Oman – Q4 2004

The good fishing that had started towards the end of September continued throughout the autumn as the water temperature dropped to 30°C and below as winter (is there such a thing in Oman …?!!) approached. This was a busy period – I made a number of trips targeting yellowfin tuna and also started to experiment with live bait – both finding where to catch the bait and then trying out live-baiting techniques. We also took the boat out of the water and installed 2 100 hp 4 stroke engines during the 3rd week of October.

 

Autumn tuna run (1.10.04)

Location: 5-6 km off Bandar Khayran

Weather: Choppy

Water Temperature: 29°C

Time: PM

Following Mike’s success with tuna and dorado the previous day, my family wanted to go on a trip for tuna. We set of  mid afternoon in choppy conditions and spent a fruitless 2 hours searching for signs of activity. Finally, at around 4.00pm we started to see tuna busting the surface chasing bait. The action was spectacular and fast paced, but proved very difficult to fish. We would see fish jumping 200m away from the boat and would race over only to find that the fish had sounded. They would re-appear close to where we had just been! It was very frustrating chasing fish only to see them surface in another location. To make it possible to chase fish I was pulling soft plastic squid and hard headed bubbler skirted lures. The lures created little drag so I was able to gun the boat to chase surfacing fish without constantly rewinding and re-setting lures.

 

Finally, after an hour or so of hunting fish we go a strike on the red bubbler skirt. The fish made a good run on the 20-40lb class outfit before I was able to thumb the spool to provide a little extra drag and turn the fish. As the fish turned, the hooks pulled – in my haste to set my lures, and with the family in tow, I inadvertently left a hook guard on the lure, and Murphy’s Law ensured that this was the one that got hit! I was extremely pissed off as it felt like a good fish. It was also late in the day, with very little daylight time left. We turned the boat towards home and started a last short stretch of trolling. Bang – the 15-30lb Penn Slammer spinning rod went off and I was able to bring in a decent 17.4 kg fish without much fuss on 30lb line. This fish more than made up for the earlier loss and turned the day from a potential skunk into a successful trip.  

 

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Date: (14.10.04)
Location: 6-7 km off Bandar Khayran

Weather: Choppy early, calm late afternoon

Water Temperature: 30°C

Time: PM

Following an unsuccessful trip with Mike the previous weekend, I again went out with my wife and two boys. The sea was initially choppy at first but soon settled down late afternoon to nice, calm seas. We used binoculars to locate jumping tuna, and started to troll squid lures around small schools of surface feeding tuna. Suddenly, the port rod buzzed as we saw a yellowfin tuna streak across the spread before hitting the red bubbler on the starboard rod. The fish made a sizzling run, taking c.150m of line, before sounding and fighting deep. This was my first decent sized yellowfin and I was surprised and how strong it was. My 20-40lb class Penn Senator was bent to its full test curve and seemed to be like a piece of spaghetti in my hands – there was very little lifting power left in the blank. I slowly worked the fish to the surface as my boys looked on excitedly. Finally, after a good 40 minutes fight, I was able to sink the gaff into a fine 23.5 kg fish. It was a decent sized fish, but I was amazed at it’s strength – I was anticipating something bigger after the workout it had given me!

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Sirocco 4 Stroke Engine Testing (21.10.04)

Location: 5-6 km off Bandar Jissah. Fishing with Mike de Vries.

Weather: Calm

Water Temperature: 30°C

Time: PM

We took the boat out of the water in the 3rd week of October and towed it to OHI Marine, the official Yamaha suppliers, to get new 100hp 4 stroke engines fitted. We managed to get the work done during the week so that we didn’t lose any fishing time during the tuna run! With the engines fitted, we put the boat back in the water for the engine testing and running in on the 1st day of the weekend (Thursday). We brought our rods and left them in the cars at the marina whilst we went out with the Yamaha engineers as they put the engines through set time periods at gradually increasing engine revs. Conditions were perfect and Mike and I were aching to take the boat out with the new engines and try them out. We pressured the engineers, trying to speed up the process.

