It was sad to see Aaron go, one could sense he felt time had gone just a little too fast…kind of what usually happens when you having fun!
Was I glad to have another week in this mind blowing place….ohhh yeahhh!
Next morning, the 3rd of November, while waiting for Carl and Louwtjie´s plane to arrive, we were on the boat by the Cooktown jetty catching some quennies for swim baits on some small baitfish we were getting on the yo-zuris. Garret hooks up to a small trevally and sees a shadow creep in from below in the green water and just left the poor bugger splashing on the surface. Next thing, this gargantuan brindle bass or whatever they call it there, looking to be an easy 350 pounds engulfs it like a jelly bean. Awesome to see and great gopro footage…
Once we get the time we actually got some great footage & will make a nice video for the trip….coming up soon!
The guys finally made it to the boat just before 9am and, seeing introductions where less than formal, I guess we were all fired up to go and get back on it! Tim just climbed up, fired them up and here we were on our way back to the reef. I gave the guys a small tour and briefing and then a throughout look at the chart to explain where we were heading, where we been seeing them and just a general idea of what I had seen about the place so far..
Those who follow us or the fishing at Bazaruto will certainly recognize Carl´s Jankowitz name. Over the last 13 years he has fished aboard VAMIZI we have shared many special stories together, stuff of which unforgettable memories are made of. Some of these with very respectable fish including a few over the mark…as an angler, he has without a doubt, caught more BIG fish off Bazaruto than anyone else in the postwar years!
On the other hand, Lowtjie, a very enthusiastic plugging and jigging angler had very limited Marlin angling experience. His only Marlin trip had been to Bazaruto with us in mid-October 2014, where he caught his first ever Marlin. A little puppy we conservatively called 950+! There´s a story on that one I find hilarious; As I put a bridled live skipjack in the water this beast was literally sucking the paint of the transom waiting for it. It ripped the leader out of my hand and as we come up on the drag the fish jumped completely out of the flat calm water, a mere 30 meters from the boat, and spit the bait and circle – that went flying into the air. As I shouted ´FUCKKKKKK NO!…..I heard Lowtjie, now sitting in the chair looking like his eyes were about to eject from their sockets mutter; thank GOD he got off, we would have never have got it, that thing was a MONSTER!!! Well, thank GOD has soon as we put pushed a bit on the throttles and the now dead bait started skipping the fish seized on it and this time it stuck. Lowtjie released it after 1h50!
But that´s another story, for now we were running SE @ 20 odd knots to get to as close as possible to Linden Bank, where we had seen most of the fish the previous week.
After a couple hours we slowed down and put the bait rods out, but it was slow with only a couple scads and a scaly.
We put the baits out Andersen reef at 1pm, worked down to Escaped and started heading south. At 14h20 a fish took a swipe at the lure we had put where the left swim bait normally lives. It come back for seconds and this time we stuck and Carl released his first GBR Black at # 200. About 4pm we finally got to the ridge and half an hour later a small fish tried to eat the tiny Halco lure we had in short on a bait rod…luckily it never stuck! The next hour only produced a couple of wahoo chop offs but has the sun got close to the horizon we hooked and let one go for Lowtjie at about # 250. With twenty minutes of fishing left we put the baits out quickly and soon hooked into a much better fish. Carl got in the chair and we ended the day releasing a nice one that went down as # 800.
3 for 3 up to #800, one on a lure, the other on a swim bait and the last on a skip bait (plus a tiny guy on a Halco J on the first afternoon! Carl and Lowtjie´s introduction to the reef could have not been better and it was smiles, wine and cheers all around as we dined at south Opal that evening.
We started bait fishing at 9 am the next morning and got a couple quennies and scads. Lowtjie brought this sardine color deep diving Yo-zuri plug from his bag and asked the guys if they could put it out. No bullshit, this thing was in the water for 15 seconds before it got smashed by something which was, from the onset, way too big for bait! Lowtjie fought the fish for about 45 minutes and in the process broke the rod. A tad later he asked me to take over and I had a go for about another 20 minutes. Tim said this thing looked huge on the sounder. I was putting as much pressure as I could and eventually with the line rubbing on the rod it snapped and we lost what we thought was a VERY large dogtooth tuna.
