Hoo’d a thought Perth had em!

 

As most spearo's will agree, nothing beats the thrill of having a big fish on the end of your spear, dragging you around the ocean as you frantically swim after it. Finally, after a mammoth tussle, and some anxious moments, you grab it under the gills, knife it in the back of the head and throw it into the boat. What a rush!

On a calm February morning I drive round to fellow BWFA club member, Jolyon Peart’s house. With the La Nina weather pattern in full swing, the summer of 2011 has been a scorcher. Perth’s metro waters have boiled to an almost unheard of 27-28 degrees and flowing south with the warm currents, the mackerel and other predators have followed.

 

I don’t have my own boat so I'm always chasing a ride to a remote place for a day of diving on Western Australia's rugged, beautiful coastline. I had called Jolyon the previous evening to arrange a time to meet and we agreed on a later start to avoid congestion at the boat ramp. I pull up at his place at 6.30am to find him loading his gear into the Rip Tide….A reliable old 4.5m bow rider with 90 horses on the back.

 

I load my gear into the boat and we tear off to Hillarys boat harbour, gas bagging on the way about recent dives- mackerel shot by other club members and word of a lineo reeling in a 35kg marlin off Stragglers Reef while trolling for tuna.

 

As the boat steams around the rock wall and out of the marina we're greeted by an absolute glass off. Spine tingling stuff! My blood starts to pulse as Jolyon slams down the throttle and the boat jolts forward, skipping across the surface like a flat stone.

 

Thirty minutes later we arrive at our first dive spot. These waters provide good ground for all sorts of target species such as Spanish Mackerel, Yellowtail Kingfish and the odd decent sized reefie. We steam through a thick brown soup of algal bloom and the Trichodesmium gives off a pungent odour as it cooks in the morning sun. We anchor up and let a fair bit of line out to hang back in the slight current that runs West to East with the incoming tide.

 

On a calm summer’s day, Rottnest Island looks amazing. Jagged cliff faces and scrub laden sand dunes roll off the island’s edge where golden beaches meet the deep blue water of the Indian Ocean. Mountains of rocky reef rise up from the continental shelf, riddled with holes, cracks and caverns, smothered in temperate corals, encrusting bryozoans and algae. Amazing swim throughs are the norm, not the exception and crayfish seethe from the sides of the island’s belly as it provides a million and one hiding places for them to seek shelter. It’s hard to believe that such beautiful areas are literally on the doorstep of one of Australia’s major city centres.

But there’s no time for sightseeing today. We gear up, plunge in, and load our guns.

 

The vis must be 25 metres at least; The best it gets out here. Thick weed on the reef sways back and forth in the surge like upside down willow trees in a light breeze. At first sight there’s not many fish around.

 

Jolyon throws a float in with a metal flasher attached. Half an hour passes and not a single fish worth mentioning, so I make up my mind to drift down current in search for burley, target species....Buff Bream! Smelly, oily and dumb as doorknobs, perfect. BANG! The spear pierces through a Buff’s back and it immediately starts twitching and doing circles, coiling my Spectra line up in the process. Not a great start to the day.

 

I turn and drag the tangled mess back towards the boat. Halfway there, I pass by Jolyon, scanning the depths below for fish. “Mate for all the great conditions out here I’ve only seen a few sharks and that’s it...what a rort!” he mutters as he notices the tangled mess dragging behind me. “Gotta ask yourself whether it’s worth it when they do that eh?” he laughs as he stick his head back in the water.

 

I laugh and keep swimming back to the boat. About 5 seconds pass before I hear a sound that I’ve only heard a couple of times before but it’s unmistakable and takes me completely by surprise. WAAAAAAAAAHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” Jolyon shouts as he breaks the water’s surface.

 

I turn back to see Jolyon’s head sticking out of the water with another head about the same size as his, right next to him. It has that trademark bird - like beak with 4 rows of razor sharp teeth. No one can hear him except me but Jolyon’s delight is loud, clear and written all over his face with an ear to ear grin. “What the hell happened?” I yell out as he laughs with overwhelming joy. We swim to the boat, and I jump on board to get a proper look over the side at the fish in Jolyon's hands. At that point I realise what a thumper it is....Easily around the 25-30kg mark.

I frantically set to the task of untangling my line from the dead Buff.

 

Jolyon waits for me to untangle the mess and grab the camera, watching for other fish. Typically, it's not long before he sticks his head up. “Quickly, get the gun loaded, there’s a big mackerel down there circling, probably about 25kg!” and typically, there's no way I have time to finish untangling the mess of knots in front of me! I curse under my breath that I don't have a second gun, as the big mack swims away.

 

Satisfied with his day’s work Jolyon jumps in and hauls the monster fish onboard. He's in no hurry to keep spearfishing, and I don't blame him. At this point, there aren’t too many other fish he could expect to shoot which would give him anymore satisfaction than the big wahoo in the boat.

 

I jump back in and drift down current, hoping to see another wahoo or big mackerel.

 

After chumming up a decent amount of Buff I make a few dives on the burley pieces, only to be greeted at the bottom each time by empty blue water. Predictably, it's not long before a couple of whaler sharks cruise in, circling in wide arcs around us to avoid any confrontation.

