March is perhaps the most exciting month for spearfishing in Victoria. Warmer waters and a great mix of reef and pelagic species make this time of the year a very active and successful time for spearfishers from across the state.
The shallows of Port Phillip Bay come alive with challenging and tasty species, such as whiting, snapper, snook, flathead, trevally and even yellowtail kingfish. These species along with your usual leatherjackets and reef species mean places like Mornington, Mt Martha, Black Rock, Williamstown, Point Cook, Saint Leonards and Queenscliff all offer some fun and exciting diving.
I have had a blast hunting some flathead and snapper in the shallows recently but must admit it has been a nervous experience with heavy boating traffic being a real problem. I drag out my largest and most visible float and fly a large diver below Alpha flag to alert fellow water users of our presence during these popular months of the year. Jet skis and water skiers can prove a real problem so dive in a pair for safety; one to wave at any incoming boats while the other is down hunting.
The ocean beaches and headlands and capes have been producing quality spearfishing as well with consistent catches of crayfish, salmon, large whiting and the occasional yellowtail kingfish. February and March are our peak months for yellowtail kingfish and it has been the usual haunts producing such as Portland’s north shore, Lady Julia Percy Island, Kennet River, Cape Schanck, Nobbies, Pyramid Rock and Cape Woolamai off Phillip Island. Further east Cape Liptrap and the islands off Wilsons Promontory have consistently produced kingfish up to 15kg with larger fish being seen.
February 8-9 saw the running of the 4th annual Victorian Kingfish Cup and the state’s best blue water hunters went in pursuit of the mighty yellowtail kingfish, but with poor results. Thirty divers (15 pairs) spread out across the state from Lady Julia Percy Island in the west through to Wilsons Promontory in the south east. No kingfish were landed over both days despite the regular catches in the month or so before the comp. I guess that’s the way blue water fishing goes sometimes.
This competition also allows the weighing of crayfish and some quality specimens were landed. Again, these crays were hunted statewide but the best two came from Wilsons Promontory and Phillip Island. Young Tom Adamson won with a 3.6kg specimen while Nathan Watson had a great bull also weighing in at 3.3kg.
March is also the time of the year that the most serious blue water spearfishers drag out their blue water spearfishing rigs to go in pursuit of Southern bluefin tuna. These elusive species are always a challenge but with patience and determination we have had limited success. Several mates in South Australia have capitalised on the SBT run in the south east of SA and managed some awesome SBT around the 25-28kg mark. They swam with them for hours without chum and had them milling around, “like salmon, just cruising through in big schools of 20-30kg fish”. Hopefully these fish move into our state waters and remain in this relaxed state during March.
With fish already being taken by game fishers off Portland in February we can only hope that greater numbers will continue in March. The offshore waters from Point Fairy and Portland would be a great starting point but obviously check with the local forums and websites to see where the schools are turning up. Hopefully someone will get a chance at the monster barrels and bait balls that have happened in recent years.
On a sad note our condolences go out to the family and friends of a South Australian spearfisherman named Sam Kellet who was tragically taken by a Great White Shark in South Australia in February. It does hit home how potentially dangerous our great pastime can be.
I have recently bought a new charter boat business in Tonga catering for spearfishers and swimming with humpback whales. (www.bwhi.com.au) This means that I will be spending most of the winter in Tonga and unfortunately will not be able to continue my column in VFM beyond April.Reads: 1219