Pomene 2019: There are definitely still fish left in the sea

There are still fish left in the sea

Pomene 2019: There are definitely still fish left in the sea

Sitting at the sea edge in Pomene, early December 2019, we are right now surrounded by my favourite birds. Terns. Thousands. Or hundreds of thousands. They have moved on over to the point here, from the estuary and sandspit side of Pomene life.

Why?

Well. Firstly. It’s the whitebait!

This time of the year, these silvery attractive and tasty little guys pop. By the billion. They love the estuaries and benthos areas. And they love the surf zone. Where they feed on what is being brought down by the recent summer rains.

And then come the kingfish!

And then every other gamefish in the sea, that also, like us, love to eat whitebait.

Nyakuse is what they are called here, and luckily, there are literally millions of them, each year. These inshore areas host a few species of fish that can escape the Chinese trawl nets and lines out the back. They are simply too small or too sparse to make any commercial sense.

That said, in no way is this an invitation to the poacher style renegade fishing gangs, to come up here and plunder. Like what happens in Port St. Johns. This is subsistence fishing here, done by grassroots and poor communities, who live this way. Rant over.

The story then…

Chad from Lalaland, in Tofo, and I, had camped out at Pomene a while. We are very busy with The Sardine NewsPlastic Fantastic Tour of southern Africa. But this day, we were very distracted by the arrival of my favourite sea birds – the terns – out front. It was soon apparent why, as pockets of terns flew off in formation, and found their own baitball of hapless whitebait to terrorise, just behind the backline.

But these delicious little silver shiny beautiful miniature sardines are not only favourites to man and bird. No ways, these guys were also at the very same party!

  • Kingfish. All types.
  • King mackerel.
  • Queen mackerel.
  • Skipjack.
  • Bonefish. Huge.
  • Bonito.
  • YFT.
  • Cobia.

And more…

When I proclaimed to Chad that surfing was over for me and I am now going fishing, the terns were going berserk right on the point. I grabbed the minimum. Bag of tackle and extra lines and leader. One rod – a 30lb 9 footer. Water, sunnies, and my phone.

Half-way to the point, I had to break formation and run. It was too much. I could now see the damn fish. Smashing into the baitball – I got my sprint on.

Pomene - this is one good spot for chasing fish!
Pomene – this is one good spot for chasing fish!

Up the rocks and over to the top! An amazing sight to behold as acres upon acres of birds and fish were at it.

I finally got a nice little big eye kingfish, but as I hoisted him up the cliff of the point, the fish bounced on a rock and the hook flew out. I release literally all the fish I catch, so this was just fine, as the crowd around me on the point here, do not release fish ever. And get really angry actually, if you release fish in front of them. Yip. Subsistence fishers. This is their only source of protein really. Other than a few domestic animals in the village, there is nothing else. Absolutely nothing. Trust me, when camping here, no amount of money will find you some bacon or beef.

The next morning was far more beautiful, without the beasterly easterly blowing, or screaming into my face, I was looking forward to casting a lot further with the light offshore to assist. But I never even had to. On my very first cast this delightful solitary morning, I had our breakfast. A cool little bludger that could have been the one I lost the night before.

We ate that gorgeous little guy fried in garlic flavoured batter.

The sun is generally too hot for surfing, fishing or drinking beer here, in the daytime. From 6am the sun turns up the heat and is relentless until about 4pm. And this day was no different, except for the southerly wind which had come up to about 15 knots, and is directly offshore here. Making for some huge casts.

But, there was some cloud cover coming through slowly, and from our campsite a kilometre away, the birds were calling me again. I could not resist the sound of my favourite sirens. I really love these birds and the sounds they make. There is nothing more delightful in the world to me, than that chirp-chirp sound all around me.

My gear was ready to go. I had water, and no excuses. Leaving Chad to tender camp, I set out for dinner.

It was hot. Like over the top hot. The sand had gone quicksand and my feet were disappearing down a foot with every step. Torturous. But as I got closer, I could see the gamefish again. They were much bigger this time!

I got to the staging area finally. Ace out. And the most wonderful scene unfolded for my nearly snow blind eyes. For as far as I could see south, there were fish and birds. And they were coming my way!

