Oman : August-November 2005

After the extremely poor first 7 months of the year, the fishing finally started to pick-up in August, although it remained patchy until later in the year. I’d started to monitor sea surface temperature from the start of the year to try to understand the seasonal variations in fish species occurrence and to attempt to target temperature changes. One thing that did become apparent was that following extremely high sea surface temperatures in July (up to 34°C), things changed rapidly into August, with a marked reduction is sea temperature linked to the Khareef  (annual monsoon) that affects the south coast of Oman (see pictures). The sea temperature changes correspond to a welcome reduction in air temperature and humidity in August, together with the arrival of yellowfin tuna. I hadn’t realised this in 2004, but this tuna run became apparent in 2005. The cold water upwellings also cause algal blooms, toxicity and annual mass fish mortality events (generally in the nearshore waters), which also made for challenging fishing. Offshore, however, the tuna start to appear in numbers.

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A new experience (which is familiar to tuna fishermen) was finding tuna activity at the surface, but being unable to get a strike ….. an extremely frustrating experience!

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Mohammed Jahwari’s Yellowfin report (7/08/05)

During August, when the wives and children tend to leave the heat of the Omani summer to spend the school holidays back in their home countries, Muscat switches to “bloke” town. The bars become more crowded, hotels offer “home alone” dining packages and life gets more laid back and less stressful! It’s also a good time to fish – lots of free time, slightly cooler conditions and the arrival of the mighty Yellowfin Tuna. As previously mentioned, I didn’t realise the fish migration patterns in the previous (2004) summer, but I was to learn this year that August can offer good fishing.

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I’d gone to the marina after work to buy dinner and have a beer of two. I bumped into Mohammed Jahwari returning from a fishing trip & he was covered in blood.

“What happened to you?” I asked. “Man, the yellowfin tuna bite was crazy today” he said, and he told my of his late afternoon session, catching 6 tuna on the favoured Omani rigged rebel lure. That was when I realised that August could offer good fishing. I decided to have a serious attempt at catching a yellowfin or two over the remainder of the month. I’d also heard reports of a good dorado bite at Fahal Buoy. So, maybe, just maybe, the 2005 fishing was about to come good at last.

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 —o0o—

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Fahal Buoy Dorado (11/08/05)

Location: Fahal Buoy

Weather: Choppy (2-3’ seas), 10 mph wind.

Water Temperature: 31-32°C

Time: PM

 This was the 3rd of a number of recent trips with a work colleague and keen fisherman Tim Putnam. It was unfortunate that Tim had made his blue water game fishing debut during a very poor season. On the previous two trips we’d failed to get a single strike. However, the recent news was good – yellowfin tuna offshore and dorado at the buoy. We opted to go for the latter species as the Fahal fairway marker buoy was closer inshore and easier in the choppy seas. We also had a target, rather than scouring the shelf edge for signs of yellowfin.

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As soon as we neared the buoy we put out 2 lines – I was trolling a ‘sea hopper’ jointed head skirt (over-skirt in white with pink spots, under skirt in yellow) that I’d put together myself. Tim ran the magic large orange rebel (yep, as you know by now, rigged Omani style). I thought that the rebel was a little big for the school sized dorado that we were expecting, but nope, I was wrong. As we passed the buoy we got a double strike. Mine threw the hook, Tim stayed hooked-up and landed his first ever dorado, a decent c.4kg fish. We worked the bouy for a couple of hours, with a number of half takes before I took a smaller (c.3kg) fish on the home made skirt. With that, the bite went off. We moved over to nearby Fahal Island without success before hitting the buoy one more on the return journey. When we arrived at the buoy there were a couple of Omani pleasure boats tied up fishing dead / live(?) baits. They took a couple of decent dorado as we trolled past, but we got nothing on lures.

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As we returned to the marina, we saw a number of heavily laded Omani boats returning from offshore – another sign that the tuna were in town. We got further confirmation when we bumped into Mohammed Jahwari – he’d taken a 40kg fish of Bandar Khayran that afternoon. I made up my mind to chase tuna at the next opportunity!

—o0o—

 

 

Fickle Tuna (12/08/05)

Location: Bandar Rowdha Canyon to Bandar Khayran Break edge

Weather: Calm (2’ swell)

Water Temperature: 31-32°C

Time: PM

This was another trip with Tim, this time targeting yellowfin tuna. We traked the canyon margins and shelf break, finding lots of bird activity and large tunas crashing the surface. We got no takes on various lures (tried popper, rebel, Yozuri sardine, rapalas) and trolled dead-baits (sardines). This was a very frustrating experience – even the Omani’s were struggling with live-baits …. we only saw one fish caught. Mohammed also drew a blank on trolled rebel lures. Other news from the PDO club also indicated very slow action. The tuna demonstrated their fickle side today!

