Spearfishing the Wild Coast

Studying in Durban has been the best decision ever for me. The weather is generally amazing as we have a more tropical weather system. With that the ocean is also more tropical. This means warmer and cleaner water.

This is a big win! Besides these two factors being my ultimate decision for moving to Durban to study… as I am a spearo and a surfer, studying is going great still. Coming home for the holidays is always something to look forward to. I mean who doesn’t like home cooked meals and not having to adult as much. Being home is great as you get to see family and the pets.

Also, three hundred meters down the road there’s a whole new ecosystem of cold-water fish. This means fish that you don’t generally or rarely find in Durban. Leaving dirty water in Durban and hoping for clean water in East London did not go to plan as the water cleaned up top to bottom in Durban and the fish were on. East London had its typical snot green two meter visibility which holds a fair amount of bigger fish such as Great Whites, which does not make you kit up in a hurry to go dive dirty water. This is when I saw some big cracker and shot a Shad as well as my first Garrick. Which I was extremely stoked about.

Tony Swart phoned and asked if we would be keen to join them in the Transkei for four days. Without any hesitation this was an easy answer. At about 4:30am we packed our kit, loaded the whole family into the car and hit the road while the roads were still quiet. We got to the Transkei early enough to unpack and check out the conditions for an afternoon dive. About 5 minutes from the house we stopped on top of the hill. This is where the last bit of signal is before we go down to the house. From the top of the hill the sea conditions were looking good. There was also a lot of bird activity on the water… always a good sign.

We got down to Pete North’s house and started unpacking. About 2 hours later we were launching the boat and heading out for our first dive.

As you move down the coast towards the Eastern Cape the water temperature and visibility begin to drop.

Once out past the breakers we noticed there were hundreds of dolphins and birds, so we decided to head to a spot that is well known for its big game fish. The swell was up quite a bit, which made this specific dive that little more dangerous, as we could be washed over the reef, especially if you get caught chasing large fish into the white water. There were some decent fish here but unfortunately the swell jacked up and made the conditions unpleasant.

We then made the decision to head 9km south to another spot which has amazing showings. We also were fortunate to have a flying fish glide next to the boat. At our next mark we located the reef. As the sea was calm here, we anchored off, allowing the four of us to all dive. Diving in pairs is much safer and very helpful. All breathing up on the surface, Tony takes the first down. The three of us wait as Tony is an incredible diver and he has way more experience than us. Tony comes to the surface and follows a 9kg silver with perfect shot placement through the cheek and just says, “ya there’s some big cracker down there.

The visibility wasn’t bad at all and if you were patient enough or you had a long enough breath hold, the silvers would pop out and slowly come in and out. I experienced this with a cracker about four times, but he would just stay out of range. Ivan and Dylan got some nice blue fish while I was stalking this silver.

Tony came back after putting the silver on the boat and plugged a nice sized parrot fish. The one that stood out the most was a pink bankie so I lined up and took a shot at my first fish for this trip and stoned it, which I thought was a great start to the dive with a new species and a stone shot.

It was now late afternoon and the guys were stoked on the first day’s dive. I made one last dive and found a nice cave with a decent parrot fish, but unfortunately spooked him and he disappeared back into the cave. I waited a short while and he popped out again and swam around me, so I slowly rolled over and shot him over my fins with another stone shot, which I was very pleased about. We pulled up anchor and headed home with a good day’s catch. We then made a lekker braai that night. I think Ivan and Dylan did a little recon mission to check it out and it was looking a little promising for the morning, but the weather was on its way.

DAY TWO...

…the weather had turned, and the swell was running but the wind hadn’t hit yet. We contemplated the situation for a while as there was big swell and the launch would be hectic, but the water was clean. The first boat got a good gap and hammered it out there. We almost got out until a set shifted and Ivan made a quick call to turn and burn for the deep channel. We then waited a while for the final set wave and while doing so put on a good show for the ballies and family watching. Finally, there was a gap and my gashed hand was taking a beating from holding on, but the adrenaline kicked in a while ago, so I was good. We raced the gap and were finally out or so we thought, and two sets shifted so we gunned it and got full airborne, not once but twice and boy was that a rush. This is where Ivan earned his title of White Knuckle.

