It was time to do the annual 400 nautical mile trip down from Silver Fish Lodge, Inhambane Bay, Mozambique to Richard Bay in South Africa for FV Bounty to get all the annual paperwork, safeties and maintenance issues sorted out. Richards bay is her home port, where she is registered.
The south east wind blew for 11 straight days before we could get a weather window to leave Inhambane bay on the 30 January 2019. It was unusual that it blew so long, but as in any weather condition, it had to pass.
Five of us, including my seasoned friend, fisherman and mechanic, Arnie Nice, left at 7am that morning. The tide caught us again, as usual, and only floated Bounty later than expected….. We headed out of the bay, and directly due east to deeper waters. Blue marlin, which we were targeting, are open water predators. They roam oceans and are to be found in deep water, from 300m.
We reached 300m depth in a sea that had the remanences of continued winds from the south east, against the current. Not comfortable, but we knew that it would get better as we progressed. We arrived at the contour line at 10.40 am. I was on the bridge and after about an hour, saw something that I recognised, if not at first glance. I caught a glimpse of a large black dolphin like creature. At first, I thought it was a big dolphin, and then it disappeared. I was still thinking about this, when the male Killer whale bridged the surface 0n to my starboard. Woww, what a creature. The dorsal fin cleared the surface with over a meter in length, and I was left thinking how the hell can you keep something like that in a swimming pool??? It must have been at least nine metres in all his glory.
At 12.40pm, in about 380m, we got our first strike, and hook up. A feisty 120 kg Blue marlin hit the short left flat line and immediately jumped. Everything happened so quickly, and before we knew it, it was off……. I hate it when that happens.
At 14h10, in 460m, we got our second hook-up. This one stuck, and we ushered Hennie into the fighting chair. It was his first Marlin, and instructions and guidance ran thick. Now there were three chiefs and one Indian, and a driver. Poor guy, but he eventually came through with much encouragement, and we released no 1 out of 2. The Blue marlin was estimated at 100kgs, and the fight lasted about a half hour.
We were going with the current, and the sea seems to be settling down, if only slightly. At 16h40 we had another strike, but no hook-up. At this stage we were between Guinjata and Zavora, and I was encouraged that late January my area produced three marlins in an afternoon. Not bad going.
All too soon darkness was on us and we continued auto pilot, but now we set a course to Almirante banks, situated 120 nautical miles due east of Inhaca island, Maputo for the morning arrival.
It was a restless, bumpy night with the south east wind hammering us on the front port side. It made for a broken sleep night, only interrupted by some commercial fishing that we could see twice during the night. Ships passing in the night, and they continued as if we didn’t exist.
Morning came and we were an hour and a half off Almirente banks at 7 knots. It’s a bank (shoal) that comes up from 1500 meters to two bumps at 60m and 70m below the surface, about a half a mile apart. Immediately we saw birds when we awoke. We saw tuna jumping under the birds as the bottom gradually came up to 400m.
We picked up two Dorado shortly after that, and then a Yellowfin tuna of about 20 kgs, all in under 20 minutes. A commercial longline that we saw early on upped and left. He was sitting on the bumps….
Now this place looked interesting. The sea had come off and conditions were good. What was against us was our fuel supplies……. because this was a last-minute decision to steer more east than usual, and together with the wind from the front and side on, we had less fuel than what we would have liked. Damn……. Tuna were jumping. There were birds about. The sea was flattening…….
All too soon, in the interests of safety, we turned the wheel to intersect Sodwana Bay on the SA side, and took off in that direction.
We had hardly left before the left short rigger, just behind the teaser, exploded and a feisty 150 kg Blue marlin took the Pulsator Kona. I was guided into the chair, and after about 30 minutes, it was released. We had another two strikes, and one hook-up on a 600 pound Blue Marlin where the 80 # line parted after 45 minutes, and far too soon it started getting dark again. Time flies when you are having fun.
Woke up again after a restless night and were off the coast of South Africa in familiar waters again. Wind was up, from behind this time, and I was sure we were going to get a marlin strike, especially off Sodwana, Cape Vidal, and north Richards Bay. Unfortunately, King Neptune had decided we had had enough, and before we knew it, we were alongside at Zululand Yacht Club at 14h00.
Few people have been to Almirante Leite Banks. Its out of the way, and not easy to get to. One must be prepared to spend the money on fuel. My impressions? I want to go back. I think June, or July would be a good time, when the wind should be more manageable. Pickup in Maputo transfer across to Inhaca Island, then wait for a weather window, leave at 10pm at night, and be there at first light. I’m thinking three full days there, and then set the auto pilot west for Inhaca island by first light the next morning. Maybe one or two days around Inhaca Island- someone caught a 1000-pound Blue Marlin the other day there…. Whose coming?
Either way, I’m definitely spending more time in the deep water off Silver Fish Lodge.
See you on the water sometime……Take time and come fishing.