Gone are old fishing days

SLOW GROWER: Lawrence Norman with a black mussel cracker
SLOW GROWER: Lawrence Norman with a black mussel cracker

SEASONAL trends are important and need to be understood by anglers as this is where the secret to success lies. The understanding will also help the angler with a better conservation perspective.

Many fish species behave differently as seasons change. Some fish migrate, some aggregate and school (for breeding time), while others become solitary. Their feeding trends also differ as a result.

Ski boat anglers can attest to these phenomena.

Unfortunately it is at this time that fish are often exploited. The Herald reader Lawrence Norman witnessed such an occurrence off Noordhoek recently.

The black mussel crackers were schooling and they caught several of these fish, which they tagged and released. Mussel crackers are extremely slow growers and the fish in our picture today could easily be 15 years old, if not more.

The black mussel cracker starts its life cycle as a female fish and grows up to 55cm (at about 10 years old), when the sex change begins.

By the time it reaches 70cm, it’s a male fish (about 18 years old).

During this transition, no breeding takes place with this generation and the fish, in my opinion, should not be kept.

It makes the species very vulnerable, especially with them being slow growers with a life span of about 45 years.

The area around Noordhoek abounds with species and presents extreme opportunity for reef as well as the predator species. It is not uncommon to catch the daily bag limit of 10 fish – all different species. This time of year, many species migrate from the Tsitisikamma region towards the Wild Coast. These schoolings are best understood as part of their breeding cycle.

The red steenbras or copper, as it is also known, behaves the same and as a result of exploitation has now been removed from the recreational fishing list.

Sadly, what we have lost as anglers will not be given back to us. Not in our lifetime, anyway.

I believe there are other species that are being considered for protection. The white steenbras is one of those that have reached critical levels.

The old days of stockfish angling in the deeper waters off Noordhoek are also not what they were.

Besides the fact that it is hard work, bag limits have made it unaffordable to catch these fish at the cost of fuel these days. Perhaps the species gets a chance to recover – or will the commercial sector take advantage of these opportunities?

Today, recreational angling is a pastime that costs a lot for the enjoyment of this sport which is slipping out of the reach of many. As a result, anglers now focus closer to home, which is also not good in the long run.

The end result will be more restrictions and closed seasons for anglers. – Reel Time, with Wayne Rudman

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