The sun blazed through, making the water iridescent and alive. I could see right into it with my polaroids. And see into it I sure did. The absolutely perfect visibility revealed an underwater world of excitement and chaos inside every wave. All the gamefish were here now. King mackerel using set waves to ambush from. Bonefish too. The tuna out the back were getting bigger and bigger. Some monster attacks were happening just out of my reach. Luckily. I only had 30lb tackle with me.

So, on my own, I happily absorbed this all in, grabbing some video and stills which will be on YouTube pretty soon. And then proceeded to cast, with the wind, and way over the one metre high waves peeling across in front of me.

The fish were very distracted, and my retrieve was too fast and excited as I watched 4 and 5 kingfish at a time chasing my spoon together, turning away at the last millisecond. I love the fast retrieve with my Mydo SS Spoon as it flails about jetting water up into the air and projecting bubbles down below the sea surface. It’s like a much more lively gt ice cream plug. And the fast retrieve always gets the first strike, but the minute I threw a slow retrieve, using the carefully engineered bend in the spoon, making for a very side to side up and down motion under the surface, I went vas! But this time was different.

This was a dog I could feel it from the strike. But I felt my 30lb had a chance. Except for my 9 ft rod (too short), which gave me trouble keeping the fragile braid up and away from the ledge in front of me. Fortunately, the strong fish swam south and out to sea, and way away from the razor-sharp rocks. For ten solid minutes, we argued. I don’t like to hurt fish so I had my drag up to maximum pressure as a set came in. I got him caught in the second set just in time as I felt my braid touching the ledge. A horrid feeling.

Now he was on the ledge in about a metre of surging sea water. A GT! Maybe ten kilos. Maybe more. I had to now clamber down the razor sharp cliff to get to him. Just as I started the treacherous descent, some slack water gave the fish a chance to shake his head and the hook fell free! A forced release, my favourite since I never even had to touch the little guy. Shaking like a leaf with adrenalin and with a sore arm (the fight lasted about 20 minutes), I casted again.

Unbelievably, I felt a knock, and then another. I struck but there was nothing. But then another bite? So confused until I saw, that I had entangled one of my favourite birds. And I really don’t like to hurt seabirds or any animals like this.

I gently reeled the tern in, fighting against the stiffer south wind. I got him to calm down, but on my own, and with my bag 10 metres away, I was really alone all of a sudden. My only choice, to not hurt the bird, was to grab him. He bit me straight away so I pinched his beak closed and off we clambered to my blades. The braid was all around the little guy, and I was real stressed. My favourite bird. How could I do this? The truth is there were millions flying about in front of my every cast and it was a luck that I never tangled more of them.

It took me a few minutes to both hold down the feisty and surprisngly strong aviator, untangle, and remove the braid. As I got the last piece free, I had a split second to admire the sheer beauty of this, my favourite bird. I let him go into the south wind.

He rejoined the melee in an instant, happy as could be, with one helluva story for his mates.

Tying my leaders up again, got me casting just in time to see Chad walking the walk, in the sun, surfboard under arm. The waves were cooking. My isolation had further been replaced by the usual crew of kids who fish the sea here for food and a living. They all use Mydos now!

As Chad paddled out into the action, a huge whale shark came by. Sending the kids scurrying up the rocks to perceived safety. As it turms out, these local crew, don’t know the difference between a tiger shark, a great whilte, a zambezi, or a whale shark. They literally burst up the cliff?! And when Chad nonchalantly paddled out right next to it, they shook their heads in wonder.

My slow retrieve worked again, and my second little bludger kingfish was on it’s way to becoming fish paella. Chad caught a bunch of waves. More locals came by to get their due of a fish or two for dinner.

It’s refreshing to see the sea in such splendour like this. But, the species that were there, were inshore species that c an hide from the plundering Chinese boats fishing these waters extensively now. They are right up and down, fishing legally with licenses from the corrupt, and basically against the local communities, who rely on the fish here for their living.

True subsistence fishing communities like these need all the protein, and protection, they can get!

Just like us! Ha ha no, we only needed one or two of these little big eye/bludger kingfish, to survive just fine. Fried fillets, fish soup and fish paella on the menu.

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Post by The Sardine News, get in touch if you want to go fishing like this!

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