Mountain Trip 19-20 November 2008 continued
(Fishingfundi - Guest Skipper)
Dusk turns rapidly to lack night in the tropics and at 4 degrees south and 040 degrees east the brief sunset with pink and orange wispy clouds gave way to the too-bright glow of the echo-sounder and red glow of the compass light and the sparkling twinkle of the night sky with Venus being first to show. The water at the “Mountain” was barren on arrival. No sign of the expected birds and worse, not the frenetic action of the Big-eye Tuna smashing our lures but thoughts turned to Broadbill and getting the fresh squid baits set with a chemical light-stick at the top of the leader and another in the bait. We set a spread of four baits, one on each outrigger, a flat line and the nearest one on the downrigger at about 100 foot depth. I started with an ‘expanding-square search’ of the area around the centre of the mountain peak taking care on the turns that a wave didn’t catch us broadside, especially in the ‘rip’ north-east of the mountain. On one of the southerly legs at about 2100 hours we had the first strike as the Penn International 80STW reel “grrrrrd” into life! Strikes by Broadbill tend to be prolonged affairs with an initial enquiry followed by silence. The line may be held in your hand to feel if there is anything still attached and most times you will feel tugs that prove that a fish is mouthing the bait before deciding to swallow the morsel and hunt for another. When this does happen the line starts peeling from the reel, the angler picks up the rod and sits in the fighting chair (unless he is using ‘stand-up’ tackle), the drag is pushed to the strike position and the hook set in the soft mouth of the Broadbill and the battle commences. Unfortunately on this first enquiry the fish let go after a short run but the position had been marked on the GPS and I concentrated on this area for the next half hour or so. Sure enough on a pass about 300 metres west of the original strike another fish took a fancy to the bait on the down-rigger and this time it seemed to have hooked itself on the take. Mario was in the chair with the rod even before the crew had time to jump down from the bridge and we could all feel the tension in the air as we hoped that Mario would catch his first Broadbill and that it would be worthy of his new, expensive bent-butt tackle. The remaining three lines were quickly reeled in and I took the port engine out of gear to minimise the forward speed but still retain directional control of Jasiri. Baraza barked the odd direction to me to assist Mario with fighting his fish and helped by indicating where the line was peeling away into the inky depths. This was obviously a good fish and giving Mario a great account of the quality and strength of the deep-sea gladiator. For 25 minutes the fish stayed deep, occasionally stripping line that Mario had just recovered and forcing him to work hard to bring the fish under control. Then suddenly, without reason or warning the line went slack and the fish was off. Huge disappointment all round but hope also that more fish would hit our lures during the rest of the night.
We had two more enquiries but without hook-ups before a solid strike just before midnight, followed by a slightly extended period of free-spooling ensured that Mario was back in the chair and I was back at the helm with one engine in gear. After a fight lasting 20 minutes Mario brought a fine fish to the leader. The bill alone was about five foot long and impressively broad at the base and after tagging the fish the 12-0 hook was removed, the razor sharp bill (or so it appears) was held by the gloved hand of Hamadi as we gently motored forward to increase the flow of oxygenated water through the gills and eventually it was hand-shakes all round as the bronze creature estimated at 70 kg blended into the depths away from the glow of our spotlights on the water.
During the rest of the night we found that transiting slightly west of the mountain we were getting more strikes but unfortunately even these were tentative and we failed to increase the tally of tagged fish that evening. Owing to the lack of birds on the mountain the previous afternoon we had decided to work our way south towards the northern tip of Pemba Island and hope to catch some bait-fish there and to live-bait for marlin or shark.
With Pemba light on the horizon and following the edge of the banks we cruised around in search of the expected shoals of Tuna. A good sized female Falusi about 15 kg struck out of a weed line and again had the decency to hit Mario’s light outfit thereby increasing the enjoyment of the fight. A few more strikes during the morning brought us hope that we would hit into a large fish but things slowed down again and we criss-crossed expectantly into rips, beside thin weed lines and continued to search for diving birds and splashes of fish that might give us some much needed live bait to use for Mario’s monster. It was to be a slow and frustrating morning. We did spot a huge Tiger Shark (over 500 kg) cruising near the surface and had out some perfect live-baits but paradoxically the shark ignored our offerings and avoided a conflict with Mario’s heavy tackle!
A little later about mid afternoon the adrenaline flowed again as Baraza and I both spotted a big Black Marlin creeping up on one of our (by now dead) tuna baits. It knocked the line from the outrigger clip and the reel started to growl in its rachetty way, but only with the sudden drag of the water and the pull from the boat. Sadly this was yet another missed opportunity and what might have been only goes into the yarns of “if only” and “nearly but not quite”. Fortunately this was not the end of the fishing for Mario because he had a day to recover before he swapped boats to fish on another of the PCFC Bertrams called Shuwari, on the second of three 33 hour marathon trips to the Mountain in search of his BIG fish.
Did the trip live up to my expectations? Well nearly! The fishing was sporadic and too quiet on the mountain but maybe that was because of the rough water or perhaps the dreaded “long-liners” have been raping the area at the mountain? However, if we had tagged every fish that we hooked we would have had a truly amazing trip. Two Sail, two Striped Marlin, about six or seven Broadbill Swordfish, a Black Marlin and maybe a huge Tiger Shark as well.
The weather was typical for a December/January day/night so was a bit rougher than I had expected for mid November. As for Pirates, they were obviously too busy hi-jacking more wealthy ships further up the coast so they left us well alone. The Thuraya satellite telephone worked fine (although for some reason it would send sms messages but didn’t receive any even though they were sent). The boat stayed fully serviceable and there was no requirement to call for help on either the radio or the ‘phone. I’ve another 66 hours of fishing with Mario to come so hopefully I’ll be able to report on a more successful search of his elusive monster fish in the days ahead.
There are lots of photos to add - butas yet I'm not allowed to add attachments so feel free to find them on the above web.site