Getting around Gabo Island
  |  First Published: July 2017

Not a lot has been happening recently. The vagaries of the weather and swell, combined with the coming of winter, seemed to have the effect of nullifying any interest in getting wet. Recently I decided it was time for a red-eye run.

The weather was looking good enough for a foray to the far east of the state. Mallacoota was selected as the launch point, with Gabo Island the target to rekindle our appetites. Six divers on five jetskis made the last minute commitment to head down one Friday evening, to dive all day Saturday, and then make the return journey on the Saturday evening.

Mallacoota is the furthermost eastern town in Victoria and is a good six hour drive from Melbourne. The recent addition of a new breakwall and launching facility into the ocean at Bastion Point has been a real game changer for those who work and recreationally fish from Mallacoota. Once upon a time the ocean ramp was very exposed and not much fun.

The other option is to chance launching from the inlet itself and cross a most treacherous bar. This was always difficult as the channel moves on a daily basis and needs to be tackled at speed. It used to make for spectacular viewing, watching the abalone divers get plenty of air. Those days are past and things are a lot safer now. On the jet skis, we are rarely troubled by bar crossings; in fact, they’re quite fun, but why do things the hard way?

Gabo Island is located an easy 13km run along the coast toward the Victoria/New South Wales border. The border is a further 8km. The island is composed of granite, is quite large and is dominated on the eastern extremity by a large lighthouse.

The island is studded with rocky bays and outcrops, which offer excellent terrain for numerous species of reef fish. There is one sandy beach near the loading pier, which is a great place to pull up for lunch or a stretch of the legs. There should always be one protected side to allow for comfortable spearfishing.

In the summer months you may come across schools of yellowtail kingfish or even the odd tuna or bonito. We tend to favour the tasty reef fish and target these exclusively. Kingfish will be dealt with if they make an appearance, but they are usually not our focus, particularly at this time of year when they are almost non-existent anyway.

Black drummer, blue morwong and trumpeter are high on the list. Large leatherjackets, boarfish and goatfish also feature prominently. It’s also possible to secure eastern lobsters if you’re willing to scour the cracks way up in the shallows. In other words, there is plenty to keep you occupied with spearing, or simply sightseeing and photography. On this trip, two of our divers were visited by a pair of manta rays. This is most unusual at this latitude and it will surely be a treasured memory.

Some may say that it’s a long way to travel for a single day’s diving, but it sure beat the alternative of dealing with the awful conditions at home. We must have brought some of the goodness back with us, for more recent conditions managed to serve up four of the best days we have experienced so far this year.

The ocean flattened and the visibility cleared. The sun shone and a little warmth was wrung from it. Full advantage was taken of this small window. I managed to hit the Peninsula ocean beaches and was rewarded with crayfish and also my best fish of the year so far. Queen snapper are not a common capture in this neck of the woods, but during a competition I came across a nice specimen in around 18m of water. I was armed with a polespear and it took around fifteen drops over an hour before I was able to lure it close enough for a shot. I was ecstatic.

The cooler months can be a bit of a drag, but there is still good diving to be had. If you are willing to travel a little and take every opportunity to dive as it comes, you’ll enjoy the sport much more. The warmth will return before you know it.

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