Monthly Spearfishing Report February 2004

Monthly Report - February 2004

Conditions

The trials scheduled to take place on the 31 January were cancelled due to adverse sea conditions. Visibility was not good up and down the coast and even Aliwal Shoal was not looking too good. These conditions carried forward into February, and the first week or so, was not good for spearfishing. Madagascar had a big cyclone over it during this period, and although this did not directly influence our weather, some big surf was sent our way that did not help the inshore conditions and made spearfishing impossible up and down the coast. The carryover trial to the 7 February was cancelled, as was the Durban Undersea Club gamefish competition. Conditions improved after the bad start to the month and although some rivers opened, there was still diveable water to be found both north and south of Durban for much of the month. There has been some cold water lurking about on the bottom waiting for any excuse to spoil things, and it is amazing to see how things change when this cold water moves in. Seems as though the slightest wind is enough to bring it in.

Fish News

The big queen mackerel (natal snoek) have arrived on the north coast and some good fish have been landed if the right conditions are found. Good spots to hunt these fish are: Umhlanga just south of the lighthouse, Umdloti at selection reef, Ballito off the Keg parking, Sheffield at Christmas Bay, Bluff at Brighton tidal pool, Treasure and Warners. They normally patrol the reefs just behind backline and prefer calm sea conditions when the wind is not blowing too much. They are a tasty fish and are good on the braai as well as fried in olive oil. The cuda are playing their hide and seek games and it generally involves a lot more seeking than finding. There is still plenty more action to come from the run but we need the settled sea conditions and stable water temperatures for the action to really turn on. The deep-water spots off Amatikulu have been producing some 20kg+ cuda and there has been a lot of action on these reefs. Aliwal Shoal has been providing some exciting diving with a lot of big ignoblis kingfish about in the late afternoons. Gyula Plagani landed a monster of 46kg+ that must have given him a good fight. Neil McNichol landed a 30kg+ yellowfin tuna during the month whilst diving selection reef.

FAD versus Flasher

It is of interest that FADS (fish attracting devices) are not allowed to be dived on in the Rob Allen Gamefish Series, yet there is no ruling on flashers. I remember when we first started to use flashers in the late eighties; they consisted of crunchie chocolate wrapping, either gold or blue depending on your chocolate preference, that you used to attach to your weight belt and that dangled a few meters below you. None of the Durban crowd was that interested in them and Chris West in particular was totally against flashers. The Zululand divers were way ahead of the Durban guys in flasher development and it was only when I started to dive with some of the Zululand divers that I realized how well they could work. Some days they do not attract gamefish and other days they are deadly. Some of Wally Galli`s inventions would have done any disco proud, but they certainly worked. Now you can buy off-the-shelf flashers from any dive shop, although some guys still prefer to make their own, that special little something extra that is bound to work. The power of positive thought.

Trials

The 2nd trial was dived on the 14 February in difficult conditions. The area was South pier down to Warners, and the sea was not pleasant. Visibility was 3m at best on the bottom with 2m and less for much of the area. The water was cold and there was a big ground swell running that was churning things on the bottom. Fish were not easy to find but some divers managed to weigh-in fair bags. The last trial to pick the KwaZulu-Natal spearfishing teams for Nationals took place on the 28 February. The area was South pier down to the cutting including No1. Conditions were good with excellent visibility, but a strong south-north current made things difficult. Fair bags were weighed-in by most of the 20 spearos who signed-on. The results will be posted on the site as soon as we get them.

DUC Gamefish Competition

With 37 divers signing on for this comp, it is well done to Dean Lailvaux for taking the time and trouble to get the comp up and running. Only 8 of the 37 managed to weigh fish and the top 3 places were as follows: 1st Chris Coates, 2nd Graham Carlisle, 3rd Brent Addison. Brent is worthy of mention as he is in the autumn years of his life but is proof that spearfishermen do not get old, they just keep giving the younger chaps a hiding.

Zululand News

The big seas put a stop to diving at both Cape Vidal and Sodwana Bay at the beginning of the month. Latest reports from Sodwana are of clear seas with shoal cuda and kaakap making up bags. Vidal has had a spell of cold water inshore that has meant poor diving conditions and not much action.

