Oman : August 2006

Following the early arrival of tuna the previous month, I looked forward to a month of good fishing in August. A good friend of mine, Glenn Orr, who was living and working in Egypt, was going to come over for a weeks fishing holiday later in the month and I wanted him to experience some good fishing. The first part of the month was slow, however, and I made a number of trips without catching. I did see sporadic tuna activity, though, so I knew the fish were about. I needn’t have worried, though. As the month progressed the fishing picked up and it was to turn into one of my most memorable phases of fishing in Oman.

 

Broken off by unseen giant fish! (10/08/06)

Location: BK Canyon (East side) / Canyon-Break

Weather: Moderate chop (c.10mph winds)

Water Temperature: 31°C

Time: PM

I picked up some livebait  in the marina at 3.00pm and then headed off to the shelf-slope break. At the east side of the Bander Rowdha canyon I saw tuna jumping. I livebaited for 30 minutes with no takes. I moved on the canyon-shelf break and encountered a pod of dolphin, which kept disappearing when I approached, proving difficult to follow and fish. I then saw a few birds diving and hanging around at the surface. I cast out a scad livebait, set the rod in the holder and waited.  After about 10 minutes, I got huge strike, taking c.250m of line in a steady, but very powerful and sustained run! I had just purchased a Braid Bluefin harness. I went to the front of the boat, took it out of it’s packet, figured out how to put it on and returned to the rod. The fish was still running line! I took the rod out of the holder and connected to the harness. I increased the drag and managed to stop this large fish.

 

I started to pump the fish towards me, steadily regaining line until the fish decided  to make a second run and suddenly broke my line! I was extremely pissed off, and suspected that I’d just lost a large tuna. I was using 60lb braid main line, 65lb mono wind-on leader and a 4’ long 130lb hook length connected to a circle hook. The line broke in the 65lb wind-on section. Now, to use the casting rod for tuna, I couldn’t really go much stronger than the 65lb wind-on without losing my ability to cast a livebait, but I was thinking that if I’d broken this line on a big tuna (presumably by the running fish’s tail hitting the line) then maybe the casting set-up wouldn’t be able to handle such large fish? Time would soon answer that question!

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—o0o—

 

 

A lesson in tuna fishing from the locals (11/08/06)

Location: BK Canyon (E) / Canyon-Break / Acrross canyon to Muttrah Break / Yitti (in 50m of water)

Weather: Moderate chop

Water Temperature: 31-32°C

Time: AM-PM

This was an all day solo trip. I struggled to get live bait, achieving 3 fish on one of my drops, only to lose two befor I could swing them into the boat. I then failed to find any more bait, in uncomfortably hot temperatures inside the marina. I decided to head offshore and try with lures. After a c.3 hr search, I found dolphins off Muttrah. Within minutes 40kg+ yellowfin tuna started ripping the surface, closely followed by a group of Omani fishermen, who immediately started picking off fish. I managed to beg five baits off a local fisherman (the fisherman didn’t have many baits either, so they must have been elusive today).I then proceeded to drop, cast and troll live baits, trying to position myself in-front of the dolphin pods. I tried to follow the locals’ positioning …. but I got no strikes. I tried varying the hook position to make baits swim away from the boat or swim deep. Nada! I tried casting bats on my Daiwa Saltiga-Shimano Stella 20000 combo ….. nada! I followed dolphn all the way to Bandar Khayran. All around me, Omani’s were catching consistently (on handlines). How?!! Every time I positioned the boat with the locals, as I set my bait they were either hooked up or moving on. I got nada, nada, nada! This was a lesson in fishing and extremely frustrating – how I managed to return to base without throwing my rods over the side I’ll never know!!

 

I was talking with the PDO club fishing captain, Pascal Richards, about this a few days later. He asked me what leader I was using – for that trip I was using  200lb hook length with a snap swivel attached to a swivel on the leader. Pascal suggested that  the leader or swivel may have been spooking the fish. I must admit that I’m not a believer in fish seeing the line and being put off by this. However, I realised that the heavier, stiffer leader could have impeded the natural swimming action of the bait. I decided to try scaling down for future attempts.

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—o0o—

 

 

Fishing with Glenn Orr

Glenn, an old friend from my days with Amoco Oil company at Hanger Lane in Ealing, west London, decided to come across from his current assignment location in Cairo, Egypt, for a weeks holiday in Oman. I didn’t realise it before, but Glenn used to be a keen freshwater fisherman in his youth in his native Northern Ireland. He was keen to try some salt water game fishing. I was hoping for better fishing, and, with the tuna putting in an appearance, things could only get better. We were not to be disappointed ……!!

