Pearl Perch are a fisho’s delight. They’re easy to catch and they taste great. For most spearo’s they’re a little out of reach and generally considered a deep water fish. Tim McDonald and co have made Spearfishing Pearl Perch their own. During our interview with Tim he told us how the rest of us can improve our chances of shooting one of these fish.
1. Find the school first
Like a good fisherman Tim will look for a school of Pearl Perch with the Sounder first before getting in. Tim stresses that finding the fish first is the best way to go.
“we find them on the sounder before we even jump in the water”
2. Small Ground
Tim says that big structure isn’t needed to hold a school of Pearl Perch but rather small bommies or rubble patches. Something he calls small country.
“ honestly if you want to find big ones you need find somewhere not a lot of people are fishing”
To find big Pearlies Tim recommends finding out of the way spots that may not be on everyone’s radar and keeping those spots quiet. With Tim’s spots that hold Pearlies he only takes a couple every now and then so as not to deplete his schools. He refers to this method as farming and it ensures he can continue to harvest a feed of these great tasting fish.
“Pearl Perch would be the easiest fish in the ocean to approach”
4. The forgiving fish
Behaviourally Tim says that Pearlies are a little too dumb for their own good and if you aren’t hammering the school they won’t become overly flighty and scatter. A trait that may be responsible for them only being encountered at depths.
“They’re easy to catch on a line they just eat everything”
5. Get away from the crowds
Tim says that most of the Pearlies he shoots are in deeper water. He says the further into QLD you go the deeper the Pearlies are. If you are looking to shoot Pearlies in shallow water he recommends going into NSW and finding an isolated area. Tim says his best fish came from Coffs Harbour in an out of the way spot in relatively shallow water.
I can’t see myself shooting a Pearl Perch anytime soon but maybe Tim’s advice can help you to find your first Pearlie. The video above is a Perlie being shot. It’s no surprise there isn’t a lot of footage of these fish being targeted. If you’d like to listen to more from Tim Including Job Fish and Barramundi use the media player below.
“if you’re a QLD diver and you want to shoot a Barramundi, head north in winter and that’s your best chance to shoot a barra in water that’s clean enough to dive”
Spearfishing Barramundi can be a challenging prospect. These fish inhabit tropical and subtropical estuaries. The problem with that is inshore waters in the northern parts of Australia typically have poor visibility and also house saltwater crocodiles. Typically the visibility of inshore water along the QLD coast improves during winter giving spearos a window of opportunity to spear a prized Barramundi.
“a metre long Barramundi will die from a 5 degree temperature shift in a couple of hours”
According to Tim McDonald big Barramundi can’t survive temperature changes. During winter the temperature in the top of creeks where they normally inhabit can drop overnight which can be deadly for Barramundi. The Barramundi therefore make their way to the mouth of rivers or inshore reefs where the temperature is more stable. Fortunately for the spearo the water clarity can be much improved.
During the record 2011 floods in Qld many of the Barramundi stocked impoundments on the east coast became full to capacity and spilled over their spillways. Along with the water went thousands of fat impoundment barramundi. These fish made their way into estuaries along the coast where they became fair game for spearos. Many dams hadn’t spilled over for a decade and were plentiful with lazy freshwater Barramundi normally inaccessible to spearos.
During this period Tim shot one of these impoundment Barramundi 118cm long, just 2cm under the legal maximum length. The fish weighed 21.5kg . He says a true saltwater Barramundi would have only weighed between 18-20kg.
“2011 to 2013 was probably the best hunting for big barra in our lifetime. It will probably never happen again in our lifetime. Those dams will never spill like that again after ten years of drought”
When we asked Tim how to approach Barramundi on an inshore headland he said that Barra will be very flighty and difficult to approach due the fact that they have likely seen plenty of spearos during the winter. In isolated areas Tim says they are often much calmer to the point where they can be shot from the surface.
“In those areas where they’ve been chased around and probably seen a hundred spears fly at them over the course of the winter, definitely approach them from the bottom”
It takes trial and error to find where around a headland or inshore reef the Barramundi are going to be. Tim says guys then need to learn where they’re going to be. He recommends starting with places where the Barra can hide as they love to hide.
Once you’ve worked out where the Barra may be holding up Tim recommends approaching from the bottom as quietly and stealthily as possible. Swimming up to a spot on the surface will mostly always spook the fish and you won’t see them again.
