Bazaruto´s December Marlin
December marlin dreaming: After, as usual, waking up with the birds at 4am, I come across a post on Carl´s Du Plessis FB on a #800 Black he had caught with us 8 years ago in December.
Lying in bed it got me thinking about all the big fish we have caught in December, a month we hardly fish anymore. It got me going through the old logbooks!
Its historically known that Mozambique´s Bazaruto´s Archipelago Peak Big Black Marlin Season runs from late September into late November. We normally start by early to mid-September and finish it off around late November or the first week of December and great fishing can be had at both edges.
But, its wasn’t always like this.
In the early years, we used to fish well into Bazaruto´s December Marlin season.
After the hard core, Marlin fisherman left we use to fish with resort holiday makers into December. The calm weather and good fishing we had then, created a few regulars which kept coming back year after and fish Bazaruto´s December Marlin Season.
It can certainly be a hard time to fish, especially when the water goes above 28c.
The fish go lethargic and usually, there´s a lack of bait, game fish or surface activity. The Ocean goes sterile.
But, going through those logbooks it´s surprising how many good fish we caught in the last month of the year…
As usual, our last charter for the year was, with regulars Richard and Billy Brake that came to Bazaruto for many years on the last week of September and sometime around mid-December. The previous year they had come for Christmas and the last fish we tagged was on the 26th. This time we fished the second week and the water temperature was 28.2c.
The very first day, we released a #650 for Richard. After a day of light tackle, we decide to try to get 12-year-old Billy, his first Marlin.
We raised a perfect #350 on the SR 1696 in skipjack straight away but got no bite out of it. At 11h00 we got a crash bite on the same lure and hooked up to a nice one. The young boy did a great job on the chair but it took us just over two hours to get the estimated #750 fish boat side and unfortunately it was heavily taxed by two massive tigers.
I replaced the SR with a mini 1696 in the same colors and 30 minutes later we raised one that was certainly pass the mark with many pounds to spare. Albeit coming on the tiny lure three times we never got a bite out of it. We finished the day and the Season with a small Black for the young lad shallow of V Mile.
It was a good year.
On the 6th of November, we weighted our first ever Grander Black at Bazaruto.
Jerome´s fish was also heavily taxed but the remains of that mammoth fish (that went #1400+ on the formula) still went #1107-pounds.
We caught a bunch of good one´s that month and caught one every day for the last week of November.
This carried on into December.
Then, on the 4th we hit gold once again!
It was Carl Du Plessis first ever charter with us.
Our mutual friend, Jose S. Botte, was aboard Vamizi as well.
It was calm and overcast, which magnified the smoke trail of the lures in our wake.
Just past 8am and as we got to the area known as Nhangoose a bomb exploded on the long rigger express.
Mind blowing bite!
What followed was an epic saga that lasted 5h40.
It was Carl´s first ever Marlin and on #80 pound. He had breakfast and lunch on the chair 🙂
That fish gave us some awesome jumps, right out the water on the leader.
Still today, I have a sardonic laugh with Ze, to whom I had given my camera, and who miraculously managed to miss all those shoots.
We never got a picture of that great fish.
Although she was fat all the way through and looked every bit the part we called her 950+
We caught fish almost daily after that and on the 8th our good friend Dave Charley, also on his first ever Marlin experience, had a fantastic day. We had a late start but mid-morning hooked one on a big YFT which was north of #850. It pulled the hook 45 minutes into it.
He then released a #250 out of another three bites.
You can see a video put together by Sangue Bom productions here;
Then, on the 10th we released a #500 for James Govelar first ever fish and on the 12th a #600 for Clint Buckham.
Richard Brake was again our last charter for the Season and although we did not break any records we caught them good and our last fish for the Season was on the 28th.
It had, once again been a good big fish season.
In late October, we released two grander class fish with the Royston´s.
Both, Dave and Duncan personal best and, the first definitely right up there.
The bite carried on red hot into November culminating on a # 1 098-pound fish for Carl Jankowitz on the 12th. That fish’s bite and first 3 minutes will forever be printed in my mind. We had the leader in 12 minutes but then she went down and got tail wrapped.
It would be another two gruesome hours until we planned her up.
The bite slowed down due to some green water at the end of November.
But, December started with a bang with Jan Nell releasing a #800 on the 2nd out of Sailfish Bay in 27.8c water.
The next two weeks where good but no big one´s around, the best a #550 for Charles Holl on the 9th.
