A little advice might save your life

Don’t put your life at risk for a 240 odd Rand spear that can be replaced. 

Chase Mair

I received an email from Catch Cook, saying they would like me to write another article. This got me somewhat excited but also a little hesitant. I needed a good story to tell, something that would draw the reader in. I started thinking and nothing really came to mind, so I decided to call the person that often gives me some inspiration and the person that got me into this amazing sport… my dad. After a short but deep phone call he suggested an article on the belt reel, a small item that is fairly overlooked but very crucial to this sport. He then further reminded me about our great friend who passed away last year, as many of you knew the legend that went by the nickname Klip – an amazing guy and waterman. I didn’t really want to write about Klip, it’s a tough story to write and even tougher with tears in your eyes. The thing about articles though is that it must come from an experience so that one can give a full detailed and in-depth overview about the situation experienced. 

I had not planned on looking for clean water as the forecasted weather seemed terrible during the entire week. Forecast from Friday through Sunday was 80% with a chance of rain and the wind had been blowing East for a while. As every spero knows, the East is the beast and rain in Durban means that the rivers are bound to pop. 

On Friday afternoon I received a message from my mate Nick asking if I would be keen to join him and Luke, my other mate for a boat dive early Saturday morning. As all my friends know, I am sure every spero, is always amped to go for a dive. Without hesitation I was in, I didn’t even ask about the forecast and just hoped it was going to be amazing. Excited, I went  to bed knowing it was going to be a long and epic day! I shortly receive a message from both Luke and Nick saying, “Go pro charged?” I replied, “Oh yes!” While plugging it in and clearing the card, haha. I’m sure every Go pro owner can relate. 

I think there is no feeling that can comprehend the feeling of waking up super early (03:30 am) to get ready and head to the harbour to launch. Nick picked me up and we met Luke at the petrol station to stock up on snacks and water as Luke left the boat food at home… We got down to the DUC and waited in line for the tractor. Hooked up and ready to go, we got to the beach and pushed in to launch. The water was looking amazing, extremely flat, zero wind, and the colour wasn’t looking too bad. With permission to launch from the tower we headed out. We noticed there were not too many boats out as most thought there were bound to be bad weather. As soon as we cleared the no wake zone, we came across a large pod of dolphins and got the rods out in hope of some game fish. Unfortunately, we had no luck and decided to keep heading out. We came across a few large bait balls in hopes of catching Red eye sardines, instead we got some small shad which had to be released as well as some mossbunker and mackerel.

The water was alive with snook and kingies busting to the surface while chasing the bait fish. We started hunting the shallow water, the viz was not so great as the swell kicked up the bottom. I had some decent black tip kingies circle me but was unable to get a good shot in. Nick started pulling this large fish past me along the bottom, I was rather confused at first until I noticed that it was a very large pick handle barracuda. I was amazed to see this sized pickhandle in such shallow water. I got super excited and started bouncing my flashers away to draw in the gamies. I hunted just behind the white water and had a large shoal of small kingies fly past me. This put me on high alert as my adrenaline kicked in hopes of something bigger chasing them. A shoal of large blue fish or bronze bream pulled into the clear water I hovered here a bit as it began to look promising with fish pulling in and out the white water. As eager as I was to shoot a big blue, I held back which paid off as a very nice sized shad came cruising about. I landed a terrible shot as the spear came out the gut side. Which after playing a little lightly I managed to land it and called over Luke with the boat.  After getting two decent fish on the inside we decided to head out to some deeper water. 

We echoed a spot in about 15 meters of water showing some good reef structure. The water was looking somewhat better as Nick and I breathed up and began our descent. I got down to the bottom first and scanned the reef, not much was going on. I turned around to notice Nick lining something up in a rock crevice, I watched desperately to see what he was going to shoot. After a loud clunk as he shot, I noticed a small giant trevally swim out. I thought to myself this is a good size for eating and I’ve never shot one before. So, as the geet was swimming super calm as most fish do once you have missed them and need to reload, they tend to hang around and this is normally quite a frustrating time. In this case it was the opposite as I took the opportunity to shoot my first GT. I lined up and put in what I thought was a good shot placement. I shot the fish and all hell broke loose as it took off spinning around and through my spear into the rocks as it somehow slid off my spear. I was so surprised by what happened then further to find out that my spear got stuck in the rocks and had to start stripping the line as I bailed for the surface. On the surface Luke just so happened to be right there and I asked for my second gun so I could go shoot the GT… Nick kindly held my other gun for me as it was stuck and marking the spot of the geet.  While loading my gun I noticed a tone of line stripped out of my gun that Nick was holding. In hype of trying to get this fish I hadn’t realised the mid to top water north-south current and boy was it pumping. I decided to give my gun back to Luke and join Nick fighting the current to get back to my spear so we can dive it out. After a tougher swim than expected I went for a quick down to dislodge my spear but that wasn’t going to happen so quickly, after swimming hard I bailed halfway and decided to rest and breathe up. Nick has a pretty solid bottom time and managed to go down and retrieve my spear for me. I was super grateful for this, it also shows that having a dive buddy is crucial especially when things escalate so quickly without one realising it. After attempting to reload my gun I noticed I had a bent spear. This was rather bumming as I’d only shot one fish, I had a second gun but I’m not too familiar with-it meaning accuracy may be my downfall of losing a big fish later in the day. Instead I went for an alternative solution and bent my spear on the deck and managed to straighten it. There are downfalls to doing this as it has created a weak point in the shaft.

