Oman – Q4 2006

Grouper fishing with Pascal Richard  (12/10/06)

Location: NW Fahal Island – 80 to 150m contour

Weather: Slight Chop

Water Temperature: ~29-31°C

Time: AM

With the slow down in pelagic game fish activity through September and into early November, I’d decided to try experimenting with deep water bottom fishing. I’d given it a go for an hour or so on a previous trip, when the pelagic fishing was off and managed to catch a small hound shark. When I received an invitation to join Pascal (the PDO Club fishing captain) it was an offer I couldn’t refuse (Pascal is one of the best deep water fisherman in Oman). After picking up some live-bait (in case we encountered any game fish), we headed to the deep water drop off north of Fahal Islan, me, Pascal and his fishing partner, Suleiman al Hajri. We tried a number of locations without success, starting at Pascal’s shallow water marks and progressively trying deeper water locations. We finally found the fish at 150m depth! Pascal set up a perfect drift and we all dropped 3 hook rigs into the depths. Pascal and Suleiman were well set up for this type of fishing, with high speed Shimano Torsa reels spooled with braid. They were at the bottom and already retrieving fish before my tackle hit the bottom (I was using a Pen 320, a very small spool reel with a slow rate of retrieve). Often I just had to stop my drop and reel back in as they landed their fish and started to move the boat for the next drift/drop! They had their routine honed to perfection – I could see why they were winning almost every PDO Club fishing competition! It was very frustrating as I watched them catch over and over again. I also managed to get fouled up on the bottom a few times, with lost time to replace traces, etc. I did managed to catch 3 groupers 2 small sharks and a bootlace moray eel, although this was nothing compared to their combined catch of c.25 groupers to a maximum of c.5ks! On one drop, using one of Pascal’s (used) 3 hook rigs I did managed what felt like a triple hook-up, only to have the traces break in mid water! Still, it was a good trip and I learnt a lot.

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c.3.5kg Grouper 2 (12.10.06) (r) c.3.5kg Grouper 1(12.10.06) (r) Pascal triple (12.10.06) (i) Pasacal Richard with brace of Groupers (12.10.06) (r)

Suleiman Al Hajri with Groupers (12.10.06) (r)

Over the next few months, I made around 10 further bottom fishing trips, mostly with my family. We did manage to pick up more groupers, but these were small and we only managed to catch them occasionally. Instead, we were plagued by hound sharks, during this time we pulled up over 30 of them, and they finally blunted my desire to continue bottom fishing!

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Fahal Buoy Dorado (24.10.06)

Location: Fahal Buoy

Weather: Choppy (5-10 mph winds)

Water Temperature: 30°C

Time: AM-PM

This family trip started out as a bottom fishing expedition. We first tried for dorado at Fahal buoy but found no one home. We did, however, mark a lot of bottom fish from the east of the buoy extending westwards. Given that the conditions were a little breezy and choppy, we decided to stay at this location and try some bottom fishing drifts. We didn’t have much success – the drift was fast and we only managed to pick up a couple of hound sharks, whilst missing a number of other bites. Whilst we were drifting, we kept a live bait out the back ….. just in case! It was slow going, until, suddenly, about 1km west of the buoy we got a hit from a decent sized bull dorado. I played the fish to the boat and Mako took some pictures whilst I leadered the fish to the boat, whereby the hook pulled for an IGFA release! We noticed a female dorado circling the boat and immediately pitched another scad out, resulting in an instant hook-up. We again brought this fish boatside for a release. With that, things went quiet and we decided to call it a day, but planned to return for another go at the dorado in the near future.

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Bull turns to run (24.10.06) (r) End of the fight (24.10.06) (r) Bull Dorado prior to boatside release (24.10.06) (r)Fahal Buoy Bull

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Omani Gold – Siôn’s Dorado Experience (27.10.06)

Location: Fahal Buoy / North of Fahal Island at shelf break

Weather: Calm am (5mph wind) / Choppy pm (10 mph wind)

Water Temperature: 30°C

Time: Late AM-PM

This was a fantastic trip – another family trip following close on the heels of the previous trip (24.10.06). We again planned to target Fahal Buoy to see if we could pick up some more dorado (dolphin fish) and also to continue with our deep water bottom fishing experiment, trying to figure out how to catch decent sized groupers in 80 to 150 metres of water. We loaded up with c.50 live baits (the schools of scad were just off our berth and we quickly caught our requirements for the day) and set off for Fahal Buoy.

