Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Salty Diver - Big Swell


Flip!!! if you have not heard ... well you need to get out more! The sea went nuts ... balls to the wall trashing everything in its path.
I have started a collection of pics on http://coatesman.blogspot.com/ check out the web album.

If you have something to add just send them to me .....



Bluewater Gamefish Challenge - Sodwana Bay

Howzit guys,
PMB Underwater Club are hosting a comp at Sodwana Bay on the weeken of the 8th 9th and 10th of June. First prize is R15 000!
Entry form and rules and regulations attached.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Spearfishing with Sharks

About a year or so ago, I got a call from a good friend of mine Brett. Brett was working as the chef at a five lodge in Zululand just below the Mozambique border. First he phoned to say that he had shot a sailfish. A day later he phoned to say he had shot a giant kingfish. A day of so later it was a huge couta. Finally I could take it no longer, and plans were made to be there two days later. The plan was to stay in the staff facilities. Rustic rooms with no running water, no electricity and no refrigeration. I desperately wanted my wife to see that part of the world and tried to convince her to come with. After lots of bribery and persuasion we loaded our one year old son (Tyde) and all our gear and headed for Zululand. It was a trip of six houres, to the nut farm where we were to leave our car. Brett then picked us up in the four by four, which was very necessary to negotiate to rest of the sand road to the resort. We finally arrived, and unpacked, making the accommodation as comfortable as possible. Jennifer was amazing (as always), with a few "It's not so bads" and a "I thought it would be worse". I had tried to paint the worst possible picture so the hut would not seem so bad on arrival. We then wend down to see the resort, it was spectacular. We were waiting for Brett's brother Roger to join us, as the afternoon we went on, message came through that Roger and his wife Haley would not be able to join us for the weekend. Bummer, I had relied on the female companionship for Jennifer, so I could selfishly dive the whole day. We were standing under the shade of a huge tree, hanging on the landrover, talking about the weekends plans. Brett then turnes to us and said, "hey do you want Rogers room?". The thought was great but I had read that the rates are R2000 per person per night and knew it was impossible. So I answered "naaa, it's a bit expensive". Bret then blew me away with his response. It turned out that had free bednights given to him by the resort as part of his package. Seen at though he had already booked the room, it was now ours. He only asked if we would pay the admin fee of…R50 a night. We were so excited. We grabbed all our belongings and headed for the suite. It turned out to be the honeymoon suit.

Included in the package was three five star meals a day, and all sort of yummy goodies in the room. Jennifer and I were living it up.

It made it really hard to miss breakfast and go dive the following morning.

I finally managed to tear myself away from the bed, and Brett and I wee off. We went a few kilometers up the beach and began to swim out. The swim seemed to take forever. The ocean bed had such a gentle gradient there. After about forty minutes of swimming I begged Brett to stop. We were now about a kilometer out to sea and my legs were burning from the swim. We decided that this was deep enough. We had hardly caught our breath when Brett died down on a couta, and two minutes later had is strung up on the buoy. The next thiry minutes of the dive will be a time I will not forget.

I dived down, it was about twenty meters deep. The viability was about fifteen meters, making the last five meters down to the ocean bed invisible from the top. This was my first dive down, as I reached the bottom I saw a huge shadow disappear into the milky distance. It had been a three meter tiger shark. When I returned to the surface, Brett was already diving down and I did not get to tell him about the shark. Knowing that we had a dead fish with us in the water was not a reassuring feeling. I dived down again, and as the bottom of the ocean came into focus I saw that there was no more shark, good news. I lay for a moment and the ocean floor looking for a fish, then I saw another shadow, it came closer. A 2.5meter shark. I returned to the surface. This time I did manage to talk to Brett. I asked him if he had seen the shark, he said that he had. We continued to dive for a while, and the shark became more confidant, coming closer and closer, we would often see him coming off the bottom. I was keen to chase him away so I swam down after him. The shark took off at great pace, and I was a little comforted. Then I noticed another shark, one the exact same size. Then I again spoke to Brett, I asked him "did you see the second shark?", he said..."oh you mean the much smaller one...ya, but he was so small". Suddenly I realized that there must be at least three sharks under us in the invisible milky murk.

I reluctantly dived down again. This time the two sharks were swimming together , and they were swimming faster, a sure sign that things were deteriating.  Now the sharks suddenly became very interested in our couta. Brett pushed the one shark off twice with his spear gun. I was looking forward and scanning the water, my gut told me to turn around, and as I did, I saw the tow sharks coming straight at me. The were flying at a 45 degree angle from the ocean floor, I swung my gun around to try and put something between me and the sharks. About a meter away from me they parted, one swam arou8nd me to my left, and the other to my right. At this precise moment, I decided I had had enough. I also suddenly realized that a kilometer is a long way to swim when you are tense and under attack. I told Brett that we were going in. He offered no resistance.

