Lawrence Trott (The Royal Gazette) highlights Bermuda as a world class spearfishing destination. He writes that Bermuda’s offshore reefs, a haven for this sport, could be used to attract tourists to the island. [Fortunately, Bermuda has strict regulations on fishing.]
So says Craig Copik who has been spearfishing for two years and recently broke the world spearfishing record for a black grouper (rockfish) caught here. Mr Copik is part of a dedicated group of spearfishermen who regularly dive miles off the Island in search of giant rockfish. One such outing on March 14 landed him an 87.3lb rockfish that was ratified on March 28 as a world record. Rockfish of that size are plentiful, said Mr Copik whose favourite dive spot is Argus Banks, some 22 miles off the west end of the Island where the water is as deep as 200 feet. “Bermuda has been a hotbed of spearfishing for many years, local divers such as Odilio Angeli, Tom Steinhoff, Scotty Amos and Neil Bernie have been catching monster fish for more than a decade,” he said. “The pristine reef with its proximity to the shore, lack of strong current and warm water temperatures make this small island a spearfisherman’s dream.
[. . .] Strict regulations by the Department of Environmental Protection require spearfishermen to be licensed and it is illegal to fish within a mile of the shoreline or protected areas such as North Rock. The ability to freedive is vital to the sport. No breathing gear is used and, with spear guns illegal in Bermuda, polespears are the primary tools. [. . .] “It is illegal to use breathing apparatus. In Bermuda you are not allowed to use scuba equipment at all and are not allowed to use a gun.”
[. . .] Strict guidelines mean that local spearfishermen can only catch one rockfish per boat per day. Years ago the lobby group Friends of Fish urged Government to add the black rockfish to the list of protected species. “When I go out if I don’t see ten or 15 rockfish in a day I’m having a bad day,” said Mr Copik. “Spearfishermen are usually the most staunch conservationists, we love swimming around the beautiful reefs with these fish. It is in our interest that they get looked after. I fully understand those people’s concerns about us catching them, but if I could take these guys out and show them where I go I think they’ll be surprised at how many fish we see on an average day. We can’t sell the fish so there is no point in us catching more than we can eat.”
The emergence of the Marine Locker Annual Spearfishing Tournament has also helped with the popularity of the sport. It was in that tournament that Graham Cooper brought the record to Bermuda for the first time last April when he landed an 84lb black grouper. His record stood for a couple of months before it was broken in Mexico last June with an 86.4lb catch. After submitting the necessary paperwork Mr Copik’s new record was confirmed by the International Underwater Spearfishing Association.
“Generally among the spearfishermen locally we wanted to bring the record back to Bermuda because we definitely have the biggest rockfish in the world here,” he said, pointing out that even bigger rockfish than his record catch have been caught here but never weighed and put forward as a potential record. “Odilio Angelis’s first rockfish back in 2000 tipped the scales at more than 100lbs and Tom Steinhoff had one in 2010 on New Year’s Day that is probably even bigger than that, but his ‘big dog’ was never weighed. Tim Cooper, a well respected 100-foot-plus diver who has had multiple rockfish catches, is another diver who has caught fish over the world record size without ever making an attempt to register them.”
For full article, see http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20120410/ISLAND/704109999&source=RSS