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James Sakker 31kg Mulloway (Jewfish) Main Photo - “Trout Hideout” by Brett Vercoe
10 Gun Reviw Pt.2
14 Cobia Capers
26 Koster’s Kitchen
29 People you Meet
34 Hunt for Reds
38 Comp Day
44 Marion Reef ‘06
50 Magical Monties
58 World Titles
64 Peron Patrol
73 My Cod!
By Nick Sarapuk | Photos by John Featherstone
n early 4:15am start got the day rolling, after a quick bowl of weetbix I was out the door and in the car into the hour’s drive from Urunga to the Northern Beaches of Coffs Harbour to meet Pete and John for my first trip to the Solitary Islands Marine Park. Arriving at Pete’s joint at 5:20am after a quick coffee it was back on the road to John’s place to load up the gear. Once we were loaded up and ready to hit the water the three of us jumped into the Landcruiser and headed for the boat ramp. After launching Pete & John’s almighty sea cruiser we were meet by 2-3 feet of swell and no wind on our way to some fish traps 18kms offshore for my first “FAD” dive!! Upon reaching the first fish trap the sounder was reading a temp 21c and surface conditions were good, John giving it the thumbs up, I jumped overboard into quiet deep blue water with around 20 metres visibility. After a couple of drifts and no sign of any fish we moved on to some more fish traps which was much the same. On our third stop, John and I jumped in
while Pete manned the boat. Approaching the fish traps John let me know Dolphin fish were there which boosted my excitement. I began scanning the surface around me as I drifted towards the traps to find a school of 6-8 Dolphinfish between 1-5kg behind me investigating my float. I dived just below the surface and swam towards the fish but they began to stir and were staying just out of range then they were off and moments later I heard John’s gun go off then swam over to John who had a 3kg Dolphinfish doing some circle work that was soon in the esky. Back onboard Pete & John decided we’d head to the North Island to target some Samsonfish. It was good visibility around 15-20 metres but lacking action other than some shady Snapper and a few Mack Tuna, Pete plugging a whooping 6.5kg one. We hauled up the anchor and set off to one of Pete and John’s GPS points a pinnacle of 18metres coming out of 30-40 metres of water. After a few dives and nothing sighted but a edgy Samsonfish we moved on again to a spot called “The Wash”. The Wash is a big submerged reef, a yachty’s worst nightmare!!. Other than a few small Kingfish it was dead and I was beginning to think that I’d be going home empty-handed The Northeaster had slowly been
building and was now howling and turning the surface conditions to slop. The call was made to head inshore a little and hit some shallower reefs in search of some Pearl Perch. Visibility was perfect with at least 20 metres. The reef was a comfortable 10-15 metres of water with incredible coral structures, caves and gutters all the right ingredients for fish. After diving the reef for an hour or so I started to find myself feeling a little low, having not seen any fish. My muscles were aching and my diving ability was slowly beginning to decrease. As I was paddling on the surface something just under me, moving on the bottom, caught my eye. I couldn’t believe it, I was floating on top of a school of 30-40 Jewfish!! Suddenly I was out of the low and in a high again as the adrenaline pumped through me!! Filled with excitement I dived slowly towards the school. As I approached I realised these fish were double the size I had contemplated! Within a few metres of the school, just out of shooting range, they began to spook and slowly slipped away from me!!!! I returned to the surface spewing knowing I rushed the opportunity and I may have just blown a chance for a good size Jew. I relaxed on the surface, I knew I hadn’t agitated the fish too much and they could well be still in the area. Sure enough two minutes later they were back in my sights schooling away. This was it I said to myself as I relaxed on the surface breathing up till I was ready to dive. I left the surface and slowly began my approach motionlessly drifting towards the school which were growing more nervous the closer I got,. This time as the school began to leave I began to fin towards them on an angle leaving me a broadside shot!! I picked a fish then let the 7.5mm spear shaft fly hitting the fish in the low. The fish took off smashing against the reef and the battle was on to keep the fish off the reef. As the fish began to tire I tried pulling him in but every time I was within hand reach he’d summon the energy and run to the bottom again. After several times of trying I gave up and thought best bet is to head back to the boat and finish him with a
second shot. Just as I got to the boat I spotted John through the dirty wind chop and got his attention. John swam over and quickly finished the fish sealing my victory the fish weighing 15kg. After a quick celebration with the fish was it was in the esky on ice and I was back on the reef with a little inquisitive sambo swimming my way. With a quick gun rattle to bring him in range I let him have it and in a flash he was on the reef with my spear gun violently disagreeing with the matter. Costing me a bent spear and a chewed up mono he was in the esky weighing in 6.5kgs. Meanwhile Pete & John had come back with some buster jews all between 10-12kg and John with a Nice 8kg sambo plus a good size Pearl Perch. The esky was has some great fish in it and there was plenty of fish to go round so it was time to call it a day and what a cracker of a day it was!! Big thanks to Pete Landini & John Featherstone for a day of spearfishing to remember!!
