Marlin Fishing Season 2008
BAZARUTO ISLAND - MOZAMBIQUE
The precise reasons might somehow be unfathomable but probably it has more to do, amongst all other variables, with the cyclical intricacies of Mother Nature and its eternal flowing ocean rivers. One can also argue that there are more boats with crews that have learned the grounds better and which are focusing more on solemnly targeting the ultimate quarry. Or that the usage of new and unconventional methods in this area, such as bait & switch and lures, has opened new frontiers. But whatever way you look at it, the undeniable fact is that for the last few years the Marlin fishing on the rich waters of the Bazaruto archipelago just seems to be getting better and better.
Unfortunately for a number of reasons such as having a lot of sailfish, light tackle and fly fishing charters earlier on, a last minute six day charter cancellation and a planned two week boat overall maintenance, we only started to target Marlin consistently mid way through the season, but ``HOLEEEY SHIT``, was it good then!!!. It got so good it was ridiculous!!!
It just got to a stage where at 5am you open your eyes, bloodshot from the previous evening prodigious celebrations and bulged up from the acute sleep deprivation you have endured from continuously long fishing days, your body sore, stiff, worn out and beaten up. Still you jump out of bed with surprising energy and grinning - `cause you intimately know that later on that day a fish, probably more, IS going to show up behind the spread and that most likely one or more will be pushing 500 pounds or way better!!!
You know that sometime during the day other eyes will be bulging (this time from your charter) as that massive Black jumps from the inside out all over the short corner bait and heads at warping speed into the horizon, line peeling of the golden Tiagra sounding as if a thousand Siamese cats were being burned alive. And then already set in the chair, the charters expression grins in exhilaration. I mean, isn't that what it´s all about?!!!. Who the hell cares about fatigue, sleep or any of it when the fishing is that good?!. But I am rambling away… let´s start from the beginning.
With a strong north to south current of electric deep blue water pushing the high ends of 25 degree Celsius and an early appearance of large shoals of skipjack tuna, Marlin fishing conditions were picture perfect as early as the beginning of September. It proved to be an exceptionally windy month, but fortunately mostly blowing from the right direction, as we believe that more than anything else an early strong to moderate consistent southeasterly sets the conditions right for an excellent season.
It is a shame that every year very few boats seriously target Marlin in September. If one speaks to the old skippers from Paradise Isl. or looks at their record book its clear this was and certainly still is prime time. Conditions always look so good and as we know, even if not the most comfortable, the big fish just seem to love that big southerly swell. It is also a perfect time for those wishing to combine Marlin fishing with the light tackle (by catch) enjoyment on the late sailfish run, that can get furiously fast this time of the year.
Exactly because we were having a great sailfish and game fish run most charters choose to target these exclusively in September and we had extremely good action with various resort guests from early in the month. Our first charter group arrived later, on the 22nd, for 5 days of light tackle fishing. Monty, Kevin, Johann and Cor turned out to be a fantastic bunch from SA and despite having a blowout on their last day and fishing in extremely windy conditions on another two, the fishing was considerably good with some sailfish releases, and lots of quality game fish including some nice big wahoo, dorado and cuda.
Into September´s last week and early October, most Marlin caught were rats hooked on light tackle sailfish baits, but the few who did bring out the heavy guns started to show good results. Makaira reported hooking a stubborn 800 pound fish that chuffed through the leader after three hours, and some days later parting on another of about 600 lbs. Cuba Libre had better luck tough and caught the first big Black Marlin of the season at 704 lbs, a fish that was unfortunately killed. My second charter arrived for four days of plugging and light tackle fishing starting on the 27th. Ian du Plessis is a regular guest that has fished with us for years. This time he was with the family and we only fished half days but still released a couple of sailfish and got some decent game fish. On his last morning we decided to pull Marlin lures for a couple of hours. Not two minutes after setting the spread out off V mile we raise a sailfish on the LC Williamson´s Bonito Smoker that would not bite and five minutes later, again on the same lure we briefly connect to a good 400 pound Black that peels a 100 yards and comes unbuttoned. Nose job, but a hook up on your first 10 minutes of Marlin fishing for the season… Hohhhhh yeah, certainly a good omen for things to come!
