When game fishing expert Captain Peter Bristow caught this tiny Long Nosed Spearfish off the Portuguese island of Madeira he described it as “the prettiest thing I have ever seen”. Peter has seen a lot of pretty fish too.
The day before he caught (tagged and released) a 700 pound relative, the first spearfish of the season.
Peter and his mates Peter Wright and Dennis Wallace were the original black marlin game fishing skippers who made Cairns, Queensland the prime big game fishing destination in the world.
Peter is 74 this year, (2011) and has 58 years experience with the sea. At present home is Madeira off Morocco. The ocean currents there bring whales, dolphin, tuna and bill-fish encounters described by experts as ‘extraordinary opportunities’ for both fishing and snorkeling.
While living at Cairns, Queensland, Peter Bristow played a significant part in sparking media interest which ultimately protected the unique family of potato cod that later became world-famous.
Known as ‘The Cod Hole’ these fish are slowly leaving due to regulations that limit feeding them. Fish feeding situations unfortunately tend to ‘get out of hand’.
The problems began when pair of former moray eels died whilst being forcefully ‘relocated’. The move considered a necessity after a woman was seriously mauled by the largest eel, her arm requiring amputation.
The cod/grouper were also ‘keen feeders’. Diver Dale Chapman once having his whole head ‘mouthed’ by one of these grouper. (“The lights suddenly went out” said Dale).
Vic and I quit our jobs and were heading north for three months of diving with a rented timber boat, a tent and a 45 HP outboard motor. At Woolgoolga we picked up the 7 kg crayfish, (now known as rock lobster). It wasn’t eaten. We sold it to the original porpoise pool at Tweed Heads (NSW) to help pay for travel costs.
By this stage we had another couple with us, Ron Taylor and his girlfriend Valerie. It was to be an amazing adventure.
I ‘blacked-out’ and almost drowned during a deep free dive, we speared fish, photographed sharks and sea snakes and camped on Nor’ West Island where I developed ‘coral poisoning’ in my knee and could not walk or even stand up.
I was saved by the early return of “Riversong” and the later to be legend, Captain Wally G Muller of ‘Coralita’ charter boat fame in the Coral Sea.
For each of us it was an amazing adventure at a time with fewer people, less boats, more fish, more sharks. We became life-long friends too.
I did not return to ordinary work either. This was the beginning of a professional association with the new world of underwater photo journalism and documentary films.
A large fish speared under the nose of a white tipped reef shark is an experience to remember, especially the first time it happens. Sharks obviously hear and feel vibrations sent from a fish in trouble and know this as a ‘dinner invitation’.
The thrills commence when the shark initially thinks it’s the snorkeler in trouble. Sometimes anxious moments develop. The diver may even poke the shark away with the empty speargun until Mr Shark wakes-up and smells the bleeding fish.
Experienced divers may ‘fight the shark away’. Learners let the shark have a feed.
This blue spot trout became shark food and gave Port Douglas underwater model, Lynn Roberts an exciting moment to remember.