Top 5 fish you’ve landed?
22kg (48lb)Yellowtail Kingfish (Yellowtail) – I had been dreaming to crack a 20kg+ King since I’d started spearfishing. I’d lost count on how many days I’d got up before the sun or stayed in after it had gone down trying to just get a glimpse of one of these fish. Hundreds of dives without even shooting my gun and going home empty handed. On the rare occasion I was blessed with a sighting my wide-eyed, super excited response would always keep the fish just out of range. We had a trip up the coast coming up and I told myself that this was going to be the one where I finally got the monkey off my back, I’d even told people “to watch this space”. Unfortunately the weather had other plans and going north was not going to happen. I checked the forecast up and down the coast and saw that south would be glassy. It’s just so happened that the spot we were now going too was the home of some of the biggest Kings on the whole east coast of Australia, coincidence?
The weather report was spot on (for a change) and the ocean was more like a lake, deep blue water and close to 100ft vis. Despite this the Kings didn’t make an appearance on the first of the two days, my window of opportunity was closing. The second and last day we were blessed with the same conditions but unfortunately the same lack of Kings. It was now the eleventh hour, I had drifted away from the group and started to chum along the drop off, the baitfish weren’t in feeding mode or just didn’t like my cooking because the chum just passed right by them. Spread out and unthreatened the bait just mocked me. I was just thinking about going home empty handed yet again when all of a sudden the bait scattered. I quickly made a dive mid water and waited for something, anything!A brute came cruising along the drop off, old looking, blotchy face covered in scars, a definite local bully responsible for the end of many fish’s lives, just awesome. This time I was going to do things right, act disinterested, look away, act nonthreatening. It didn’t matter, the water was clear enough for the King to check me out from a distance and she started to swim away. That was the point I totally lost it, it was just as well I was underwater cause the words coming out of my mouth were not suitable for anyone. I shook my gun violently at the King in frustration, I’d had enough but the King hadn’t, it did a complete 180 and swam right up to me and turned broadside. I couldn’t believe it, I quickly took aim and sunk my spear into its shoulder, I can still remember the loud thud when the spear hit her. Now already close to the bottom she didn’t have far to go, as I swam up all I could hear was my spearing banging in the rocks, I could see the mono rubbing back and forth on the edge of the drop-off. It was a miracle it didn’t pop but slowly and surely I was working the King to the surface. I tried to film and fight the fish but the footage was all over the place, I wanted to make damn sure that this one wasn’t getting away and gave up on getting any decent images. When I finally got my hands on the spear I could see the damage the bottom had done to the fish and my gear. The kings body, especially its head was covered in scratches, my mono was almost worn all the way through and my spear was gouged out and bent. I got my legs around her tail and tried to slip my hand into the gills which were locked shut, I finally got a good grip and sunk the knife in to finish her off, one last shake sent the spear tip into my forearm leaving a nice scar to go along with the story. I knew by the size of the head that this was the one, my screams would have been heard for miles. This feeling is why I spearfish, I felt like I conquered the world.
29.6kg Mulloway (65lb) (Similar to WSB & Corvina): It was another crystal clear day on the NE coast of Australia, I spotted the school of Mulloway from the surface, there must have been over a hundred fish swirling like a bait ball on the bottom in about 60ft. I made a dive to the bottom and crept towards the school. There was so many fish so tightly packed, it was truly a mesmerizing sight. I got greedy and tried to get two in one shot, as I dropped down a bit lower my sinus’ let off the alarm, the fish scattered in every direction. I kept my eye on one of the bigger ones in the school and took a long shot. I hit the fish in the rear half and let go of everything. It was the most painfully fight I’d ever had, unsure of if the shot fully penetrated I played they fish gingerly for the next ten minutes, eventually I got her up to 20ft and made a dive down to find the shaft hadn’t gone all the way through, I quickly grabbed the shaft and punched it through the fish, the rest was history. I was totally stoked, it was my biggest fish to date and only the second day of our trip. It’s always good to get some fish early in a trip, it takes the pressure off, everything else usually comes easy after that!