Early to mid October, and after two back to back strong southerly´s that created a counter current, there was a spell of flat seas that slowed the bite down, with a few small Black´s being released, but most of the big girls seen, being somehow unresponsive. During the two weeks of painting, glassing, servicing the engines and generally working on my baby (Vamzi), I phoned around and everyone was having a real slow and hard time. On the 12th Jon Hsuan, who as fished with us since 2002 arrived all the way from Brazil for a 3 day charter. The ocean was flat and empty and there was absolutely no surface activity and although we did tag a sailie out of various strikes (they can be incredibly difficult to hook on those Konas!!!) as well as a few good dorado and wahoo, on the Marlin side it turned out to be very sluggish. We only managed to raise 3 Marlin for a strike that did not connect and Jon was unfortunate to be our only Marlin charter guest this season that did not tag a fish. Not even Jon´s special Coca-Cola lure did the trick!!!. Sorry Jon, it´s how it goes!!!
Finally conditions started to readjust around the 15th. The counter current started to subside and switch around and has it happens there were loads of rip lines, temperature breaks and phytoplankton blooms which in turn started to create some surface activity. Within the next week conditions were once again ideal. Unfortunately I had a last minute 6 day Marlin charter cancellation so, along with most of the other boats, spent the third week of October fishing with the resort´s holiday makers, who mostly choose to target sailfish, along with the good size wahoo, dorado and other game fish that had now reappeared in good numbers. Not surprisingly the few boats sporadically fishing for Marlin reported good action and some releases. Dave and Duncan Royston aboard Marlin, the only boat consistently fishing for them during the week, released 2 out of 3 strikes on their first day and raised and hooked fish on all other of their six outings.
The annual Bazaruto Invitational Marlin competition started on the 25th October where the eight competing teams from S.A, Zimbabwe and Mozambique were greeted by a very strong 25 knot +SE. Despite cutting the first day short due to the raising swells three good fish were released out of five hookup´s, and we were fortunate to release a beast on the day.
We started making bait in the early morning and as I normally do in such windy conditions, decided to fish skip baits. At 08h30 we set a skipping 4kg bonnie on the left rigger and on the right a skipping/swimming giant squid (imported from maputo!!!) rigged ``Didi´s style´´. Now, a couple of years ago my good friend from Maputo, Luis Nunes (Didi), come up with this squid rig I had never seen before or after anywhere else. It’s a bit difficult to elaborate in words, but enough to say that we had caught a couple of Marlin fishing together on his boat off Inhaca and I was mesmerized the way this rig swam and very willing to give them a try on the Bazaruto waters. Besides its erratic swimming & skipping action and its easiness to gulp down, the best part of this bait is that by rigging it differently and by adjusting its position and rigger height it works amazingly well at a 4-5 knot skip bait speeds to a 7 knot lure speed. Sure enough shortly after 9am in 68m off lighthouse we have a blind strike on it but nothing picks up on the drop. I pounded the area and 20 minutes later a massive shadow materializes beneath the ``squidy`` again and even before the clip opens, Carl, who was having a snooze, had already jumped over anything and anybody to make a perfect drop and we come tight on the fish. A couple minutes later it jumps in the distance but with such swells I could see she was a big fish but not really give an accurate estimate. Only after an hour and a half, as it jumped by the boat did I see it, OHHH MY F…! She was enormous as well as a mean fighter. Alex had to let go off the leader 7 times. Carl as now caught 13 Marlin with me over the last three years competitions, and he is by all means an excellent and very experienced angler, but it was the first time he connected to a beast this size. The picture I have off this fight in my mind’s eye is Carl´s words & expression when the fish went deep and I told him to push the drag up to 55 pounds. A mixture of joy, pain, tiredness, elation and, as his butt was pulled up high in the chair, surprise. ``Jiiiiiiiiiiii boet, this is a whole different ball game``!!! We finally released the fish just under the 2 hour mark and it went down as an easy 850 pounder.
Later at noon we hooked and released a 180 pound dusky shark on the other skip bait and with the rising seas, like all other boats, made an early way home. Marcelo Matos on Fourplay released his first ever Marlin at 300 pounds on a lure and Achelous release a good 600 pounder on a live bait. Besides being a beautiful setting place to fish from, with few boats, good numbers of Marlin and game fish and the ever constant possibility of raising a biblical size fish, these three fish epitomize what I consider to be one of the most interesting, challenging and educational facets of Marlin fishing on Bazaruto; that depending on conditions, on any given day all methods work well in these waters.