 

Glenn’s first saltwater game fish (15/08/06)

Location: BK Shelf (off Yitti – BK) / BR Canyon-Shelf break

Weather: Light chop (5 mph winds)

Water Temperature: 32°C

Time: AM-PM

I got the heads-up from Captain Sahim – dolphins (with tuna) off Yitti. Glenn and I headed out after picking up~25 scad live baits (easy to come by, in contrast to my previous trip & Glenn proved adept at catching bait).We found the Omani boats working amongst slow moving dolphin, sporadically catching tuna. We worked live baits for c.1.5 hrs without luck (and, despite scaling down on my leaders and terminal tackle, I was having a sense of déjà vu from my previous frustrating trip). We decided to break ranks and head offshore to find our own action. We reached the canyon-break & Glenn’s eagle eyes spotted a fish jumping (Glenn was picking up this game fishing lark pretty quickly!). I cast out a live bait which produced an immediate strike. At first I thought that I’d hooked a longtail tuna, but the fish suddenly came alive and put up a spirited fight. Soon, we had a nice 15kg schoolie yellowfin tuna in the boat. We noticed that bait was holding under the boat, so we put out more livebaits and waited. We were rewarded with a small Dorado, Glenn’s first salt water game fish, which we released. The action then slowed, so we headed back towards the main dolphin pod and Omani fleet. The dolphins had broken up and were working a large area. We had two further strikes, with Glenn landing his first yellowfin tuna before an engine electrical problem curtailed the trip. We had a loose connection somewhere, and, with 3 fish caught, decided to come in early to get the problem sorted (I made a quick call to OHI Marine to organise an engineer to come to the dock to take a look at the problem). All in all, a very good start to Glenn’s trip.

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A nice “schoolie” yellowfin tuna (c.15kg) 

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Glenn or with his first ever yellowfin tuna 

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—oOo—

 

Man Overboard (17/08/06)

Location: W side BR Canyon

Weather: Strong chop (3-4’ seas, 15mph winds)

Water Temperature: 32°

Time: PM

This was a later afternoon trip, the decision to go was made at the last minute. I was keen to get Glenn another trip out during his week and the weather was looking a little dodgy. One of my friends, Peter Jackson, had been out in the morning and told me that there were lots of dolphins around. “How’s the weather” I asked? “Not too bad” replied Pete. Well, after this call, we decided to go. We left the Marina at 3.30pm with over a dozen livies in the well straight out into a serious chop (Pete’s idea of not too bad was my idea of pretty bad ….!!) . We could see the local boats working just offshore, but it took  c.45 minutes to reach the dolphins at the shelf break in the heavy seas. After a number of bait sets, we got the drift wrong and the boat drifted over the line on the 3rd cast. I heard the rachet go as line wrapped around the slow moving propeller. I warned Glenn and, in his panic, he pushed the engine into reverse resulting in a worse tangle! It was a bad tangle (new 60lb braid) and I made the decision to go into the water to clear the prop (much to Glenn’s dismay). I donned a life jacket, tied myself to a safety rope and prepared to go in. “Keep an eye open for sharks”, I half jokingly said to Glenn as I glanced down into the blue depths – silver scales were scattered throughout the water column from the recent live baiting and tuna catches from the now distant Omani fleet. “Don’t worry, though, sharks are rare here – I’ve only seen 2 about two years ago” I said. I quickly set to work on the engine and cut and untangled the lines. After that, we tried a couple more bait sets without success and, given the conditions, decided to return to the marina early for a well deserved beer.

 

Glenn had now had two trips and experienced almost the full range of Omani fishing experiences – he’d seen dolphins and turtles, caught dorado and tuna; experienced engine difficulties and now had a tangled propeller! What else was there for him to experience?

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—o0o—

 

A (Blacktip) Shark Tale (20/08/06)

Location: Fahal Canyon / Fahal Island / Bander Rowdha Canyon-Shelf break

Weather: Calm (5mph breeze)

Water Temperature: 32-33°C

Time: AM-PM

This was to be a memorable trip. The weather conditions were good and we headed out early with over 50 live baits in the well. We headed towards the deep water canyon north-east of Fahal Island (Fahal Canyon). As we crossed the shelf, we encountered a pod of dolphin and we spent some time soaking live baits with no success. As we fished, Omani fishing boats passed us coming from offshore and heading towards Muttrah Port. Not long after, boats headed back past us on their way back offshore. A number of boats signalled to us to follow. We didn’t need to be asked twice and quickly retrieved our lines and sped off in their wakes. We followed them to the Fahal Canyon area where we hit the tail end of a good tuna bite. Tuna were sporadically hitting the surface over a wide area. We set some baits and waited. It was evident that the action had slowed, and we saw only sporadic fish caught. After about an hour or so we got our first fish, a 15kg yellowfin. This was followed by a second strike, which we missed, and that was it as the bite finally died off in the early afternoon.

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A nice yellowfin tuna to start a memorable day off!

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After a further, fruitless hour, we decided to try Fahal Island. We headed in and set out two rapalas and commenced to troll around the island. As we rounded the south-east corner of the island, in 16m of water, we took a vicious strike on a red and white rappala, and quickly brought a 3kg barracuda to boatside on (too) heavy trolling gear. As I unhooked the fish for a release, the rapala dropped into the water and was immediately struck by another fish. We changed rods to lighter spinning gear and started to cast the rapala. Each cast resulted in a school barracuda, each one followed to the boat by three or four fish. This was easy fishing! After releasing a couple, we crimped the barb off the solitary single hook to facilitate an easy release. We played this game for around an hour, catching and releasing 5 fish each before we tired of the action – if it’s too easy it’s not fun anymore ….! How perverse anglers can be …..!!

