white pointer shark

DANGERS TO AVOID WHEN FISHING AROUND AUSTRALIA

We Aussies are a tough bunch. Dodging deadly critters is just part of our day job and fishing wouldn’t be as exciting without them. Below are a few creatures and circumstances that Aussie fishos encounter on a daily basis and several tips on how to minimise the danger.

CROCODILES

From Broome in Western Australia to Gladstone in southeastern Queensland, anglers need to keep their wits about them in both salt and freshwater. Estuarine crocodiles lurk in these parts and while attacks aren’t common, you definitely don’t want to be the next statistic. Croc numbers are also reportedly on the rise.

Crocodile habitat is diverse. Believe it or not, saltwater crocs can be found in clear freshwater rainforest streams, in murky estuaries, along coastal beaches and all the way out to the coral reefs and islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

When fishing known crocodile waters avoid dangling appendages from boats or trees if you’re casting on foot. Crocs are very good at leaping from the water to snatch prey. Never wade, walk or splash near the water’s edge, particularly if the water is murky or deep and don’t ever enter the water to retrieve a snagged lure. There’s a good reason why crocodiles have existed on earth for 200 million years. They are the masters at stalking prey and you won’t see them coming until it’s much too late. Check out this clip to see what we mean.

 

SHARKS

Sharks are prevalent along the entire Australian coastline. Great whites, whalers and to a lesser extent tiger sharks are the usual suspects in attacks or near misses. The chance of being bitten or killed by a shark is low – there are much greater dangers during a daily stroll down the street. Nevertheless, shark activity appears to have increased in recent years. So whether it’s hooking a shark, having one steal a fish off your line, or an up close and personal boat inspection, anglers are highly likely to interact with a shark at some point.

Steer clear of the water when they are agitated or excited sharks hanging around. Do not wade or enter the water anywhere near a whale carcass or large schools of baitfish – these are shark hot spots. Remain alert when wading around river mouths and take extra precaution if hauling a hooked shark onto a boat is essential.

 

ROCK FISHING

Rock fishing is one of the deadliest sports in Australia. Every year unprepared fishos take unnecessary risk and end up injured or worse. The sea is an unpredictable and merciless beast, so rock fishers must take every possible precaution to be prepared.

Plan fishing outings meticulously. Assess the site for dangers and have an escape plan. Fish with a friend or two, monitor the weather conditions and never turn your back on the water. Wear appropriate clothing that includes a life jacket, non-slip shoes and lightweight apparel. Wetsuits also provide warmth and buoyancy but are not a substitute for a life jacket. Take heed of the warnings in the video below. It’s a retro film with some Oscar winning performances, but the tips are spot on.

 

SNAKES

Home to 17 of the top 20 most venomous land snake species in the world, it’s no wonder Aussie fishos need to be cautious. This is particularly the case if you love bush-bashing up river banks and trudging through coastal creeks in search of native freshwater fish.

Snake bites and fatalities are rare in Australia and are usually the fault of the victim. Don’t antagonise snakes. Give them a wide berth and they should cause no harm. Venom production expends energy and the last thing a snake wants to do is waste venom unnecessarily. They’d rather keep it stored for something useful, like catching food.

Wear boots, gaiters and loose clothing for added protection and carry a setopress bandage and communications device if you’re in remote country. Time is the critical factor with snakebites and a compression bandage will buy time until you can reach a source of anti-venom. Whatever you do, don’t copy this bloke.

 

BOX JELLYFISH

Picture this… A deadly creature that’s up to 4 metres long, yet hard to spot. It lurks in shallow coastal waters and estuaries, is 95% water and contact with one can result in death in as little as 120 seconds. Box jellyfish are remarkable but nasty beasts and are yet another tropical hazard during the warmer months.

Thankfully, it’s pretty simple to protect yourself against them. If you’re wading and fishing in tropical waters from November to May, you should always wear long pants or a stinger suit for protection. The nematocysts (stinging barbs) from a box jellyfish sting are so tiny that any material that prevents direct contact with the tentacles will protect you. Whether you’re casting in the shallows, throwing a cast net or jumping in and out of boats, it’s wise to have these critters in the back of your mind.

 

BAR CROSSINGS

As an island nation, Australia is surrounded by ocean. This means that any offshore boat fishing usually requires some serious consideration of waves and swell. Not all coastal towns have easy or safe access to and from protected harbours so bar crossings at river mouths are a regular occurrence.

Unfortunately, bar crossings can be precarious and the conditions vary greatly by location and weather. It’s best to harness as much local information as possible before embarking on any such crossing. Watch weather conditions and tides closely, don’t push the capabilities of your vessel, make sure you have safety gear and wear life jackets. Here are some examples of bar crossing gone wrong.

 


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Peter Hollingsworth
peterh@dinga.com.au

Peter has been fishing all around Australia since he was a boy. He loves camping, fishing and kayak fishing.