Cairns is no doubt one of the best spear fishing destinations in the world with the reef at our doorstep. The reef provides us with hundreds of different fish and crustacean species that can be targeted by spear fishing. The most common species that are targeted are Coral trout, Mackerel, Sweet-lip and Cray-fish. With the different species you need a different approach, the coral trout are found in different locations to the Mackerel. When targeting coral trout it has been found that small amounts of burley (The aim of burley is to get the scent of fish in the water but without feeding them). Burley comes in pellet form or you can make your own, crush up fish until it is almost a past. Slowly let a little bit of burley out at a time just enough that the current will spread a small scent of fish over a large area. If you use too much you could start attracting sharks. Everyone that enters the water when spear fish knows that eventually you will come across a shark especially if you are spearing a lot of fish or Cray’s. Just remember the shark is there for the fish not for you, they are just looking for an easy meal. If you feel threatened at any time just give the shark the fish and 99.99% of the time nothing happens the shark gets its meal and off it goes. It will be rare to come across a shark that is over 2. meters.
The depths that are targeted for spear fishing start at one meter and depending on the visibility and your experience can go to fifteen meters. You have to remember to pressurize your ears every two to three meters or it will become very painful and could lead to permanent damage.
Crayfish are great fun to catch and are even better to eat. Crayfish is a delicacy all over the world and cost a fortune in the shops. The best part about Cairns is that you can go out to the reef and catch one for yourself and they taste that much better when the crayfish is fresh and you know that you caught it yourself.
The name crayfish means large marine crustacean without claws. Our painted Crayfish or Lobster (as some people know them as) can be found under bommies and in caves that are in the reef that have formed during the growth of the coral. You can also find them along the rocky coastline. A pair of long antennas extended from under a rock or a coral bommie is a dead giveaway that a crayfish is in the area. Especially on a cloudy day is a good time to spot crayfish because they become a little more adventures and come out of there holes to have a look at the surroundings, the reason for them coming out on the cloudy days is that the crayfish doesn’t like bright light and prefers to look for food at night. So on a cloudy day there is a much better chance of seeing a crayfish out of their dark cave that it would normally hide in on those brighter days.
When a crayfish or a large fish is spotted it is recommended to keeping your distance and to head for the surface. The reason for this is that if you are running out of air you will take a rushed shot and miss. If you did hit it the fish or Cray will head for cover and if you don’t have enough air to retrieve the capture there is a good chance that it could work itself free from the spear, especially a crayfish. Once you have taken a breath head back down to the same location, if it is a fish you should swim to the bottom at a distance from the fish and slowly approach the target along the bottom. The fish is less intimidated when approached along the bottom then from above. Holding your arm extended out in front of you to put as much distance between you and the fish you should only fire when in shooting range for your gun or when you are as close as you think you can possible get without scaring the fish. This will give you a better chance at hitting the target and less chance of injuring the fish and it getting away.
If it is a crayfish and lets use the most common scenario, it is in a bommie or a cave. You should approach from the side of the hole or cave so that the Cray doesn’t see you. When you can see the crayfish you are normally very close to it because it’s in a dark cave where there is very little light. Now that you have the crayfish in your sight you will need to act quickly it will back up right into its cave. You need to aim and fire but it isn’t over yet because the crayfish is now speared but backing into its cave and you need to pull on the rope tied to the shaft or grab the shaft if possible and slowly manoeuvre the crayfish out of the cave. All of this in one breath, sometimes depending on the depth you will need to leave the gun and head to the surface for air and head back down to finish the job.After spearing or finding one crayfish don’t forget to check the surrounding area because one large male will have a number of females to his harem.
A 2-3mm wet suit is ideal for the tropics, which helps to protect you from the sun and sharp coral. Make sure you have a pair of gloves handy because the crayfish have horns all over their head and an extremely powerful tail. Weight belt is a must if you are going to us a wet suit due to the fact that a wet suit is very buoyant and you will have an extremely difficult time diving, good quality mask and flippers will make life a lot easier and more comfortable. The gun size is up to you depending on the size of prey and what application you will be using the gun for. The larger the gun the more powerful and the less distance it will put between you and the fish but the down side is less manoeuvrability in tight spots or for a moving target.
You can also use a fish spike on a float that is connected to your belt if you plan to swim some distance from the boat. This will save you the time and hassle of swimming back to the boat every time you spear something.
There is nothing more relaxing then swimming around the beautiful great barrier reef and to see all the different types of fish in there own habitat and to catch yourself a nice size fish and crayfish to eat for dinner that night.