24kg (53lb) Almaco Jack: Panama, first drift. I was lying on the bottom after sinking down through tonnes of
baitfish, the place was alive. Scanning the area I could feel that there was some big fish around. All of a sudden three wide headed Almaco Jacks charged me, before I could even think I’d already shot one head on, definitely not the best way to shoot these fish! Even with a headshot it completely smoked me, my spear was ruined. I called for Jess to get the camera and she caught the end of the fight on video. Trying to subdue the beast was interesting to say the least. The hardest part was taking photos afterwards and having schools of big Pargo milling around underneath us! I took care of them later…
40kg (88lb) Yellowfin Tuna: An absolute dream fish of mine, something that has kept me awake at night on
more than one occasion, I’m sure the feeling’s mutual for a lot of us! I’d lost a couple of smaller fish at home and seen some decent ones in the Coral Sea but nothing was to prepare me for this day. On our way to the spot we jumped in on a bait ball with Tuna, Sharks and Dolphins working it. I’d only ever seen a bait ball on documentaries and was so stoked to be able to film and hunt one for myself. There were a couple of nice tuna hanging around but they were real fast, I was happy to capture the whole thing on camera including some close calls with the sharks. We finally reached the bank and were greeted with what seemed to be a pretty quiet spot, nothing but a blue void until we spotted a silver flash down deep. I made a dive to 70ft to inspect the flash and was met with a wall of over a thousand-12lb YFT. The consecutive drifts kept getting better and better, the fish life seemed to double each time we jumped in. There were some nice sightings of fish at over 100ft just in the thermocline but they were moving to fast to intercept. A couple more drifts and still no fish speared, I was starting to get anxious, my mask was leaking and the chance to get a fish seemed to be slipping away. I made another dive looking for the fish down deep only to have a school of big ones swim just under the surface within poking distance of Jess, who captured the whole thing on video. On the way up I noticed the school and closed the gap for a shot. I took aim and let the shaft fly only to fall short, succumbing to the blue water curse, I couldn’t believe it. By this stage I was really pissed and this didn’t help my breath hold at all. Back on the boat I tried to gather my thoughts and try to get hold of the situation, I wasn’t leaving until I got my Yellowfin! Back in the water I located the thousand strong school of 12lber’s and made a dive, I saw some nice fish down deep and tried to intercept them but, as before they were moving too fast. I turned and headed for the surface, as I looked up I saw that the school of big boys were cruising at 30ft checking me out. This time I made sure I was close enough and let the shaft fly. Before I knew it my float was at 10ft just bouncing along. What a feeling. For the next half an hour I was towed around the ocean by the fish, I had never before fought something so strong, pulling and clipping my floatline seemed to take forever, definitely wished I brought a bungee at that stage! I eventually got the fish to 30ft and clipped my floatline off with both shark clips. I loaded Jess’ gun and made a dive to finish the fish off. A sweet shot ended it all for the fin. I pulled the dead weight into my arms, I couldn’t believe I’d done it! It seemed surreal to have caught such a fish after dreaming about one for so long. By far the greatest fish I’ve ever caught, half way around the world and tonnes of planning and effort had all paid off, this is what spearfishing is all about!
80kg (176lb) Yellowfin Tuna: What a fish, we had been drifting in a chum line for most of the morning, we had already landed one smaller YFT and were eager to get into some bigger ones. My mate made a dive through the chum and noticed a nice sized Tuna down deep, as he made his way to the surface I noticed him pointing franticly towards the bottom. This automatically doubled my heart rate. I took a deep breath and started my descent. I could see the Tuna at 70ft and I could hear my heart pounding in my chest. I closed my eyes to try and relax as I made up the last 20ft. When I opened them again I could see about six big Tuna directly underneath me and swimming away. I tried to line up a shot but they were moving too fast. Just as I was about to head back to the surface I turned to my left to see another six arching around me, I lined it up with my Metal Tech 5, took a few strong kicks and let the shaft fly. The Tuna took off like a rocket, I got to the surface and my Riffe inflatable was hardly underwater. It was amazing the difference a 100ft Bungee makes. Pulling and clipping the bungee made short work of the Tuna, after twenty minutes I was wrestling on the surface with a fish bigger than me. I didn’t have a true appreciation of the size of the Tuna until it was on the deck of the boat, truly immense. I had done what I came to do and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for weeks.
