The warm water has long gone with ocean temps down as low as 15ºC down here at present, although it was surprising to see 21-22ºC water in the middle of May before it finally cooled down.
Cold water changes everything, including which species are about. Long gone are the gamefish of summer, having been replaced with kingfish, snapper, jewfish and a host of other bread and butter species, such as drummer bream, tailor, salmon and blackfish from the local rocks. The game plan may have changed but the fish are still there to be caught.
In light of a recent spate of rock fishing tragedies, the subject of rock safety has been on many peoples minds. Suggestions of banning rock fishing altogether were bandied about as were calls for rock anglers to wear compulsory PFDs.
However, in 35 years of serious rock fishing I’m yet to see someone get washed in by a wave. I’ve seen people fall in or slip off a greasy rock but I’ve never seen anyone actually get washed in by a ‘freak’ wave or during a large groundswell. The reason is that I stay away from the rocks when the conditions are dangerous. It’s as simple as that.
I always checked the conditions before fishing and under no circumstances would I fish from a rock or platform that had water washing over it during a bit of swell. I’ve fished for blackfish up to my knees in water on calm days and I’ve fished in sheltered locations during a big swell. By keeping clear of dangerous conditions and fishing too close to water level in big swells I’ve never had a near miss or even come close to going in.
The problem is how do you educate rock fishers about the dangers and how do you enforce any regulations, like compulsory PFDs or not fishing in dangerous conditions? I had the dangers of rock fishing instilled in me by my father who fished the rocks for most of his life and I’ve done my best to teach my son about rock safety. However, how do you educate others that are new to the sport or area? In many cases they just don’t realise the dangers involved in standing on the edge of a rock platform with large waves coming over. I’ve seen warning signs up at many popular rock fishing platforms in several languages and also Angel Rings at others. Signs are a deterrent but it is largely up to the individual to make a call on the day as to whether it is safe to fish or not.
Our fishing club holds its Annual Presentation Night in August each year where we all get together for an AGM and a meal along with presentation of trophies for heaviest, the most meritorious, etc. It’s always a fun night after a few beverages when the stories start to flow thick and fast. One of the most hotly contested trophies each year is what we call the Rock Bottom Award. As the name suggests this trophy is awarded for acts of sheer stupidity or blind bad luck, of which our club seems to have an over abundance. Past winners have included a guy who’s fallen in the water on three separate occasions with a mobile phone in his pocket, numerous boat launchers who forgot the bungs, a guy who did some underwater work on his mooring without gloves and cut his hands up, a crew who made toasted sandwiches just before a hot yellowfin bite and nearly filled the cabin with smoke when they forgot the burning toast, a crew who offered to tow another boat home and ripped the front bollard right off the disabled boat, and the list goes on.
This year’s Rock Bottom Trophy will be very hotly contested. In fact I reckon a few crews and individuals have put in more effort to win this trophy than any others that relate to capture or tagging of fish. The nominees are: A junior angler who fought a blue bucket on 24kg tackle for ten minutes and actually called it for a lit up marlin when she saw the blue colouring out the back, which was all captured on video and is an absolute crack up; A guy who decided to beach his 35ft boat on a sandbar inside the river and put one of his crew in hospital with a broken shoulder; A clumsy fisher who went in the drink with a 1000lb tiger shark out on the Shelf when he got tangled up in a gaff rope; and, my nomination, my young bloke traced a 260lb mako shark and got tangled up in the wire trace and put himself in hospital and off work for 8 weeks! Should be an interesting night to say the least.
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