January presents fantastic diving for the avid spear fisher and novice alike with warm weather, flat seas and holidaymakers all keen to hunt and gather a seafood feast.
Early December saw a slower build up of the usual summer target species than expected but that improved later in the month and should only get better in January.
Although southern rock lobster were certainly about in reasonable numbers the bigger class of lobster seemed to stay wider and deeper a little later than they usually do. Inshore reefs were holding good numbers of lobster in the 1-1.5kg bracket and the upside of this is that those smaller lobster are generally the best eating size. January will see greater numbers and larger crays move in closer to the inshore reefs around the Victorian coastline.
The best areas tend to be in the 2-10m depth of water. Look for rocky reef patches well covered with weed and plenty of crevices, rock ledges and holes. These areas provide the best cover and camouflage for southern rock lobster, therefore being prime real estate to find them. Make sure you are aware of the fisheries regulations in terms of size. Divers are also required to carry a measuring tool and to cut the tail of lobsters once they get out of the water. This is also a great area to find Abalone, another very tasty added bonus.
The same can be said for reef species such as king George whiting, trumpeter, sea sweep and the iconic summer species, yellowtail kingfish. General numbers of the fish seemed to be down a little early on, but there was certainly a big increase late in December with January looking promising as the prime month to target all these species.
January will see water temperatures in the far southwest push up to 18°C+ and parts of the bays around Melbourne up to 22°C. This certainly helps to increase the numbers of reef and pelagic fish. Fine weather also means a lot of boats on the water, so it's very important to keep safety in mind. When possible always dive with at least one buddy. Make sure to use a highly visible float with a diver below flag clearly displayed. Remain aware of you're surroundings and keep an eye out for any boats around you or transiting through the area you are diving.
For anyone interested in becoming part of a dive club and learning more about how to participate, there are several clubs in Victoria. Southern Freedivers are the Melbourne-based club and they have a very active online forum. In the far Southwest www.shipwreckcoastskindivers.com are based in Port Fairy and run monthly competitions and social dives. Joining a club is a great way to meet experienced divers and learn how to participate in the sport in a safe way.Reads: 1307