Monthly Spearfishing Report February 2007

Monthly Report – March 2007

Conditions

Some serious swell at the beginning of the month putting paid to the start of the east coast rock lobster season in Natal. Swell was straight onshore so probably originated from the cyclone Gamede sitting south east of Madagascar. Cyclone Favio did not have much effect along the Natal coast but caused extensive damage to the Vilankulo area in Mozambique. The same area was hit hard a couple of years back so it seems that this is where cyclones make landfall in this area. Something to think about if you are planning to buy property in this area or holidaying during the cyclone season. Cyclone season runs from mid-January to end March roughly. Heat-wave conditions over much of Natal but things change rapidly when the big fronts push up from the Cape and one days high temperatures quickly change to rainy windy weather. This is what makes living in the coastal belt so appealing. Water temps up to 27c but conditions for diving not that good in the first half of the month with big surf and rough seas spoiling conditions. Some parts of the Eastern Cape experiencing flooding and severe storms with calls for the area to be declared a disaster area.

Huge Waves and Equinox Spring Tide

The cut-off low that sat off the Natal coast for a number of days mid-month caused huge 7m+ swells to off-load their energy on the Natal coast. These monster waves, some breaking in over 70 foot of water on the Bluff, were a sight to behold. The big surf together with the equinox spring tides did some serious damage along the coast with roads being washed away and some beach front restaurants closing their doors. Sea a mess inshore but clean water further out and should be good when the waves settle. Will be interesting to see what the big surf has done to some of the sanded up reefs. Hopefully treasure reef is back to what it was 12 years ago when there were some big caves on the main pinnacle that were an excellent bet for geelbek during the season.

Fish-wise

The odd cuda being landed on the north coast and on the Bluff with some nice fish on number 1 reef. Queen mackerel (natal snoek) being taken at Christmas Bay and Salt Rock together with a few on the Bluff. Cuda run getting off to a slow start but Zululand spots experiencing good action so the run could get better if these fish move onto the Natal coast. 

Rock Lobster Season

Season runs from 1 March to 31 October in any year. Licenses are only valid for the year purchased so one purchased in July will expire at the end of October of that same year. Locals call rock lobster bugs or crayfish but for export reasons the name rock lobster is used so that there is no confusion with the crawfish found extensively in America and is poor eating when compared to our rock lobster.

Cape Vidal

The cuda run is in full swing at Vidal with lots of shoal size cuda being taken up to 8kg. Queen mackerel (natal snoek) also being taken but lots of shark activity especially on Deep Oscar. All this fish activity must attract sailfish and marlin hopefully, so well worth the trip if weather conditions are right.

St Lucia Estuary

The estuary mouth has opened for the first time in four and a half years. Large waves generated by cyclone Gamede pounded the bank that separated the sea from the lake and by Saturday 3 March a significant mouth had opened allowing salt water to once again flow into the estuary. This should  spark the vibrant ecosystems normally associated with the inflow of salt water into fresh water lake systems.

Wahoo Dive Club

The club AGM was held on Saturday 17 March with the new chairman being Chris West. Chris is the life blood of the club and has been for a number of years. In fact without Chris’s drive the club would have disappeared a number of years back. I have been nagging Chris for his profile to put up on the site so hopefully he will put pen to paper. It should make for interesting reading as Chris is a colourful character.

Equinox

This occurs each year on roughly 21 March and 22 September and is when the moon and sun’s gravitational pull on the earth is roughly aligned. Due to the moon orbiting the earth on a tilting axis these gravitational pulls are only truly aligned every 18.61 years and this is when higher than normal equinox tides will occur. In Durban in 2006 they were measured at 2.18m which is about 10% higher than a normal high tide. These increases would not normally be cause for concern unless they coincide with large waves and then the extra high tides could be a problem for areas such as Ballito, Umdloti and Umhlanga and the Durban beach front.

Yellowbelly Wrongly Sized

The 60cm size limit placed on the yellowbelly rockcod is overkill and to the detriment of the species. The limit of 1 yellowbelly per day from the old limit of 5 was more than enough protection. Most yellowbellies are shot in a cave and it is very hard to tell the size of the fish under these conditions. These fish are very robust with a 60cm fish weighing around 3.5kg, a good sized yellowbelly and one not often found. What is happening is a big fish is being shot or caught but does not make the 60cm and hence has to be put back instead of being kept and no more fish hunted or fished. Some up-country ski-boaters asked me on number one reef if a yellowbelly they had caught was legal. Even though a good size it was not legal and though dead was returned to the water.

Launches Closed

The storm surf that pounded the coast during equinox has damaged some of the launch sites along the coast. Salmon Bay launch at Ballito is no longer there with the winch now in the shore break. Umdloti launch is still useable but the winch is covered with sand for now so you will have to pull your boat up with a rope and vehicle. Durban is launchable but watch out for rocks and bricks in the shallows and on the beach. Umkomaas is out as the road on the southern side of the mouth is washed away and the police have blocked off access to the northern side. You can launch from Umkomaas Ski-boat Club but will have to pay a R350.00 joining fee and depending on the tide, can be very muddy so watch out for getting stuck. Rocky Bay is still launchable but Shelly beach is closed. Not sure of Hibberdene or Port Edward but best to check before you go.  

Increase in Shark Activity

This time of year there is always an increase in the number of sharks along the Natal coast due to warm water temperatures and an increase in gamefish activity. Each year you hear of the odd close call and this year is no exception with a number of what seem near misses reported. Like all wild creatures sharks need to be respected and ones that seem overly aggressive need to be watched carefully and exiting out of their area is probably the cleverest thing to do. A close call always leaves you nervous until you have forgotten about it and an attack might spoil your spearing for ever if you survive.

Safe diving, John.