This is what happens when your freshly gaffed dorado misses the hatch!
Dorado! Magnificent in character. So keen to smash your live bait to into pieces and devour it. All lit up. High speed. Agility. Strength. The strike is explosive always resulting in an ‘aerobatic’ dance that only a dorado can perform. Cartwheels. Tailwalks. 180s and 360s. Lightning changes of direction.
A real challenge no matter who you are!
And so this beautiful Thursday morning dawned still and colourful. Clouds were pink and orange. A super keen Shaun had driven down from Johannesburg yesterday, and was at the gate dead on 4h30 bells.
Shaun was here for his first dorado. And things were on his side. Yesterday we caught two fish. On live red-eye sardines. That video is taking a little bit of time, but will follow shortly. Dorado are really funny feeders, and demonstrate some weird quirks, as they did yesterday.
The day before
We had gotten ourselves a live mackerel each. It took ages to find the little guys dodging around our usual reefs. We also had a mozzie or two, and a pinkie. I had caught two razorbellies in the estuary a few days ago and they had been waiting patiently in the freezer, just for this chance. So the spread was well populated when my Dad nabbed a good sized and frisky red-eye sardine, as we were slow trolling along the well-formed water line.
As the live sardine hit the water, we got our first dorado of the morning. There were only the two of us so the video really comes out dodge. Then twenty minutes later, Pop got another one. Which I rigged in seconds and seconds later I was vas again. Again the video is really abstract, with only the two of us out there. Camera person required!
After another fun-filled launch, we (Sean, Shaun and Brian), headed back to the bait spots. Where we found bait. A lot of bait this time. We loaded about 20 mozzies, one shad, a few pinkies and not one mackerel?!
But it sure was enough to go on, and soon the Niteshift was heading north to the start of our patrol. The water was 26 degrees again, but it had that Cape Town green tint to it, and was filled with sediment and things. Not really couta water, like it had been the day before.
Anyway, we got a strike straight away, and typically enough, the fish bit through the nylon leader meant for dorado. Does happen a lot when you use nylon to target dorado specifically, and then a toothy comes along and bites you clean off. And so we rigged again and headed back along south with the current. Towards Port Shepstone, where the fish were the day before.
Luckily the fish were hanging around and soon Shaun was fighting his first dorado. Which typically tail walked and jumped all over the other lines! Which were quickly sorted out and Shaun and the dorado squared off lekker at the front of the boat. For a good fight.
The gaff went in and the fish seemed calm and subdued when all hell broke loose. The wily fish had flipped over and gotten itself clean off the gaff and was now dorado wild on the deck! I got tail smacked once properly before I was able to literally sit on the fish, grab it, and get it into the opening in the hatch! That fish almost jumped clean out of the boat!
The tides at the moment meant we couldn’t really stay out too much longer or risk touching sand on the way back in through the surf zone. And so we packed up and returned to base. Where Shaun was to start up a whole new chapter of fishing. This time we were focusing on the estuary, and the monsters that lurk therein.
Shaun had quite a few species on his target list for saltwater. He has literally caught all the freshwater challenges on offer. Even fishing abroad for catfish and other exotic looking fighters. And so the notorious rock salmon and the inimitable Zambezi shark made it onto our priority fish list for the next few days.
Stand by for that chapter!
Post by The Sardine News. Stay up-to-date with the fishing conditions and seasons on http://thesardine.co.za. Check out http://umzimkulu.co.za for more information and pics and vids of the Umzimkulu Marina down in Port Shepstone. Port Shepstone is only a half a days drive from Pretoria so we get many anglers coming in on Friday, and leaving back for work on Monday morning real early, getting into JHB before lunchtime.
A fantastic weekend away that the family will really enjoy too. Blue flag beaches. Shopping malls. Banks. Restaurants. Even a golf course…is a few minutes drive across the river bridge.
And fishing are options are all over and exciting. Shad and karanteen at Grannies Pool in Umtentweni. Gamefish out deep-sea. Kob and garrick off the Sandspit. Grunter, perch and rock salmon in the estuary. Catfish and tarpon up near the new bridge. Or just enjoy fishing right out the front of your chalet.
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.
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 News‘ Plastic 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.
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.
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.
The KZN Natal summer gamefish season is almost upon us. And after a reasonable sardine season, and plenty baitfish about right now, we’re looking forward to the annual visit of wahoo, king mackerel, dorado and billfish. And other suspects.
Early adopters of the warm summer conditions are the dorado and billfish. It is actually smack bang in the middle of the big black marlin season right now. Although sailfish and blue marlin will also be popping up all over, it’s mainly about the big blacks. The big mommas. 1000 pounds is the magical mark. Every attempt is made to release these fish by true conservation minded sport anglers. Even though the commercial fleet is catching and NOT releasing, we need the information gathered from the tagging programs urgently. The magnificent and angry striped marlin usually come only in February or later. These exciting billfish swim together hunting in shoals?! Beware the double or triple header!
As soon as the rains hit Natal, and hard enough to bring the ever-important brown water down the rivers and into the ocean, where it’s alkalinity helps balance the acidity of the sea, the dorado arrive. It’s like clockwork, as soon as that clear line between the brown and the deep blue forms, it’s on. Especially after or during a stiff southwester. The same conditions that bring the sailfish and marlin. It’s quite a spectacle from up high on the cabin roof, looking down as shoals of dorado swim past and into the spread, annihilating everything in their path.
Still later into summer, and actually almost into winter, come the ‘couta. We used to get the first fish in November. Now they have moved their visit way to after New Year. Sometimes they only pitch as late as April. Their spawning season here, bringing the huge crocodile couta that the KZN coast is famous for. Some of over 50kg’s have been taken over the recent years. This is most certainly the breeding stock of these prized fish, and the amount of ‘sport’ fishing events through the season targeting these fish, is really worrying. All these events should be, could be, run in the name of conservation and sport, rather than killing fish for prize money.
The baitfish like shad and mackerel can be found marauding around the inshore reefs all up and down this fish rich coastline. They move around all the time so as long as you are in the right area, they will find you. Chuck one of these precious items on a decent live bait trace, set the drag to about 2kg’s, and wait for that sound!