The fishing continued to slow down in the early part of the third quarter as the air and sea temperature reach their annual peaks. Sea surface temperatures reached 34°C in July, before colder water pushed up from the south associated with the monsoon (the Khareef) in the south of the country. Sea temperature maps show this phenomenon clearly. As the cold water pushes north it generates mixing zones and offshore winds and patches of warm and cold water co-exist. The upwelling of cool, nutrient rich waters generate algal blooms and the fishing is generally poor for a period in July – August, before the cooler water brings bait and tuna back in to the area in mid-late August. The high air temperatures also curtailed the number and duration of our fishing trips. Despite the conditions, we still managed to put in eight trips during the period, and whilst we only caught fish on three trips, we had strikes on 6 out of eight trips. The key trips were as follows:
Fahal Buoy Dorado (16.07.04)
Location: Fahal Buoy
Weather: Calm, very hot
Water Temperature: 34°C
This trip saw a continuation of the run of dorado at Fahal Buoy. I fished with Mike de Vries and Ronald Te. We trolled naked ballyhoo around the Fahal Buoy, hooking 2 fish from 4 strikes. I again pressed the Abu 7000 into service and was rewarded with a c.4kg bull dorado. Mike missed a couple of strikes before taking a similar sized cow. We kept both fish for a barbeque on PDO beach later that day. We also tried our hand a short spell of bottom fishing at Fahal Island, but got no bites. We returned to the marina and headed off to Ras Al Hamra beach to enjoy beer and fresh dorado.
Sailfish Encounter (20.08.04)
Location: Fahal Buoy
Weather: Calm (am) – Choppy (pm)
Water Temperature: 31°C
Time: All day
After a summer break to avoid the worst heat of July, I returned to Oman in early August, sans family (the family stayed in Japan until the start of the new school year in September). On my second trip of the month, I fished with Ronald Te. We pulled lures all morning from the Muttrah shelf-break to Fahal Island without a strike or any signs of fish. I tried Omani rebels, whilst Ronald trolled a large yellow monster squid turned into a homemade hardhead by putting a film case and small ball lead inside the head. I have to be honest and thought that he had no chance with this lure.
Once at Fahal Island, we again tried dropping cut bait to the bottom, again without success. We decided to call it a day by early afternoon. On the way back to the marina we gave Fahal Buoy a last shot with the lures. After about 5 passes of the buoy, I spotted a dorsal fin tracking behind the yellow squid and the port rod rattled as the fish struck the lure. “Put it in free spool”, I yelled to Ronald. With that, line started peeling from the reel. Ronald engaged the gears after about three seconds …..the drag screamed briefly and then stopped. Damn, we’d missed our first shot at a sailfish. We were fired up now, and continued to troll around the buoy for the next hour or so. Just as we were about to give up, a sail again appeared behind the yellow squid, but this time faded from sight without making an attempt to take the lure. In our inexperience, we failed to hook-up. Thinking about it later, we should have left a longer drop back on the first take. On the second rise, we probably should have sped up to excite the fish and entice a strike.
We finally called it a day mid-afternoon and returned, fishless, to the marina.
Prop Trouble (16.09.04)
Location: Bandar Rowdha Canyon to Bandar Khayran
Water Temperature: 30.5°C
With the fishing slowing through late August and into September, we started to try new things. On this trip we trolled squid daisy chains, squid tipped ballyhoo and rebel plugs, all to no avail. We also experimented with a chum bag of mashed up sardines in a net onion sack. There was absolutely no sign of fish activity anywhere. The only point of note was when Mike lost a trolling spreader float and ended up getting my line tangled around the prop of our 200hp 2-stroke outboard. I stood on the ladder and leaned back using a short length of (old) rope to hang off whilst attempting to clear the prop. The rope snapped and I was dumped unceremoniously into the choppy sea. It was a surprise and a shock (I also had in the back of my mind that we’d been trailing a slick of sardines for the past few miles and was envisaging a shark sizing me up for dinner!!), and I exerted some energy trying to untangle the prop whilst trying not to be washed against the prop blades. After some work, I cleared the prop and returned to the boat. I felt cold and exhausted. We didn’t say much on the way back but we both knew that the 8 horse “kicker” back-up engine wasn’t really up to the job of bringing us back safely from offshore. We discussed putting a pair of new 100 hp 4 strokes on the boat and agreed to do this within the next month.
First Tuna of the Autumn Run (30.09.04)
Location: 3-4 km off Bandar Khayran
Water Temperature: 29°C
On this trip I took my eldest son, Siôn, and was joined by Mike and his son Pete. The water surface temperature had dropped below 30°C and we’d had reports of decent sized yellowfin tuna showing up east of the marina the previous week – Mike had responded to this and lost a number of good fish the previous Friday. So, we headed out in the afternoon towards the shelf-break off Bandar Khayran. On the way to deeper water, we found seabirds wheeling and diving on baitfish, so we commenced trolling. Mike ran a jointed orange rapala (ballyhoo shape), whilst I fished an orange rebel. Mike hooked up immediately with a good sized bull dorado. This fish threw the hook whilst I was clearing the lines. We set the lines again and a short time later Mike landed a decent bull of around 5kgs.
We then noticed a group of Omani boats relatively close to the cliffs of Bandar Khayra so we set off towards them. As we got closer, we could see the Omani’s catching tuna from amongst a pod of dolphin. As we reached the melee we started trolling again. This time, Mike put out a single, small plastic squid (7.5cm), whilst I continued with the rebel. Mike soon got a good strike but pulled the hooks. After much cursing, we started again and Mike was quickly hooked up again to what appeared to be a good fish. After a few good runs, the fish settled down to a tug-o-war battle and Mike had difficulty moving it. The fish finally breached after c.45 minutes and looked to be a decent sized yellowfin tuna, but we just couldn’t get it to the boat. We finally had to back-up to the fish with Mike retrieving line as we went. We reached and gaffed the fish, which turned out to be a plump 18.5kg tuna foul hooked in the side. It was amazing that we actually landed this fish as it was only nicked in the skin and Mike had been loading it with a lot of drag. By the time we’d finished, the Omani flotilla had disappeared along with the dolphins, so we decided to call it a day.