(post too long for 1 post in this forum!)
Mario in search of his BIG fish - the story continues
At midnight I took over from Hamadi again and discovered we were in the area that had a few Event Marks on the GPS. We had all fallen silent as the lack of Broadbill strikes surprised and started to depress us. However, five minutes after re-taking the helm we had a very solid strike on the squid on the down-rigger. Let the fish run with minimal drag; remember it’s a circle hook so you don’t need to strike – just let the fish eat, wait for it to swim off and then tighten the drag on the reel and begin the fight! It worked and the line was streaming from Mario’s 80 lb class outfit. I asked Peter to take the helm so that I could assist Hamadi and Barazza bringing in the other lines and not forgetting the shark ****************-tail. With all lines in, I could witness the co-ordination between Barazza assisting Mario and Peter, positioning Jasiri in the best position to avoid excessive rocking if broadside to the waves and to try to keep the line pointing directly away from the stern of the boat. After a fight lasting about 20 minutes the fish looked beaten as the glow of the light on the leader came close to the surface. But, perhaps from hearing the screws turn as Peter juggled with the gear in reverse/forward the Xiphias gladius sensing danger, dived deep on a prolonged second run as it tried to escape. Half an hour later with Mario at last working up a sweat, the Broadbill Swordfish came meekly to the boat. We thought that it might have been foul-hooked to expend all its energy – but no it was well hooked in the scissors of its jaws so perhaps it was because the large squid bait was stuck in its mouth and prevented enough oxygenated water passing through its gills? What ever the reason the magnificent fish had died on the trace and we reluctantly had to boat it. The only bonus for any bigger marlin or shark that might be caught later was they would be spared the Fish Taxidermist’s treatment.
The night scene over the ocean was breath-taking. A clear sky was glittering with planets, satellites, stars and galaxies. I used the constellation of Orion to orientate me until about midnight (it rises in the east and rotates overhead to the west and if you extrapolate a line that passes through Orion’s sword and through the centre of the belt it eventually bisects the horizon at north) and after midnight the Southern Cross kite shaped constellation points to the South Pole. The sea was glittering with phosphorescence especially in the wake where the waters gurgled in the propeller wash, the reflections of the stars but devoid of meaningful Broadbill strikes from then on. About 0400 just before I handed the wheel to Hamadi we had a little Bahati when the downrigger cable seemed to get stuck. I slowed Jasiri to tick-over with one engine in gear as Barazza and Hamadi struggled to sort the problem. The down-rigger suddenly freed but almost immediately the line of the rod attached to the down rigger started to run from the reel. It fought? Well with us drifting out of gear and Mario pumping firmly on the rod a goodly length of two-inch rope was safely boated and thanks were that none of us had needed to go swimming to free it from one of the propeller shafts! I climbed back up to the bench on the bridge and tried to get 40-winks but the excess of caffeine from a few high energy cans kept me from slumbering until the pre-dawn broke about 0500 hours.
We tried the mountain for another half hour of daylight before increasing our speed to about eight knots and resumed our search of BIG marlin. Ten miles north west of the tip of Pemba Island we were rewarded with a strike from a 15 kg Dolphin-fish. We were headed to a seldom explored “bank” the Tanga side of centre of the channel and I decided to divert slightly to pass overhead a position marked on the GPS as Waypoint 42. Now all followers of the Rt. Rev Douglas Adams know that 42 is the “Ultimate Answer” to the ultimate question of the meaning of life and therefore it must hold some significance! Sure enough as we approached this Lat and Longitude a very large Tiger shark was spotted close by near the surface. The remains of the Skipjack was dropped back through the lure spread and again we watched the scene repeat itself as this Galeocerdo cuvier ignored our offering and melted into the depths.
I resorted to climbing into the tuna tower for a better panoramic view as we struggled to spot any fish for the next hour or so. A solitary Sailfish made a pass at our smaller bait but didn’t take and then a really monstrous dark brown Black Marlin showed behind a large Blue and Pink marlin lure. We could all see this magnificent fish as it held back initially for a while as it inspected the lures ahead of itself. Suddenly it made a move but it passed the lures attached to the 80 and 130 lb tackle and headed for a small combo bait on the 30 lb rod being fished from the bridge! This line was RAPIDY removed from the scene as this fish was truly HUGE and the light tackle would have been spooled within about a minute of hooking up! The Black (estimated at between 700-800 lbs) stayed around, its head and shoulders about half a metre wide, its pectoral fins lit up like metre-long turquoise-blue wands but although we then tried dropping back a tuna and a dorado the Marlin Gods decreed that we were not going to fight this monster this month as it rejected our offerings and it too disappeared into the depths of the Pemba Channel.
Time was running out for Mario when, with the Mlango at Shimoni in sight yet another huge shark was spotted. It wasn’t a Tiger but it was very big. Our best guess is a big Bull Shark but I wonder if it may have been a Great White but now without a photograph or a close-up view we’ll never know. What ever it was we dropped back two dead-baits right into its path. I gave a running commentary from the tuna tower as it turned and headed directly at the Yellow-fin-tuna head. Surely we would hook-up on this fish. Agonisingly the shark turned away from the Tuna head and veered towards the Dorado. Breaths were eventually regrettably released as, after seeming to be interested, the fish just disappeared, maybe spooked by the boat or perhaps satiated with the many tuna that were showing as deep swimming shoals on our echo-sounder.
It remained to dodge the white expanded polystyrene floats that marked local fishermen’s traps and the extended nets in the shallows, to set the boasting flags (Orange/White diagonal for the Broadbill boated, White for the 25 kg Yellow-fin Tuna, a “T” tag flag to indicate the flags below the T were for tagged fish, a Green flag for the Striped Marlin and two Red flags for the Sailfish) on the rigging and to look forward to a well earned cold beer back on terra-firma.
Thanks to Peter Ruysenaars for inviting me to be his guest skipper, for the crews I fished with and especially to Mario for wanting to keep putting in the hours on the ocean with that single minded desire to catch the BIG one. Tighter lines next time.