Our last charter was alternated between the Brake´s and the Laagay´s.
There was a serious flurry of small fish and a couple of nice ones in between.
On the 18th Jake Laagay let go a #600 and the very next day Zak Brake one about #650.
I remember both this fish well.
Both hooked early morning, first bite of the day and in glorious conditions.
Both on what used to be our number one flat calm water lure, the BB Kona Classic Tube in Black over pink!
Luke Laagay caught the last fish of the Season on our second last day on the 22nd!
I am often asked what I would call the best bite I have experienced in the two decades I have fished Bazaruto.
There are many, some with more & bigger fish, but the number of fish that where corralled in the area we now call Giant´s during the first week of December 2011 will always be imprinted in my mind.
It had been a consistent season but not with many big fish. We did catch a horse of a fish for Steven Edwards on the 3rd of November.
Into late November and the first days of December there were lots of small fish around.
On the 2nd we had caught 2 out of 4 for Carl Du Plessis. That night we had a big blow from the SE.
Luckily, we had no charters for those two bad weather days but started with Theo and Leon on the 5th.
It was still blowing hard so we only started before noon.
Both boys had never caught one before.
We got out there and where greeted with dark electric beautiful looking blue water.
Best of all the temperature had dropped more than a degree to the low´s 27c.
We set the lines at 5 miles and within a few minutes released one for Leon.
Half an hour later we hooked again, this time to a freight away train.
A rare shallow water Blue which we let go at #550 pounds.
We had a short end to a very successful couple of hours.
The next day we raised 4 and got one of a double hookup on live bait. The game fish was absolutely mayhem. Think we got 31 game fish that day including 13 nice YFT, 6 wahoo and a bunch of dorado, skipjacks and bonnies.
The last day with Theo and Leon was also our last for the season.
We raised 7, hooked 5 and released 4, the biggest a #600 pound for Theo.
In those 2 ½ days, we raised 14 for 11 bites, 10 hookups’ and 7 releases.
Not bad for a Bazaruto´s December Marlin first trip at the edge of the Season.
Utterly despondent to leave such a bite I went around dinner time at the resort, trying to get holiday makers to fish the next day. Much harder than getting a Marlin bite!.
But eventually, after much persistence, I managed to convince a young couple from the UK to come out for a half day.
We lost one about 800 on a live skipjack.
I remember that fish well.
We had switched to circles for a few years now.
The boys had been dejected on our hookup ratio on the big YFT baits and small fish that season. For that reason, they decided to rig the skipjack on a J-hook.
The bite came as we were letting the bait out.
The big fish jumped and, the now shell shocked lady, got in the chair.
A few minutes later it pulled.
I had a few words with the boys but no point getting all uptight.
However, that was the absolute last time we ever used a J!
We did not hook up any tourists for the next day and that was it for 2011….
Our last charter for the season was with Carl Du Plessis. He had personal reasons for always fishing early December. And, who could blame him. On his first trip, he got a 950+ and that time of year had always been good to him.
It had slowed down towards the end of November.
Our first day, the 3rd was pretty much the same we had seen the last week.
A typical late season day with absolutely no activity to be seen on the flat calm water which, was reading a good (for the time) 27.3c.
It was hard going with not even a buzz on the bait rods for the all day.
We worked all the way to lighthouse and back but no area seemed to hold more promise than another.
Just after noon we started marking zillions of tiny baits on the machine all the way from IV to V mile. Those tiny oceanic anchovies raised up to the surface shortly after.
It was eerie to see it all over the ocean around us.
Like little raindrops on the calm cobalt sea.
There was no sign of any predatory fish. But, we worked the area and on our absolute last tack on a shallow corner to the SE of V Mile, where we had caught a lot of big fish before, we hooked up and Carl got a #800 fish….
….you just never know!
The next day we caught a little one and on our last day Carl´s wife, Laurette joined us and caught a #500 pounder. That fish did absolutely nothing and was tagged within 4 minutes.
That was the 5th of December and our last day for the Season.
The boys carried on fishing with resort guests into the festive season.
I remember them telling me it was hard going.
Mostly half days fishing, no bait, game fish and a very sterile sea.
Then, on the 29th Alex calls me to tell me he just released one after a 2h20 tussle for Sam Mellor. The guest wanted the fish to be measured and the length came at 142“
It should have been up there, but it was a skinny fish and the boys called it 950 +
One fish that tends to show up really good when during Bazaruto´s December Marlin is the Dorado. Richard and Billy Brake where regulars at Bazaruto in December for many years.