—o0o—

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Solo Mixed Bag (19/08/05)

Location: 3km off Yitti / Bandar Rowdha Canyon- BK Break edge

Weather: Calm (2’ swell)

Water Temperature: 30-32°C

Time: AM

This was my first serious solo trip on a very hot August day. I left the marina early (6.00am) to avoid the afternoon breeze (and associated chop) in calm conditions. The inshore water surface temperature was 30ºC. I saw spinners at BK Canyon head and trolled a scad dead-bait resulting in an immediate hit but no hook-up. I dropped a few more dead-baits with no further activity.

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As I scanned the horizon to look for my next opportunity, I saw Omani boats anchored in relatively shallow water off Yitti. I motored over towards them and saw that they were live-baiting barracuda. I trolled around the outskirts of the cluster of boats pulling a yellow eddystone eel, taking c.5 ‘cuda hits and knocks before I landed a c.3kg fish.  The eddy eel was chewed to pieces, so I replaced it with yellow and green islander which I ran naked. I took a strong hit that smoked a good 50m+ off my Penn 7500ss reel. “Whoa, … this must be a good ‘cuda”, I thought. The fish then made a second strong run to the bottom before finally succumbing to steady pressure. I was a little surprised to see a decent trevally type fish come alongside – I later identified it as a Yellow Spotted Trevally, and at 10kg this was a specimen (when comparing notes with Kamal Busaidi, we figure that it was this species & Kamal had taken 2 to 9kg a few weeks earlier, so this must be the season for them).

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With two decent fish under my belt, and very happy to have caught a new species, my thoughts turned back to the main purpose of the trip ….namely tuna! With no desire to catch anymore ‘cudas, I left them to the commercial boys and headed offshore to deeper water. By 9.30am I was at the shelf-break off Bandar Khayran. Large tuna were jumping & crashing the surface, obviously feeding, but I could see no signs of bait-fish. Now the frustration began. I got no takes on various lures (tried popper, rebel, predatek, fork-tail) or on trolled dead-bait. I even got them close enough to the boat to cast dead scad onto their noses …. nothing!! Omani boats also saw the activity and charged over, tossing live scad into the feeding melee ….. nothing …??! That was it, I thought, another day with extremely fussy tuna.

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It was noon by now and I was hot and tired. The breeze had started to pick-up and a chop was developing. I decided to troll back along the shelf-break and along the eastern side of the BR canyon, tracking the deep water as close to home as possible. I ran two Omani style rebels – a blue at the surface and, reverting to an earlier tactic, I dropped an orange rebel down c.5m using a 5 oz trolling lead. After about 15 minutes I took a huge hit on the deep lure, making my virginal Tiagra 30WLRSA reel scream. After quickly winding in the second rod, I picked up and tightened into a large fish that made my 50-80lb class Crowder buck under the strain. This fish fought like a demon, running c.200m on the initial run, and I was convinced it was a 40kg+ class fish. This was also my first tuna for almost 10 long months, & I was terrified of losing it. The fish made a number of long, powerful runs as I gradually gained line and worked it towards the boat. Now, I was alone and facing the prospect of landing a large fish single handed. This fish needed to be played out before I attempted to gaff it. I turned the driving seat to stern and fought the fish from there to conserve energy.

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Finally, after a good 30 minutes the fish came along side the boat. I had already got the gaff out and placed it in an easy-to-reach position, I took the leader & put the rod down. As I guided the fish to the boat I picked up the gaff and made the shot. Success! The fish was mine. It was a long, but thin fish –  probably under weight after the recent migration into the area. Back at dock, it tipped the scales at a respectable (but surprisingly light, given the fight) 27kg. This was one of my best fishing days for a long time.

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Later, whilst preparing the fish, another mystery was solved. Why were the tuna so finicky and difficult to catch? What were they crashing the surface after? An examination of the stomach contents revealed a belly full of small (6-10cm) long white squid. This probably explained the fish’s behaviour – they were keyed in to these small baits. I also remembered back to September 2004, when my mate had a number of dorado and a yellowfin tuna on small white squid lures whilst I had skunked on plugs (see blog entry  Oman Q3 2004, First Tuna of the Autumn Run_30.09.04) ….. the lesson …….match the hatch!!

—o0o—

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Large Yellowfin Ignore Live-Bait (20/10/05)

Location: E. side BR Canyon / BK shelf

Weather: Slight chop (1-2’ seas)

Water Temperature: ~32°C

Time: PM

A family weekend (Thursday) trip. This trip followed a very slow late- August through to mid October. I’d been on a number of trips where we either saw no activity or encountered feeding tuna that wouldn’t take lures, so I renewed my live-baiting efforts (we had recently fitted a live-well pump and fashioned a live-well from a dustbin ….!).