22kg (48lb) Wahoo: The Coral Sea is an amazing place, there are a number of sea mounts that come to the surface out of 3000m (9800ft) of water. Some that we traveled to were almost 600km (370miles) off the coast. The fishing was unbelievable, I had only been spearing seriously for two years, I was as green as they come, the total opposite to the colour of the water there which was a constant electric purple, at time boasting visibility up to 150ft. Definitely my new favorite colour. Seeing so many big fish (and sharks) took some getting used to, I think to took me about 3 days to get close enough to shoot anything decent because the water was so clear it was hard to judge the distance of the fish. You have to keep telling yourself to get closer, GET CLOSER! This clear water curse seemed to affect almost everyone on the trip, even the seasoned vets of the Coral Sea. Wahoo after Wahoo keep laughing at my attempts to spear them, I was just too keen, never waiting long enough for them to come into range. On one particular drift we were hunting a couple of nice Yellowfin tuna around the 40kg (88lb) mark, it was awesome watching them slip in and eat a whole string of chum and disappear before you could even duck dive, I didn’t know how we were going to get a spear into one. I made a dive to 50 and waited by a piece of chum hoping the Fin would choose the wrong piece. I was just about to swim back to the surface because my mask was leaking when I noticed a nice Wahoo cruising in for a look at 70ft, I tucked my head in and dropped down on the Wahoo which had started swimming away, there was so much water in my mask by this stage I could hardly see anything, this was a deep dive for me back then and I was getting really eager to head back up. I gave a few strong kicks of my fins and send the shaft flying. I wasn’t even sure what had happened, I bolted for the surface only to see my hard Ronstan float pass me at 50ft, it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I fought the fish gingerly as I was unsure of the quality of the shot. When the fish finally came into view I saw it had a couple of big silky sharks escorting it, you know you have good mates when they’ll put themselves in front of a shark to save your fish (Cheers Judge) I finally got the fish up and claimed my prize, my first +20kg(44lb) fish. To this day it never ceases to amaze me the acceleration of these fish, I will never get tired of hunting big Wahoo.
Biggest fish you’ve seen and haven’t been able to land or most impressive fish you’ve seen in the water?
I hit a Doggy in the Coral Sea that would have been 70kg+ (155lb) It was a long shot, I hit the fish in the tail, it was so big it just flinched and kept swimming along the coral wall. The spear had just hooked under a bit of skin and probably would have felt like a bite from some sea lice to this thing. It just kept swimming totally unfazed, my rig line was passing through my hands real slow, it was a tense situation not knowing what was going to come next, the doggy turned for deeper water and the slack in the line started to take up. Once it felt the floats it exploded, sunk one float and then popped off. The guys I was with saw the whole thing unfold and said the fish looked as big as me from the surface…
Favorite place to dive?
The north coast of NSW has always been a favorite of mine, such a large variety of good fish to be had, you could spear almost anything there on a good day, I have tonnes of good memories from there. Panama has also blown me away, so much area to dive in both oceans, one lifetime is not enough!
Favorite fish to hunt?
That’s a tough one, I’ll always have a soft spot for Mulloway, always been a holy grail fish growing up in Sydney and I love collecting their Jewels (Otoliths) Fish that you still want to land? Roosterfish, they have become quite the monkey on my back the last few months!
Scariest thing you’ve seen while diving?