Without further Adieu.......
Before we jump straight into Part 2, let’s just have a quick recap of the criteria we used.
Why the 130cm?
Well, we wanted to pick a size that was reasonably universal. The 130cm gun can be used for just about anything from Bream to Dogtooth Tuna. True many people use bigger and smaller guns but on average it was a good compromise.
In testing the guns we devised a standard set of criteria that any self respecting spearfisher would want to know before purchasing a gun. We have tried to keep the criteria as practical as possible to give you a good overview of how the gun would perform in field. They include:
Build Quality Components, finish, etc. We only had the guns for a short test period so reliability is not something we had the luxury of testing. The better a gun is built the more “likely” your new gun is to give years of trouble-free spearfishing, so look at the build quality with a view to “guesstimating” how long a gun would last.
Loading How easy and comfortable the gun is to load. Pretty straight forward but an important consideration if you are continually shooting and reloading.
Manoeuvrability How the gun tracks through the water. Various factors influence this and again it is something that is really difficult to ascertain if you are looking at a gun on the shelf.
Shooting The feel of the trigger, recoil, how stable the gun feels in the water.
Accuracy This is a very interesting one. Accuracy might be better termed “consistency”. If a gun consistently shoots in the same spot every time then minor adjustment to your shooting style or gun setup may be all that is needed to make it accurate. A gun that shoots all over the place is another thing entirely. In this test you will notice that very few of the guns hit the bullseye but most of them were consistent in where they did land. More often than not it was simply a function of the shaft dropping over distance and there was very little in the way of horizontal variance – this is good. Slightly more power or getting closer to your target would yield a very accurate gun. Small modifications, be it shooting style or equipment are generally part of the “breaking in” process for any new gun. Provided that the gun performs consistently you can usually hone in your accuracy over the first couple of dives. So accuracy was justifiably judged in relation to consistency.
Reloading There is only one thing worse than missing a nice fish – trying to reload a difficult gun whilst the fish swims around laughing at you. So again we looked at some simple criteria like spear engagement, shooting line and line releases, how easily the spear went back through the muzzle. Simple stuff but annoying when it doesn’t go right in the water.
The target grids that you see on each gun profile are made up of a 3x3 grid of 50mm (2”) squares, that is a 150mm x 150mm (6”x 6”) grid. The shots were taken from 4m which constitutes about 75% of maximum shooting range for guns of this type. So essentially we were trying to hit a 50mm (2”) square from 4m which is a reasonable expectation.
OK - onwards!
Picasso - Carbontitanio
Picasso - Carbontitanio
1 x 19mm Black coated Amber
Glass Filled Nylon (GFN)
GFN Trigger + S/S Mechanism
Titanized Carbon Tube
6.5mm S/S, Double Notch
GFN (1xScrew-in, 1x Bulk)
Terminal Gear Nice Bits
Bungy w/ Pigtail + Swivel Titanium Reinforced Carbon Barrel
Retail Price Distributor
What strikes you first off is the barrel. The silver Titanium/Carbon barrel is striking and makes for a very attractive gun. The Century handle, screw on bridles and rubbers are all quality components, but of course you get what you pay for and this is not a cheap gun. It is light in the hand, which of course, can be attributed to the carbon/titanium barrel and the 6.5mm S/S shaft.