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The run-in was finally completed at around 4.00pm. We sped back to the marina to drop off the engineers and pick up our tackle. By 4.15pm we were heading out of the marina and started scanning the horizon for signs of activity. We spotted surface splashed using binoculars and by 4.45pm we were trolling with a pod of dolphins. After a number of unsuccessful passes alongside and in-front of the pod of dolphins I got a good strike and picked up the rod to engage a good sized fish. A few second later, before we could turn the engines down, Mike’s rod bent over as another good fish struck. So, there we were, on our maiden voyage with the new engines, both fighting personal best yellowfin tuna, barely an hour after leaving the marina! I was able to bring my fish in (on a 30-80lb class stand-up rod and 50lb line) after 20 minutes. Mike’s fish, although slightly smaller, put up spirited resistance on 40lb line and a 20-40lb class Penn Senator rod, and it was already dark when we boated the fish after 45 minutes. We quickly cleared the decks and powered back to the marina. The fish weighed in at 27.5 and 24.5kg respectively. It was a very satisfying day!

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Experimenting with Livebait – Catching & Baiting (Late Oct. – Early Nov.)

During this period we spent some time trying to find out how to catch, keep alive and fish livebait. The key part to this process was to locate consistent productive marks. I spent a number of weekends with the family searching the coastline near the marina for sea-bed structure and signs of bait fish. Once we’d caught decent bait, we’d then attempt to keep them alive (without a baitwell or pump), first, unsuccessfully, in a bucket and later with some success in a large coolbox. To keep bait alive we simply ladled buckets of fresh sea-water into the “live-well” at regular intervals …… crude but effective enough to allow us to try fishing livebaits and learn some valuable lessons along the way. We also were surprised at the variety of fish species we caught on the white sabbiki rigs that we used.

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27.10.04

This was our first success at catching livebait. We fished ~150m north of  the marina and picked up 3 big-eyed scad (called Seema in Arabic) on sabbiki’s. We weren’t expecting to catch anything so were not prepared. We put the fish in a bucket of water and raced offshore to the shelf-slope break (100m contour). We saw some minor surface activity, so promptly stopped and threw out a livebait. I rigged it on a wire trace and a 5oz lead and dropped it about 10m down. Within minutes it was hit and a reasonable fish started stripping line. I applied pressure and pulled the hook as the fish turned. It seemed to be a very exciting and productive way to fish. Unfortunately, the other two baits had died in the bucket. We dropped a dead scad down but had no luck. Still, it was another learning experience.

—-o0o—-

 

29.10.04

We again set out to find locations for catching livebait and started ~150m north of the marina. Fish were present in numbers and we got bites on every drop, including Siôn’s  double hook up of stripped bonito (his first game fish!). In addition to the bonito’s, we also caught kawakawa, scad, orange spotted jack, stripped jack, red bream and lizard fish. I was particularly please to catch a number of big eye scad (called seema in Arabic) – these fish are excellent bait and are the workhorse of the local commercial tuna fishery. We kept the scad in our new live-well ….. a large cool box, but released all but one (a deep hooked bonito) of the other species.

 

It was fun fishing for the family, and they were not happy when I suggested trying this livebait out for tuna. We decided to go offshore for a look but found no surface activity. We spent an hour livebaiting off Bandar Khyaran with no takes, so decided to return to the marina to continue to jig for jacks …!

 —o0o—

 

Longtail Tuna (Sahwa) Day (12.11.04)

Location: Fahal Buoy / Muttrah shelf break

Weather: Calm

Water Temperature: 28°C

Time: Late AM – PM

After perfecting our live-bait catching technique over the previous few weeks it was time to try some serious live-bait fishing. After collecting a dozen scad we headed to Fahal Buoy as we’d heard that the dorado were in residence. When we reached the buoy I put out two rods, each with a scad livie (hooked in-front of the dorsal fin), and we slow trolled and drifted past and around the vicinity of the buoy. We had a number of half takes which ripped the live-baits off the hook but without hooking up before a good bull dorado took a live-bait and then jumped and spat it out. It was very frustrating. We called it a day at the buoy as it was, by now, late afternoon.

