Oman Q2 2004

With the boat secured and the first few trips under our belts, fishing fever took over. During Q2 we made 13 (unlucky for some) trips offshore pursuing yellowfin, bonito, dorado and barracuda. The fishing was initially excellent through April but became patchier as the (air & water) temperatures increased. We were so intent on fishing that we didn’t really notice the uncomfortable air temperatures and humidity (heat indices >100°F+ from May onwards!). We’d also collected more tackle so that we could fish two rods each – after seeing a 75kg yellowfin tuna (see pic below) brought into the marina in late March, I purchased a 30-80lb class Penn stand-up rod and matched this with a Penn 15kg trolling reel spooled with 40lb line. Finally, we were also aided in our efforts by information gleaned from the excellent book Bluewater Fishing in Oman, by Phil Batty and published by the MGFA, which gave invaluable information about fishing seasons, locations and rigging techniques. We ended the session with a success rate of 77% (10 out of 13 trips with fish), with 45 fish being brought to the boat, including a good catch of the sought after yellowfin tuna.

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—–00o—–

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Tuna Weekend (1st – 2nd April 2004)

Date: 1/04/04

Weather: Calm

Time: AM

This was our first ‘serious’ trip. We had registered for the PDO monthly fishing competition, had a planned start time and, after our previous exploits, had a target area to fish for tuna. We left the marina around 6.30am and headed out to fish the shelf-slope break (100m contour) area off Muttrah port west towards Fahal Buoy. Conditions were perfect, although there was no sign of fish activity at the surface.

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I opted to troll to rods with the Omani rigged rebel lures – I dropped an orange lure down to about 10m using a 5oz trolling lead and fish a blue rebel near the surface. Mike also fished two lines. It soon became apparent that we didn’t have enough distance between the lines and we kept getting tangled, so we cut back to one rod each, spaced as far apart as the boat would allow (lesson no.1 …!). It wasn’t long before I got a strike on the orange rebel and duly landed my fist yellowfin tuna after a weak fight – it was a small fish of 8 kilo’s. We re-set the lines and continued to troll. We got intermittent strikes throughout the morning, catching a total of 7 fish ranging up to 14kgs, with the bigger fish putting up a strong fight. I also had another painful lesson after I lost a c.15kg fish at the boat – Mike made a number of unsuccessful gaffing attempts, catching the fish on the edge of the gill plate. The gaff pulled & suddenly the fish was gone. This was my fifth fish of the session and I was only fishing with 40lb leader. A quick examination of the leader showed that it had chaffed through on the tuna’s small teeth. I made a mental note to use heavier leader and to check the condition after each fish caught.

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We finished the day with 7 fish from 10 strikes, with 8 hook-ups and one fish lost. At 11.30am we had to return to the marina in order to give us enough time to reach the PDO club for the competition weigh-in at 12.30 pm.

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When we reached the weigh-in it was clear that a lot of fish had recorded good catches. We finished a respectable 9th out of 23 boats in our first competition, with 73kg’s of yellowfin tuna. The combined catch for the competition was around 700kg’s, mostly consisting of tuna. I realized then that I didn’t really enjoy the competition format as species bag limits were too big and there was no catch and release policy. In future competitions, I realized that my conscience wouldn’t allow me to kill and weigh-in fish that I didn’t need or had no intention of eating, so I would have no realistic chance of actually winning! Finally, I reasoned, if fishing was good, why return early for a weigh-in? If the fishing was bad, why come in for a weigh-in? Better to continue to try for a better catch or call it quits and come in early! For these reasons, this was my first and last competition.

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After the competition prize giving, we ate lunch and then cleaned, cut and iced the fish. After dropping the cooler at home, both Mike and I spent the afternoon buying freezers to preserve our catch. We finished the day by eating fresh tuna for dinner.

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It was another valuable learning session and we felt that we were progressing well. With hindsight and experience, we could look forward to bigger and better catches and also start to practice catch and release for a significant portion of our catch.

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–o0o–

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Date: 2/04/04

Weather: Flat Calm

Time: PM

The following day we took the children on a pre-planned group visit a Japanese warship that was taking on supplies at Muttrah port. My wife, Mako, found that one of her friends was interested in fishing an decided that we should take them on a trip that afternoon. I wasn’t keen  – the weather was breezy and the sea was showing the occasional whitecap. In addition, I only had four trips under my belt and had no experience of using the boat without another experience hand on board. Mako was persistent (as wives usually are) and, after returning home to pick up the kit, we were soon driving back past Muttrah on our way to the marina! This will teach her, I thought, as I anticipated my first trip as captain with a crew of 2 ladies and 3 children in a choppy sea. I was also nervous of mooring the boat – with a single engine and a seaward side berth, she was a bitch to back into the berth …. and this was going to be my first time!!

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By the time we were departing the marina at about 2.00pm, the wind had died and the sea was as calm as a millpond. I headed for the shelf break off Muttrah and started to troll the magic orange Omani rebels. It wasn’t long until a vicious strike popped the clip linking my trolling leader. Another lesson …… don’t use u-shaped clips, they are unreliable. I re-rigged with another orange rebel and started to troll through a small pod of dolphins and was soon fighting a nice c.14kg yellowfin tuna which we gave to Mako’s guest. It was now 4.00pm so I decided to return to the marina in good time to berth and clean the boat. After a couple of aborted shaky attempts I managed to successfully berth the boat, helped by the complete lack of wind, to complete another successful trip.

