Divers surprised to find kings and tuna
  |  First Published: May 2017

What a difference a month makes. The weather recently has really turned it on. The easterlies have been a little annoying, but the elevated temperatures, along with quite a few low swell days, have put the smiles right back on the faces of the local diving population.

I am fairly certain that the local crayfish and kingfish populations are much less enthused. Hordes of divers, both shore- and boat-based, have been out in force in an effort to espy and hopefully capture these iconic species.

Kingfish have been surprising many an unsuspecting diver right along the coast. The water is warm, and the fish are being seen quite literally anywhere. It has certainly paid dividends for those who take their king busting gear on any and every dive. You just never know. The usual hotspots have been good. Portland, Port Fairy, Barwon Heads, Point Lonsdale and Phillip Island have all been producing the goods.

Great Glennie Island has a deserved reputation as Victoria’s kingfish Mecca. Although many fish have been speared this year, the going has been quite tough with fish numbers looking considerably lower. A persistent pool of dirty water out here hasn’t helped much either. The hottest spot close to Melbourne appears to be the rocky reefs and headlands of Phillip Island. The Pinnacles, Pyramid Rock, Cat Bay and a sleazy little no-named reef all offer excellent opportunities now and perhaps for another six weeks. The seasons appear all out of whack, so I am hoping for a prolonged, mild to warm autumn. And, I am hoping for no winter whatsoever.

The bait concentration along the northern reaches of Bass Strait has shown little sign of abating. Small schooling southern bluefin tuna are still turning up in the oddest of locations, again catching unsuspecting spearos by surprise. A lucky few are still managing to shaft these magnificent fish. The right place and right time pretty well sum up your chances. Many a dedicated trip has failed to locate fish, yet on other occasions, targets of opportunity have come out of the blue.

I have gone out purposely searching on a couple of times for zero result, yet have again seen them while diving the shallows for crayfish. There simply is no justice! The boys on the west coast are still having the best of it. Tom Dawson recently managed his first SBT after several unsuccessful attempts. To say that he was happy would be a gross understatement.

Closer to home, the smile is still to leave the face of my good friend Mauro Molent. He was line fishing in 40m of water off Barwon Heads. The fish were around, but not playing the game. Mauro jumped in with trusty gun and managed a pair of identical twins, two tuna at 21kg each. Even if tuna are not evident, it’s still fun to be at these offshore areas. Bait balls, dolphins and seals all make for an unforgettable diving experience.

The Victorian Spearfishing Championships were also conducted recently. For the first time in many years, the sun shone and the seas were calm. This led to one the most enjoyable competitions in a long, long time. To witness competitors exiting the water with smiles all around is a pleasant change, one which makes for a much more relaxed weigh-in and post-dive appraisal.

The competition was held over two days. Each competition day was six hours in duration. This is a species competition, where only one fish of each species counts on the scorecard. We have a restricted species list, confined only to edible varieties. No fish are wasted and the minimum sizes allowed are much larger than the minimum legal limits. Day one was fished at Pyramid Rock in ideal conditions.

Day two was a hard fought affair at Kilcunda in conditions which were more trying, but mellowed considerably throughout the day. Congratulations to Murray Petersen, of the Southern Freedivers Club for defending his title. Congratulations also to Blake Riddle from the Shipwreck Coast Club on taking out the junior title. It was heartening to see so many juniors competing this year. These young guys will be the backbone of our sport’s future.

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