With Jim’s Bait and Tackle

TRAGICALLY there has been another person washed/fallen off the ledge at Punch Bowl and many of the comments I am hearing, or reading, are based around the same thing: let’s take the easy way out and penalise those who do the right thing and “close that area to all fishermen.”
Is Punch Bowl dangerous? Yes.
Can Punch Bowl be fished safely? Yes.
I understand the argument that every time someone falls off people have to go and look for them, often in unfavourable conditions putting themselves in risky situations.
What we have to remember is these people are highly trained and thankfully that is the job they have chosen to do – they often risk their own lives for others. We are going into our 14th year in the shop and in that time eight people have lost their lives at Punch Bowl, many in the first few years as well as a handful washed off that were safely rescued.
Also in that time, there has probably been an average of 1000 or more people fishing at Punch Bowl each year without incident. My concern with closing it off completely is what happens when someone falls off a jetty, or on another beach or rock ledge and loses their life, are we just going to try and close that too?
Several years ago, when the last person lost their life, we were in that area in the boat and called in to assist in the search, spending two hours looking. We found the angel ring and were on a direct course to the guy when the helicopter called us off as they had spotted him.
Because of this we were interviewed by someone from the coroner’s office and were part of the conversation. There were suggestions put forward then from their conversations about making life jackets compulsory for those who want to fish there, as it is in many parts of NSW.
There was also a question of education for those fishing there, signage or direct one-on-one education. You can fall off Punch Bowl anytime but getting washed off, as most have been, is a time that can be predicted with swell/wind and tide times.
I am unsure if any of these suggestions/recommendations made it anywhere, but I would, for all those that fish there safely, prefer some of them be looked at first.
Just as a comparison and using the same argument that someone has lost their life and it’s dangerous so close it, more people have lost their lives on our local surf beaches, lost their lives in boats in local waters and far more lost their lives on our local roads in the last five years, so do we close all of that too?
The only easy answer from all of this is you will never save somebody from their own stupidity, but you can help educate them to be lees stupid.
The weather hasn’t really settled into any pattern other than unpredictable spring which is making it difficult to predict a good time to head out for a fish. The forecast bad days are turning out good and vice versa so it’s just a case of looking out the window, I think.
The reports have matched the conditions and when the opportunity presents the fishing has been good. We are starting to see some very good early season land-based fishing and the boats are patchy, but the quality of the fish is what you would expect to see this time of the year.
One that has been down a little in quality but building in quantity is whiting and reports that are coming in are respectable fish around mid 30cm but bags into double figures are becoming common. The reports are when and where you would expect to catch them, morning below the bridge and evening above the bridge.
The reports have been reasonably widespread coming from most usual spots around the bay and the best reports haven’t come from one spot but from the best spot to fish on the day according to the conditions which suggests that the numbers in the bay are good.
The reports are showing that there is a bit of inconsistency with some saying that the whiting are very soft in the bite and you have to really work at it while others are saying they are hitting hard and circle hooks are the way to go.
These different reports are often coming from the same day which makes it even more confusing, so probably the best advice would be to just go with what you would normally do but have options. Baits haven’t changed and never really do – pippies, pilchards and squid.
Snapper reports are slowly coming in and we have probably seen as many from the land as from the boats with the winds not being that friendly to get to the early season fish.
Land-based, we have had reports from Newhaven jetty, one from Cowes jetty and a couple from the open beaches, which could be anywhere but the only description that the customers would give.
From the boats, the reports have come from several places between Tortoise Head and Spit Point which is a huge area but the same channel and typical of this time of the year.
Those closer to Tortoise Head are reporting the odd fish traveling past while those further up towards Spit Point are saying the snapper are schooling up, just not that hungry yet. Everyone is telling me that the water is still very cold and difficult to fish at times with the weed.
Calamari reports are consistent, especially with most that are fishing chasing them to build up the bait supplies.
Overall, they are a little slow and very inconsistent and with the weed still around difficult at times but then someone wanders in with a report of a bag they caught easily and all good size. Like the whiting, I think there are good numbers in the bay it’s just finding the favourable conditions to catch them.