“If you have four or five metres of visibility hunting Barramundi you’ve done really well. Predominately our Barramundi hunting is in 1-2m of vis”
“Having the mental strength to hunt really dirty water is something that is key to making a really good spearfisherman. Most guys get distracted. You could be swimming around for two hours and not see a Barra and then bang he’s right in your face when you haven’t got your finger on the trigger and you’re not ready and you just blew your moment.
Tim uses custom gear when hunting Barra. The combination of large fish, in dirty water requires a short powerful gun. The Barramundi is also renowned for its large thick scales that can be very difficult to penetrate.
Tim uses a custom 70cm Roller, 18mm bands and heavy 8mm shaft that is extremely sharp to penetrate tough Barra. This little Daniel Mann creation above is a prime example. More on Daniel Mann and his guns here
It’s clear that Tim uses predictable life cycle and weather patterns to give himself the greatest possible chance at shooting a Barramundi. It’s clearly not a year round endeavour but a seasonal challenge that takes a little planning around the weather and ocean conditions. The dirty water and poor visibility are another challenge for the spearo’s nerve and patience.
A big thanks to Tim McDonald for chatting with us and sharing his knowledge. Also a big thanks to whoever took the pics in this story. I pulled them from Tim’s facebook account and I’d love to credit you. I know a few have to be Daniel Mann’s , Thanks Mann it must have been an awseome couple of winters for you guys!
Spearfishing Striped Bass Masterclass with David Hochman
David Hochman is a veteran Striped Bass hunter and hold’s both Striped Bass world records. On the speargun at 68.5lb and on the pole spear world record at 54lb. He’s been spearfishing the area for 40 years and now takes great joy in running his spearfishing charter business Spear-it Charters (learn more here) where he hunts the grounds around Block Island. He is considered the Oracle of hunting Striped Bass and after reading this you’ll understand why. He shares with us some of his most important advice for hunting these incredible fish.
Striped Bass Terrain
David is located in mainland Rhode Island but hunts the waters around Block Island, particularly the Southern sea exposed side of the island. The Island is about 13miles from mainland Rhode Island and according to David has ideal conditions for Striped Bass.
“it’s all heavy rock structure, I mean some of our boulders are twenty five feet by twenty five feet they’re enormous”
David says the high current and heavy reef structure are what makes Block Island so perfect for holding large schools of quality Striped Bass.
After years of spearfishing the waters around Block Island David has accrued around 450 GPS way-points where he has encountered Striped Bass before. All of these he insists have good structure.
“I have about four hundred and fifty way-points and it’s interesting that on every way-point there’s a rock mass somewhere. I’ll run from way-point to way-point to way-point. In between those way-points there’s nothing, there’s a lot of water and when you get on top of the right one (way-point) boom there they are and they always go back to the same places”
When David recalls his 68.5lb world record Stripes Bass he refers to the “perfect set up”. An area where he can put a rock or boulder in his off shoulder, look past down current of another boulder into a flat area where the striped bass will congregate. The behavior is a little different to the pelagic fish like Mackerel and Wahoo of tropical reefs that prefer to patrol the front edge of the reef (current edge) looking for bait.
Hunting Striped Bass
“Yeah it’s a fascinating bottom and you know the more structure you have the better”
David emphasizes the importance of finding the schools of Striped Bass that can form extremely large schools. We asked David what advice he gives the guys on his charters when hunting Stripped Bass.
“You know dive down take their time with slow easy kicks. Stop kicking when you’re fifteen to twenty feet from the bottom and just coast into it (the school). Let the fish scatter, lay down, get that rock on your off arm, get your chin down against the ground, get your fins tucked in tight and then just look over your gun. Don’t move around, one of the things with our striped sea bass is that when you move at all when you’re in the school one fish bounces then the whole school bounces and then it takes another twenty seconds for the school to resettle so you really don’t want to do that you really just want to look straight over your gun and wait for a good fish to cross the gun and pull the trigger it’s as simple as that.”
David’s advice emphasizes the need to remain calm and patient but says the school will return if you remain still and patient.
David says the fish are for the most part found in thirty eight to forty five feet of water likely due to presence of bait at those depths. He says however it’s not unusual to find them in the shallows particularly in July.
“In July we’ll get them up in the shallows and it’s really something, I mean they slide right up into twelve to eighteen feet of water. And you’ve got these big schools of beautiful fish it’s pretty neat”
“A lot of guys want to face up current and you’re better off usually facing down current so you can move your gun a little better.”