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We reached Fahal Buoy late morning (c.11.00am) and I put out two scad live-baits which we drifted passed the buoy. No sooner had our baits drawn level with the buoy we got a strike off a good sized bull. This fish leapt one and then immediately ran back behind the buoy before we’d even had a chance to react …… resulting in a cut-off on the mooring chain. I was pissed off to miss a good fish. I tightened the drag settings and we ran back east of the buoy and re-set the baits, this time drifting a little further away from the buoy. As our baits passed the buoy, both rods went off and mayhem ensued. I fought one fish and my wife took the other. We landed both fish, a peanut of c.3kgs and a larger fish of c.5kgs. Both went in the ice box. We re-positioned our drift, reset baits and made another pass. Boom – both rods went off again …. this was shaping up to be a good day. One fish threw the hook whilst my oldest son Siôn fought the other, a c.3kg fish that gave the 9 year old lad a good scrap! Siôn duly landed his first (the all important caught “all by myself”) dorado, which we also retained for eating. I looked at the fish finder and there was a huge mass of bait interspersed with predators from the surface down to c.35m  (the buoy is located in 70m of water) – it was an incredible sight.

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(1) Sion's Dorado Day (27.10.06) (r) (3) 1st Dorado of the day (27.10.06) (r) (4) Sion's Dorado Day (27.10.06) (r) (6) 2nd Dorado (27.10.06) (r)

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We again reset our drift, and as usual, the action was immediate – another double hook-up. After overcoming the apprehension of catching a decent game fish on his own, Siôn was starting to commandeer the rod and soon brought a slightly larger fish to the boat, which we released. My wife fought the second fish for another release. I then hooked into a larger fish that gave a good account of itself, a big bull of around 8kgs, finally making a late surge at the boatside and breaking off my 65lb leader, possibly against the hull. The loss of that fish seemed to change everything and the action suddenly died off. We made a few more passes by the buoy without a strike and then decided to head off to deeper water to try some bottom fishing. In a 1 ½ hour session we had landed 5 fish from 8 strikes, keeping 3 and releasing the other 2 – not a bad start to the day and a pretty good tally for game fish in the waters off Muscat!

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(10) Siôn fighting Dorado_3 (27.10.06) (r) (9) Siôn fighting Dorado_2 (27.10.06) (r) (7) Siôn fighting Dorado no.1_1 (27.10.06) (r) (17) Landed! Siôn's 1st Dorado (27.10.06) (r)

(18) Releasing another Dorado for Siôn (27.10.06) (r)

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With the action over, we decided to head off to the shelf-slope break and try some bottom fishing. We didn’t do so well, only managing to catch 5 hound sharks and a bootlace moray eel. No sign of the elusive grouper.

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(20) Siôn hauling Hound Sharks from 100m+ (27.10.06) (r)

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With an afternoon breeze and chop developing, we decided to make our way back, giving Fahal Buoy one more go to see if the action had resumed ….. it had! We arrived at c.3.00pm and were rewarded with a double hook-up. In-fact, the action was so furious that we started to fish with only one bait out (it was difficult for me to control the boat, fight a fish and coach Siôn at the same time). The fish seemed to be larger, and we caught another 6 fish up to c.8kgs in weight (plus pulled the hook on one early in the fight).We planned to release all these fish, however we had one gut hooked fish and another foul hood in the side that we had to keep. All others were released, including a c.7-8kg fish skilfully brought to boatside by Siôn – he was learning quickly how to handle these feisty fish. The final tally was 11 fish from 15 strikes, with 6 fish released to fight another day.

