The day the cracker came
This competition was always going to be the best opportunity to set a new RASSPL cracker record. It had been broken previously at the Kini Bay, Beachview competition a month previously with a fish of just over 10kg caught by Ferdi Botha. But with a perfect cracker sea and the timing smack bang in the middle of cracker season, it was just a matter of time.
Some of the best cracker anglers were taking part: Jarred Cracker Jack Van Niekerk, Sean Riley Cracker Mechanic and David Rossi, not to forget Stephan Ferrera, the cracker slayer himself. Between these four anglers there are not many cracker that are safe on the coast.
There was a huge swell running and the sea was perfect for a cracker smash. I started on the walls at Cape Recife next to Ruby’s Hole looking for a few small species. My plan was to fish for a shad as the sun came up, hopefully burgle a blacktail and possibly a zebra and a bronze bream, then to move around to the marine drive and look for a poensie and the possibility of a few other species scratching amongst the reefs in front of the wreck.
My first throw produced a brown dog shark – not a high-scoring species but a species nonetheless, followed by a blacktail on my next throw. I decided to wade out to the center reef between the two walls in search of a bronze bream or poensie with the dropping tide. It wasn’t two minutes before I hooked another blacktail and, with not much else around, I decided to move around to the wreck to see what was happening on the marine drive.
When we got around the corner, the sea was on its head with a 6m swell coming around the bay. We stopped at the wreck and there were already a good few anglers fishing for shad and cracker. I decided to use a piece of redbait I had picked up earlier. I put a prawn on my second hook; with that combination almost anything swimming around wouldn’t pass up the chance of either.
I waded out onto a reef that runs parallel to the Malay pools – a spot where I had often caught some young poensies along with a few yellowbelly rockcod over the years. I waited a few minutes and was flattened, as there was a big swell running. I had almost been washed out of the gully while wading across to the spot where I had made the throw.
There was a narrow gap to pull the fish through and it felt like a fish of around 3kg, not much of a fight but often young poensies don’t feel like more than a drag on the hook.
As the fish came closer, out popped a 700g blacktail. I couldn’t believe that this was what had given me such a go. I noticed my other hook was still under the water with another fish still trying to drag the blacktail back down.
A nice double – a young cracker of 1.8kg had picked up the redbait. I quickly measured the two fish and poped them back. I used the same combination again – I was still trying for the poensie 100 bonus points if I could land one. As the water pulled back with the next swell, I was flattened again. This time I could feel that it was a better fish – I couldn’t believe how well the fish were biting! This definitely felt like a good fish. I forced it a bit to get it over the reef in front of me and, to my dismay, out popped a brown dog shark but there was another fish on the bottom hook still giving me a good rev.
As the fish washed into the gully, I could see that it was a nice-sized galjoen so I eased up a bit and managed to land yet another double on my second throw.
Onto the weigh mat, photos taken, and then my last piece of redbait with a prawn on the bottom hook still looking for the elusive poensie, but I wasn’t complaining as each throw was producing a new species. I waited a while for the next bite; this time, with solid headshakes I could feel I had two fish on. This was a first for me; a shad had eaten the redbait on the top hook and a dog shark the bottom hook with the frozen prawn. I had now landed five species and had one more to go for my six to qualify, with three hours of the competition still to go. I moved to the front and tried a different spot to see if I could find a poensie in the deeper water, but with the big swell it was only minutes before my sinker was washed into the bricks and broke off.
Fortunately, I had a spare trace and within a few minutes I was into another young cracker of just over the 1kg mark.
The tide had turned and I decided to move back into the bay to the flatter water. I was fishing with Greg Tim and he was very despondent by now, as he still hadn’t caught anything. On his first throw, he managed a massive zebra on coral worm. I landed another blacktail on my first throw and, while wading back, nearly stepped on a baardman of around 4kg. I spent the next hour casting on the edge, trying for a baardman. With five minutes to go, I burgled a young steenie that gave me my sixth species and the 200 bonus points.
It was a fantastic competition: Stefan landed two good-sized cracker, breaking the RASSPL record twice with fish of 11kg and 13kg before being pipped by Sean Riley with a fish of 86.5cm and 15kg.
Jarred landed a
spotted gully of 165cm and 24.1kg and set a new cracker record of 19.2kg – a
fantastic fish with which
to end the day. Bradley Kwong See landed a new RASSPL record shad in the Flatrocks section, setting the record at 63cm and 3.3kg.
Considering the conditions, there were some fantastic fish landed on the day. Craig Pautz landed a good-sized spotted gully of 149cm and 17kg and, in total, 158 fish were caught and released for the day, with two new records being set.
With the rapid decline of our fish stocks, it is important for rock and surf anglers to realise that the decrease in catches is not only to blame on commercial fishing but also on the thousands of anglers continually hammering our coastline every day. It is easy to see the damage that can be done just by looking at the short statistics we have captured during the past two years of RASSPL competitions: we have recorded a total of 35 galjoen with a total of 52 competitions being hosted around the country. The most galjoen ever caught in a one-day RASSPL event was four fish. During this year’s RASSPL nationals, we landed a total of four galjoen during the tournament out of a total of 956 fish being landed.
This should be a wake-up call for us to realise the damage we have caused over the years. We all need to take responsibility for what we take out and remember that all big cracker being landed are breeding stock with most being full of eggs and coming to breed during the winter months. Perhaps we need to adopt the Australian policy of releasing all fish over 10kg and keeping fish between minimum length and 1m to ensure we maintain fishing as a sport in the future. It is up to all anglers to manage these stocks, as our authorities don’t have the manpower to do it, and to speak up if you see anglers taking more than they need.
Looking at our RASSPL catch results in the Cape and Natal just goes to prove what damage overfishing can do to our sport – in most competitions, we can’t even catch enough fish for the prizes on offer. So please think before breaking your limit the next time you go fishing.