Big Bob had weighted a #1 018 for Stephanie Choate in mid-October.
But, overall it was a late season and the big fish only showed in numbers in November.
We caught a few good ones to #800.
The last good fish was a #600 for Steven Holt on the 24th of November.
We had a late cancellation after that and 6 days without fishing.
On the 1st of December, we started with Christie and John Jackson and caught one for John.
The next day we missed two and on the 3rd started the day with a double hook up.
John let a little guy go and Christie released the second at #600.
Our last day of the season was the 15th and we caught a few fish that last week with the best being a #500 for Andrew Whitehead.
This was the last Season we really fished hard into December and although it was not fireworks we finished with a bang!
It had been an excellent big fish season.
They showed up early and, into late September we were seeing some good fish including one we raised on the 28th that was into the big ass horse category…
It pushed so much water it kept missing the Bonito Smoker on the long corner!
Alex still reckons that fish was #1 400 +++
We got a few good one´s with Matt Bishop at the end of September, including a 5 and a 7. We caught 7 in the first week of October to #600.
The fishing was red hot and in mid-October we caught two back to back Grander class fish for Lowtjie Nel and Carl Jankowitz, the first probably pushing over #1100.
Then we caught a number of good one´s in November including another two back to back of #800 and #850.
I had some personal issues and had to leave on the 29th of November.
The bite was still going strong…
Alex run the boat for Leon and Theo who again come for three days on the first week of December and then for Richard Brake. They both got a couple of mid rangers.
Then, Carl Jankowitz arrived for his third trip for the Season.
Along was his mate, and no stranger to these waters, Peter Dowling.
I remember laying in hospital and talking to Carl on the phone.
How dejected he was after his first couple of days.
Late Season conditions were taking its toll on the first few days.
Flat calm seas and the water up in the high 28c.
No bait, game fish or Marlin bites.
Then, on the 9th of December, their last day and after another very slow day a real one showed up at 2h30 pm deep out of Sailfish Bay. Peter got in the chair for a story that would take them into the night.
It was a backbreaking 5 hours before they got the fish boat side.
They let it go at 1 000 + pounds!
That would have been a great end to the story but…
…the next day Vamizi was out there once again and released a #350 for James Curtis on a lure and a #800 for John Curtis on a YFT live bait!
That was the last day of an epic season!
For many reasons, either the kids went to varsity, or guys moved continents, etc but the regulars we had for December thinned out and despite the good fishing most guys are not that keen to fish December. I am always very honest and tell everyone it can be unreliable which does not help.
It sure can be slow and unreliable but its undeniable how many good fish we have released in the past in December.
But the fact is that from 2014 we hardly fished it and you can’t catch them if you not fishing!
In 2015, we finished the season at the end of November.
We had a great start to the season in 2016 including a real one for Emmet O´Brien.
That year we went to Australia´s GBR in late October.
The 2017 season was a blast from the start and we had a really nice big fish bite from mid-October.
Nick Chalk had a great trip releasing 5 in 4 days including a #400 and a #700 on the 20th and then a small guy and a #800 on the 22nd.
Early morning of the 24th we released an estimated #1100 for Andrew Carrick and, early morning the next day had one get tail wrapped that died on us and went #814 for Rian Chalmers.
A couple days later a #700 for Andrew Addington.
Fishing was good right up to our last day which was the 1st of December.
We released a small fish for Dave Powers that day!
In 2018, we finished on the 26th November, the bite was still going strong and we released a #550 for Ronnie Fields on a live bonnie that day.
Last year, once again the bite was good when we finished in late November.
It was the 29th of November 2019 and we released a #250 Black for Christopher and a #350 Blue for Richard!
It does seem the last few years have seen a cyclical change where the water tends to warm earlier than usual but the fact is that most years we have been ending the season to early, as the bite is still going strong in late November.
All in all, it can be unreliable and in a sterile sea but the undeniable fact is that history speaks for itself and there is no doubt that, especially early to mid-December as held many good fish for us in the past.
Anyway, we start fishing again tomorrow and hopefully history will repeat itself.
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Duarte A. M. Rato
Sportfishing Charters @ Vilankulos & Bazaruto Archipelago
FB: fishbazaruto.com & MarlinMoz Sportfishing
Phone: 00 258 84 639 0466
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