Monthly Spearfishing Report March 2004

Monthly Report - March 2004

Rock lobster season opening

Conditions were good for the opening of the east coast rock lobster season with fairly settled seas and diveable water on both the north and south coast. The season runs until the end of October and you can purchase a license from any post office for R65.00. The limit is 8 lobster per permit holder per day. You are not allowed to have more than 8 in your possession, so sorting your catch on the beach is asking for trouble if you have more than 8 and are looking to take the biggest. Some divers have even been checked out at sea by NCS personnel on a boat so be aware of the 8 rule. This rule actually seems a bit over the top to me as often you have caught your 8 and then come across a spot with some bigger lobster. It is impossible to sort your net out at sea without losing some of your catch so the obvious thing to do is to wait until you hit the beach.

Plenty of rain during the first week of March together with some big surf put and end to the run of good conditions. The sea took a couple of days to settle down and with warm water about there was still plenty of action on the north coast and south coast. The queen mackerel action has tapered off a bit but the odd fish is still being taken in deeper water with the big shoals scarce. Plenty of reef fish about but not many cuda being shot apart from the odd smaller fish. The second half of the month saw very settled seas with some clean blue water moving in on the lower south coast and generally good diving conditions up and down the coast.

Natal Teams for Nationals

The following teams were chosen to represent Natal at the Nationals in Stilbaai from the 13 March to 17 March:
A team – Gyula Plagani, Angelo Spada, John Little,
B team – John Girdza, Jaco Blignaut, Jethro McCarthy,
C team - Graham Carlisle, Richard Rumble, JP Kroll,
Natal Development – Dave Coetzee, Rod Cerff, Brett Dickson.
There is a full write-up on the Nationals here.

Format for Natal Trials

At a recent meeting held at Durban Undersea Club, Andrew Nell, the NUU spearfishing officer put forward a proposal to make trials more attractive to most Natal spearfishermen. All the trialists present welcomed the move and possible changes are: the maximum weight limit to be raised to 9kg from the present 4kg, points allocation for the different fish species to be based on a rising scale for the more difficult fish. There are still many points to consider here and if any spearo has any suggestions in this regard please email them to [email protected]. Competition diving is not everyone’s cup of tea but once the bug has bitten it is something that you will find most rewarding and it will improve your spearfishing greatly. It is also a good way of meeting new spearos and learning of new spots to dive plus you might surprise yourself and end up in one of the Natal teams.

South African Spearfishing Records

At the A.G.M. of the South African Freediving (Spearfishing) Association held in Stilbaai recently, Brent Addison put forward a proposal that some fish records be removed from the list of record fish.

Examples are: old woman, batfish, rabbitfish, and squirrelfish.

Brent’s reasoning is that these fish are not targeted by spearfishermen and you would probably only shoot one to try for a record. All welcomed the motion and at some stage the records list will be changed to reflect this new approach. We will endeavor to get hold of Brent’s recommendations in this regard.

News from Port Elizabeth

The winds along this part of the coast have been mild but there has been some cold dirty water about. Few reports of any gamefish apart from the odd cape yellowtail coming out at the Point. The thermoclines have been driving up the odd good-sized reef fish from the deep but otherwise it has been quiet.

Slender Baardman Record to go

Ken Hutchings is conducting research on the baardman species and his results will hopefully go towards the successful management of this species in the future. Ken is a scientist based at the university of Cape Town and needs information on any baardman shot with regard to the total length (tip of snout to tip of depressed tail) or an accurate weight. Kens email is [email protected] should any spearo be able to help. Relevant dates are January 2001 to December 2004. From Ken’s research we now know that the slender baardman and the baardman are the same species. The fish found in the warmer Natal and Transkei waters grows much quicker than the cold water based fish, and breeds all year round whereas the cold water fish breeds once a year. Comparative lengths would be 65cm and 50cm after 5 years with the slower growing cold-water fish attaining a bigger size as shown by the records.