The 26th was a blowout, with only a couple of boats venturing out for a few hours in the afternoon, with Finally hooking and parting on a solid 600 pound. With flat seas, the weather was almost too perfect for the rest of the week, making surface temperatures a bit high and along with low barometer readings turning the big fish a bit lethargic. It was surprising the number if big and smaller fish raised that would not bite, but still, excellent fishing was had by all with some good fish being hooked, most lost and other´s caught. The biggest release for the event turned out to be a mammoth Black estimated at over a 1000 pounds hooked on a circle hook bridled live bonito by angler Rodger Mac Donald on Topless. Once again congratulations Rodger for an amazing catch and more even for releasing such a superb fish. We, on Vamizi, ended up raising another 14 Marlin for the rest of the comp, which materialized in 11 strikes, 7 hookup´s and 5 releases. A 350 pounder caught on the 5th day on the short rigger BB 1656 gave us a memorable acrobatic show on the leader, providing for great photos!!!
With those 5 Marlin releases anglers Dr. Mike and Carl Jankowitz, along with Vaughan Richardson (who joined us for a few days) won the competition for the third consecutive year aboard Vamizi…Carl & Mike my sincere thank you for coming back again for (as always) a awesome week. Second place was a tie between Topless and Fourplay with 3 releases each. And, a big thanks Ricky for, once again, organizing the most pleasurable comp and bringing together such a great bunch of guys.
During the same time CADSAS also had a Billfish Tournament going on at Inhassoro and some good Marlin were caught with the biggest at over 600 pounds and other´s lost, including two very big fish by Makaira.
The few boats fishing the week after found pretty good action, with Yellowfin going 1 for 3 on the 2nd , Finally missing a good fish the next day and we releasing 1 out of 3 on the 5th. On the 6th a boat from Azzura released a 300 pounder and missed a big one, Marlin caught one and had 2 other fish jump off and we on Vamizi releasing another out of 2 bites. Unfortunately by now the wind turned to the NE bringing in green water and all boats turned to the excellent game fishing, especially with the endless schools of queen mackerel up north at 25 mile. All, except Finally, whose persistence paid off with a 811 lbs Black caught on a cuda skip bait on pea soup water out of lighthouse on the 9th (unfortunately this fish died and had to be boated) and losing another estimated at 400 lbs the following day.
During this time I had a 5 day charter with John Laggay and Simon Pratt, both extremely experienced fishermen but on their first Marlin trip. Unfortunately due to the water color it wasn’t brilliant. Still, on the first three days we still got fairly reasonable water and managed a first Marlin release for both. On the first day after missing a strike, then pulling hooks on another John finally hooked up to a 250 pound that took the Braziliano on the SC. The fish was foul hooked on the top and even on 80 pound tackle gave John quiet a hard time for 40 minutes. The next day we raised one and missed another and the third went looking for better water down south by the canyon with Simon releasing a Marlin on the Stinger Black & Red SPJ. The water was so bad the last two days that we spent most time plugging, catching a few good GT´s.
My next charter phone me that they would be arriving a day later so on the 13th did a fly fishing charter which turned to be awesome. We fished 25 mile in the morning and lighthouse in the afternoon and ended up releasing over 25 gamefish (of 9 different species), including some big kingies (of which a lot broke us off on the reef!!!), queenfish, bonnies, green and rosy job fish, barracuda´s, king mackerel and other´s.
Our next charter was with my good friends from Maputo, brothers Jose & Joao S. Botte and Manuel Castelo Branco, who are regulars, having been coming back twice a year for both, the Marlin and the sailfish season for the past 5 years. This time they could only fish for two days and on the 14th the water was still very green up north. Working skip baits, we only managed to raise a couple of hammerheads in the morning, so after a midday spinning session at lighthouse reef we decided to pull lures and work our way south. Due to the water conditions I was working deeper than usual and late afternoon in 126m out of V Mile Reef raise a fish on the LC Bonito Smoker but no bite. We circle the area and sure enough, five minutes later, we get the fish pilling over the same lure again. Jose brought in the # 250 fish for a release in fifteen minutes but this turned out to be a very special catch, an unusual Blue Marlin, the only one we know of being caught in the area this last season. The next day was flat calm and the water finally looking a tad better. We had a slow time again with skip baits in the morning, so after the usual noon spinning session decided to pull lures in the afternoon. Conditions were definitely changing and although the fish were finicky and billing ``sailfish style`` we raised no less than five fish in just under three hours. North of sailfish Bay we hookup and Manuel Castelo Branco releases a #250 Black, again on the Williamson´s Bonito Smoker. Minutes later we raise another and we get him up another 3 times in the next 20 minutes (I believe it was the same fish), but only managed a halfhearted strike from it. Further south we shortly connect to another ``nose job`` fish and still raised and miss another before lines in.
