17 October 2005
|With spring plankton blooms, the big snapper are grouping up and coming into the shallow rocky points near the harbours. Saturday's dive was too far south yet, but Sunday saw the musketeers - me, Blair, and Andrew out for a dive near Whangarei, just like the good old days.
At Guano Rock I drifted around a ledge to see a big snapper finning in the current. Too far to reach with the pole spear, I tried to drift back to the other side and surface unseen, but a wave caught me and flailed my legs up high, probably scaring the fish. I tried my snapper whispering technique, but it didn't work. The big fish had moved off. I cut up a parore (very common reef fish) and some kina (urchins), and biffed them into the current in front of the rock. A flash of silver and red told me the big guy was still there, but not hanging around. Oh well. I eventually gave up on him.
I shot a small trevally at Tawa Rocks and a nice Koheru (like a small mackeral), both for the smoker - now that I've started using brine the results are much better.
Back to The Heads, where I once saw 'The Horse' years ago. Like 'The Bus', this was a monty snapper whose back was as big as a horse's. Funnily enough; so big, yet the shaft that day could not hit it. I still shake my head in amazement.
Swimming into the shallows the swell died down, and the vis got a little lighter, maybe 5 metres in places. I relaxed, and moved slowly with the surge around some familiar rocks. Nothing yet, and on to the next one. This is a process of elimination. If they are not in front of this rock, they may be in front of the next, and so it goes. After about 10 dives, I eased around a kelpy rock and saw a red tail fin drifting towards the other side of the rock, so I backed off and swam around the rock. Grabbing the weed as a hand hold, and stretching the spear out, the fish was hanging in front of me - about 3 kg (6 lb), which is a good start to the day. I released the spear and the fight was on, the Riffe ice-pick toggling perfectlyon the end of my 8 foot pole spear, giving me the confidence to surface before pulling the fish in. I slipped teh fish under my weight belt and moved on.
Another favourite rock, and another careful approach. Nothing on the back side, next dive... nothing on the front side, next dive, and while I am breathing up hard against the rock at the surface, I look down to the white rock. A pectoral fin flares out.... they're here!!
Another one ghosts past, several more drift back around the rock, two more swim on the edge of visibility. These snapper are all between about 4 and 8 kg (9 - 18 lb). There will be bigger ones there too. Aaaarggghh! And I am stuck on the most exposed face of the rock, with no cover whatsoever. That's just bad luck.
I tried to drift around the corner but the swell kept me there, and all the time these big fish are drifting below me, sometimes spooking, sometimes circling back the other way. On the face to my right, a big fish is circling, agitated. Finally, I get out of snapper snooping hell and steady myself for a calm dive. I drop silently and around the corner, seeing nothing against the rock. They are all out in the open now, drifting on the edge of visibility. My Snapper Whispering technique doesn't work like this, not with my whole body exposed, despite all my trying. Frustrated, I moved around the bowl of white rock I was in, looking for cover. More fish drifted away. After several stalking attempts, I knew it was over. The fish had noved on, and it was past 6 pm. Time to head home.
Blair had gone around the corner and picked up a little one and bounced off a biggie. I was just happy that I'd swum with my mates again.
Maybe next time I'll catch up with my old mate The Horse. Anyway, the fish are in the brine now.