Getting over the current and chatting to some fisherman we decided to head further north to a spot which often produces some epic fish. After a few downs here, I then top manned the boat. I ended up seeing better fish from the boat than in the water as by chance looking into the distance, I saw a large king mackerel otherwise known as a cuta launch itself out the water. This was incredible to see as I’ve never seen such a big game fish jump so high before. A while later Luke came up with a very nice lemon fish which is a very tasty fish on the dinner plate. The east began to pick up and add some chop on the water and the fish had disappeared, with not much going on we started making our way back but of course with a few stops along the way.

Sounding some new reef along the way we came across a large flat reef that I bombed to just give a look. I ended up coming back up with a nice tomato rock cod which Luke was very grateful for as he commented “That’s a nice tomato when are you going to shoot yourself one?” This goes without noticing that Luke clearly loves tomato rock cod and there’s a very delicious reason for that.We moved onto another reef as we’re drifting, and it seemed to have a good ledge. Luke and I bombed this reef together, as I neared the bottom, I noticed a very big spade fish on top of the reef with a small yellow belly rock cod next to him. This was a new species for I’ve seen plenty of spade fish before but never shot one. I decided to take this one and landed a solid shot. On the surface I had Luke with a huge grin and telling me how great a fish they are to eat which got me even more excited about this new species for me. 

We eventually found ourselves back at the same reef where Nick and I lost the GT, except this time it was Luke and I dropping down. We got to the bottom and this time the reef was a little more alive and had few more species swimming around the reef. I approached the same crevasse that Nick did in hopes of seeing a GT again unfortunately no luck there moving on along the reef I see Luke lining something up I swim slowly up to him in order to get a closer look. Luke’s busy lining up between two rocks then I see the Tomato rock cod move onto the sand. THAWP! A perfect shot through the top of the head, stoning the fish. I gave off a little under water cheer and noticed Luke attempting to pull the fish up but failing to get the spear to even move, I swam up to the spear and attempted to yank it out but he had stoned the spear vas as well. With all this happening within a couple seconds, we bail for the surface. I remember seeing Luke’s gun staying behind about two meters off the rock and wondered why he wouldn’t just swim up the gun with the gun reel, he instead used his belt reel which I thought was strange. We got to the surface and swept off our mark with the same screaming current we had before. Luke then said, “and that’s why we use belt reels…” This is when I realised that maybe I should be writing an article about a belt reel. 

Luke’s gun had its muzzle wrapped causing the line to jam. Nick came over to ask what was going on… I said this reef wants our spears; Luke’s spear is stuck at the bottom. While Luke was reeling up the line and trying to get back to the mark I jumped on the boat and Nick got me to check out a reef just across from the other spear eating reef. There was a good ledge with some small Tassels and some large Remora eels which was rather cool to see. Nick then dropped me off with Luke so I could help him retrieve his spea. I left my gun on the boat so it would be easier to swim and to use two hands to try to pull the sear. On the second down, attempting to retrieve the spear and fighting the current, I managed to dig around the spear in the sand and while doing so looked up between the rock and noticed a large moray eel with its mouth open saying hi. I was not keen to mess with him either, so I gave one huge tug and the spear pulled loose. I had Luke right behind me taking the spear so I could race to the surface as I had been using lots of energy at the bottom. In the end it worked out and we got both the fish and the spear. Which was the goal but what one needs to remember is when it’s to give up and realise that it’s now putting your life at risk for a 240 odd Rand spear that can be replaced.

Remember your gear is replaceable and you’re not! No fish is worth your life, as hard as it is and in the moment of having the fish of your dreams, just try to keep that in the back of your mind… it may just save your life!

Chase Mair

The thing to remember is to have fun and respect the ocean and it shall respect you. Coming back with awesome memories and stories to tell is all part and if you don’t come back there’s no story to tell – just that you pushed the limits and the limits decided to push back. We had an amazing day out at sea, a total of seven hours and every second of it was enjoyed! A big thanks to Paul, Luke’s dad, for the use of your boat and to Luke and Nick for the incredible day and for all the laughs, teamwork, and fun. 

The following night I cooked up the Shad with my house mate Nathan, you’ve most probably seen him in previous Catch Cook videos. We did a simple batter with egg and seasoned flour into a shallow pan of oil with a little side plate of chips. Let me just tell you that Shad tasted amazing! We did not freeze as that makes the flesh of a shad goes mushy and terrible, so a little bit of advice would be to just keep it in the fridge or just eat it fresh…  other than that, it was perfect.  

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