The swim in was a bit nerve wrecking. There was lots of looking over the shoulder, as we swam at full speed to the shore. A few minutes later the ocean bed came into focus and I was relieved to be able so tee if there was anything under us. There was nothing, and we made the swim home safely.

The next day we dived again. I lost all my fish to sharks. I decided that it's not a good place to shore dive. I went back to our five star accommodation, where nuts and grape juice seemed like a safer place to be.

Every trip is an adventure, and you never know what will happen. From rustic to five star.


An interesting follow up on this story. I recently managed to dive the same place again, this time from a boat. We dived there the whole day and did not see a shark!? That's how it goes.



Who takes the most fish?

If you speak to anyone over sixty about fishing, they will tell you about the 'good ol days when fish were a plenty". They will tell you how they used to go fishing for a morning and fill the boat with so many fish the boat could hardly float. When you read the books about the fishing in those days, you hear how guys would catch 100 shat in a day or 6 Garrick in a morning. There certainly were a lot more fish around then. So what happened, and who is responsible?


Well for starters there were not very many laws I the good ol days. Bag limits (how many fish you could take) were very generous or simply non existent. This resulted in a massive over fishing. Another aspect of problem has always been the illegal selling of fish. I've heard people speak out against over fishing, or Spearfishing, only to see the same people ask if your fish are for sale. Fish can only legally be purchased from a person who has a valid commercial fishing liscence. In other words, legal permission to sell the fish. By the way there is no such liscence for spear fishermen. You see the guy who catches lots of fish, needs a way to get rid of them. A market. If there is no market, he will not take too many fish, coz…well old fish smell bad.

So bad legislation and illegal activities contributed to the current situation.

There were also millions of tons of fish lost to pollution. Laws have come along way. Affluent and poison from factories have killed fish in rivers and the ocean for decades. Fortunately South Africa is coming in line with international standards, and pollutions effects are lessening.

One huge and un-measurable factor has been illegal netting by trawlers. Over the years there have been many cases of trawlers fishing illegally in our waters. These guys take a lot of fish. One net will hold about a thousands Spearfishing or rock and surf outings. These massive nets pulled behind boats are ruthless killers. They remove entire shoals of fish. Not only that but other fish are also caught in the net. Dolphins, turtles…well anything actually. These creatures of the deep will either die in the net, or be chopped up with all the other fish and sold to hungry starving people.

Long liners also take huge amounts of fish. They drop a line off the back of the boat. This line can run for many kilometers, a baited hook is placed every few meters. These lines are left for a while and then harvested. It works very well and hundreds of tons of fish are the result. Bill fish such as Marlin, Sailfish and Broad Bill are not immune from these traps.

Policing marine waters is very difficult and very expensive, making it very difficult to catch these culprits.


There has been a strong emphasis placed on "tag and release" over the last years. This is a positive initiative, to try and get anglers to release their fish. Each fish is measured and tagged. The information is sent off to a central info hub, and is used to try and better understand the ocean, and its inhabitants.

In a recent article in the "ESA" (Extreme Sports Angling- a brilliant S.A. fishing magazine), talked about tag and release. The editor who is a friend of mine was saying that if each Rock and Surf angler released one fish a year it would result in 400 000 more fish a year in our waters. If you consider that these fish would breed and continue to effect the ocean cycle, it would have a positive effect. The magazine it 'self is a reflection of the current changes and mindset in angling. The magazine encourages release of all fish caught. It talks about safe methods of handling and releasing catches. This type of information was totally void ten years ago. I must say it is good to see pictures of fish you know were released!


There has also been the ban of 4X4's on the beaches, and the introduction of marine reserves and sanctuaries. The amount of commercial licenses available have also decreased significantly over the years.


All this is resulting in some recovery in some sectors of fishing. Hopefully the trend will increase.


Of coarse you will always have those who take the whole conservation thing t to far. Wanting to stone of shoot every fisherman or spear fishermen is not the solution. There are many anglers and spear fishermen who only take what is needed or wanted to eat. This is a growing segment of anglers.


Here are some statistics I found concerning the removal of fish from our oceans. The list is a few years old but give a good indication of the trends.


Catches in Natal from Kosi bay to Durban per Annum.


64        Tons Spearfishing                                 2.3%

500      Tons Ski Boats                         18.6%

900      Tons Rock and Surf Angling                 33.7%

1100    Tons Commercial Fishing                      41.1%


Well now you know who is doing the damage!

PS please note who takes the least of the lot…







Monday, March 05, 2007

Salty Divers - Andys Marlin Story

Guys just to let you know that Andys Marlin Story is up