Well enough of bait fishing and we had the baits out at noon. Two hours into it and we missed a small fish on the swim bait. At 15h20 we got another small fish on the swimming scad and this time the circle found the spot and Lowtjie released another # 200. The next fish come just after 4pm this one for Carl at # 350. Like the previous day we quickly put the baits out and instantly had another bite from a good one on the short big skip bait. We hooked up and Lowtjie released the fish at # 850 to finish the day.
4 for 3 on the day and that´s a total of 6 Black´s for the guys within the first two days including two nice one´s at 800 & 850! Needless to say the dinning, winning and joy was again ecstatic at Opal that evening…
Being the light tackle enthusiastic he is I saw Lowtjie sneak in by my bunk at first light with spinning rod in his hand. By the time we woke up he had already released a GT and some other small trevally´s. Quick breakfast and we left for a bait session that besides a bunch of bonnies also produced a nice sailfish for Louwtjie on one of the small 160 laser Pro Halco´s.
We started at 11am but besides raising a small fish which we never got a bite of it was very slow until 4pm when we finally got a bite which unfortunately never connected. Within the next five minutes we had another one and this time released it about #250. It was slow again for almost two hours until Calypso hooked up right next to us. Tim decided to have one more turn around them and we missed another bite straight away. Not five minutes later, with light being scarce, at 18h40 we had our last bite and this time we released a fish around # 200.
2 for 4 for the day and we raised another one…plus a sailfish on the bait rod – not too shabby!
For years one hears about this late start and late bite on the reef. I was innumerous times told bite o´clock on the reef is from 5pm! As difficult as it is, especially for visiting anglers with limited time, to get used to the late fishing start on the Reef, this last three days, if not the previous week, clearly showed that the notorious late GBR bite is not a myth!
Once again, morning greeted us with sunny flat calm seas and we enjoyed a good bait session with loads of bonito and some scads. As yesterday we put the baits out at 11am. Kindly, and knowing I hardly ever get a chance to catch a fish myself, Carl and Lowtjie told me I could get in the hot seat for the next one. Although these last couple years I got to pull in a few Blue (in Cape Verde) and a two stripes at Inhaca it took me a while to remember when I had last personally caught a Black. I went back over a decade and still I could not remember! After catching 17 in the last 7 days I was quiet hyped up to see what Poseidon would bring us next! Anxiously I waited, waited, waited and then we finally got a bite real late afternoon. As Murphy would have it we missed the fish and blanket for the day 😉
With all the activity at the bank for more than a week it was surprising to have such a shutdown as most of the fleet experienced a real slow day, except for Tim Dean on Calypso that was on a roll and went 3 for 4. However, it was interesting to hear that a few boats fishing the middle ribbons had seen some fish including Zulu that got 3 including a real nice one. Well, it was not a blank day that was going to dishearten the spirits of the boys after such great three days and once again had a great dinner at Opal. Even the trevally where cooperative and showed up in numbers on the underwater lights to give the guys great fun on the light spinning tackle.
But it did feel that things had gone a tad slower on the bank and Tim come and spoke to me about moving up to the middle ribbons the next day. However, unfortunately Carl had had some bad news from home and it looked like we might have to drop him at Cairns that night therefore it made no sense to move from the bank.
If the weather had been absolutely gorgeous then the next day, it was heavenly. There was not a breath of wind and we started the day with a brilliant and very rejuvenating snorkeling session on one of the bommies. It was just spectacular and seemed that everyone around us had the same idea. For the first time I climbed on the tower to absorb all this beauty and take some pictures…
The morning bait session produced a bunch of bonitos and some nice looking scaly´s and the baits where out by 11am. Seeing Carl might had to go that evening he was obviously back in the chair and I was hardly praying he would get a real one before heading home early. But it was not to be and despite a lot of bird activity at the bank we never even raised one and we picked up at 5pm for the run into Cairns. We had a great dinner at the Ruttle & Hum and after saying cheers to Carl left early the next morning back to the Bank.
I was back in the chair and anxiously waiting for that sea monster to show up. Just after 1pm we finally got a bite and although it was not a beast in any sense it was certainly the most spirited fish we had caught for the past 10 days. It was good to be back in the chair and I had great fun on this fish that did absolutely everything and was not bulging with 60 pounds of drag. Finally, we let it go at #400. An hour later we hooked another one and Lowtjie jumped in the chair. Not sure what the hell was going on with the fish on the day but this one was just as stubborn and a tad bigger. To make matters worse then bloody thing never jumped and just kept digging it. Garret had the leader a number of times but could not hold on, eventually after a grueling 40 minutes for Lowtjie we released it at # 650.