 

To complete the day we decided to head back to the marina and spend an hour or so at the Bander Rowdha canyon-shelf break area fishing for tuna. It was now late afternoon, and the sea was clear, blue and flat calm. We set out a couple of live baits in the rocket launcher rod holders and kicked back to relax. It was hot and it had been a long day.

 

After about 20 minutes, at 5.00pm, we got a strike on the port rod. The fish made a strong and determined run, stripping c.250m of line from the reel (the run was identical to my lost giant of a few weeks before – see entry 10/08/06). Luckily, I’d purchased a full harness a few weeks before, and was able to stop and turn the fish. A tug-of-war fight ensued!! With the harness I was able to use my legs and bodyweight to pump the fish to the boat, slowly regaining line. As the fight progressed, I realised that I was facing out to sea one minute, then, five minutes later I was facing the Al Bustan Hotel! The fish was pulling the boat in circles!

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Andrew Griffin putting the heat on a large fish

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After about 30 minutes of slowly working the fish to the boat (after a second, shorter run), my leader knot appeared at the surface and, knowing that the fish would be close to the boat, asked:

“Can you see the fish yet Glenn?”

“Yes”

“It’s a big yellowfin tuna, right?” (I had some doubts in my mind given the style of the fight!!)

“Err…………no”

 

With that, I saw a shark appear out of the blue water.

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A large Blacktip Shark appears from the blue water  

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Finally, after a 40 minute struggle, and a last powerful dive that pinned me to the transom, we had the fish near the boat. Fortunately, the circle hook had done it’s job, and the shark was hooked in the side of the jaw and couldn’t bite through the nylon monofilament line. We brought it alongside the boat and released it by cutting the leader for an official, IGFA regulation release (sharks are becoming endangered worldwide due to over-fishing for shark fins).

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c.80kg+ Blacktip Shark peior to relase

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We estimated the length at over 2m fork length (nose to tail fork); and, after some research, think that this was probably a Blacktip Shark (Charcharinus limbatus) – Jarjur in Arabic, which are distributed in Omani waters. Base on the species type and fork length, I estimated the shark (from published charts) to weigh between 80 – 100 kg (the low weight using length-weight data for Spinner Sharks and the higher weight from Blacktip Shark data), in either scenario a very big specimen for this species.

 

Given the style of the fight, I realised that the fish that I lost a few weeks before was also probably a blacktip shark. My 65lb wind on leader had broken off against the shark’s hide. I was very pleased to have landed a new species and a personal best largest fish. It was great to have caught this monster whilst showing my friend the fishing off Muscat – he was very impressed!! I also had a little flashback to my trip in the water to clear the propellor on our previous trip – there ARE still sharks in Oman ….! I won’t be going into the offshore waters again in a hurry!! We finished the day with a few cool ones at the marina bar!!

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—o0o—

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Tuna Fishing with Roger Knight (23/08/06)                                                   Location: Fahal Canyon / Fahal Island / Fahal Buoy                                                 Weather: Moderate Chop                                                                                                        Water Temperature: 32°C (27-30°C around Fahal Island)                                           Time: AM-PM                                                                                                                                  After working hard, in a hot marina, we finally departed with only 6 scad in the live-well. This was my friend, Roger Knight’s first game fishing trip, despite living in Oman for around 6 years or so! We headed off to the Fahal Canyon in choppy seas and encountered a few Omani boats and a slow tuna bite on the east side of the canyon. We set up a drift and put out a live bait and waited. After about an hour, we got a strike which Roger worked for a while before passing the rod to me to bring the fish in to the gaff – a nicely conditioned c.15kg fish. Shortly after cleaning the fish and washing the decks, we saw a large shark approach the boat (5′ + long) and pass just under the transom. That was two shark encounters in the two trips after my dip in the sea to untangle the propellor (see entry 20/08/06) …!!! After this, the bite basically stopped. We gave it another hour or so and then decided to run to nearby Fahal Island. when we reached the island the waters were cloudy with algae and water temperatures were vary variable, ranging from 27-30°C reflecting cold water upwellings and associated algal blooms. There was no sign of fish activity, and after a quick troll around the island and a quick go at live baiting, we decided to head back via Fahal Buoy. We made a number of slow trolls past FB and picked up a small cobia (c.2.5kg), my first ever, which pulled the hook with leader in hand (this was going to be released anyway). The next pass, with the last live bait, produced a strike and a cut-off (barracuda the likely culprit). With that, we called it a day. I dashed home to catch a flight to Malaysia that evening (I was going for a job interview – this is certainly the most relaxing way to prepare)!! Roger took the tuna home, and enjoyed a few months of good quality tuna steaks!

 A nice August Khareef yellowfin tuna off Muscat

This entry was posted in (2) Oman, Shark, Tuna, Tuna - Yellowfin. Bookmark the permalink.

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