I was getting a lobster out of a cave In Coffs harbour on the NSW north coast. I was in about 66ft when I grabbed it, as I went to swim up I got caught up on a big fan coral, next thing It felt like someone had crash tackled me, I was getting knocked around all over the place. A big Grey Nurse shark (Sand Tiger) had rammed me and was trying to get the lobster that was making a lot of noise with its tail. I raced to the surface with the Nurse at my fin tips all the way to the top, it went back into the depths as I yelled for the boat. My shoulder was on fire, I was sure I’d been bitten, when I flopped myself (and the lobster) into the boat I realized the pain was from the sea urchin that was sticking out of my shoulder which was doing its best porcupine impression. Lobster never tasted so good. Not the first time I’ve had trouble with Grey Nurse, definitely a shark not go get complacent with.
You are a commercial diver by trade, how did you get into that and what is it like diving in tight spaces, zero visibility, and freezing water?
After I fell in love with spearfishing I wanted to always be around the water and not cooped up in a office. I wanted to become a SCUBA instructor so I rang a local Sydney dive shop and tried to get some info. I told the guy on the other end of the phone what I wanted to do, after he finally stopped laughing he told me, “You must hear we get a lot of girls and drink a lot of booze cause your definitely not coming for the money!” I thanked him for the info and crossed that career off my list! I kept researching and found about the glamorous world of commercial diving (rolls eyes).
It can be very challenging at times working in zero vis, building things with your eyes closed can definitely leave you with a sense of accomplishment. It’s definitely not for everyone but I have enjoyed it over the last 6 years and think I am much more comfortable spearing in dirty water because of it.
Any good Commercial diving stories?
On one job I was doing some restoration work under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I was cutting out some old armored submarine cable with the ring saw when I noticed a dead conger eel float past. As you might imagine the waterway and the footpath under the bridge are heavy traffic areas for all sorts of people, especially tourists. I had a group of Japanese tourists watching over the railing at me working, I made a big fuss and dived as if something had grabbed my leg, when I came back to the surface I was wrestling the dead conger, shaking it around as if it was real, the shock on the tourists faces was priceless. There was tonnes of cool stuff under there that people had thrown in, we found a hand gun, a duffel bag full of ammo, credit cards and a lot of old bottles dating back to the 1800’s including one ceramic bottle I found still intact from the early 1800’s with the potters full hand print still imprinted in the glazing.
First pelagic fish you landed?
5.6kg Yellowtail Kingfish (Yellowtail)
You are really good with the camera; any suggestions for videoing and picture taking for Spearos?
For people keen to get into it just get out there and buy a camera, you can pick up some great little still cameras with HD video + housing for <$800 for the lot. Bring it on as many dives as possible, get comfortable with it and just get the ball rolling.
If you really enjoy it then you can move up to a DSLR or dedicated HD video camera. MAKE SURE YOU DO YOUR RESEARCH! I’ve made some bad decisions and learnt the hard way. Talk to people who already have them, check Internet forums, etc. You’re playing with big money so you want to get it right. When taking pics fill the frame with the fish and the diver, don’t leave too much space for the background where nothing is happening. Get all the distracting items out of the shot, bright floats, dive flags, fuel tanks etc. You want the viewers eyes to be drawn to the fish and nothing else.
TAKE LOTS OF PICS! I can’t stress this enough, law of averages is you going to eventually get at least one good shot! Try different settings, flash on, flash off, different angles. Get an idea of what works and what doesn’t.
Make the fish look respectable; you’ve taken its life, at least honor it with a good picture! Fresh is best, the sooner you take the picture the better its going to look. As soon as that fish is dead the colours will start to fade. There is nothing worse than seeing a pic of a stiff old fish, guts and gills removed, head bent backwards with no colour. Wash the blood and dirt off the fish and get the camera man to tell you what to do: Turn the fish more, hide your hands, I can’t see your face, hold it out more
When filming remember to keep things slow, as if your filming in slow motion, its a hard thing to do when your excited and there are big fish all around but it pays off when you have steady footage to look at later instead of something that looks like you’re being attacked by a shark. A wide angle lens is not essential but HIGHLY recommended. It allows you to get closer to your subject eliminating the amount of dirty water between you and it resulting in clearer footage. It also gives you a bit of room for error when trying “Gun-CAM” So many times I’ve dropped the camera down a second before I shoot the fish and miss the shot (on film) A wide angle will help avoid this. Remember a wide angle will make things look further away than they really are so GET CLOSER!
