By Matt Chave
As a new member to the Blue Water Freedivers of WA I have been enthusiastically reading about the big fish caught by the freediving spearos of Perth. With each dive I have been improving my breath hold technique and gradually getting deeper with the dream of spearing a nice fish. Over the Christmas holidays some perfect weather conditions arrived, and if it wasn’t for the pressure of my wife I would have been out on Christmas day. So easy on the beers for Christmas and Boxing day was looking to be my day.
I phoned my dive partner Ben and we were all set for a Boxing day bonanza. It was an early start, meeting at the Endeavor Hotel in Lanno. The easterly conditions had flattened the ocean out like the WACA wicket after the heavy roller had just left the ground, so we could not wait to get there and get wet.
The first dive was on some shallow reef to get some crays, nothing but kackers. Out a bit deeper, a great day had started with a couple of nice Dhuies and a bag of Baldies. With the light fading and the umpire close to calling stumps, I was working a 15m to 18m ledge right on the range of my current breath hold ability. I descended over the edge of the ledge to be awe struck by the sight of a beautiful Blue Groper (Acheorodus gouldii) placed nicely away from the limestone structure. Without hesitating, I moved in and squeezed the trigger on my 1.4m Edge gun. The decision to change guns from my 1.1m Seac that I had been using on the other previous dives, was one that I was now glad I had made. The switch was made based on being in deeper water combined with the hope of nailing something big.
My eagerness coupled with the unfamiliarity of a brand new gun had resulted in a poor shot hitting the fish low, below its pectoral fins. To my surprise the fish did not flinch. It was not until I retrieved the slack on my spear that it kicked off, heading directly for cover from the reef. Blue in the face I finned away from the reef and up, working harder than I had ever been made to work before, desperate to stop the fish taking my spear under the reef and freeing itself. Finally I raised the fish above the level of the ledge allowing me to use the 2m bungy to get to the surface and grab a much needed breath of air. Still concerned about losing the fish as it was continuing to fight hard, I hauled him slowly to the surface and grabbed hold strong as I had no intention of letting it go now.
At stumps on day one of the Boxing day test I felt like I had taken first day honors. For the record the fish was not weighed but I estimate it to be around the 25kg-27kg mark.