Good day for a dive, fish and a sleep

Last updated 08:45 28/09/2012
Mandy Smith
Mark Watson
Mandy Smith holding a blue cod and a moki.

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Fish and Trips

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Last Saturday I was on my first dive trip of the new season.

Of course, the hard-core and keen dive all year round, but having multiple interests, I am happy to forgo the cold of winter and focus on other hobbies.

I was with friends on Saturday, who are also members of the underwater section at the Clubs of Marlborough, and I have mentioned in the past how good it is to be part of such groups simply for the pleasure of meeting new people who share similar interests and, ultimately, make new friends.

We met at Garry's to load the boat with all our gear and it's a good thing he has a good-sized boat, because four scuba divers have a lot of stuff and you sometimes wonder where everyone will fit. Not on this day - the boat took it all with ease.

We met the other two groups of divers at the marina and then headed off to the outer Sounds. Once we got to our destination, it was the moment of truth - Garry was keen for a dive, so I had to take the plunge and join him.

I must point out my hesitation and Garry's lack of it. You see, my suit is designed more for freediving and as such it has no inner lining, which allows it to fit better and trap the warmth against your body, whereas Garry's suit is what they call a dry suit.

To get into my suit, I need to lubricate it so it doesn't stick to my skin and prevent me from getting in. This is never really easy, as I'm pretty soft and the wind was fairly cool, so I'm sure you can understand why I was a bit slow gearing up.

Once I step in and the suit is on, I warm up quickly, but it's still a bit of a mind game for me.

Anyway we got in and headed for the bottom, which was about 16 metres away. Once down there, we searched the rocks and caves looking for our quarry - crayfish.

It didn't take long to catch a few, although it wasn't as easy as it sounds, as many of the females were still carrying eggs or "in berry", as those in the know would say.

A few of the bucks were still in soft shell too, so our job was a bit harder than we would have liked, having to pick through the numbers to get ones we could keep. There were good-sized moki hanging around as we were diving, so a few of them fell to well-placed spear shots and graced the chilly bin with the crayfish.

Our other two divers faced the same situation, so after we had all got back on board and dried off, we headed off for a fish. The other boats were still hunting for crayfish as we headed out to the cod grounds, so we left them to catch up with us later.

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It's not just a case of going out to a rock or deeper water and dropping lines and all your dreams come true. It can often take a lot of shifting and searching before you get on to a reasonable group of fish.

This was one of those days, but in saying that, I dropped my favourite lure to the bottom and caught two good-sized cod at the same time - two-thirds of my limit in one drop sure helps the cause.

The others were having mixed success and we all struggled to catch anything of note. By now, the other boats had joined us and were also line fishing, so we had a bit of a catchup on the diving and back to the fishing.

We did catch our limit during the next couple of hours, but it took some work and frustration. Our best cod measured 49.5 centimetres, which is a good-sized fish by most people's standards.

We had fished till just before slack tide and another dive was in order, with Garry coming up trumps with some good-sized crayfish before we headed back into the Sounds for some scallops.

Fortunately, scallops don't often scurry into caves or swim constantly out of reach so it's generally just a case of searching until you find what you're looking for. Remember that when taking these, they should be measured and counted as you go. Once they are in your catch bag, they are deemed to have been taken.

Life's not perfect and sometimes you get some just under size, so the first thing you should do back on the boat is to recount and measure and put back any that don't comply.

Overall, we had a great day with good company and weather, so no complaints from anyone on board, and a good feed each to top it off.

I was grateful I wasn't driving the boat home, as it would have been easy to nod off with the afternoon sun streaming through the cabin windows.

- The Marlborough Express

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