Esperance an angler's treasure trove

Joachim AzzopardiCountryman

Less than half a day's drive from many localities in the southern Wheatbelt, Esperance has long been a popular destination for many farmers yearning to bag some prized southern-dwelling fish species.

And with good reason - beneath the pristine waters off Esperance lies one of the most elaborate seabeds off the WA coast.

Sharp granite intrusions and intricate coral systems that rise from the ocean floor create deep gullies and canyons, providing the ideal habitat for an assortment of reef fish and pelagics.

While the islands and islets, many of which are visible from the Esperance port, give much of the underwater structure away, few know what lies beneath the sea better than Esperance Diving and Fishing proprietor Peter Hudson.

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Peter has been running his diving and fishing operation for almost 30 years and has provided weekly information for Big Fish since its inception in 2007.

Much of the information Peter provides is first hand, his personal observations while skippering his 60-foot charter boat The Southern Conquest.

Peter is often very modest when informing me of the fish his vessel picks up but week after week I am impressed by the size of some of the captures.

Among the most remarkable of these are some of the skippy he catches that weigh up to an astonishing 9kg.

Skippy, or silver trevally, of this size are seldom found anywhere else in the world and pound-for-pound are up there with the toughest fighting species.

Other powerful sportfish that anglers encounter aboard the charter vessel are yellowtail kingfish and samson fish.

Special trips to remote areas of the archipelago, such as Termination Island, are sometimes arranged for clients wanting to target kingfish and sambos.

During such outings, samson fish to a back-aching 45kg and yellowtail kingfish to 30kg are encountered.

Even those more interested in targeting quality table fish often land trophy-sized specimens.

In the summer months, red snapper and swallowtail are prolific in some areas, especially along the drop-offs that lead to depths of 60 to 80m.

Some of the reds hoisted aboard have been between 70 and 80cm, which is massive for red snapper.

Harlequin fish weighing close to 4kg and breaksea cod between 45 and 55cm are also often picked up.

In early spring, schools of pink snapper to 10kg - and some bigger - start to move into the area and it is not uncommon for the charter boat to encounter dozens of these during a single outing.

Peter attributes the quality of fishing off Esperance to the extensive ground that features aggressive depth changes.

For instance, in some areas a depth of 25m can drop off to 80m in a matter of metres.

There are even some islands that feature sheer drop-offs to 60m and deeper.

The clear waters, accessibility to deep water and the wealth of marine life also make Esperance one of the top dive areas in the world.

Peter's dive courses and charters are as much a hit as the fishing charters with wheat and sheep and dairy farmers treating their workers to some rest and recuperation at the end of the season.

·For more information on fishing and diving off Esperance or tours of its islands visit www.esperancedivingandfishing.com.au

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