Following our successful start at game-fishing in 2004, we looked forward to 2005 with anticipation – we had gained a lot of good experience and had some excellent catches under our belts. We’d also started to get experience of catching bigger fish. In addition, we now had quiet, efficient 4 strokes on the boat. We thought that we’d be even more successful in the New Year and could also attempt to land the larger yellowfin tuna that are seasonally distributed in the waters off Muscat.
It was going to be easy …… right? WRONG!
How wrong we were! It was as if someone flicked the switch and turned the fish off! Apart from an excellent beach fishing trip to Ras Madrakha on the south coast, the boat fishing off Muscat was dire. I went 10 trips without even a strike (….TEN trips !!!) in the first quarter of 2005. The second quarter wasn’t much better, with a few barracuda, small dorado and bonito to show for long hours spent trolling. In fact, the first fish of the year were a barracuda and a kawakawa taken on live-bait on 22/04/05! Something had to change if we were to improve our catch rate. It was very frustrating, having our own boat and free access to fishing, but not being able to capitalise on the situation. We had to be more innovative, and change tactics.
For some reason, we’d all but abandoned the Omani rigged rebels & deep trolling technique that had worked so well the previous year. We were now pulling squids at the surface and rapala and yozuri diving lures. Most other people that were trolling were also having little success – so it wasn’t just us. The more experienced fishermen were still catching, though, and were usually employing live-baiting techniques.
There were some positives during this period, though. In January (before I realised how poor the fishing was going to be off Muscat that year) I went on an excellent camping and beach-fishing trip to Ras Madrakha on the south coast of Oman. On 31st of January, whilst fishing with Lorne Rutherford, I saw my first ever whales – A Brydes Whale mother and calf (see following photos). Later in the year, sometime in April, I bumped into Mohammed Jahwari in the Waterworld tackle shop in Sidab, who, despite being in his first year of game fishing was posting some good catches during a poor season. He was to help and influence me later in the year and for the rest of my time in Oman. Finally, during this period, I beefed up my tackle collection by adding a Shimano Tiagra 30WLRS trolling reel and a couple of Crowder stand-up rods, including a 50-80lb stick. Although this equipment wouldn’t get much action in 2005, they proved their worth in subsequent years.
Anyway, as I said, the first half of 2005 was poor, so this section will be brief! The highlight was the January Ras Madrakha trip:
Ras Madrakha 20th & 21st January, 2005.
This was a family camping trip (with beach fishing thrown in as a family activity). We accompanied Mike de Vries, his family and his next door neighbours to a secluded beach at Ras Madrakha, on Oman’s south coast, about 6 hours drive from Muscat. Mike had been invited to join his friend, Mike Chadwick and his father Chris, and we’d also been asked along as Mike de Vries’ guests. It was a long trip down and I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d bought a cheap telescopic beach caster and a spinning rod plus some leads and assorted tackle. We’d heard reports that Chris Chadwick (who had arrived at the beach a few days earlier) had been catching a lot of fish from the shore, so we were keen to get fishing as quickly as possible after we arrived.
We finally reached the destination at about 4.00 pm in the afternoon. The beach (now known by the Ras Mad regulars as “Chad’s Beach”, is situated on the eastern side of the Ras Mad headland & island. It is farthest beach west toward Ras Mad point that it is possible to reach by 4WD vehicle. It is secluded and quiet with great views of the headland and island. Anyway, we quickly set-up camp and got some baits in the water just as darkness fell. The method was to throw out a whole sardine as far out s possible (although in practice this was little more than 50 – 70m). We then settled back with cold beer waiting for bites. Once we’d mastered rigging the sardine baits (so that they didn’t rip off during the cast), we didn’t have long to wait. The rod tips were soon rattling as an assortment of bream, emperor fish (sharry) and catfish hit the baits. At one point, I left the rod to grab another beer when I hearted a crash and saw my rod being dragged along the sand by a monster bream (I didn’t have a decent rod rest, only a couple of bamboo sticks lashed together). My son, Siôn, got to reel in a couple of big bream (including a c.4kg fish) which we ate for dinner that night – delicious. The other anglers brought in more bream, sharry and Mike’s neighbour (Eric?) hooked an extremely large guitar fish that he fought for about 10 minutes before it broke him off in the surf, not before we got a good look at what must have been a 25kg+ fish. It was excellent fishing and the biggest fish I’d see caught off a beach. As we were tired from the long trip, we only fished for a few hours that night.
The next day was spent swimming, checking out the surroundings and trying more fishing in the afternoon. Me and the wife tried blind casting metal sardines and storm shads for a couple of hours without any luck. We did have a couple of bluefish flash past our legs in the shallows before disappearing. As the afternoon wore on, we switched to baits and started picking up the odd bream and a small shark – the action was definitely slower than on the previous night. Chris Chadwick did catch a nice permit, of around 15lbs, which gave him a good tussle before he released it to fight again. We didn’t fish for long on this session as we had to make a fire, prepare the fish and cook, etc. Still, it was a very enjoyable session. The next day, we packed camp and left mid-morning for the long journey back to Muscat.