Once we were out there it was pleasant, and we followed in the other boat’s wake, which helped with the chop. We anchored and found a good showing. Here some decent fish were found. Ivan shot his first Silver and was super stoked as he carefully came up to the side of the boat with a slight grin and walloped up his silver to Dylan. Dylan shot a blue and a parrot and I got in a frenzy with the parrots and became parrot king. We then moved to a blinder in the search of silvers. Ivan top-manned here as there was some swell pushing through. Again, I had the silvers haunting me as I was breathing up. A small shoal came behind me and hovered. There were two bus crackers but unfortunately as I did a slow duck dive swell pushed over and kicked up the sand, giving them cover.

After about 45 minutes I heard a loud WHOOOOO! Dylan had managed to land himself a lovely 5.8 Kg Yellow Belly Rock Cod. He dropped us off for one last drift and I shot another parrot but didn’t want to call the boat over just yet, so I reloaded and put the parrot back on the spear which attracted more parrots. We got back and filleted the fish and froze them. That afternoon the wind pumped and brought some rain. Which leaves nothing else but a good time to have an afternoon nap. That night we had some fish and shared some stories of our dive and intense launch.

DAY THREE...

the wind was absolutely howling and there was no chance of launching. Also the swell was looking ridiculously big. So, we took advantage of the day and went exploring around the Transkei. We went and looked at Lubanzi as well as the new Wild Lubanzi which is very well done. Ivan and Dylan drove up the hill to get signal and to check out the next day’s forecast as it would be our last day. That evening Dylan cooked up some of my parrots in a beer batter which was a huge hit and super tasty.

Last day was a 5.30am start with everyone super amped for a dive. With the boat ready and everyone kitted up, Tony also kindly sat this one out and my dad joined us. This was awesome as he had not done a boat dive in years and this was also my first boat dive with him, so it was extra special. With an easy launch we made wake towards our first marked reef and were blessed with crystal clear warm water. With no swell this allowed for all four of us to dive. The only thing now was I had to get used to diving with plastics again. This was a bigger adjustment than I thought as it felt as if I was swimming with plastic bags on my feet. This made diving a lot harder as I was burning more oxygen to get to the bottom, limiting my bottom time. But I was not letting this hinder me from missing out on amazing conditions.

On the bottom the reefs were teaming with life and this was an experience all on its own being able to see above average fish swim past. This dive I decided to be even more selective with the species I targeted as this is one of the benefits as well as sustainability of spearfishing. Ivan and Dylan picked up some decent specimens of parrots and blue fish.

A spontaneous decision sent us back 9km to the reef we’d dived on the first day. This is my dad’s favourite point to dive, and he has shot some good fish here in the past with Tony. The plan was to kit up fully on the boat and get as close as possible to the point. Dylan would drop the three of us off and punt back out past the swell. Dylan dropped us off and without hesitation my dad motored off to the point. I wasted no time in chasing him down as I wanted to get in on the secret spots. I got my GoPro rolling as I knew there was going to be action. I started putting pressure on the fish as I thought I had a good shot placement. Only to find out as I brought the fish closer that I had gut shot him and had a small piece of skin holding him. I knew I needed to play this fish carefully or I would lose this great specimen as well as leave a fish injured, which is the last thing I want to do. As he got closer and I reached out to grab him, he turned and took a second run. Luckily the barb held position and I was able to grab him but not before he headbutted me on the surface. Finally, with my hand in his gills, I was super stoked and raised my gun to signal Dylan to pick me up. While all this happened, my dad saw yellowtail but was unable to get a shot off and Ivan had seen some silvers and pig nose grunter but also didn’t get a shot in. About half an hour later Ivan landed himself a decent Garrick. The weather slowly began to swing, and we had little time left. After this we called it a day and headed back in.

In Durban my house mate Nathan and I cooked up the silver and a cray that he had caught while I was away for dinner. We prepared the Silver with some garlic and some spice from the Durban Victorian spice market. The silver was then placed in tin foil and onto the braai joined by a crayfish tail covered in garlic butter sauce, which tasted amazing.

This can all be seen on the CatchCook channel.

All in all, the holiday at home and the weekend in the Transkei was an absolute blast with some amazing memories made. Lastly a huge thanks to Tony and Gill for the weekend and to Ivan and Dylan for all the boat dives and awesome spearfishing buddies.

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