Then just after 4 pm we had a double header. First we had a bite from a real nice one on the short skipbait. As we dropping a small fish takes the scad. The first fish comes bill wrapped and comes undone pretty quickly and the small fish drops the bait to grab the big bait that the big fish let go. All this chaos and we ended up not hooking either.
Really good to have a few fish after the two quiet day´s and ended the day going 2 for 4 on some fun, if very tenacious fish.
That evening we heard of a nice BIG fish bite in the middle Ribbons from the few boats fishing there, especially at n.#5 where besides a few good fish there was a double header with an 800 and a real nice one (they released the big one and got rid of the nuisance small 800)! It was our last day and we obviously had to start making our way up anyway for the drop off at Cooktown. It was all coming to an end of what had been a superb trip. However, there was just a faint, little sour taste at the back of my mouth for not having seen a real BIG one. But we still had one more day and even though we would not get much fishing time it sounded promising up the middle.
It was an early one the next morning as we started heading north with the bait rods. A long, slow going 6 hours picking up some bonitos, scaly mackerel and scads along the way. At the top end of Escapade (I think) we stopped at a bommie and chucked some poppers and Louwtjie hooked up to a GT on the first cast that unfortunately come undone. We run for an hour and eventually put the baits out at the bottom end of n.#3. For some reason everyone seemed to be a bit more edgy and we all had BIG FISH on the back of our minds. Well, we did not have to wait long.
At 1h20pm a grenade detonated on the long skip bait. In the high pitch voices, one could hear and definitely feel a different energy on the boat; this was a different animal all together. There was no pick up on the drop so Garret started winding on the scaly mackerel and just then this beast of a fish started following the skip bait, snake like, from afar. We brought the fish closer and finally have her take it. All I remember seeing from the bridge was this big baseball bat come over the bait and a hole left where it had been a tenth of a second before. We gave a good drop and as we slowly started coming up the pole started to load and line peeled against the drag. Just then the fish come up at a considerable distance, head out the water shaking as in slow motion and just then it came slack. I think the fish was just holding on to it down below and spit it out. It would have been a truly great finale. The boys on the deck where in absolute dismay. Chris in his usual gentle soft way just looked at me and told me it was the biggest fish he had ever seen; Garret, the other side of the spectrum went inside the cabin to yell out a few obscenities. It was not a sea monster but one definitely over the mark, and the boys where long due a BIG fish and, of course for us, it would have just been a great fish to finish off a prodigious trip. But it wasn’t to be and no point grudging over it!
We missed a small one an hour later and that was that. It was 16h15 and time to make the run back to Cooktown. Again we had a feast of a dinner at the wharf and time to say our goodbye´s. Waiting to take out flight back to Cairns at the Cooktown runaway the next morning I immediately recognized the honeymoon American couple that was fishing with Tim and the boys for the next 4 days. Casually I introduced myself and started telling them about the trip, I could see their eyes bulge out when I told them we had gotten 22 on our trip. Providentially, they got a few good fish for themselves that same afternoon and for the rest of the trip.
All in all, we fished a total of 14 days. We blanket for 5 of those days, which understandably where mostly the travelling days we made our way down or up the reef. But, the remaining 9 days where absolutely insane…
We raised a total of 39 Black´s with 36 strikes converting to 22 releases. Biggest fish went 850, 800, 700 and 650!
A big thank you to everyone who made part of this absolutely remarkable experience; Aaron Atkins, Carl Jankowitz, Lowtjie Nel and of course the Tradition crew, Tim Richardson, Garret Penley and Chris Mowad….you were truly great people to share it with and that makes a big part of it.
Now it´s back home to spend a couple days with the family before heading across to Bazaruto where we have another month of Marlin fishing before the season starts tapping off!
In a perfect World Bazaruto´s & the GBR season would not overlap and then I could do enjoy both every year…but it´s not so, but one way or another one thing is for sured…
…I WILL BE BACK!
Duarte A. M. Rato
Sportfishing Charters @ Vilankulos & Bazaruto Archipelago
FB: MarlinMoz Sportfishing & fishbazaruto.com
Phone: 00 258 82 805 7160 / 00 258 84 639 0466