Coffs Harbour Report: March 2009 by Mark Kallman


The weather pattern in Coffs Harbour follows a similar one to that experienced around the Aliwal Shoal area. Most of the S fronts are over and the system is influenced by Highs moving from W to E along the S regions of the Australian continent. We have stopped experiencing dramatic changes in weather and even Cyclone Hamish seemed to have little effect on us. The rivers aren’t in spate and the sea has cleared making for very pleasant diving.

The water clarity has improved dramatically with several days of 30m+ viz. Traveling over the surface has also been a breeze. There is hardly any short interval swell and since the wind has been slight there is very little chop to contend with. This all means when you get to where you need to be, you aren’t bruised and battered from heavy seas and feel far more relaxed and enthusiastic about jumping in.

Fish Scene

Indications of fish on the Sonar, remains the fastest way of finding where the gamefish are. These collections of bait are useful as both indicators and attractors. The gamefish are often found some meters upcurrent of the bait or right underneath the bait as I found recently when I bumped into schools of Yellowtail, Amberjack and various Trevally species, after finding a tightly packed, obviously nervous ball of baitfish.

My month started badly, blanking at the club’s annual getaway to Wooli. As I had indicated previously, I was setting myself up for a fall and was made to eat a generous portion of humble-pie. The up-side of the Wooli competition was that John ferreted out some deeper, overlooked pinnacles that later produced a fine bag of Samsonfish, the biggest was 22.5kg.  Competition aside, I would find it immensely more satisfying to bag a fish of that size at 30m than at the surface. It just seems to emphasize what this sport embodies.

The Wahoo have put in their appearance. Brett Vercoe was diving at The Pinnacles and decided that since the water was so clear and with the abundance of pelagics, it would be a good idea to do some filming. The speargun was returned to the boat and the camera retrieved and filming was started. It was at this stage that a brute of a Wahoo swam into a school of 15kg Yellowfin tuna and proceeded to smash them to bits, absolute mayhem was the result. Apparently, in the ensuing chaos, he forgot to film the event. There was a superb Cobia taken by one of the younger divers and by all accounts the fish took a great deal of effort to subdue. The last time I spoke to him, he was still smiling.

Most of my diving has been aimed at looking for a variety of species with my mind firmly set on doing well at the 15th Australian Bluewater Freediving Classic. The Wednesday just before the competition was absolutely awesome out on The Pinnacles near North Solitary Island. I encountered several schools of Wahoo and ended up swimming about a kilometer after a speared fish only to loose it. Michael got a fish of 22.5kg though, another good fish to a Featherstone.

15th Australian Bluewater Freediving Classic: Woolgoolga 2009

The Classic ended the month. This premiere Australian Spearfishing event was extremely well attended by spearos from all over Australia. Being involved with the organization of this event has been a privilege, the support of sponsors in these trying financial times was remarkable with over $14000 worth of prizes being made available to competitors.

Saturday, 28 March 2009: An ugly Southerly Front was making its way up the coast and with safety being of paramount importance at an event of this nature, the Safety Committee took a long hard look at the predictions. The decision to go ahead with the competition was not taken lightly and safety was stressed before the boats were put to sea. The fleet gathered behind the backline and waited for the flare to be lit which marked the start of the competition.

Most of the fleet headed North, electing to return into the strong Southerly which was predicted to decrease into the late morning. For some reason the Northern areas seem to promise more to the competitors and most of the big fish did come from the North. An exciting day of spearing ensued and some really good fish came to the scales, some of the most noteworthy were a 24kg Spanish Mackerel taken by Adam Smith near The Wash, 7.5kg Samsonfish found on The Pinnacles by John Featherstone, and Michael DeRooy’s 12kg Jewfish also from The Pinnacles. The Southerly continued to increase in strength during the day, which resulted in some teams having a wicked trip back from the Northern dive sites.

Sunday, 29 March 2009: The Safety Committee deliberated for a long time when looking at the weather predictions for the day. With due consideration, the call was made to get the boats into the water and prepare to start Day 2 of competition. After the flare was lit, a larger proportion of the fleet elected to take it easy and head into the wind and return with it. There were still some die-hards who headed North in spite of the pounding they had taken on their return journey on Saturday. Again the vast majority of good fish came from the North. There were 2 sizeable Cobia brought to the scales one of 25.9kg by Richard Baronet and another 20kg+ fish by Kurt Bienfield.

At the presentation dinner Alex Ritchie was announced the winner of this year’s Classic. He had taken 3 fish on Day 1 and followed up on Day 2 by taking 5. He had decided to put time in around The Lighthouse and follow the one cardinal rule of competition, if there is one, don’t swim away from fish. His patience and perseverance certainly paid dividends.

Special species awards went to Adam Smith for his 24kg Spanish Mackerel, Richard Baronet for a 25.9kg Cobia which also won him the largest fish of the competition, Michael DeRooy for a 12kg Jewfish, John Featherstone with a 7.5kg Samsonfish, the heaviest Tuna went to a 6.29kg Mack Tuna landed by Paul Veitch and the largest Yellowtail Kingfish went to the 17.1kg fish knocked over by Ryan Shulter.

A final word of gratitude to the sponsors, whose generous prizes made this competition the success it was:

For those in South Africa who are interested in the results, they are as follows:

  1. RITCHIE, Alex
  2. DeROOY, Michael
  3. SMITH, Adam
  4. SCHULTER, Ryan
  5. KALLMAN, Mark
  6. BARONET, Richard
  7. NINNESS, Peter
  8. ERIKSSON, Allan
  9. BIENFELT, Kurt
  10. McDONALD, Tim
  11. FITZMAURICE, Shane
  12. HEUGH, Tony
  13. BARNETT, Craig
  14. CARTER, Warren
  15. FEATHERSTONE, Michael
  16. WELCH, David
  18. VEITCH, Tom
  19. WARD, Justin
  20. SAKKER, James
  21. COOKE, Alastair
  22. WRIGHT, Darcy
  23. SCHULTER, John
  24. ARMOUR, Neil
  25. DAVISON, Michael
  26. VEITCH, Paul
  27. LANDINI, Asher
  28. FARMER, Chris
  29. KEYS, Paul
  30. KENNEDY, Nathan
  31. WRAY, Paul
  32. ARNOTT, Brad
  33. DJURASEVICH, Adriana