Location: Bandar Khayran Break, c. 6km north of Yitti
Weather: Calm (5mph winds, 1’ seas)
Water Temperature: ~27°C
Time: Late morning until dusk
Lady Luck decided to hand me my first giant (100lb+ fish) whilst fishing alone! Fortunately, she’d also let me gain experience by starting off with small tuna and gradually work up to bigger fish, so I was prepared (sort of). I’d also felt the power of a 43kg fish when I’d temporarily fought Mohammed’s fish on my previous trip (see Sifa Tuna Day, 18.11.05), so I had some idea of what to expect.
I hadn’t been fishing for almost a month prior to this trip and had been extremely busy at work. I was burnt out and decided to take a day off on the Wednesday to go and fish on my own. I arrived at the marina mid-morning, and found the seema live-bait holding under my boat at the berth. This was too easy – I quickly hand-lined up my requirements for the day – about 40 baits. I left the marina at c. 11.00am and quickly found the Omani fleet scattered on the Bandar Khayran shelf-slope break north of Yitti. So far everything was good – easy live bait, easy to find the fish and the fact that the Omani boats were scattered meant that the tuna were spread around and not moving quickly, making them easier to target. The only negative was the fact that there was quite a bit of debris in the water from the recent rains. I did, however, see boats loading large tuna into an ice chest so I knew that the fish were around.
I followed the commercial fishermen’s lead, and started to slow troll a live bait. I bumped the boat in and out of gear to keep moving slowly ahead. The other boats were scattered out around me, occasionally hooking-up or motoring off to re-position. Spinner dolphins were also moving slowly through the area – it all suggested that the fish were feeding on a slow moving school of bait fish. After about 2 hours or so of fishing I still hadn’t had a touch. I then noticed that a boat to my right was hooked up. I looked over to my left and that boat was also hooked up and fighting a large tuna. Suddenly, my rod doubled over and line started ripping off the reel. I was in, on a Penn 15LD reel and 30-50lb class Crowder stand-up rod combo, fishing with 50lb line and a 150lb wind-on leader. The initial run was about 200m. I started the slow process of regaining line, fighting stand-up with only a kidney harness. At times like these, although you dream of hooking up to a big fish, you can’t help but wonder (with more than a little apprehension) about the struggle ahead – a large yellowfin tuna will push you to your limits.
The fight continued. After about 20 minutes, the fish went deep and the battle changed into a straight up and down tug of war. The 30-50lb class rod was bent to its full test curve. It’s brutal in these situations – you gain 3 or 4 metres of line, the fish immediately pulls line back against the drag. This scenario is played over and over as angler and fish try to get the upper hand. At times, I had to rest the rod grip on the gunwale to rest my arms, and occasionally manoeuvre the boat to keep the fish off the starboard stern corner. Also, during the fight my bait pump started to play up and I realised that I was losing water from my bait “bin”. I had to re-start the pump a number of times and once even had to put the rod in the rod rest to re-fill the live-well with water by bucket (I needed bait to continue fishing in the event that I lost this fish). After about 45 minutes, and completely exhausted, I had the fish near the surface. Everything was ready – the deck was cleared and the gaff was easily to hand. Finally, I got the fish to the boat side. It was done, but I still had to put the rod down, control the fish on the leader and make the gaff shot. I completed the manoeuvre at the first attempt (if the fish had made a final run I probably wouldn’t have been able to get the rod in-time to control it again) and used the fish bat to despatch it quickly. I tried to lift the fish into the boat, and failed. “Bloody hell, this is heavy”, I thought. I got myself into a better position and managed to slide the fish over the side at the second attempt. I then collapsed, breathless into the boat, and spent the next 15 minutes resting. I then spent half an hour moving the fish to the bow fish storage locker and icing it down, before giving the deck a good scrub and wash down. I also took a call from Mohammed, who’d called to see how I was getting on, which was timely, as I was resting after the battle.
After regaining my composure, I scanned the horizon to see where the action was at (it was now about 3.00pm, so I still had a little fishing time left). The commercial fleet was starting to move quicker – the dolphins and tuna were on the move. I spent another couple of hours chasing the fish, but it was getting harder to get the boat in the right position. The commercial boys were also in a hunting frenzy. At one point I located a pod of tuna crashing the surface and ran towards them trolling a rebel. A few other boats saw the action and rushed over, cutting my line in the process. I decided to call it a day and returned to base.
By the time I’d moored the boat, cleaned up and weighed the tuna it was 6.00pm and dark. The fish tipped the scales at 51kg, or 112lb – my first ton plus fish! Suleiman, my boat boy, said that the marina restraunt needed a tuna and would buy it off me. I wasn’t looking forward to preparing this fish; it had been a long day. I also had a good stock of tuna in the freezer from the previous month. The chef came over and offered me 10 Omani Reals for the fish ($26, or about 50 cents a kilo for prime tuna) ….! I was incensed. Now that I was tempted to sell, I wasn’t going to be ripped off. Suleiman offered to come with me to the local fisherman’s coffee shop hang-out in Sidab, a kilometre down the road. We showed the fish to a local buyer – he directed us to a café in Muttrah, at the fish market. Suleiman came with me. When we arrived there were 5 or 6 refrigerated trucks loading tuna. Suleiman talked to a contact, a weather beaten old man in a dirty dishdash who came over to the car, felt the skin of the fish, lifted the tail and promptly offered me OR 20 for the fish ($52). I sold it on the spot (& he probable sold it on to the refrigerated truck (exporting to the UAE) for double. I gave Suleiman OR 5 for his help and I was on my way.
It was another big day for my fishing experience. It was also interesting haggling over fish prices with the locals. Upon reflection, however, I decided not to catch and sell again. I would prefer to release rather than profit from such a magnificent fish. In this instance, though, it was my first big fish, and I was also alone, which would have made releasing the fish difficult, if not dangerous.
This trip was the final trip offshore in 2005 and provided a perfect close to the year. 2005 had started off with the worst fishing scenario possible, given our expectations from 2004. However, with a little perseverance and learning from others, the final quarter of the year had given up some spectacular game-fishing.