Captain's Blog


Kenya Billfish GRAND Slam Hunt, Watamu

It took me ten years to get back to Watamu and Malindi, Kenya, for my eighth visit.  Building Silver fish lodge, and growing it, took me away from faraway fishing adventures. I was itching to get back.

Kenya is one of the few places in the world where one can, relatively easily, get a Billfish grand slam. A grand slam is any three different Billfish species in a 24-hr period. A super grams slam is any four. 

February is the best month to go for Marlin, and November is the best month to go for Sailfish.

We booked in August, and already couldn’t get consecutive three days fishing on Neptune. This boat is the top Billfish boat in Africa. The captain, Angus, has been around forever, and he has a seasoned crew to assist.

Getting there wasn’t easy. Why is it that all the good places to fish at are hard to get to? We flew Johannesburg, Addis Ababa, Mombasa and then took a shuttle 3 hrs to Malindi, only to find out that the boats were moved from Malindi to Watamu, about 30 km south….

Well, we all like a good African Adventure, and I knew Driftwood Inn in Malindi from previous visits. We were pre-booked and settled in, arriving on the 4th Feb 2019.

Day two and we were shuttled at 05h30 to Watamu to board Neptune. They didn’t get a fish for two days, so I knew the boat was due and Angus was chomping at the bit to go. Within 10 minutes of leaving the bay, we slowed down to 7 knots and put out sailfish baits. Here they use belly-shine in strips, as they did when I was here 10 years previously. Typically, these are rigged behind smaller Kona lures, and attached to 50# tackle. With the sailfish lures, three teasers are pulled, together with 7 baits/lures. It sounds like a lot, but then there are three deckies……

Shortly after 08h00, Andrew picked up the first Billfish of the tour, a Sailfish, which he has quite quickly subdued and released. Next up was Charles, who then strapped himself into the harness all the time saying that he didn’t know if he was quite ready for a Marlin fight and would prefer a Sailfish to warm up. One hour became two hours, then became three hours. One must be patient on a Marlin hunt. We had been going due east, straight offshore since the beginning and I sensed that we were in deep water. I kept telling Charles that they hit you at anytime of the day, and that he should sleep with one eye open. Shortly after 12h00 a feisty Blue marlin (of about 160 #) hit the left outrigger lure (which had subsequently been changed to upsize as we got deeper). Charles got into the chair and fought his first Marlin, which was subdued and released with full faculties……. That was two billfish, and we still had four hours to go. Time for a grand slam. As usual I was last to go, so now it was my turn. I was hoping for a striped Marlin, which we know are in deep water. Another long wait interrupted by the odd Dorado. Patience……. Just after 16h00 hours, a big Blue Marlin hit the short right lure directly behind the teaser, missed that, and then swallowed the back-right outrigger lure and started peeling off line like only a big Blue marlin can do. I watched in horror as the line disappeared onto the backing and kept going. I saw a couple of jumps in different places and was amazed by the speed of the fish, once again. Things happen quickly on a Marlin boat, and the fish didn’t settle, so we started chasing him down. I had what I estimate 500m of 80# line out, and now I had my work cut out to keep tension on the line and get it back onto the spool.

What seemed like an eternity, but apparently wasn’t, and after about 45 minutes, we had the estimated 450# Blue Marlin subdued on the leader for some photos. I was spent, but with a big smile of accomplishment that only a marlin can give you.

We didn’t get the grand slam but did get two marlin and a sailfish- wow, what a start!

Day two and we were on Snowgoose, a different boat, but one still in the fleet. Captained by Abu, who has worked with the kingfisher fleet for 20 odd years. We ended the day with two sailfish, one to Andrew and one to Charles. Charles now caught his first marlin on day one, and his first sailfish on day two. He was chuffed, to say the least, and we settled into some good whisky at Driftwood Inn, followed by some outstanding food, all three courses of it.

Day three we were back on Neptune, and Charles got his second, Marlin, an estimated 250 pounder. I gifted my chance to Andrew who really wanted a marlin, but he was to be outdone by another sailfish unfortunately. So, three days, we had three marlin, and three sailfish. Everyone was happy. Mission accomplished, and all too soon, Charles and Andrew headed back to the hamster wheel, and I was left to my own devises, if only for a few hours.

That same day group two arrived. There trip was as an adventure as ours, with them leaving Johannesburg at 11h30 at night, flying through the night via Addis Abba, and arriving at 13h00 at Driftwood inn, with barely any sleep.

None of these three guys, who had all fished with me before had caught a Marlin, or a Sailfish, and spirits were high with the accomplishments of the previous few days.

We got some wind through the night, and day one was rough. There was a cyclone that hit Rodrigues Island, just off Mauritius, and even though it was 1000 km away, the sea was up. Neptune is a 35ft Bertram, and we took a beating the whole day, ending with Willie getting his first Sailfish, which we got quite early.  JJ hooked a Blue which got off, and then nothing for the rest of the day.

We then launched the next day, and after lunch time JJ Olivier hooked into a 250-pound Blue Marlin that was carrying on like a fish possessed. It flew off the handle and did some spectacular greyhound jumps, and was finally subdued after about 40 minutes, and photos in the water was taken, and then it was released in good condition. We had waited 13 hours since the last billfish, and the cyclone seemed to be taking its toll on our fishing……

Next day wasn’t much better with Gert taking on a Black marlin within 5 minutes of lines in on sailfish baits. The fish was estimated at 100 kgs and was on for a short while until the line parted. Damn, hate it when that happens. At around 12h30 I got another Blue of about #250 and then a boat next to us hooked a double on sailfish shortly before lines up at 16h30.

We ended the tour of 6 days fishing with 5 marlins between 160# and 450# and 5 sailfish, all caught and released off the leader to fight another day. 4 guys got firsts. I was happy and contented with the tour with us seeing at least a Billfish per day.

The next day Gert, Willie and JJ went out again, and picked up 2 sailfish and lost a Blue Marlin. At that stage I was already in Mombasa, waiting to fly out back to Mozambique.

On the second day, whilst we were there, some other guys went out and got a Broadbill in the daytime. Others in other days got Black Marlin, and Striped Marlin.

Of course, it has happened that someone has got a fantasy slam here before, a Sailfish, a Black marlin, Blue Marlin, Striped marlin and a Broadbill, all in 24 hrs. Don’t think it was an individual, but the boat. I also heard of a Boat getting a 1200 pounder Marlin about four months ago up at the North Kenya Banks. One angler fought it for 5 hours, and then handed it over to others for the next hour and a half. Kenya produces, and delivers. You need to go at the right time of the year, and space is limited.

I have already booked 6 days in February 2020, with the best boat. I suggest 2 or 3 people per group. If you are interested, then we need to put a 30% deposit on the boat now. The boat is $800 for a full day. Airfares and Accommodation, we can do at a later stage. There is no shortage of accommodation in all price ranges. Flights we should do about 5 months before February. We need a gram slam guys!

Take time and go fishing- God gives you back those days at the end.


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