survival came to life and went berserk as it headed for the bottom . Fearing a line wrap , I let the fish go . Suddenly the big sea lion appeared and grabbed my yellowtail . Next , I found myself 15 feet down and going fast toward the bottom . I released my reel but nothing happened and I kept descending . As I got my feet under me to start kicking upward , I saw that my stringer was tangled around the end of my gun . I reached for my knife on my leg , only to find that the stringer had wrapped around the knife ’ s release mechanism , preventing me from getting it free .
Still headed down and kicking as hard as I could , I decided that I was going to die . My last effort was devoted to ripping the knife free from my wetsuit which I did , tearing it from its sheath , straps and snaps . Luckily , having the knife off my leg changed the angle of my stringer line enough to allow it to untangle from my gun . I pulled the reel release on the gun , and I made it to the surface just before I thought I would pass out . I managed two quick breaths before the sea lion , reaching the end of my 150-foot reel line , pulled me under again . This time my decision was easy and I released the gun . This would be the fifth and last time I lost that gun . When I meet that sea lion again , I wonder if it will be sporting a spearshaft from its upper lip .
Your line can tangle on almost anything , including you or the bottom . South African Tommy Botha tells a chilling story about diving on the wreck Produce in Durban , South Africa , in 30 meters of water .
When the current slackens enough to allow us to dive , we usually can count on large schools of kob from 15 to 40 kilos . The boat dropped us off up-current from the wreck and
we drifted down toward it . The visibility was good and I managed to shoot a 6-kilogram rock salmon . When I surfaced from my next dive I heard one of the guys yelling , ‘ Nick ’ s down ! Nick ’ s down !’
With my heart pumping wildly as I swam upcurrent , I tried to relax for the 30-meter dive I knew I had to make . I was down about 20 meters before I could see the bottom . I swam about 30 meters , just staying high enough to make out the bottom , thus extending my dive time and vision . But I could not see him . Then on my way back to the surface , still swimming up-current , I saw Nick behind a big piece of wreckage . Nobody was watching me , and I knew I would black out if I went down again .
I called for Gyula Plagiani , who was upcurrent , and told him to dive . I grabbed another weight belt from the boat to ‘ bomb down ’ after them , but decided to let Gyula return first . I spotted him coming up with Nick in his arms and dove down to help . About 10 meters from the surface , Gyula blacked out . I grabbed both divers and swam them to the surface . When we reached the surface , Gyula started convulsing and came to . We loaded Nick on the boat , but in spite of our best efforts to revive him , he never regained consciousness .
Gyula found him at the end of his breath . He was in about 80 feet of water . When Gyula started toward the surface with him , he noticed that Nick ’ s float line was caught in his weight belt and that the quick-release buckle had turned around on his waist , winding up on his back . Apparently , he had shot something on the bottom that became tangled , and when Nick swam up about 30 feet , he became caught in his float line .