 

First there's just one, then two, and before long at least five or so grey suited taxmen are circling around and beneath us, keen to make an easy feast of the burley sinking towards them. Finally, when a small hammerhead cruises in to make it six, Jolyon calls out “Hey let’s move spots eh? There’s no other fish here and the sharks just keep eating all your burley!”

Jolyon anchors up at our second spot and I jump in. The sharks have gobbled all my burley so I call out for the float and flasher. All I see for the next hour and a half of drifting, is a few small whaler sharks and the odd stingray on the bottom. I check my dive computer which reports a water temperature of 27 degrees and think to myself that perhaps, ironically enough, that the water is just too warm for mackerel. Either that or it just isn’t to be my day.

 

I'm almost ready to give up the ghost and pin my luck on getting some crayfish in the shallows to take home. However being an optimist, I tell Jolyon I’ll go for one more short dive before calling it a day. “No worries pal, go for it” he chimes, sitting back in the boat triumphantly as he cracks an ice cold soft drink from the esky.

 

I put my mask and fins back on, praying to the fish gods that something will finally turn up. For the next half hour I dive down repeatedly to scan the area around the flasher but time and time again all I see is empty blue water or an uninterested whaler shark cruise past in the distance. I resign myself to the fact that today just isn’t my day as I return to the surface from my final drift dive. I consider heading back to the boat, Jolyon now packing up in preparation to leave. I’m not sure why I don’t head straight back but something in my head urges me to take one last dive on the flasher, just to round the day off and be 100% sure that there's nothing below.

 

I breathe up, pulling on the flasher line in rhythm with my inhale and exhale. I lie still on the surface, relax as best I can and take one last deep breath before diving down, down, to below the lowest of the flasher’s 4 metal disks. At 19m below the surface I stop my descent and scan around. First to my left...nothing, just the familiar sight of blue water above a rocky forest of reef and seaweed. I then look round to my right, and at first see nothing but then catch sight of a flash of silver that seems like it has literally popped into view out of nowhere. Suddenly, right there in front of me about 1 metre away, is the unmistakable sight of a Wahoo!

 

The fish is almost motionless, it's left eye holding a gaze, piercing my mask as if it's looking straight through me.

 

The colours across the slender body flicker bright iridescent; orange, red and blue- like a kaleidoscope in the sun. I can feel time stand still and despite my sudden excitement, I stay calm and pull my gun out from by my side. The fish moves cautiously around me and slightly further away, blindsiding me for a moment, ready to take off as quick as it had appeared. It’s at times like these in every young spearo’s life when one needs either some skill, good advice or just plain good luck to make the right decision. I recall a conversation I had previously had with my good friend Michael Takach about Wahoo. "Tak" has shot a few in his time and knows their behavior well. His advice burst into the front of my mind like a neon sign in a shop window “Get close and put your gun in under your chest, so as not to spook the fish”.

 

I draw the gun back under my chest and the Wahoo stops swimming away, I still feel as though time is frozen and I have no inclination to breath, I'm completely relaxed and calm. The fish is still at a slightly blinded angle but clearly still interested in me enough not to be swimming away so I give a light tap on the handle. This works a charm and the Wahoo broadsides me immediately to get a better look. I cautiously draw my gun out and take aim, the fish is now only 2m away and directly in front of me. I have it at point blank and can plug it straight through the body, but for a second time I remember something that helps me in the moment to make a better decision.

 

I had only ever shot one other Wahoo before - a few months earlier and I had gut shot that one. I recall that, even though it was a small one (14kg) it had really taken off with the line like a runaway steam train and as a result the spear had nearly ripped out of the soft belly flesh, so presently the idea of a head shot becomes very appealing. I turn my gun towards the head, line it up to pick my spot and BANG! pull the trigger; what happens next blows my mind!

The spear hits the fish straight in the side of the head, piercing the brain case and stoning it dead. It immediately starts quivering and convulsing, but what I realise to my utter surprise is that the spear hasn't gone all the way through, in fact the flopper is still sticking out of the point of entry!

 

My blood races as the adrenaline pumps through my body. I'm caught up in a mix of emotions between having stoned the Wahoo and being unsure if it's going to suddenly take off and rip the spear out of the side of its head, never to be seen again. I react quickly and shoot over the 2m distance to the fish as it twitches in the water. I grab the spear and then the fish- in under its gills and hold on tight as I ascend to the surface. During my ascent I look down to see the fish’s eyes twitching erratically back and forth and at this point I know he isn’t going anywhere.

 

I breach the surface of the water after what seems an age and scream out WAAAAAHHHHOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!  From the top of my lungs! I see Jolyon hanging a piss over the side of the boat and he nearly falls in the drink, jumping out of his own skin at the sound of my shout.

I begin shouting WAAAAAHOOOOOOOOOO!! repeatedly and laughing with pure happiness. Never have I felt such a rush of pure delight and uncontrollable joy as the adrenaline surges through my body. Needless to say Jolyon is in disbelief at the sight, one metro Wahoo is rare enough but two on the same day in the same spot.....unheard of! I swim back to the boat and tell him to grab the camera.

 

“Great work mate, nice fish, unbelievable, two metro ‘Hoo on the same day, who’d have thought Perth had em?!!” Jolyon retorts as he gets geared up to take photos.