To look at the rubber it doesn’t look particularly “hot”, but it does require some effort to get the 20mm amber coated black rubber onto the second notch. Once loaded the barrel has a distinct curvature to it, this is fairly standard but it was more visually pronounced due to the lack of rail on the Carbontitanio. Interestingly this is the only gun in the Gun Review not to have a rail and we were interested to see how it performed.
This gun is light, no two ways about it. It felt very “whippy” and tracking left to right is effortless especially with the large grip on the Century handle. It did feel a little too light in the end though and you could feel the gun lifting slightly, not uncomfortably, but it was something that we did noticed.
The lack of rail made this gun almost silent to
fire. It can be debated all day on how important a quiet gun is but for the record it was quiet. The Century trigger mechanism was sure and trigger pull about spot on. The 6.5mm shaft took off as expected and was very quick through the water. The 20mm rubber did have a little “kick” but overall the gun was very smooth.
Did the rail, or lack there of, make a difference? Hard to say. As can be seen from the results the gun was a little erratic although reasonable. I suspect the gun was slightly over-powered, which may have contributed to the result, especially since it was sporting a 6.5mm S/S shaft.
The lack of rail does make reloading more fiddly, but it is not a big issue. The mechanism accepted the shaft happily and seated in with a solid click.
This is one nice looking gun! The barrel is certainly very attractive and it is fitted out with some nice components We would like to see it a little better balanced and if done correctly we believe that this would be an awesome weapon.
by James Sakker Jew will also be found in deeper water particularly late in the day as they move out of the gutters to hunt at night. They can be very tricky to approach at depth and your odds are better with a diver approaching from each side of the school if a stealthy approach is not possible. When Jew take off they will nearly always veer off at 90 degrees so take a gamble and head off at right angles to the bolting school and if you are lucky they will turn and come straight past you giving you a shot. I prefer to shoot Jew at an angle to help penetrate their thick scales. For open water work I like my 1.5 metre Edge with twin 16mm rubbers, a short bungee and ski rope to a standard float. On the North Coast of NSW Jew are common between June and December and from Taree South from December to May. Jew are a possibility any time of the year however and fish like Tailor and Mullet are great indicator species.
ulloway, better known as the Jewfish on the east coast of Australia, are a premier species hunted by many anglers and divers. Jew love to hole up in shallow water gutters and caves around headlands. A gutter with a good cover of white water or a pebbly bottomed cave is a magnet for these bronze babies. Anyone who’s watched Brett Vercoe’s footage of Jew on his Immersion spearfishing DVD’s will know what a school of Jew looks like: big silvery-bronze fish with a row of diamond like spots running down each side. Quite often the first hint of fish a diver has is the croaking as the Jew let each other know about an intruder. Big fish have a low pitch croak while “soapies” or “school” Jew have a much higher pitched croak. It pays to move carefully around the gutter as Jew can be quite hard to spot in a bit of stirred up sand. An approach along the bottom will often get you quite close without spooking the fish. Don’t forget to look up as well as Jew will often hang just under the white water. For this type of hunting I use a 1 metre railgun with twin 16mm rubbers for extra punch. I use a pull under float as illustrated on the Immersion DVD’s for headland work with a 2 metre bungee to help out with less than perfect shots.
Spring of 2006 was kind to me with just the right weather to hunt Jew on the weekends I could escape. South West Rocks didn’t disappoint with some quality fish seen and landed. The weather was just bad enough to keep boats from crossing the Macleay bar but not too bad to stop me from swimming out to some of my Jew spots. On one dive I worked a deep drop off in very green water, I’d seen some big Grey Nurse Sharks but no Jew or Snapper. I finally managed to spook a 20kg plus fish out of a gutter which gave a loud croak and then bolted. You sometimes get these “guard” fish at the front of a gutter with a school holed up. I swam through the gloom to see half a dozen big tails slowly leaving the gutter, I cut the corner on them and put in a long shot just under the spine of the closest fish. I played the fish out carefully until I could take the 1 metre gun off my float and go down for a kill shot. By the time I sorted everything out I was nearly a kilometre from the island and the Nor-Easter was howling, end of session. That Jew later went 22.5 kg on the lie detector.