Film everything! It’s better to have too much footage than not enough. It’s always good to have stuff to fill in the gaps when you’re editing your movies, baitfish, loading your guns, launching the boat etc. Don’t give up and enjoy the whole learning process, filming adds a whole new dimension to your diving, filming your mates shoot a fish can be as rewarding as catching it yourself and they’ll love you for it. Remember dinner is only temporary but the footage lasts forever.
Most painful wank on a fish?
Shooting a 50kg (110lb) Dogtooth Tuna on my 1st Coral Sea trip with a solid shot only to have the crimp on the end of my slip-tip come free (Not a Riffe tip!).
Plans and goals for the coming year?
I came to Central America with a huge list of new fish I’ve wanted to catch and I hope to cross them all off! I have always wanted to catch a fish bigger than me (155lb) what better place than Central America? Fingers crossed, watch this space! Ok time to get serious, time to break the 100kg barrier! Watch this space!
How did you get into spearing?
I was always a mad keen fisherman as a kid. Until one day it was too hot to be anywhere but in the water, my friend had a couple of pole spears in his garage and asked if I wanted to give it a go. We spent the rest of the day terrorizing fish in the water and I haven’t looked back since. Nothing like being on the same playing field as the fish and getting the better of them!
What suggestions can you make for the traveling spearfisherman in terms of what gear to bring?
In my case Jess and I are traveling for a year so we have to be selective with the amount of stuff we lug all over the place. Having two people really makes a difference when it comes to carrying everything. We both have a big backpack for all our clothes and day to day living items. A smaller backpack to house our expensive stuff: cameras, housings, laptops etc. A gun bag and another bag for all the other dive gear.
We are Traveling with one gun each, I chose the Riffe 130 Euro with Horizontal Reel and Jess has her Standard series II. I chose the 130 Euro because its a good all rounder, I can use the reel when hunting smaller reef fish (Although a few Wahoo have fallen to the reel) or run breakaway when targeting the bigger fish like YFT, there is nothing that gun couldn’t land with the right shot. I use the Riffe 100ft Armored Spectra floatline with a 2ATM float which is good to blow up manually when targeting smaller game or filling it to the full 25psi for the bigger stuff. Inflatable floats are definitely a lifesaver trying when to save space. We try to use slip-tips on all our setups to reduce the need for carrying so many spare shafts
We both have a 3mm wetsuit and the new Riffe Lycra 2 piece suits. The Lycia suits have been perfect in the warm waters (30c/86f), dry real quick (which is a BIG Plus) and take no room in our bags.
We carry 3 mask and snorkel sets, and a spares kit with mono, crimps, etc. The Riffe gun bag has been great, fits our guns, fins, spare shafts and a few other bits and pieces nicely, the bag itself is durable as hell which is a must when traveling on chicken busses through Central America! It also has lockable zips with is great for keeping your gear, “your gear”
We put a lock on everyone of our bags and have a big cable lock to chain them all together when we are away from them, this offers great piece of mind and I would recommend it to everyone doing these sort of trips. I would also recommend carrying a couple if not more large dry bags to pack your gear in, we have been caught out in the rain a few times and were so glad to have had them. Weight belts have always been an issue when traveling especially if you are going to remote places without dive shops. We have been carrying our own weight with us as it costs a fortune to buy in some places if you can even get your hands on it. We haven’t been stung once for any excess baggage. Being polite and having a smiling face seems to have got us out of a lot of trouble!