Small Sharks in Numbers

The small Grey and Dusky sharks have moved onto some of the inshore areas such as Umdloti and can make diving impossible. They are very inquisitive and boldly approach any diver that they come across. Shooting fish is not an option when they are about as they will continually try and eat your catch when you dive down to the bottom and leave your fish unattended. You also get the odd bigger shark up to 40kgs swimming with them that makes diving difficult especially when the viz is bad. As soon as a big shark (100kg+) moves in they soon disappear, as they must realize that they are on the menu.

Spearo Bashers

Spearfishing is once again taking some bad press in an East London newspaper where some person with more sarcastic wit than sense is parading his ideas of conservation. This chap suggests that we hold spearfishing nationals in a pool with plastic fish and have speedboats whizzing around for the danger factor. It would be a joke but unfortunately the public at large reads this sort of dribble and we as spearfishermen are the ultimate losers, despite statistics proofing that spearfishing is a very sustainable form of fish harvesting. It is perceptions that count and spearfishing is perceived as an unfair form of fishing to most people, even though they know nothing about what spearfishing entails.

Useful Facts

Here are the results from the last three National Spearfishing Champs held in the Stilbaai area showing the numbers of fish shot of the different species.

15 KM YONGENSFONTEIN COMPETITION ZONE

SPECIES 1993, 1998, 2004

Baardman 27, 31, 23
Bronze Bream 11, 32, 28
Cape Knife Jaw 82, 85, 106
Galjoen 23, 28, 60
Musselcracker 2, 1, 6
Red Stumpnose 9, 10, 9
Red Roman 89, 58, 76
Wildeperd 10, 6, 14
Yellowbelly 10, 2, 8
Other 10, 20, 19
TOTAL FISH 273, 273, 349
DIVERS 62, 47, 57
FISH PER DIVER 4.4, 5.8, 6.1

Other factors come into play here such as visibility and water temperature but the table clearly shows that spearfishing has had very little impact if any on the fish stocks in this area over an eleven-year period. Figures from other areas where Nationals has been held point to a similar trend with spearfishing having no impact on the fish stocks in the area. You cannot argue with facts like these and when you consider that these are the top spearfishermen in the country, then spearfishing is truly one of the few sustainable forms of fish capture that there is. Individuals who continually criticize the sport for their own personnel agendas do so entirely on hear-say as the facts speak for themselves.

Trawler Madness

The spearos that are hunting the yellowfin tuna 40 miles off Cape Point are seeing first hand what destruction the hake trawlers are doing to the seas. Each trawl leaves behind hundreds of dead rays and skates plus all the unfortunate fish that are not of suitable size for export. All this by-catch is from one net with the trawler doing a number of trawls each day. Multiply this by the thousands of trawlers that must operate over the oceans each day coupled with the by-catch from the many long liners and you have a disaster of epic proportions happening each day in our oceans. It is frightening to think that people actually support this method of capture knowing that the by-catch is thousands of innocent sea creatures slaughtered on a daily basis. The long liners operating in this area fish mainly for export and target hake and kingklip. As the export fish are not allowed to have any holes in them, the fish that shake loose from the hooks when the line is lifted from the water are all left as by-catch instead of being gaffed and utilized to feed the local market. It is sad and worrying to hear of these practices taking place but the more people who realize what is going on the more chance there is of something constructive being done to ban this form of fishing from inshore waters.

Nationals 2005

Southern KwaZulu-Natal, a newly formed provincial region, has offered to host the spearfishing nationals next year in their home waters. The dive area will extend from Hibberdene southwards to Port Edward, a distance of over 60km, and being rich in reefs and fish, should provide some challenging diving for all the spearos taking part.

Wahoo Winter Gamefish Competition

The annual Winter Gamefish Competition hosted by the Wahoo Spearfishing Club is scheduled to take place on the 5 June at Cape Vidal. This date will be confirmed as soon as permission is granted by the NCS to run the event. June is an excellent period for Cape Vidal with settled weather and the chance of bagging some large gamefish. This event is for the serious spearos as well as the beginners and is always great fun with the chance of any diver weighing in the winning fish. There are always great prizes up for grabs and the social side is always good. As numbers are limited, it is worthwhile making the effort to sign-up for this competition. We will keep you posted on the latest news for this competition.

Safe diving,
John.