Think before you sink into the water
  |  First Published: February 2017

The holiday season has been in full swing. Roads, shops, ramps and waterways of the Mornington Peninsula (and elsewhere) have been a nightmare. As mentioned last month, divers take their lives in their own hands at this time of year, particularly in Port Phillip Bay.

Yet, even with this heightened activity, even with signs posted on ramps, we are still seeing an increased number of near misses… and hits. Be careful when driving a boat, please. And some of you divers are doing yourselves, and all of us, no favours by diving without an adequate flag. Worst of all, I’m still seeing divers in high traffic areas with no flag at all. Use your head!

The weather has finally given us some good runs of flat ocean conditions allowing the divers to get among the crays and to search further afield for larger pelagic species. The weather has also thrown in some massive rainstorms. There’s never a dull moment here!

Good runs of kingfish are now evident. The Prom, Marlo, Pyramid Rock, Point Lonsdale and the north shore of Portland are the most productive.

A few of us have even seen southern bluefin tuna to 13kg in very shallow water off Point Lonsdale. There are similar-sized school SBT among the kings at Portland as well. It’s amazing how often these oddball species turn up while one is looking for crays with no gun in hand. Always be prepared.

The calamari run is, unbelievably, still going. Queenscliff has produced good numbers of quality fish well into January. It has been a very late and long running season. I’m not complaining. The humble squid is also my favourite seafood delicacy, followed by crays, abs, kingfish and scallops. What we lack in large pelagic species in Victoria, we certainly make up for in other areas.

Abalone are now available to take in the central zone on every weekend of cray season. Remember, a maximum of five per day can be taken. Only two of these may be the green-lipped variety. Do yourself a massive favour and brush up on the regulations for size limits, bag limits, possession limits, closed zones and days available for the capture of abalone.

Violation can carry massive fines, jail time and more, including vehicle, boat and equipment confiscation. Authorities would have us believe that violation of abalone regulations is one of the most heinous crimes to be committed in Australia. The potential punishments go a long way to proving this correct.

Good runs of kilo snapper are now plentiful on the near shore ocean reefs. The fish will respond well to a little berley and can be difficult to capture. A long breath hold is advantageous, as well as hiding behind a rock and total silence. Sometimes, however, the greedy little things just can’t help themselves. They may offer a simple shot. Cherish these moments – they are the exception.

On a sombre note, crayfish are unquestionably our most sought out target. While the west and east of the state are seeminglycoping well with the diver traffic, the same cannot be said for the state of what I call the ‘central zone.’ The stretch of coast between Cape Woolamai to Barwon Heads cops an absolute hammering from both recreational divers and the pro fishers. Less than 90 minutes drive from a city of four million people, this region can’t help but suffer.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to catch the current bag limit of two crays. When I began diving, we saved getting the crays until we were heading to shore at the end of the day. It was a given, almost an afterthought – not anymore. I’m not sure of a solution, but, I’d like to see a three-year closed season in this zone for all parties. After this period we could then introduce some sort of reporting program to ascertain numbers. It’s just a thought.

I wish everyone well for what is left of summer. The best months are still to come.

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