The next day I was playing ``high flyer`` and went exploring down the coast with Mark Neves chooper. What an awesome day and what a way to see this stunning coastline that stretches for miles and miles without any human interference. We landed on the beach for lunch in a spot south of Pomene where there were the bone remains of a humpback whale. On the 17th it was back to sea for a half day and in less than four hours of marlin fishing we release a #350 out of three strikes, raise another uncooperative fish and then have a brief encounter with a good 400 pound plus fish hooked on a Halco on a bait stick for Harold Lee Jones and his wife, Kelly.
It had been good so far, but from then onwards the bite really `come on FIRE, not only for the quantity of fish, but certainly the quality as well, with loads of fish of #500 and above making regular appearances. Regrettably from then on and until December there were hardly any boats consistently fishing for Marlin but us and we certainly made the most of it with packed action every single fishing day, managing to release an amazing 15 fish (out of 36 strikes and 22 hookup´s) in 16 Marlin fishing days. It doesn't really get much better than this…not that it has to!!!
The 18th started a 3 day charter with Gary and Sean Cumbrick that were hoping to catch some good game fish. After some light tackle fun in the morning I convinced them to pull Marlin lures in the afternoon. It was a frustrating one with the biggest acute rubber hook syndrome ever by losing 3 hooked fish out of 6 Marlin bites. The next day greeted us with a strong southerly, but they now had the Marlin bug in them, and we brave it out there for a few hours and Sean was rewarded with his first ever billfish release, a hard, deep fighting 650 pound Black on the LR Wide Range. With flat calm seas, their last day started with a 600 pound window shopper at 10am. An hour later we hook a fish pushing 550 lbs on the SR 1656 and after a hearty battle and some breathtaking jumps on the leader Gary also releases his first ever billfish. Later in the day we pull a ``nose job`` 200 lbs rat and raise another beast, this one looking over 800 lbs that takes a feeble attempt at the 1656 and fades. On a ½ day two days later we release a 400 pound out of two bites and the next a 450 out of three. And so, in between game fish and fly fishing charters, we periodically continue having good Marlin action every time we managed to target them, releasing another six up to 500 pounds within the next two weeks. During this time we also hear of a couple of other Marlin caught including one pushing 700 pounds caught by one of the Benguerra boats that took over 3 hours into dusk to get to the boat and pulled them all the way down to San Sebastian.
Despite us having to leave for other commitments in mid December the bite was still red hot on our last charter for the season with regulars Richard Brake and his son Billy. The first day was spent game fishing and amongst other´s Billy releases a good sailfish. With such a red hot Marlin bite the previous four weeks it wasn’t hard to convince Richard to bring the big stuff out after a morning of game fishing on their second day. Within minutes our live bait is taken and over an hour later Richard releases a monster Zambezi shark. We switch to lures and Richard hardly has time to recover as a 600 pound Black inhales the blue & white Island Express on the LR on a 50 pound set up. Fortunately the fish stayed on top, giving us an exciting surface fight and spectacular jumps before we released it just after the hour mark. Before the day ends we still raise another that looks to be 500 lbs, but it fails to find steel after two halfhearted strikes again on the long rigger Isl. Express.
Now, I could go on and on about the various unforgettable moments and magnificent fish we raised, fought, lost or released over the last three weeks. There were definitely some very special moments, but this report is already way too long, so I will finish off with our last day of the season with Richard & Billy Brake on the 13th of December. Despite a very sad situation and there having been others more successful, this day had its share of magical moments and epitomized our thriving season. Plus the fighting attitude, excitement, wonder & magic I saw in 12 year old Billy´s (who´s definitely hooked up for life) eyes certainly made it one of the most memorable ever.
