It was the biggest war on water since Kevin Costner took on the Smokers in Waterworld — Spearos vs Fishos. The battleground was out among the bait balls off Port MacDonnell in South Australia, and it all came to a head during the hot bite spring of 2019. The locals and line fishos were none too pleased about the influx of spear fishermen lobbing onto their, er, balls. They reckoned the spearos were taking too many fish and cutting all the fishos out of the action. There was even rumours of fist fights in car parks. Racist slurs were made and Facebook raged. It wasn’t a pretty look for fisherfolk — on or under the sea. Now this is not a new phenomenon. It’s been happening on the east coast bait balls and fads for years, but until now they’ve managed to contain the rage.
For those out of the loop, there are official rules set by Fisheries for this shit — like respecting the rules of dive flags, proximity to other boats on the water and bag limits.
These are a good starting point for keeping out of trouble. However, it’s with the unwritten rules that shit gets a little tricky. Here are a few loose guidelines I reckon any self-respecting captain should follow. First in, best dressed, but when you’ve had a good crack — above or below the water — then move on. “When is enough, enough?” I hear you ask. It did raise a few eyebrows to see a rec fishing boat deck with four barrels, each held upright by a proud spearo. One gripe from the line fishos is that everything shot is dead, there’s no tag and release. In the spearos’ corner, if you’ve been chasing the fish of a lifetime, you take that opportunity when it comes.
Ultimately, we’re all out there for the same goal. It comes down to being a professional and decent skipper. Good, healthy communication is important. Let your words — not fists — do the talking and leave the racial slurs out of the mix.
GRANT’S TIPS FOR NOT being a dog ON WATER
1. First in, best dressed
2. Know the official rules
3. Be a decent skipper
4. Talk it out, don’t punch on
5. Leave the racial insults at home