by John Featherstone
The waiting was just getting the better of me. Ten days and counting until I fly out for Cairns in Northern Queensland for my maiden voyage into the Coral Sea and the conditions on the Coffs Coast had done nothing to help my preparedness. It had been my hope that I would at least get a few dives in before we flew out but Mother Nature was being completely unreasonable! My general fitness was good thanks to plenty of training leading up to our trip but the dive fitness was sadly lacking. I was determined to go even if there was a glimmer of hope! And suddenly there was, seven days out from departure the wind abated for a few hours in the afternoon and despite the somewhat ordinary looking water I had decided I was going, if only I could find someone to go with me. About ten phone calls later I had just about given up when I found Asher at home due to a teachers strike at school. He was brimming with youthful enthusiasm, so forty-five minutes later we were on our way. As we motored out from the bay the tilt and trim decided to give up the ghost and I was
starting to think this trip just wasn’t meant to be. Fortunately the motor was trimmed about right for the conditions and I knew I could just undo the pressure by-pass when we got back so we decided to head for open water. The night before, the wind had blown at gale force from the South for about 12 hours before petering out, but it was enough to push up a moderate swell. It had also managed to push in some “reasonable” water. The water improved slightly as we headed offshore. I didn’t really have a plan other than to get wet, and maybe look for a Samsonfish or a Kingfish for the extended family who were getting low on fish stocks. The first stop looked better than I had expected and the current was still pushing from the South due to the howling wind the night before. Southerly currents are rare but there are a few local hot spots that turn it on when the current runs South to North and this was one of them. The locale had an eerie tranquillity about it, very much like the calm after the storm. I entered
the water to be greeted by reasonable visibility (12m) and plenty of fish. As I moved out to the point the fish-life only improved and soon I was surrounded by small Kingfish. There was Bonito, Mackerel Tuna, Surgeon Fish, Sweep, lots of “rat” (Small) Kingfish, to say it looked good was an understatement. My thoughts turned to Samsonfish and a few deeper dives off the point produced nothing other than to reveal a cold dirty layer on the bottom, that neither I or the fish thought much of! Returning to the surface I started contemplating searching out some nice eating sized Kingfish when I started to see a few small Snapper, hiding behind the Surgeonfish and the Kingfish. Nothing outstanding but definitely good legal size Snapper. There’s nothing like a few Snapper to hone your hunting and diving skills, so after procuring some burley, I started a nice burley trail going, much to the delight of the half a dozen Bronze Whalers that had just decided to show up. The Snapper entered the burley trail and I started to see a few nice fish around the 1.5kg mark. Perfect! I waited patiently for the Snapper to get used to me, when I see a nice fish warily eye a piece of sinking burley. I drifted down as quietly as possible but my silence is shattered by the THWACK! of Asher’s spear entering my target from just outside my peripheral....sneaky!
That’s fine, he’s just shot a nice Snapper off my burley, I’ll get him to do his share of the work and add to the burley stream…..”what do you mean you don’t have a knife”? Saved the pep talk for later – ALWAYS carry a knife! Ok, so now I am doing all of the burleying, and a few minutes later the Snapper return, but this time they have doubled in size and there are some very nice fish snooping around, up to about 3kg, but I have run out of burley. A school of Mackerel Tuna swim past and knowing full well they make exceptional burley, I try to place a kill shot on these little speedsters. Of course, the fish isn’t quite despatched and its pitch perfect vibration brings every shark in the vicinity, to within a couple of metres of us in the blink of an eye, followed closely by some big Kingfish (around 15kg) and of course, some even bigger Snapper. This is getting ridiculous.! I quickly retrieve the small Tuna and despatch it Iki Jime style and all the sharks drift back out in to the gloom, but the blood in the water has sent the Kingfish into a frenzy and the big snapper are just behind them. The Mackerel Tuna, produces instant results with 4-6 smaller snapper (1.5kg), feeding on the burley and the larger fish are starting to take notice. “Thwack” , Asher knocks over one of the smaller fish…ok time for a pep talk! “How’s about we wait to see if we can’t get one of these bigger fish”. Sure enough, after giving them a few minutes to