Mozambique News

Plenty of action in southern Mozambique with a big run of shoal sized cuda making for exciting diving. The water temps are pretty stable as opposed to the previous February, so divers heading this way can look forward to some good diving.

Cape News

Struisbaai has been producing a lot of yellowtail with even the odd striped marlin seen. Recently some of the Cape divers made a trip to Mount Vema, a sea mound that is at a diveable depth in the middle of the Atlantic. There are monster giant yellowtail found here and I hope to have some news on their trip soon.

Port Elizabeth News

Unusually, there has been little wind in Port Elizabeth and diving conditions have been good with warm clean water. Some small kob have been coming out along with Cape yellowtail and bonito at the point. Reef fish bags have been made up of mainly parrots, bronze bream and rockcods along with the odd big red stumpnose.

Marine Protected Areas

Five new marine protected areas have been established along the South African coastline. They are: Aliwal Shoal; 90km along the Transkei coast stretching from Port St John's northwards to the Mtamvuna River; Bird Island; Cape Peninsula; and a big area on the West Coast between the Groen and Spoeg Rivers. Once the management plans are in place for the Aliwal area, you will have to apply for a special permit to spearfish in the reserve. The Produce wreck along with a big chunk of the shoal, that falls within the Aliwal Shoal Marine Reserve, have been declared sanctuary areas. No spearfishing or rod fishing is allowed in these two sanctuary zones. The full extent of the Aliwal Shoal marine reserve runs from the Umkomaas River south to the Mzimayi River, a distance of approximately 16.5km and extends for 7km out to sea. GPS co-ordinates demarcate the marine reserve and the sanctuary zones within the reserve. Of interest will be how they are going to police these areas, as having a protected area that is not policed properly, is a sure way of attracting serious rogues who know that there are rich pickings to be had once your honest types have left an area alone. I note that Jet Ski's are banned from the marine reserve. Lets hope that fairness has gone into the thinking behind this plan and that all the user groups are catered for.

Not so Well Researched

Already there is an example of inefficiency in the newly gazetted regulations for the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area. They have included the tasselfish or baardman as one of the protected species but have listed the wrong fish. The slender baardman found in our waters has the scientific name Umbrina ronchus, where they have listed the Umbrina canariensis. Though this fish has a wide range, few if any are caught along the Natal and Transkei coasts. The two fish are very similar in appearance but the former is more slender and has fewer dorsal rays. If the powers that be would just take the time to consult with the relevant user groups these types of stupid and sometimes costly errors could be averted.

Polluter let off the Hook

The purpose of the Sanctuary zones is to allow marine species and ecosystems in those zones to exist in a natural state, is how the gazette is worded. Sounds pretty noble, yet Saiccor is pumping millions of litres of industrial waste into the sea each year. Anyone who dives the Produce and the Aliwal Shoal on a regular basis will attest to the fact that Saiccor effluent is regularly in both these areas. This is certainly not a natural state for the sea and despite all the propaganda by the company involved, must do irreparable damage to this area. But conveniently the gazette states that no industrial waste be allowed to be pumped into the marine reserve, and of course the outlet pipe for Saiccors effluent falls outside this area.

Pirate Alert

Piracy is becoming a problem along the East African coast where poor countries with insufficient policing services are attracting pirates to operate in their territorial waters with little worry of being caught. They use speedboats and are heavily armed. Last year there were 445 reports of vessels being attacked, mostly along the coasts of Nigeria, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Sharks

The link between the seas and sharks in an ecosystem sense, like much of nature's relationships, is probably very complex. To discern any changes brought about by the drastic reduction in shark numbers to this relationship is impossible at this early stage. Yet wherever you dive there is ample evidence that shark numbers are way down. Mozambique is a prime example, where for many years, the inshore seas have been hammered by un-policed long liners, sharks being especially vulnerable to this form of fishing. As spearfishermen we can do our bit by being aware that the problem exists and by knowing that sharks form an integral part of the seas and need to be conserved.

Spearfishingsa.co.za

The site is now receiving over 300 000 hits per month, this translates to around 10 000 visits per month well above the 130 000 for last February. A big growth in traffic volume and an example of what a powerful tool the Internet can be for reaching people of similar persuasions.

Safe diving,
John.