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Julian Chan Smashes a Cobia

Julian Chan Smashes a Cobia


Diver Name: Species: Weight:


It’s funny how one word – “jewies” can instantly double your heart rate and ruin your breath hold.  It’s even worse when it’s followed by “there’s over 50 of them, all big!”.  Thanks for the kind words JLo!

We were up at South West Rocks in Autumn 2007.  I’m doing the usual swim, it seems almost routine now.  Dive through the murk, touch the bottom and carefully crawl towards the drop off, ascend, breathe up and repeat.  I’m looking for a flash of silver/bronze, listening for a croak or tail thump that might betray a school of mulloway.  This day is not my day, it’s JLo who surfaces hooting with excitement.  He’s secured a great fish, a 12kg mulloway and with a handful of words reduces me to above mentioned breathless wreck, frantically searching for the school.

I scour the joint and I mean SCOUR it for jewies.  On the reef, over the drop off, on the sand working in a zig-zag pattern so I cover every square metre where the jew could be schooling.  I’m hovering on the surface breathing up with a light current running west to east.  The water is 18m deep and I’m almost out of ground to search.  Out of the corner of my eye I sense some movement and from the bottom spiral a school of cobia.  They do the usual circle work, spiralling around me, eyeing me off at close range.  I estimate them to range from 7kg up to 12kg, a school of half a dozen or so.

Diving just under the surface, I focus on one fish in the school, line it up and with last minute indecision decide his buddy to the right is a little bigger.  So it’s a quick change of direction with my 1.4m EDGE and the school gets jittery so I take a quick shot at the fleeing fish.

It’s a hit!  I watch the spear pass through the cobia just behind the dorsal fin before the fish surges to the bottom with a few powerful kicks.  The next few minutes are played lightly until I can follow the line down to inspect the shot.  The fish is just pinned near the tail, thrashing wildly and doesn’t seem to be hurt or slowing down anytime soon as it tries to seek refuge underneath a huge bull ray.  So now instead of being played lightly, this game is played really lightly, I don’t put any pressure on at all.

I do a 360 degree scan on the surface, I can’t see any of my dive buddies or their floats.  Damn you Murphy and your stupid Law!  I’m alone in this fight, and I did not enjoy it!  10 minutes of feathering the line back and forth and the cobia isn’t showing any signs of tiring soon.  I take another dive and the cobe is on a patch of sand in a gutter, kicking up clouds of sand.  I try and pin him to the sand but he has different ideas and moves onto the reef.  Here I can see the spear is holding through 8cm of flesh, flopper engaged and the tear is still very small.

I bite the bullet and gradually pull the fish to the surface, which isn’t working in my favour because he is coming up tail first.  Two kicks and he’s back on the bottom and I’ve lost metres of line.  Slowly, slowly is the key and soon I have my hands on the gun, then mono and finally the spear.  I grab the fish and wrap it up, arms, legs, fish and spear all one large mass until I can subdue the fish.  In my arms it feels bigger than what I estimated, its head is huge!

Back on dry land that afternoon it pulled the scales to 18kg.  It was a particularly long and skinny fish, it’s becoming a running joke that I only spear the skinny ones, and in the tail too!