Monthly Spearfishing Report April 2004

Monthly Report - May 2004

Early Winter

Weather wise it seems we might be in for an early winter with some crisp mornings about already, despite the Indian summer that we experienced towards the end of May. Daylight barely makes it by 06:00, and you can only see the visibility properly by 07:00. The calm light winds that are normal for this time of year only kicked in mid way through the month with some unsettled seas prior to this. The settled conditions made for some good diving conditions but not many fish about. Water temperatures are ranging from 19c in the south to 21-22c in the north along the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

Fish Action

Reports of fish have been pretty thin with not that much happening fish wise. The Hibiscus clubs competition on the 15 May was won by Bruce Jackson with a 14kg chanos but not a lot of fish were weighed-in despite fairly settled seas and fair viz. The ski fishermen on the Tongaat stretch have boated some big cuda on the odd day with one chap getting 5 from 21kg down to 12kg. The odd garrick being landed and the anglers are getting the odd fish at the sand spit near Port Shepstone so spearfishermen with patience might find it worthwhile hanging about likely points to hopefully bag the odd garrick that might be passing by. The Bluff has been diveable on a number of occasions, but apart from the odd small cuda, has been very quiet. There are plenty of small sharks in this area that will definitely steal your fish if you give them half a chance. The Uvongo stretch came clean towards the end of the month with some excellent conditions and a lot of fish about. Some big rock salmon taken aswell as the odd kob in very good catches. The area from Mtwalume down to Hibberdene has produced some good bags of reef fish when diveable conditions are found with plenty of fish on the 15 to 20m reefs.

Breath-hold Information

On a recent trip to Mozambique I was lucky enough to have the president of the Greek Free-diving association, Nicholas Kouvaras, as one of my guests. He has managed 60m in a constant weight free dive and has loads of information about all things relating to freediving. Here are some of the points that came up in discussions with him.

  1. The Basics
    The air we breathe is basically made up of 20% oxygen and 80% nitrogen. When we breathe in the body takes 3 to 5% oxygen from the lungs and this is replaced by carbon dioxide from the blood so that an exhale will have roughly 16% oxygen, 4% carbon dioxide and 80% nitrogen.
  2. Dive Recovery
    For a diver of average fitness, a minute is all that is needed to replace the oxygen levels in the blood after a dive. The rest of the recovery period is spent getting the carbon dioxide levels back to normal, which can take 4 to 6 minutes after a long dive, and to get the pulse rate down. When you breathe in the pulse rate increases and decreases as you exhale. Record breaking freedivers spend most of the time prior to a dive doing minute long exhales to get the pulse rate as low as possible before the dive. The more relaxed you are the deeper you can dive.
  3. Lung Air not used
    When you dive the air in the lungs is only used to help with the pressure increase at depth and to equalize. The oxygen for the dive is already in the blood stream and is replaced within a minute of surfacing from a dive. During a dive the carbon dioxide accumulates in the blood and muscles and over a period your body will adapt to the increase and you will be able to withstand higher levels than a person who does not dive.
  4. Exercising
    The best exercises for freediving are weight training combined with aerobic exercises, the best being swimming with small fins on. This helps with the muscles used whilst diving. The muscles to concentrate on with the weights are the chest, shoulders and lower body. This type of training increases the capacity for the spleen to enrich the blood with red cells that are crucial in the breathing process.
  5. Eating
    You should not eat before a dive but should rather have non-acidic fruit juices such as apple and apricot. The night before an important dive you should load up with carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice or pasta. You need to replace body fluids during a dive at least every two hours and this should be done with isotonic drinks that have no sugar content. Sugar triggers insulin release in the body and insulin increases the heart rate. Vitamin C and E are very important for diving as they have anti-oxidant qualities. The PH level in the body is also very important for freediving as it helps with the balance of carbon dioxide.
  6. Hyperventilation
    This actually reduces the amount of oxygen available to the body and is a very dangerous practice in breath hold diving. When you have hyperventilated and your carbon dioxide levels are low, the body tries to replace the carbon dioxide to bring the levels back to normal. It does this by burning up oxygen and so reduces the amount of oxygen that the body can use.
  7. Less Weight
    Unless you are diving on the backline it is much better to be lightly weighted. You might need to expend a little more oxygen at the beginning of the dive to get down but this is preferable to using more effort at the end of the dive to come up because you are heavily weighted. When you use muscles they produce lactic acid and under aerobic conditions when oxygen is present the body is able to get rid of the lactic acid. When no oxygen is present in the muscles such as at the end of the dive but you are still using them the lactic acids build up, as the body is no longer able to get rid of them under anaerobic conditions. This build up of lactic acids makes the muscles inefficient and causes fatigue and cramps. This is why it is important to perfect your duck dive when leaving the surface so that you need as little effort as possible to get down despite the fact that you are under weighted. Carbon fins are also much more efficient than plastic ones and can save a lot of energy so are also important to maximize your potential in freediving.
  8. Freediving Courses
    You cannot improve your technique whilst spearfishing and that is why it is important to do a freediving course if you have the opportunity. There is a lot of technique involved in freediving and a course is money well spent. Pity we have no decent locations for freediving as diving in a dirty quarry is not that appealing.

