Cape York - a diversity unparalleled
  |  First Published: October 2015

Now is a great time of year to be on the water – and in the water! This month we’ll take a look at some of the fantastic places in the far north to snorkel, free-dive, and spearfish. The simply enjoyment gained from the physicality of spearfishing is not the primary goal, it is about the lessons we fishers can gain from a fin underneath.

Reef magic

Every species of fish gathers around its familial species at some point. These congregations fluctuate according to tide, time of day or night, temperature, barometric pressure, and any number of other different reasons. Nothing brings this into reality more than peering down a coral reef face with current pushing against it.

Watching as multitudes of different fish transition over the shallow reef flats into deeper water on a receding tide is truly a sight to behold. Cape York Peninsula’s eastern coastline is punctuated by coral reef along its length, forming the greatest colony of organisms on Earth. The far northern section is often referred to as the most pristine.

The mind blowing thing about Cape York is the sheer diversity of life. A day out on the water might include dolphins, whales, sea snakes, sharks, manta rays, turtles – and that’s before you hop in the water. Almost every piece of structure in the far north is covered in life. Coral reefs combine almost every element of structure and contain some of the richest biodiversity on the planet.

Free-diving Tips

Free-diving takes a little practice and is a steep learning curve. Being competent underwater has great advantages when getting to know reef country. You get a feel for where fish hang along reef edges, for what might be desolate and what might be productive.

Learning how to breath hold, how to equalise properly and remain reasonably calm underwater are all crucial elements that affect enjoyment of this activity. Spearfishing can be a great way to secure a targeted feed of fresh seafood.

Proficient free-divers can have all manner of species on their radar. They will find multitudes of fish - from inshore species, to some of the larger mackerel, jobfish, trevally and dogtooth tuna out wide.

However, even the occasional spearo can be looking at fingermark, jacks, barramundi, sweetlip, stripies, maori sea perch and a host of other species in the shallow reef country of Cape York. Coral trout, tuskfish and crayfish are three examples of delicious tucker that are readily hunted in 3-4m of water. Cape York has some of the most extensive shallow reef country found anywhere.

Being observant sometimes requires us to put down the fishing rod or leave behind the spear gun and learn from the intricate food webs that materialise before our eyes. It helps to differentiate from seeing the marine world as a resource and seeing the wondrous creatures underneath and how they interact.

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