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After jigging up some scad live-baits we headed offshore late afternoon. We soon found big yellowfin and longtail tuna crashing the surface amongst a pod of dolphins at the eastern intersection of the Bandar Rowdha canyon and the BK shelf-break. This was it, I though. We had good quality live-baits and we got close to the frenzy. I free-lined a livie as I took the boat out of gear as we passed a school of tuna. My few previous experiences of live-baiting were of getting strikes almost immediately the bait hits the water. This was a certainty. We waited, and waited. Nothing. The school had moved. We picked up the bait and gunned the boat towards a new frenzy of surface activity. We attempted to drop the bait in-font of the fish. Again, with no success. We tried this manouver a number of times, each time with not even a twitch from the livie. We changed tactics and started slow trolling live-bait …… still no success. I concluded that it was difficult to get the bait in the right place with such fast moving schools of fish using a trolling rod. The Omani commercial fisherman always cast their handlined baits using an overhead lasooing motion or by hand throwing them. I concluded that I would have to invest in a good quality casting rod for such occasions! We returned fishless and frustrated (I wasn’t in a particularly good mood as the wife had decided that she knew the best way to fish this situation and made the trip a stressful occasion!).

—o0o—

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Lost Tuna #1 (after work evening session #1) (24/10/05)

Location: Bandar Khayran shelf  break

Weather: Calm (1’ sea, 5 mph wind)

Water Temperature: ~30°C

Time: Late PM (4.00pm until dusk)

Fishing with Mohammed Jahwari after work. This was a short, late afternoon trip after bunking off work early. I was taking the opportunity to fish with Mohammed and learn something! We ran offshore to the BK break where we encountered c.10 Omani boats fishing tuna. We trolled rorange rebel and rapala magnum lures but got no hits. The Omani boats had up to 20 YF tuna each! Mohammed started talking to the fisherman and got some scad live-baits from them.  We slow trolled 2 baits hooked through the nose and finally got a strike on MJ’s Tuna Stick. He gave me the rod and let my fight the fish. It came to the boat surprisingly fast and came up tail first, wrapped in the leader. As Mohammed attempted to gaff an estimated 40kg tuna,  the leader (130kg) broke unexpectedly and we lost the fish. It looked as if the line had broken near the hook, possible as the live-bait truned and got a loop of line caught on the hook, which the cut through against the bard? Still, I’d fought a fish and got it boat-side, leader in hand.

—o0o—

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Lost Tuna #2 (after work evening session #2) 7/11/05

Location: W of BR Canyon / Fahal Canyon

Weather: Calm (1’ sea)

Water Temperature: <30°C

Time: Late PM

Another after work trip hunting tuna. I went out solo and started looking on the west side of Bandar Rowdha canyon. I knew that Mohammed Jahwari would be out, and, after putting in a quick call to him, I got the heads-up on where to go for action – NE of Fahal Island. I headed in that direction, scanning the horizon for activity. Mohammed powered past me 15 minutes later, heading towards the same location. After another 10 minutes I could see the white specs of Omani boats on the horizon. When I finally arrived, the surface was alive with spinner dolphin and large yellowfin tuna crashing flying fish at the surface. The school was fast moving and the Omani boats were weaving and criss-crossing each other. It was chaos! With the bait being flying fish, and moving fast, it was the right time to pull Omani rebel lures. I put out a blue lure on the starboard rod and an orange on the port rod. As I weave between the Omani boats vying for position at the front of the dolphins I got a buzz on the blue rebel, but didn’t hook up. I continued chasing the dolphins as they broke up into smaller pods. As I was coming out of a hard turn to port, two or three large tuna crashed the surface behind me. Suddenly, the port rod screamed as a good fish took the orange lure, running off c.150m of line. I put the boat out of gear and grabbed the second rod, quickly rewinding the lure and getting it out of the way. I then picked up the hooked-up rod & slid the drag lever to strike, stopped the fish’s run and then started to work it towards the boat. After about 15 minutes there was a sudden jerk and then the line went slack. I wound in a broken 90kg leader. I initially thought that a shark must have taken my fish, but, upon further examination of the leader I realised what had happened. I fish with for tuna with a 150lb wind-on leader with a snap swivel. My lures are all rigged with 3-5’ hook lengths (of varying breaking strain, depending on the lure type). The Omani-rigged rebel leaves a slight bend in the line as it passes through the lure’s nose eye. Despite rigging this lure on heavy (90kg) leader, and cutting a groove in the chin of the lure to reduce this bend, it seems that the lure slid back to the swivel during the fish’s run. Because my hook length was only 5’ long, the lure would have sat just behind the fish’s tail, putting drag from the fish’s tail (or even the tail itself banging the lure) causing the line to wear through at the nose eye. The remaining tag end of the line matched the lure length exactly. I made a mental note to rig a longer hook-length (c.10-12’) or shorter hook-length (c.3’) when I rigged the rebel’s (the long hook-length would eliminate the advantage of using a wind-on leader), so I decided to go for 3’ hook-lengths for my next attempt.

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After losing the fish, I fished on until dusk, and then joined Mohammed in the return back to the marina (it was dark as we approached the marina and it was a little hairy as we new that the Omani night shift would be netting along the coast).

—o0o—

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

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