settle down the bigger fish return and I set about drifting down onto a nice fish. He sees me (it is pretty hard to hide hanging there in mid-water), but I hover at about 10m for 30 seconds and he decides that he might pass between me and the reef which brings him just into range. I take a shot, slightly longer than I would want but the Rob Allen hits him straight through the head at just about full-range. A very nice 2.5kg fish and a very happy diver! I put the Snapper on my stringer and pull him right to the end of the float, to help keep him up out of the way of the ever-present Bronze Whalers. Whilst I am in the process of doing that I hear Asher hollering. Not something you want to hear when you’re surrounded by sharks in murky water. He has just seen a MONSTER Snapper he informs me! All I have left is the Mackerel Tuna’s head, so I drop it to the bottom. No sooner has it hit the bottom when two 5-6kg Snapper are fighting over it. I’m thinking one of these must have been the Snapper Asher spotted, I drift down quietly but there just isn’t enough burley to keep them interested and they move off as soon as I approach. I surface and hear Asher holler again, he has seen it again, he points and I see what he was REALLY talking about! A BIG Snapper, +8kg, I glimpse him once and he’s gone. Burley, Burely, Burley, but to no avail. We decide we’ll give it ten more minutes before we give it away, as I’ve got a nice snapper, and Asher now has three good pan size fish. I drift back towards the boat and into some shallower water and decide to let some burley go over the shallow part of the reef. Nothing,
nce a year the West Australian Bluewater Freedivers have their club comp day. It’s a pretty laid back affair with the emphasis more on having a good ‘club’ day out. This year it was a pair’s comp and unfortunately my partner was a no-show so I was up against it from the start, I wasn’t really bothered as the day was a cracker and it was just a pleasure to be going for a dive.
by Matt Poulton
The Montebello-Barrow islands area is commercially significant because it is Western Australia’s most productive petroleum area, with Barrow Island producing 34 per cent of the State’s oil.
a b o u t
The warm pristine waters of the Montebello Islands Marine Park produce high quality pearls for which WA is wellrecognised and sustain the commercial fishing of finfish, shark and beche de mer (edible sea cucumber). The diversity of marine life supports an expanding naturebased tourism industry and recreational fishing. A growing number of charter boats take visitors to the Montebello Islands to participate in activities such as fishing, diving, wildlife viewing, island exploring and surfing. Excellent shore and boat based recreational fishing opportunities target a variety of pelagic and reef finfish, as well as crabs and other edible invertebrates.
m o n t o b e l l o
Visitors are also attracted to the area for its spectacular seascapes, wilderness feeling and rich maritime heritage which includes exploration, whaling, turtle harvesting, cultured pearl farming and use for defence purposes. Enjoyment of the marine parks and marine management area is likely to increase significantly during the next decade as the reputation of the Montebello and Barrow islands as a unique tourism and conservation experience grows. These values will need to be carefully managed. The Montebello-Barrow islands marine environment’s diverse mix of habitats and oceanographic conditions have created an extremely high marine biodiversity. The convoluted coastlines of these low lying islands are characterised by extensive high energy coral reefs, similar to Ningaloo Reef, sheltered lagoons, channels, intertidal embayments, extensive sandy intertidal areas, shallow limestone platforms, barrier and fringing coral reefs and rocky intertidal shorelines.