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(21) Siôn's big Cow Dorado_1 (27.10.06) (r) (22) Siôn's big Cow Dorado_2 (27.10.06) (r) (27) Siôn's Cow Dorado (27.10.06) (r) (34) Siôn fighting Bull Dorado_1 (27.10.06) (r) (36) Siôn fighting Bull Dorado_2 (27.10.06) (r) (42) Siôn fighting Bull Dorado_3 (27.10.06) (r)(29) Siôn's Dorado (27.10.06) (i) (31) Big Bull Dorado Day_2 (27.10.06) (r)

 

This was a great trip which we all thoroughly enjoyed, and it marked Siôn’s transition into a capable game fisherman. We also had the opportunity to see bottlenose dolphin (not that common a sight off Muscat) plus a new species of whale – the false killer whale. Fantastic, Omani Gold – offshore Oman at it’s very best! 

 

Joshua’s Game Fishing Experience (Dec. 2006)

My sister, Sallie Sturgess, and her family visited us in Oman over the Xmas / New Year  of 2006-07. My sister’s oldest son, Joshua, was particularly interested in trying out game fishing. During their stay we went out on 3 trips, the first with all of her family, turned out to be quiet, as we scoured the coast for dolphins without success. We only fished briefly, again without success. The next couple of trips were more eventful:

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Date: 22.12.06

Location: Fahal Buoy / South Fahal Island / BR Canyon-Shelf Break

Weather: Slight Chop (5 mph winds)

Water Temperature: 24°C

Time: PM

This was a more serious attempt at fishing (than our first, dolphin search trip on 18.12.06). We easily collected around 50 scad live baits in the marina, although they tended to be on the small side. We then made all the key stops looking for fish. Fahal Buoy was dead (the water was a little cold for dorado), so we continued to Fahal Island. Omani boats were fishing for (I think) kingfish. We noticed the odd surface splashes and put out a couple of livies. We started getting some weird half-bites and eventually hooked a medium sized garfish. I noticed the locals were also picking these up. We decided to move offshore and look for tuna, eventually ending up at the Banda Rhowda Canyon-Shelf break. We marked baitfish and small-medium predators on the fish finder at ~30m depth and dropped a live-bait down deep, whilst fishing another livie at the surface. We eventually picked up a reasonable striped bonito on the deep bait – Joshua’s first saltwater game fish! We reset the drift a number of times, passing from deeper water over the shelf break into the “shallows” (<100m deep). We were eventually rewarded with a decent strike from a mid-sized cow dorado, which my son sportingly gave to Joshua to fight. Josh was not prepared for the strength of this feisty game fish – a sudden run left him looking shocked and he asked for some one to hold his fighting belt! Once he relaxed a little, he was soon able to bring the fish to the boat – a very respectable 5kg fihs that we kept for the BBQ that night. Apart from that, it was pretty slow and we still didn’t see any dolphins, much to my sister’s disappointment.

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Date: 27.12.06

Location: BR Canyon-Shelf break / Ras Abu Daud (east Sifa)

Weather: Slight Chop (5 mph winds)

Water Temperature: 24°C

Time: AM-PM

This was a full-on trip – just me and Sion, Joshua and his father, Paul. We loaded up with live bait and headed off to the deep water. Upon arrival, we were rewarded with a brief sighting of  a Bryde’s Whale, although there was no sign of fish, either at the surface or on the fish finder. We did find a small pod of dolphins and we tried fishing with them for half an hour but it was dead. I made a quick call to Mohammed Jahwari & he advised me that tuna were being caught amongst the dolphins off Ras Abu Daud, to the eat of Sifa. It was a long way, but we had time. We decided to go and check it out. When we eventually arrived some 45 minutes later, we were rewarded with a giant pod of some 500 dolphins plus a flotilla of Omani fishing boats. We spent a good few hours fishing, but had no action. The locals were catching the occasional fish, but it was pretty slow. We called it a day late afternoon and headed back into a glorious Omani sunset. My guests were very happy just to have seen the whale plus the magnificent spectacle of the hugh pod of dolphins breaching around the boat. Upon our return, my sister was gutted to have missed the cetacean action after hoping to see dolphins on the previous two trips!

 

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