A quick dive off Broome
A steady onshore wind was already blowing when Steve Oats and I arrived at 6.30am to a deserted boat ramp but considering the number of days suitable for diving per month in Broome neither of us batted an eyelid as we slid the boat into “ice cold” 23 C water, well ice cold for Broome!
After a somewhat slower than usual trip we arrived at my favourite mackeral lump to find 10m visibility – exceptional for Broome standards. I managed to be first in the water, having used the bumpy drive out to cunningly tie Steve’s rig line in a knot. Immediately broad-bar mackeral to about 9 kg surrounded me, the more we swam the more appeared and we estimated the school at several hundred fish. They seemed content to follow us around or just laze about. Mixed in amongst them were GT’s, golden trevally, several cod species and the odd barracuda – a truly awesome sight.
I drifted along 10m down with the slight current when suddenly a Spanish mackeral raced up and turned 2m from the business end of the 1.4m Edge gun. Unfortunately my aim was not so good and I missed the spine, ending up stringing the fish just behind the pectoral fin. He hit top gear quickly and, considering the number of sharks around, I let him have 30m of line hoping he would outswim the whalers that buzzed passed me in pursuit. This seemed to work and within 5 minutes I had my hands in the gills of the 16 kg fish. I spiked, bled the fish and was reloading when I found myself eyeballing a 3.5m hammerhead. He was keen for a feed but after a few pokes with the spear seemed content to follow me at gun length giving me puppy dog eyes hoping I might feel sorrow for him!
Back at the boat I tossed some more burley in before grabbing the camera to get some photos of our toothy friends. This really got the sharks arced up. The species diversity was amazing, hammerheads, bull sharks, all sorts of whalers from big fat-arsed lazy ones to pointy “taken too much speed” types, Grey Nurse, lemon sharks, even a lone wobby and several large cod got in on the action.
Amongst all this a 14kg Spanish cruised in and I couldn’t resist, stringing him from top to bottom. What ensured was total chaos and by the time I got my hands on the mackie I was in a real tangle and had one shark in particular intent on eating whatever it could get in its mouth. I was trying to hold the shark off with an empty gun, keep the fish out of the water while swimming with my legs tied together. Luckily Steve turned up and saved the day, even so the beast kept trying to swim around him to get the fish.
With the fish in the boat everything seemed to settle down and I took some photos of very obliging sharks as they swam in to show their “best side”. I even had a sea snake decide my speargun was a good thing to sleep in as he coiled around the barrel so that he was looking toward the spear tip. He stayed there for a good five minutes getting a free ride.
Steve had picked up a couple of nice black-spot tuskfish but, as the mackies weren’t big enough for his standards and I wanted some coral trout, we decided to move to some ledges close by. On the way we were treated to a 15kg airborne mackie, 3m clear of the water, in pursuit of an equally airborne queenfish.
Dropping into the water at the new location we were met by a large 150kg groper and several blue-lined emperor (known locally as snapper). A quick swim around and I located 2 nice trout, the first of which I managed to just clip down the side and it broke off. A quick reload and I made no mistake on the second. After a bit of searching I found the first trout holed up and pinged him just behind the eye. I then turned my attention to the snapper. These are a tricky fish to spear, quite happy to sit still until you decide to spear one then they manage to hang well out of range. Several dives later (and a few handfuls of sand above my head) saw the 1.4m Edge easily punched the 7mm shaft through one from 4.5m away.
Content with what I had for the day I wandered back to the boat in the increasing current, seeing plenty of good fish on the way. Steve managed another black-spot tuskie and a decent 16kg Spanish. By this stage the sharks had found us again and we had a bit more of a swim with them before calling it a day.
The wind dropped halfway home and we made it to the ramp by midday giving us enough time to clean the gear and go lose some money to those other “sharks” at the Broome Cup horse races.