Shimoni Sea Mountain – Re-visited Trips 2 and 3 combined
“Another epistle from the Guest Skipper”
Having swapped Bertram-boats on the 2nd Shimoni Mountain fishing trip from Jasiri to Shawari when both boats were out on the “Mount”, I was back on Jasiri for the third and another solo trip 100 kms off-shore in search of that elusive BIG fish for Mario. His 80 and 130 lb-class outfits were still barely exercised – just some medium sized Broadbill Swordfish, a few Sailfish (including a couple of good fish over 30 kg) and the normal crash-strikes of Dorado and Yellow-fin Tuna that not only provide excitement for the brief period of the fight but also some of them get to be chosen for baits for bigger fish and others become culinary delights when filleted and fried up in the galley by part-time chef and full-time expert deck-hand, Hamadi!
Would this time be the lucky trip? Would we be able to get the possible Grand Slam of three different species of Billfish, or even the Fantasy slam of five different species? It was another calm dawn in Shimoni as we slipped the mooring. Our sister-ship, White Otter had caught four Sailfish the previous afternoon in the shallow-ish waters off Funzi and Chale Islands and so we were determined to try for “bait” in that area with a high probability of catching a Sailfish (a species that the client actually had no desire to catch as all he wanted was the BIG fish). A small twin-engined speedboat from Funzi Keys (Alex) was zipping around from one shoals of bait to the next but he seemed to be having as much luck as we were experiencing but at least the bait was plentiful and we should catch something if we could hit on the right lure and present it in the right place at the right time at the right speed – eventually!
As a crew we had discussed the strategy for this trip and it was generally agreed that we would get some bait, maybe get a Sailfish and then hang around the Marlin waters in the deep area of the Pemba Channel looking for that Black or Blue Marlin and then cruise on to the Sea Mountain arriving about 1700 hours in time to check out the Big-eye and Yellow-fin Tuna and, if they were present, to catch live baits in the three to six kg range and if we caught larger fish then Yours Truly would gut, fillet and place the “Shashimi” on ice in the extra coolbox that I had “jazzered” with ice alone. I was really keen to get some decent protein in my freezer not to mention the fact that numerous friends had specifically asked me for the odd fish for their families.
We left the shallow water about 0930 hours without a strike and headed towards some Terns that were advertising the next shoal of bait. As we approached the Terns flew off to circle some 500 metres further out to sea so we dutifully followed into deeper water. Suddenly a long dark shape appeared under the port outrigger and a bill slashed at the strip bait attached to a bright pink lure. Mario was already at the rod and it was apparent that several hungry fish were marauding in the area. The line started to peel from Mario’s reel and, as he concentrated on setting the hook on his fish, a second Sailfish had crept up behind the lure I was trolling from the bridge. I ignored the acrobatics that I could see in the periphery and removing the rod from the holder; I fed the lure with its fresh “Chachungi” (Half-beak) to the second hungry Suli-suli. I dropped the tip of the rod, pause with my left thumb covering the free-spooling reel for a count, “one thousand, two thousand”, and then pushed the lever on the right of the TLD25 to the strike position. Ten kg line started ripping from the Shimano reel as I felt a firm hook-up on my fish that fortunately started leaping at right-angles to the direction of Mario’s fish. Obviously the main aim of fishing with clients is for them to have the excitement and fun of the fight with a feisty fish. However, sometimes the crew get to enjoy a fight as well because the IGFA Rules prohibit the leaving of rods in the holder when faced with a multiple strike because the fish is effectively only fighting against the boat and not an angler! It can also be the recipe for disaster should the lines cross and the angler invariably ends up with his line burned by the friction and the fish “popped-off”. After quite a prolonged fight for Mario’s Sailfish that was hooked on 80 lb tackle, it was with relief that we had the first bill-fish of the day hooked, fought, tagged and released. Five minutes later I brought the second Sailfish to the trace where Barazza unhooked the sleek 30 kg+ Suli-suli that had just given me a good workout to start the day. A check of the GPS position, “mark the EVENT” for future trips (and for the Tag Card) and for accuracy I also logged the strike as a New Appointment in the organiser of my mobile phone. Looking at the appointments now for 26 Nov 2008 I see that between 1015 and 1045 hours Mario caught a bull Falusi, at 1145 we spotted two magnificent Manta Rays cruising together just below the surface the at 1150 Mario hooked into a Striped Marlin. It was a rapid approach and strike by the large fish. We watched as it smashed a pink and white metal jet-head with a large strip of Dorado belly sewn onto the hook. The initial first run with some aquabatics really had us guessing. It looked like a medium sized Blue Marlin was on the line and then when it dove deep we wondered whether it might not be a Black? Either way it was imperative for us not to drop this fish as we wanted to have a better days fishing than the previous trip where Marlin had appeared and struck but none had been tagged by Mario so far. Thirty-five minutes later I had taken several photos of a very large Striped Marlin in about the 85 kg weight range as it was tagged and revived before being released back into the Indian Ocean.
The next New Appointment in my ‘phone organiser would have been a searing strike from a 25 kg Yellow-fin Tuna (Duodari) at about 1430 hours but it was not to be because I dropped my phone, the battery fell out and I realised that I had no idea what the SIM card number was and so I couldn’t turn the gadget back on! Hand written notes remind me that the sea was quite choppy as I decipher the spider’s scrawl on the back of my Thuraya manual. Dolphin-fish at 1640 hours as we approached the Sea Mountain. No sign of Terns or other birds over the water, no rips and worse of all no strikes. The sun set rapidly at 1830 hours and the squid rigged with circle hooks and adorned with bright-green chemical light sticks were soon out on three rods. A forth rod that was 3-400 metres behind the boat on the upper-centre rigger towed a three kg Oceanic Skipjack Tuna. Directly behind the boat on a piece of thin rope we also had a bloody cocktail of the head and backbone of the 25 kg Yellow-fin Tuna that I had filleted and put on ice, the remains of a Mahi-mahi and half a Skippy. Maybe this would lay a scent trail that a huge Mako, Tiger or Hamerhead would find irresistible. Barazza had heated up a delicious chicken stew that Sandra had prepared and with the warm rice it was fuel for the night ahead.
I took the helm for the 1900 to 2200 watch and although I covered the water around the mountain, drawing symbols with the track of the boat on the NAVMAN GPS we had no strikes at all. Eventually at 2210 with Hamadi in the chair, we heard the tell-tale zip of a drag ratchet but not a proper strike. The outriggers and centre rigger lines were still in place and the down-rigger seemed to be ok so we wondered which bait had been visited. Gradually the green glow of the down-rigger rose to the surface and the bait reeled in to be checked. Something had robbed us of three quarters of the squid. Just behind the hook virtually nothing remained except a short length of dangling thread. As the lights intensity had diminished we decided to replace all the light sticks as everyone was still wide awake. The fresh squid bait on the port outrigger was wound in and that too was “chomped” so it was with no surprise that when we checked the long line from the centre rigger we found out that the “Taxman” had taken his share of that Skippy too!
....... continues in Trip 2b....