By Craig Edmonds of Jim’s Bait and Tackle, San Remo

DURING this time of the year plenty of people are out to use our waterways either via boat, kayak or just off the land. We all always use the water with a positive attitude, but the thought of safety is often one that is never spoken about. How many people, when they get onto your new boat, do you show where the safety gear is, and can everyone on the boat start and drive it, at least good enough to get back to help should something happen to you. How often do you check your safety gear, and not just flares and bailing buckets but your torch, marine radio or navigation and anchor lights? Is your fire extinguisher in good condition still and your Epirb still in date for those travelling offshore, and how many people know their registration number which is one of the first things asked when you call police or coast guard. Another thing many don’t now is if you get into trouble call 000 and say you want the water police and while the water police may not attend they can quickly asses the situation and quickly put things in motion to get you help. While all this might sound a little unnecessary as some will say the scary part is, we speak to a lot of people this time of the year and some of the stories people tell us are scary. Some of the things people often tell us are that they often fish at night without any lights on, or they go out in kayaks that at night without a torch, or they go out in kayaks to fish without a life jacket, or regular offshore boaters that have no idea how to use their Epirb. One customer joking said that he will just read the instructions when he needs to use it. Then there are those who store their lifejackets in a place that it takes 10 minutes to get them, and customers who tell us their marine radio isn’t even wired up, its just there for regulations, and those with radios that have no idea what channel they should use in an emergency, or with fire extinguishers stored somewhere in the cabin last time they looked anyway. And those are just some of the better responses we got over the summer period. There were much worse!
While it’s a bit like the roads, where it’s impossible to check everyone, the concern I have and have had for many years is “why do the water safety checks conducted by Marine safety get done once we are already on the water?”. If, like they say when they pull alongside and tell you they are doing “safety checks” isn’t it all too late by then because you have travelled to get to where you are so plenty could have already gone wrong. Fisheries I understand because you are in the act of catching fish while you are on the water, but safety is something you start out with. If it was truly in the name of safety shouldn’t it be done while you are in the line at the boat ramp. Safety items are fairly standard for most boats and there is not a lot of difference between trailer boats so why can’t marine safety have a check list and as a boat pulls into the carpark the boat be checked. One person could check the registrations of both boat and trailer. This would take probably 10 minutes maximum and would mean that the boat is heading onto the water in a safe condition, might mean far fewer fines, which is maybe the problem, but I would think safety should come long before the income generated by fines. Those at the ramp can be noted on the computer and if caught twice triple the fines. I understand that there aren’t the numbers to do this at every boat ramp but if it was done randomly at the ramps during the season along with the water patrols it might just get people thinking about checking all their gear. At the moment we have marine safety doing safety checks once we are on the water and fisheries doing checks once back at the ramp, just seems the wrong way around to me.
While I certainly don’t have all the answers I like many get fed up with the rules being tightened because of those doing the wrong thing. Maybe in conjunction with marine safety a local club or group set up a day to get your boat checked. Marine safety could charge a nominal fee for this service but do a thorough check of all your gear and offer suggestions to make things safer. The start of the season would be the best time for something like this and we would be willing to assist where possible to let people know. The San Remo traders will be organizing the San Remo Fishing festival this year and it will be in the early spring so maybe there could be an area set aside for this to happen as part of the day, there is also a rumor that they are trying to revive the blessing of the fleet, which hasn’t been done for around 20 years so you could have your safety check done and take part in the blessing for the season ahead. Many years ago, I was involved with the St Kilda coastguard and a similar thing was done, and you received a sticker to put on your boat which didn’t exempt you from the rules, but it did mean a very quick check if they picked you up on the water.
As for the fishing this week and over the weekend there were fish everywhere and most people bagged out, but that’s the made-up part of the report. The truth is, check last weeks reports because little has changed. It wasn’t quite as gloomy as that and we did see some quality catches both in size and quantity over the weekend and I would suggest with the boat traffic significantly reduced this week that some good reports will start to come in. It was back to what you would call normal over the last few days with tide changes the best time, on the overcast days, but when the sun came out and the sky was clear it was back to the ends of the day.
Whiting in all the usual spots and several reports from the banks off Rhyll and the grass areas between Leola Shoal and Coronet Bay. For those who like to be even more frustrated with their fishing walk down to the San Remo jetty and look under the boats because the reports for the most fish have come from those seeing them in the water around the boats but that’s where they stayed and despite some trying everything over the last few days no takers.
Pinkie numbers increased more than most other species as the very small ones moved in but it would appear that a few older brothers and sisters came with them because we saw half a dozen snapper over 5kg caught. Before you rush out thinking they have come back, there wasn’t any pattern to these fish at all with every report coming from a different spot.
Offshore continued but the flathead were a bit harder to find, which I think had more to do with the swell than wwith the lack of fish. We had a few Mako reported, and bronze whaler, with quality gummies towards the windmills and out of the western entrance. Any tuna or kingfish action seem to be concentrated to the western entrance and while I had plenty of secondhand reports we haven’t spoken to anyone that actually landed one.