There are times when I’ve dropped on a school of fish and even to this day after the thousands of times I’ve done it I still get so excited and times I lose track of my heart rate. What I’ll do is I’ll look down at the sand and I’ll take my eyes off the fish entirely and look down at the sand for about ten seconds, drop my heart rate down bring my head back up and start hunting again and they never leave.
The Striped Bass Season
David says the season for Striped Bass generally runs from June 15th until late October when they will run up the Hudson River and winter.
“Probably the best time for our really big bass, most of my sixty’s and fifty’s (lbs) have come from June twenty fifth until July tenth right in that window you know. But he says there’s still a great chance of landing a big Striped Sea Bass outside of this time frame.
According to David the fishery is improving due to catch limits being reduced to one fish per day from 2 fish per day. David believes this could be why he is having his most successful year on Spear It charters.
“One of the most difficult things I’ve always had with these fish is that if you connect your mono to the back of your shaft it tears off within five or six fish and you break the shaft off. What I ended up doing was taking a short piece of Dyneema, like a 1.9mm. Putting it through the back of the shaft and then just tying an over hand not in that and then attaching my mono to that loop. I can now with that run the entire season of taking big fish.”
“I do not like stiff fins, a proper kick is more important”
David exclusively uses reel guns over rig lines due to the high current and the frequency of drifts that they do in a day’s diving.
Because of the high current because you’re getting in and out of the boat I prefer reels if they’re set up properly as long as you make sure every dive you don’t have any tangles in the real
David teaches all new divers to palm the real and maintain pressure on the fish as it runs. This is to prevent backlash and he also believes helps to stop the spear from coming out as it maintains pressure on the flopper.
I hope you were able to learn something from David’s advice. He is a wealth of knowledge on Striped Bass and definitely knows how to put his patrons on the fish.
Travis Hogan holds a passion for hunting big pelagic species like Dogtooth Tuna, wahoo and yellowfin Tuna on the Great Barrier Reef. Travis is the owner of Aimrite Australia and we spoke to Travis about his passion for Bluewater hunting in North Queensland and what it takes to have success chasing these powerful fighting fish.
Travis explained to us that bluewater hunting on the GBR is seasonal, generally September through to January. I must admit this came to some surprise to me as I thought the warm tropical waters were always productive for pelagic species.
The current runs from North to South and is essential for finding dogtooth tuna and other pelagic fish.
Travis firmly believes that the front edge of the reef where the current hits first is by far the most productive area of the reef for pelagic species. So much so that he is adamant you will be wasting your time anywhere else.
“You’ll see a lot more fish on that front edge then if you were drifting off the back of the reef. Don’t jump into no mans land. You’re better off being where the fish are.”
He recommends to keep moving and searching for the fish. Particularly bait fish that pelagic’s will feed on. It makes sense to locate their food source. The bait will often sit on the front edge attracting the larger predatory species like wahoo.
“If you’re drifting along the edge of a reef and you’re off the back of the reef get in the boat, get all yourshit in the boat and go back out for another drift”
Another technique that Travis employs is to venture off the continental shelf and look for floating debris. He says the debris attracts Dolphin fish (mahi mahi) and wahoo.
Every year there is an aggregation of big eye tuna and yellowfin tuna schools in Travis’ area. Travis will look for baitfish being schooled up by predatory fish on the surface. He calls this surface action “bust up’s”. Bird’s dive-bombing the surface for baitfish is another give away known as “birds working the surface”.
“It’s literally an aggregation of Big Eye (tuna) and Yellowfin Tuna but unfortunately you’ve got to be ready to go when it’s on and know where it is”
Travis will watch the school and try to pre-empt where the school is moving then move in front of the school and dive. Unfortunately Travis says they can do this all day and sometimes never shoot a thing but insists persistence is the key. Often a very difficult thing to maintain when there’s so many tasty reef fish in the area
“We try to get in front of it then jump in and do a dive to ten- fifteen metres and hope a couple of Yellowfin are swimming through it.”
“Doggies love current”
We all want to shoot a trophy dogtooth tuna and North Queensland is a great place to do it. Travis stresses that to improve your chances of encountering a dogtooth tuna you should engage a guide or at least someone that dive’s the area regularly. He says it’s one thing to know there’s dogtooth in the area but it’s another thing to know exactly where they are going to be in the prevailing conditions. According to Travis it comes down to currents and finding that front edge where the current is.