As usual with the Brake´s we started fishing for game fish in the morning and had a successful time jigging way up north at 25 mile reef. The sea was flat calm and conditions just looked picture perfect and around 10 am we set up the lures and started trolling towards the lighthouse. Richard had released a #600 Black the previous day and now it was all about getting young Billy his first ever Marlin release and within a half hour a perfect size 300 pound fish materialized on the SR 1656. The fish followed for some time, billed the lure as if a sailfish, never even opening the clip, and then faded. I worked the area for some time to try and raise him again but to no avail. As we approach lighthouse we hear on the VHF that a boat from Inhassoro had just lost a Marlin they hooked while vertical jigging (that´s a first for me) in some 80 meters of water and another that had released a 350 pounder. Shortly we start marking a lot of bait on the sounder and after a half an hour around the area I decided to go a bit deeper on the spot. At noon we hit jackpot! No one ever saw the bite (again on the 1656) but the hole she left behind and the sizzling run told me she was a good fish. Even before Billy jumps in the chair and clips the harness or I have time to turn and chase we are well into the Dacron backing. Only twenty minutes later, after another warp speed run, does she show herself in the distance and even from far it’s clear she´s easily 550 lbs plus. Quiet a big, tough deep fighting fish for Billy but, for an hour he does a superb job applying as much pressure as his 80 pound body allows for. He really did a superb job, but after an hour Dad has to take over so that he can get a rest and after that they swop every 15 minutes or so. Just under the two hour mark we finally get the leader but she keeps digging her head deep and Alex as to let go. It runs straight down 30m and stops and immediately after we twice feel two big thumps on the rod. Knowing what this means I tell Richard to push the drag to sunset and reel, but it´s too late as a massive tiger shark follows the head of this great fish right up to the boat and another lurks around 15m below. It´s a silent and sad moment as we boat the remains of the 110 pound head on the deck, but what a feat for the young angler. It’s only the second sharked Marlin I have in the 8 years of fishing Bazaruto and I just keep staring at that head on the deck and shaking mine in disbelief.
We decide to make our way home going south and I downsized some of the lures hoping to get a smaller fish for Billy and I replace the ``flavor of the moment`` SR 1656 for a mini of its kind. As Murphy´s law goes…the reverse happens!!! We are in 68 meter of water out of sailfish bay when a colossal dark shadow rises from the depths, ironically, behind the mini 1656. The massive dorsal just breaks the surface but the wake the fishes’ shoulders make and the water she pushes’ are difficult to grasp and as I tried to shout something all I could master was some sort of undecipherable mumble… there´s so much speeding through one´s mind in these instances, and one for sure was what the hell was a fish this size doing beneath our smallest bait, this could not be real, hey, I had left two decent size baits on the #130 shorts.!?!!! But real it was as she lunged forward throwing water everywhere, swiping from side to side but never really touching the lure and fading away. Instances like this make even atheists religious. As I fought the urge to turn round and kept Vamizi on a straight course, just slightly touching the wheel to position the lures at their best I prayed for her to come back. And back she was after a few seconds (that felt like long minutes) this time behind, the also relatively small, SPJ on the Stinger. Once again she followed deep, then come up, swiped from side to side making a hell of a statement behind the tiny offering but again faded without touching it, this time for good. It’s a moment of disbelief when the fish that you wait all season and endless hours of trolling shows herself and then fades without a nibble. One goes back and forth on what you could have done to entice her and what went and was wrong, if anything!!!. But at the end, in all honesty just that sight is a marvelous gift.
I mean, when I first saw her come up as if in slow motion I almost choked on my palmar, my fingers trembled the on the throttles the way only behemoths make them do and my being almost convulsed with the massive adrenaline rush going on through my body at 200 K´s an hour! My mind was screaming MARLINBIGBIGMARLINHOLYCHITTHATSAGODDAMMONSTER and all other obscenities while I tried to stay put, mesmerized and hypnotized by the sight, silently praying that the fish would eat. Even after the fish come up the second time and then faded for good I just looked at the now seemingly empty ocean in silence. She never really showed herself much beyond the surface and I knew that to the untrained eye and from the deck it would have been difficult to access the gargantuan size of that fish. It had been a very intense day and made no sense to make a meal of it and I just took it casually and never even told Richard how big I think that fish really was…but freaking hell, she was easily and by far the biggest fish I saw all season (and there were some beast around this year). I would have carried on working that spot until the sun was way behind the horizon but something told me it made no sense and after a while we carried on south! Not long after, we got to V Mile and I turned in towards land and told Richard we would pull lines in once we got to 45 meters of water.
Kid you not, right when the sounder showed that depth a small fish, more in tune with Billy´s size comes charging in and after inspecting and billing every single lure on the spread finally gets hooked on the LR Blue & White Isl. Express. Billy jumps in the chair and soon after brings the 80 pound rat for his first ever Marlin release.
What an incredible day to finish off a magical season…
For information on prices and packages please refer to the attached word document just below named "Marlin Packages SA".