i s l a n d s
Limestone reef areas have extensive meadows of macroalgae such as Sargassum which, along with the extensive coral reefs, are the area’s most important primary producers. Neighbouring fringing and patch coral reefs are home to more than 150 species of coral and a wealth of reef fish typical of the Indo-Pacific fauna and the coral reefs of the Pilbara and Ningaloo coasts. The area’s productivity reflects the strong interconnectivity of these habitats with juvenile and adult fish using different habitats at different times in their lives. At least 10 whale species have been recorded in the area with humpback whales consistently resting in the reserves during their annual migration along WA’s coastline. Dugong forage among the seagrasses and algae, and the islands are important rookeries for at least 15 seabird species along with WA’s largest breeding colony of roseate terns. WA is home to six species of marine turtle, five of which are found in the Montebello-Barrow Island marine conservation reserves. WA’s hawksbill population is the largest remaining in the Indian Ocean and these turtles regularly nest on the beaches of the reserves. Green and flatback turtles also regularly nest in the reserves with loggerhead nestings more occasionally recorded. Leatherbacks are less frequent visitors to the reserves but the importance of the area to turtle populations in general is reflected in the large turtle aggregations that regularly occur. Turtles are specially protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 in recognition of their threatened status internationally. The mangroves of the Montebello-Barrow Islands marine conservation reserves are highly unusual in that lagoonal mangroves are seldom found on oceanic islands. Named to reflect their diverse colour and form, the six species of mangroves in the reserves include the ribbed-fruit orange mangrove and the yellow-leaf spurred mangrove. Underappreciated, these spectacular coastal forests are highly productive, supporting organisms adapted to this rich environment such as mud crabs, and providing valuable nursery areas for juvenile fishes and crustaceans. Excerpt courteousy of the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation Website
by Tim McDonald
The name Coral Trout is a name that excites every fisherman or spear fisherman. They are a beautiful fish, especially when taken from deep water, where they are striking red which is where they get the name Strawberry Trout. The look a fat 6 kilo Leopard Trout gives you as you are swimming down to shoot him is burned in the memory of anyone who has seen it. It is a look of attitude. It says ”I know you are bigger than me but what are you doing in my territory”. You can understand why the small baitfish are so skittish when Trout are around. These fish are also extremely great eating. Their soft white fillets taste great no matter how they are cooked. The wings of the trout make great eating as well, although this is commonly overlooked. The best way to eat them is to shallow fry them in butter ,or oil and just peel the skin off when they are finished
cooking. There are a few bones you need to work around but the flesh in the wings is the softest and sweetest part of the whole fish. Also baked whole, the sweet, white flesh when covered in butter with a sprinkling of salt, pepper and lemon juice is enough to make any mouth water, in fact mine is just thinking about it (yours too most probably). Coral Trout are found in our more northerly waters. Although I have heard of them being seen as far south of Forster (I’m sure some would say further south). On the east coast they are predominantly found in our Barrier Reef waters. In some areas of the Barrier Reef, Trout can be found in extremely shallow water. At times they can be very abundant. I have speared the Capricorn Bunker group in only 10-15 metres of water and bagged out by 11 o’clock in the morning with the fish varying between 3-7 kilograms. Many of the
tropical North Queenslanders would know what I am talking about when I say at times like this they can be very easy to shoot. Over the last couple of years we have been shooting more and more of these fish here in South East Queensland. Some say it has to do with the waters warming, others say it is the areas that are getting dived. I think it could be a bit of both. Here in South East, the Trout are predominantly found in the deeper water although I have shot them in water as shallow as 12 metres, but they are generally in depths over 20 metres. Often when chasing trout we will dive the Sunshine Coast, where many of the places we look for Trout are small patches of reef, some of which are around 30 metres deep. Now the North Queensland guys will think we are crazy for diving in depths like this to
shoot Trout, but to get constant results down here, the best way is to dive these areas. We have had some days where we would dive these depths all day for one Trout, or at times none. This can be frustrating, but can also be much more rewarding. And once you have a taste for those beautiful red strawberries they keep drawing you back. The other problem with chasing Trout on the Sunshine Coast is that the water can often be quite dirty. This means chasing trout in 20-30 metres of water can be very difficult with 5-10 metres visibility and to be honest, I have shot quite a few trout on the Sunshine Coast and have never seen one from the surface. But the upside of chasing trout on the Sunshine Coast is the bycatch. We have shot good Pearl Perch, Grass Sweatlip, Venus Tuskfish and large Amberjacks. These are all great eating fish that you donâ€™t see a lot of because of the depths they inhabit. On top of that, you will also get the usual catches of Jacks, Cod, Kingfish, Parrot and Mackerel. The other great upside is how beautifully marked these Trout are. I have literally fallen asleep at night dreaming of these bright red Trout with that beautiful blue around the eye. That dream has also woken me on those cold mornings when I know the conditions arenâ€™t going to be great. It forces me to get out of bed when I know I will have to keep that dream in my head all day. Especially when I am diving through that green haze with the hope that at the bottom will be one of those beautiful fat strawberries.