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—-o0o—-

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Bonito Day (13.04.04)

Weather: Calm, overcast

Time: PM

This was the first of two trips that I made with my family during the Easter School holidays. Conditions were again perfect with calm seas and overcast skies (which always, hold the promise of good fishing). We headed out of the marina and went west towards Muttrah. We soon spotted 3 or 4 Omani boats about 3kms off Muttrah port catching fish on hand lines. We quickly joined in the action, pulling orange rebels and eddystone eel lures on 5oz trolling lead rigs at a depth of c.10m. The action was non-stop and furious as we trolled through a large school of bonito (kawakawa). We were getting multiple strikes from fish ranging in size to c.4kgs. We ended the session with 15 fish from 17 strikes, with 2 fish lost after knots pulled through the mm size gaps on some of my hook eyes (where the eye re-meets the shank. Learning – ensure all hook eyes crimped shut). Mako got her first game-fish, taking 5 bonitos. All fish were released.

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It was a very pleasant session, not too hot, and plenty of action not far from the marina. We both marveled at the strength of these little tuna, one of the hardest fighting fish, pound for pound, in the ocean. We decided to make another trip, weather permitting, the next day.

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—-o0o—-

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Barracuda Day (14.04.08)

Weather: Calm

Time: PM

Another afternoon trip with Mako and the boys (Sion and Ceri). We again headed a few km’s off Muttrah and again encountered Omani boats hauling in fish. As with the previous day, we started deep trolling rebels. As we skirted the Omani boats we got repeated vicious strikes. We were surprised when the first fish to the boat was a barracuda (given that we were hammering bonitos in the same place the day before). I changed out the rebels to wire trace rigs and we commence to catch 7 ‘cudas from 9 strikes. We again lost a couple of fish to line pulling through incompletely close hook eyes (I will fix this before the next trip …!!). Towards the end of the session, the wife started to struggle a bit as she brought in the biggest fish of the session, a respectable 6kg fish which we kept for the pot.

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All in all another good trip, with six fish released and more experience gained. Sion and Ceri enjoyed the return trip to the marina when I opened up the throttle and powered us home!

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—-o0o—-

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Tuna – NE of Fahal Island (22.04.04)

Weather: Calm

Water Temperature: 29°C

Time: PM

Me and Mike took a colleague, Ronald Te, on a trip out on Friday afternoon. Air temperatures were already in the high 30°C’s, and the water surface temperature was at 29°C. By this time we had purchased sea-bed topography maps from Garmin and had them loaded into our GPS systems. We headed to the NE of Fahal Island to fish the margins of a large submarine canyon. As we approached our chosen area, we saw Omani boats and sporadic surface activity as yellowfin tuna hunted bait. We started to troll the favourite orange rebel lures on trolling lead set-ups and soon started to get strikes.

Mike had the first hit, which looked like a reasonable fish, but pulled the hook after about 5 minutes. It was my turn next, with a 10kg coming to the boat. Mike then had another strike and duly landed a 12kg tuna. The bite then went off and we trolled back to the marina. Ronald took the final strike, a small bonito off Sidab, near the marine entrance.

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—-o0o—-

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Dorado – Fahal Buoy (18.06.04)

Weather: Calm, hot

Water Temperature: 32°C

Time: PM

Our final trips of the quarter occurred in late June, when the air temperatures were in the 40°C’s and the water surface temperature was a scorching 32°C. The yellowfin tuna had disappeared towards the end of April as the temperatures climbed, to be replaced by longtail tuna. We’d had a number of attempts targeting these fish with little success – they required smaller lures and livebaits, and we started to struggle. However, as the waters warmed, dorado (dolphinfish) had started to appear, and we’d started to target them around Fahal Buoy, a shipping lane marked buoy situated in 70m of water.

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On this trip, I took the family – my eldest son (then 7 years old), Sion, was keen to catch his first fish. We knew the dorado were in town as we’d caught 4 the previous weekend. We commenced surface trolling ballyhoo around the vicinity of the buoy and took multiple stikes, but the hook-up ratio was poor, with only two small fish landed (in the 1.5-2kg range). When Sion saw the size of the fish, he was keen to have a go at one. I changed bait to a small white and pink plastic squid and I gave him the rod after the next strike – but this fish was a little bigger at c.3kg and gave him a bit of a tussle. With a little help he managed to land his first game-fish! We landed 3 from 7 strikes, releasing two fish.

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One other point to note, on a recent business trip to the UK, I’d passed by my parent’s house and picked up my 30 + year old Abu Ambassedeur 7000 multiplier reel (see In the beginning section). The reel was still in mint condition and I’d loaded it with 20lb line for light tackle work. The reel had already accounted for a couple of dorado and now performed well again. Finally, that expensive reel that my father had bought me years ago, had taken some reasonable fish!

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This entry was posted in (2) Oman, Barracuda, Dorado (Dolphinfish), Tuna, Tuna - Mackerel (Kawakawa), Tuna - Yellowfin. Bookmark the permalink.

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