Sodwana Bay and Cape Vidal

Despite good diving conditions and a north-south current at Cape Vidal, there has been little action apart from the odd dart cuda. Sodwana bay has also been quiet with little current and very clean water but no action to speak of.

Aliwal Shoal

The odd sailfish taken during the month together with wahoo, but things have gone quiet with very little action some days. Still probably the best bet for spearfishing with the chance of plenty of gamefish if suitable conditions are found.


I was up in Mozambique for the first half of the month with mediocre conditions. The water was very clean with 30 to 40m visibility but with a south-north current and a south-easterly wind that refused to stop, things could have been better. Plenty of big manta rays together with whale sharks made for some good video footage but the gamefish were few. Biggest cuda was 19kg with some large kaakap landed aswell. One sailfish was seen in the water and one from the boat but none landed.

Wahoo Diving Club Winter Gamefish Competition

There is a lot of interest in the comp this year and as this might be the last year that it will be held at Cape Vidal, a lot of the older divers are making the effort to attend what must be a comp with many happy memories for all of them. We will have a full write-up on the comp on the site by mid June.

Sardine Run

The annual sardine run that takes place along the Transkei and lower south coast looks a better bet this year as already sea temperatures are at 19c on the lower south coast. Last year the inshore sea temperatures never dropped below 18c on the lower south coast which is the upper limit for the sardines who are a cold water fish and only migrate up the east coast in the colder winter waters. Last year the run was a non-event along the KwaZulu-Natal coast with the water temperatures too high and most of the shoals traveled inshore as far as Waterfall Bluff on the Transkei coast before heading out to sea.

News from the Port Elizabeth Area

With inshore conditions being pretty marginal, some of the PE spearfishermen have been trying for yellowfin tuna out deep. Despite the visibility being only 10m a long way out to sea, some success has been had with some average sized tuna landed. Some big boys have been lost aswell so the prospects are there for some very good hunting when conditions improve. The Durban crowd needs to have a look at what the prospects are out deep as we could be missing out on some good yellowfin action. The Stilbaai to Knysna stretch has also been pretty grim visibility wise but the fishermen are getting good catches of geelbek and kob so all it needs is some westerlies to clear the water up and spearfishing could be good.

Springbok Team

The spearfishermen chosen to represent South Africa in the World Championships later this year in Chile are Jaco Blignaut, Niel Barnard and John Girdza. Well done to these guys. As Chile involves a lot of shallow diving in the white water we probably stand the best chance that we will get of placing well as the top teams with big financial backing do not have as much advantage as they normally do.

Safe diving, John.