’.

Whales

Massive numbers of Humpback Whales migrating along the coast were seen at the start of the month. There have even been some close calls with a whale breaching only a few meters away from a diver and another diver getting his rig-line hooked around another’s fluke while the diver was lying on the bottom. Very strict rules, about how far you need to be from a whale, are in place to protect them. Somehow the whales continue to ignore these rules, makes for exciting diving though.