 

We started trolling lures on our way back to the marina along the shelf-slope break (100m contour). As we reached Muttrah and started to troll towards the marina along the western side of the Bandar-Rhowda canyon, the rod pulling a jointed rappala ‘ballyhoo’ shaped lure went off. I picked up the rod and started to fight the fish (what I assumed to be a reasonable size yellowfin tuna), the rod in one hand and manoeuvring the boat with the other. I gradually worked the fish to the boat – it was initially near the surface but sounded as I got it to the boat for the first time. I worked it back to the boat, raising the rod and quickly regaining line on the down-stroke. We got the fish near the surface again. It made a half-run, I turned it and the hooks pulled. I cursed and retrieved my leader. The lure was intact but the factory fitted treble hooks failed  – the hook in the body position had partially straightened under the strain. Another valuable lesson – don’t trust the hooks that come with the lure (these hooks had straightened under a drag pressure of c.10-12lbs,  ridiculously weak hooks to fit on a big game lure). From that point on I always re-fit my lures with good quality single hooks.

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Anyway, whilst fighting the fish, there were a series of surface splashes around the boat. As I re-gathered my self after losing the fish, Mako suggested trying out one of the livebaits. I quickly changed rigs to a livebait set-up and dropped a scad down on a weighted rig to c.10m. Bang! An immediate strike from a 5kg longtail tuna. We put this fish in the ice box and re-set another live bait (we only had 2 live baits and one fresh dead bait left in the well). I dropped this second bait down and the response was the same, a second, slightly larger longtail tuna. Damn – good fishing and no more live-baits. My wife suggested giving the dead-bait a go. I wasn’t confident but we did the same with the last scad – dropping it about 10m below the boat. The response was not as immediate as with the live-baits, but, after 3 or 4 minutes we got hit again and ended up with another fine tuna in the ice-box.With our bait spent, and daylight drawing to a close, we called it a day and returned home. We kept one longtail tuna to try and gave 2 to our boat boy, Suliman.

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—o0o—

 

Dolphins and  Dorado (Q4 2004)

During Q4 I made a number of afternoon trips with my family targeting tuna in flat calm conditions. On these occasions, although we found pods of dolphins, we were unsuccessful in catching tuna. We did, however, pick up decent sized dorado on each trip.

 

The first trip was on 24.10.04, with surface water temperatures of 29°C. We ran offshore off the Yitti – Bandar Khyaran coast searching for tuna or pods of dolphins (as the yellowfin tuna often associated with dolphins). We found a large pod of dolphin and commenced to troll the bubbler skirted lures that had proved so successful over the past few months. We trolled around, infront off and through the dolphin pods with only one slight knock. The action was slow, even the local Omani fishermen were struggling. We called it a day and were trolling back as I started retrieving the lines. Suddenly, we had a good strike on the starboard rod – a red skirt lure. A bar of gold leapt into the air and glittered in the sun. I asked my wife to take the rod but she was scared – the fish looked bigger than it was as it jumped in the boat’s wake. I took the rod and brought in a fine personal best 7.5kg cow dorado. That was our only action for the day.

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Just over a month later, on 19.11.04, we again went searching for tuna. The surface waters had cooled to 28°C and we’d heard that yellowfin tuna were still about. Conditions were perfect – flat calm. We ran 15 km offshore in the general direction of Fahal Island. We encountered Omani’s setting nets, but with no signs of surface activity. Finally, as we approached to the north of the Fahal Buoy area we saw pods of dolphin being chased by Omani fishermen. We set a trolling spread and chased the dolphins. As with our previous experience, action was slow and we got no strikes. I did not see any other boats catching tuna. As time passed, it became apparent that we were not going to catch anything with these dolphins, so we headed back towards the marina, trolling as we went. Now, there are a few wrecks marked on the GPS in the shelf area off the coast between the marina and Ras Al Hamra (although I haven’t been able to discern any structure at these sites on the depth finder …!). I plotted a course to pass directly over a “wreck” about 8 km NNE of Marina Bandar Rowdha. Amazingly, as we passéd over the wreck we got a good hit on a green and orange Yozuri Barracuda Mac diving plug from what turned out to be a 7.5kg bull dorado. This proved to be the last fish of 2004.

 

Interestingly, about 1 month later I hooked and lost another good sized dorado on a diving lure in exactly the same spot. Maybe there actually is some structure here after all ….??

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—o0o—

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

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