“If you’re on the back of the reef you’re literally not going to see a thing”
Travis recommends early morning and late afternoon for the best chance at a dogtooth tuna.
The Ribbon reefs are sections of the Great Barrier Reef known to North Queenslanders as the Ribbons. According to Travis the Ribbons become more productive later in the year. He recommends the incoming tide that brings with it the clean blue water. It also brings with it large pelagic species like wahoo. The reverse is true for the reef species.
“On the outgoing tide it’s the reverse, all your reef species are up and alive”
The dogtooth tuna is famous for being a dirty fighter and will uncover any weak points in a spearo’s equipment.
Travis recommends using a rigline and two or three floats when targeting big pelagic’s. The floats he uses are Aimrite two atmosphere floats with Riffe braided floatline and his own bungee for extra confidence. He uses an Aimrite King Venom or double roller as he needs the range in clear water as well as the penetration power for these large fish.
“We’re always using rig lines and two or three floats”
The setup he uses is simple and robust and gets the job done.
After speaking with Travis it’s clear he has spent substantial time out wide searching for large pelagic species on the Great Barrier Reef. One of the clear points is finding the impact points of current on the reef. It takes time and patience to find these productive fishy spots and you need to stick to your guns to make it happen but the rewards are definitely worth it.
You can check out the full Aimrite range with our sponsor www.spearfishing.com.au Remember to use the “noobspearo” code at checkout to save $20 on any purchase over $200.
Happy Hunting I hope this improves your chances of shooting a big pelagic fish. If you have any comments make sure to leave them below.
Brandon Hendrickson is known throughout the spearfishing world for his expeditions and the big fish he shoots on these expeditions. What many people don’t know is his ability and passion for spearfishing deep and just how quickly he improved his ability for spearfishing deep. In fact Brandon is now a world title freediver as well as a spearfishing world record holder. In this article we look at how Brandon has become so successful at spearfishing deep.
1.Spend money on improving yourself
“Rather than spending a thousand dollars on another trip to be unsuccessful. I spent a thousand dollars on a training camp. Knowing that my next trip is going to be more probable of being a success was worth it.”
Brandon is a big believer in self-development and a big believer in educating yourself to be a better spearo. It’s hard to argue with a guy that that holds two IUSA world records and is a recent bronze medallist in Free Immersion at the world champs.
2.Breath ups are key to spearfishing deep
“My breathe up’s are no less than twice the length of any dive and very often three to four times that length.” So if I’m going to do a two and a half to three minute dive. I typically try to aim for about an eight minute breathe up between those dives to err on the side of safety but also to err on the side of I’m going to have a more effective dive”
3.Expect to make fewer dives when spearfishing deep
“You have to realise you’re going to have less dives in a day. You’re not going to punch one hundred and twenty dives to 120ft a day. If you’re an animal you might be able to punch fifty dives a day.”
4. Conservation of oxygen
“You’re trying to minimise the amount of kicking and movement you’re going to be doing. Beyond sixty feet you’re going into sink faze around sixty to seventy feet and you’re coasting and either relying on the bottom or you’re relying on your sink rate to control the length of your dive”
You will often see footage of freedivers streamlining and sinking to the bottom without kicking. Brandon uses the same technique when diving deep. It conserves precious oxygen needed for the aspetto and the return swim to the surface.
5. Focus on your return to the surface
“Go ahead and let go of your gun. At depths, nine times out of ten you’re not going to be shooting anything on your way up. Less drag, less weight for you to bring up and take your time coming up. Spend as least amount of energy and be efficient”
Brandon focuses on improving his ascent. The less energy he uses on the way up the better his recovery will be and potentially the more dives he can do in a day.
6. A safety diver is a must for spearfishing deep
“We don’t do those type of dives in poor visibility, that’s something for everybody to keep in mind”
I want my dive partner to be able to see me and I want them following my float line even if I go beyond visibility but if you can’t pick me up by the time I reach about sixty feet and be able to either meet me at depths or meet me at the surface then I’m not going to take the chance of making that dive. So it’s a conversation for every diver to have with their dive partner. I always start those conversations in the planning stages of my trips”
Listening to Brandon it is clear that self improvement through education and freediving courses or simply self reviewing ones technique is important for spearfishing deep. Both myself and Shrek have done freediving courses or some kind of routine training to improve our depth, particularly before a big trip. I personally recommend the courses athowtofreedive.com (use the code noobspearo).
I hope this helps you in some way to become a better safer spearo.