The year started off with slow fishing. Seas were relatively rough and there was limited offshore activity reported. I was preoccupied with an illness in the family and made a number of return trips home to the UK during this period. I did manage to get out about once or twice per month though, and the quarter culminated in an epic battle with a giant yellowfin tuna (more of which later). And, although limited in number, the fishing trips provided a welcome relief from the stresses of life at this time.
Sifa – Bandar Khayran with Mohammed Jahwari (13/01/06)
Location: Sifa, 300km offshore BK
Weather: Calm, 5 mph wind.
Water Temperature: ~24°C
The first trip of the year was with Mohammed. He’d sold his boat and was awaiting delivery of a new, bigger, faster, stronger machine. We went out east towards Sifa looking for tuna, although the action was non-existent. Mohammed called various contacts, but any action going was out of range. We headed towards Sifa, trolling whilst looking for activity. There was nothing going. By mid afternoon we’d decided to call it a day. As we were running back close to shore, just east of the main Bandar Khayran entrance channel, we saw surface splashes and occasional small Sahwa (longtail tuna) tuna jumping. We approached the activity, knocked the boat out-of-gear and idled up to the activity. I case a live scad into the area and experienced a slow, plucking take. I missed the fish. I rigged another live-bait and tried again. Same result. On the third attempt, I left the line slack and, after 30 seconds tightened into a …. garfish! After we realised that the garfish were in residence, we decided to move on. We motored past the main entrance to BK and then saw definite tuna activity. We tried a few live-baits without success. Then Mohammed suggested trolling a string of small squid. We rigged up 3 9cm white plastic squid and trolled them on a sinker at about 5m depth. Within minutes we took a good strike and I fought a small, but spirited kawakawa (bonito) of around 2kgs. We release the fish boat-side and, with only kawakawa and garfish around, decided to call it an early day and return to the marina for a cold beer. Although the action was slow, it had been a pleasant day on the water.
Tuna Surface Activity (01/02/06)
Location: Sifa Canyon / near shore SE of Bandar Khayran
Weather: Calm to Moderate
Water Temperature: ~23°C
Following previous trips where we’d found feeding tuna but had been unable to get a strike (e.g. see previous Blog entries: Large Yellowfin Ignore Live-Bait (20/10/05), Fickle Tuna (12/08/05), etc.), I’d decided to invest in a good quality casting rod-reel combo. The idea was to be able to fish Omani style – that is, to mimic the handline fishing technique of the local Omani fishermen, but using sport-fishing tackle. The Omani’s fished with handlines and would approach feeding tuna, or get ahead of a pod of dolphin and “lasso” cast (by swinging the bait in an arc above their head) a livebait into the feeding frenzy or into the path of the dolphins (schools of the larger sized yellofin tuna frequently associate with pods of dolphins). They would then free-line the bait so that it could go deep and act naturally. This technique gave them a lot of flexibility. In addition, the splash of a live-bait on the surface (especially if accompanied by a colander of live-bait chum) would often elicit an immediate strike. It was difficult to fish in the same manner with a trolling rod set up because:
1) You couldn’t cast;
2) You couldn’t easily get the bait away from the boat, so would have to drop a bait back whilst the boat was still moving, using water drag to take the bait away. This was possible, but clumsy and difficult to execute.
Pascal Richard, the PDO Fishing Club captain, had been using casting rods for tuna for some time. However, a lot of casting equipment sensitive enough to efficiently cast a livebait, was often not strong enough to handle a big tuna. After breaking a number of rods and destroying a few spinning reels on big fish, Pascal had settled on some specialist equipment. He paired a Daiwa Saltiga casting rod, designed for tuna fishing, with a Shimano Stella 20000 fixed-spool reel. This combo had the required casting performance but was powerful enough to handle even 100lb+ tuna.
After working out how to catch live-bait on a regular basis, it was time to get some good casting equipment. Both Mike DeVries and I purchased Saltiga-Stella combos, and, after spooling up with 60lb braided line (getting c.500m on the Stella 20000), we were keen to try them out.
We set out late morning with about 25 large scad in the live-well, heading towards the same general bearing as the dolphin watch boats. After reaching the Bandar Khayran shelf break, we found no boats and no signs of activity. We headed east towards Sifa, scanning the horizon for activity. Nothing! By mid afternoon we were on our way back after a fruitless search. We stopped near shore at BK to throw out some jigs, but nothing was happening. I decided to give Mohammed a call for a heads-up on activity. “Give me ten minutes”, he said, “I’ll call you back after talking to my contacts”. He soon called back to report sightings of large tuna c.20km off Sifa. As we were still in the vicinity of Sifa, we decided to have another try. We turned around and ran offshore. Finally, after c. half an hour we saw sporadic tuna activity in the distance. Once we reach the area, we free-lined livebaits on our new casting tackle. The surface activity was slow and started to tail off. After an hour or so, we realised that we’d probably missed the action and decided to call it a day, another fruitless trip.
Sperm Whale sighting (but no fish) (02/03/06)
Location: Bandar Rowdha Canyon & Bandar Khayran shelf break
Water Temperature: ~23°C
This was another blank trip with Mike DeVries. We left the marina mid-afternoon to hunt for tuna, and proceeded along the edge of the Bandar Rowdha canyon towards the Bandar Khyaran shelf-break. We didn’t see any activity and had just started to around floating debris. Looking back towards the coast, we suddenly saw a number of large splashes and showers of water. “Fish” cried Mike. We reeled in our lures and headed towards the activity. As we got closer we realised that they were, infact, whale spouts! We edged over and got to within about 5m of two sperm whales – we could see the angled spouts and the striated skin near the head. I then looked right and saw another whale pass on the other side – we were right in the middle of a pod of large whales. We could also hear there clicks and moans magnified through the hull as they communicated with each other. It was magical. Unfortunately, this was one of the few times when we didn’t have a camera with us! As the whales moved off we continued with our trolling, and encountered another pod of whales, which also showed us their tail flukes as they dived. On the other hand, we saw (and caught) no fish, despite trolling past some bird activity later in the day (I guess sperm whales eat large tuna?). Still, it was a unique experience to see these magnificent creatures at close quarters.