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Saturday, 21 December 2013

Southern Oman - an inshore top water fishing paradise

by Mark Harris

In the past few years Southern Oman has become a truly world class top water fishing destination. Understandably, much of the focus has been on the monster giant trevally fishing available at The Hallaniyat Islands just offshore from the village of Shuwaymiyah which lies some 300 km north of Oman's second city of Salalah.

I now have several trips to this amazing fishery under my belt and the purpose of this blog is to highlight why the fishery has so much more to offer than just the GTs.

Me in loads of trouble with a magnificent Shuwaymiyah Permit on the 20lb gear!

The first time I arrived at Shuwaymiyah to fish with No Boundaries I was very much geared up for GT fishing but was frankly clueless about the lighter tackle options. That soon changed!  One quick look at the waters adjacent to the boat ramp at Shuwaymiyah revealed truly mind-blowing rafts of baitfish - mostly sardines.  It was immediately obvious that these would attract a whole host of predators. And so it proved during this trip and the several more which have followed.

Thumping yellowspot trevally again on 20lb gear and an Orion Mister Joe 35 gram stickbait
Set yourself up with PE2-3 (20 to 30 lb) casting gear, a mix of stickbaits and poppers in the 10 to 14 cm range and hang on tight for the ride of your life.

Big queenfish often arrive in spectacular packs
The most regular, desired predators around these bait balls are large queenfish (and I mean large!). A pack attach of monster queenies with bait flying everyone is a truly awe-inspiring sight.  It certainly does not stop with queenfish though.  Totally brutal golden trevally are often present in numbers  - a fish which pound for pound fights as hard if not harder than its monstrous GT cousin.

Ed Nicholas with a bruiser of a golden trevally
Yellowspot and diamond trevallies are always there in varying numbers - this is one of the few places I have heard of where you can realistically expect to catch diamond trevally on top water stickbaits.  Even more surprising is that african permit patrol these sardine balls and they will take stickbaits. Again, where else have you heard of that provides a chance of a permit on a stickbait?  Throw in bluefin, blacktip and unsually large bigeye trevallies as well..... the fishing is just mind-blowing.


African permit on stickbait -  I know it does not make sense!
Part of the battle sometimes is getting past the less desirable fish. Naturally, such feeding also attracts scores of oriental bonito, mackerel tuna, bluefish (tailor), barracudas and the ever-present, dreaded long toms.

I have often been asked which lures work best for this range of Omani beasts. A special favourite has been the superb Orion Mister Joe in the 35 gram size but any quality stickbait in the 10 to 14 cm range is worth a go. Often a sinking or sub-surface stickbait works best (understandable as they get down below the mass of sardines) but floating sticks can be equally as good if you work the edges of the bait ball.  Just make sure to use a quality lure and hone your own skills as the presentation has to look attractive given the mass of natural bait available.

  
Monster bream!
Nearby to the sardine ball mayhem there is a differing but very much related fishery. The stunning sheer cliff-faces with a rocky shoreline and lots of little bommies creates perfect monster bream habitat. You will have great fun with these bruisers with a PE2 (20lb) set up and they show a special liking for small poppers, again in the 10 to 14 cm range.  Often associated with bream are incredibly hard pulling spangled emperors known locally as shari. I have even had these put a big bend in a GT set up!  When targeting the bream you could also catch just about any of the predators that frequent the sardine balls nearby.

There is also good light tackle fishing available out at the Halliniyat Islands (a 45 minute boat ride from the inshore spots) and that makes for some respite from heavy tackle casting for GTs.  It is not of the same quality as the inshore light tackle options though.

So, there is so much more to fishing Southern Oman than the world class GT fishing.  In all my world travels I have never managed to find top water fishing of this sheer quality. Ed Nicholas with his No Boundaries operation has pioneered the inshore fishing in this area and now even offers specially tailored trips for those anglers who want to concentrate on this rather than chasing the GTs offshore. My preference is to mix it up - a couple of days inshore with a few days out at the islands makes for just the perfect trip.

Insane inshore bream action

If there is a better location anywhere for top water lure fishing, I have not heard about it!

Outsized bigeye trevally are huge fun on light topwater gear