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Monday, 31 March 2014

Beast Hunting in Southern Oman; a Sport Fishing Frontier

Southern Oman – March 2014
By John Cahill

Having known my good friend Mark Harris for a few years now I have always been enthralled by the stories and photos he has bought back from his trips fishing in Southern Oman.  Never before would I have thought of the Middle East as a good fishing location let alone one that is red hot.  The plan was hatched over a year ago and dates were locked in with Ed Nicholas operation, No Boundaries Oman.  With both boats secured during some prime dates it did not take long to fill the crew including Stephen Callus, Jason Jeffries, Toby McClure and my business partner Andrew Smith.  There was a good mixture of GT experience and youthful exuberance on board.

The trek was an adventure in itself, and after a day in Salalah we completed the overland journey across the desert highlands down to the No Boundaries lodges in Shuwamiyah, settled into comfortable surroundings and met the crew.  Onto the fishing, the weather was a mixed bag and it dictated our fishing range.  On two of our six fishing days we were restricted to fishing inshore but that’s ok, we intended some time doing this as the area has numerous inshore species that can be effectively targeted on casting tackle including the highly prized ocean bream, permit and spangled emperor.  On the other four days fishing conditions were quite good and the No Boundaries 33 foot casting boats had us out at the Hallaniyat Island in 60 to 90 minutes depending on exactly where we were fishing.  Everyone had different goals on this trip but a high priority for everyone was the chance to tangle with world class GT’s – fish in the category of 50 kilograms, the unofficial benchmark for a monster class GT.  This meant some specific tackle requirements clearly, and for some of us it would mean fishing PE10 tackle for the first time and drags approaching 16 kilograms, a significant step up from PE8.  When Ed Nicholas first inspected every ones gear it was clear he meant business and wanted us to achieve our goals of not just hooking, but actually landing there monster fish.  Drag settings were adjusted to the point of lock up, and hooks were significantly upgraded to the point that many poppers sank except for the larger more buoyant selections in the lure roll.  Big poppers were going to rule the day, and they did.

The fishing we experienced was to put it bluntly, off the charts.  The number of times we experienced pack attacks of GT’s in the category of 40 to 50 kilograms plus, we lost count of.  In the early days our conversion rate was poor, hooks were straightening, hook ups were missed and dropped fish too common although we were ticking along nicely mostly due to the sheer number of opportunities.  The amount of extremely large queenfish kept you entertained endlessly as they continually harassed the lures however endless hookups to 10 to 15 kg queenies keeps you out of action and wastes much needed energy.  On PE10 tackle they are a pain in the butt and not to mention keep eating lures before the GT’s can register their interest.  On two days in particular the GT bite was insane.  The average weight I would have previously thought unimaginable.  A 40 kegger would be bought on board and Ed would be disappointed, “Just a baby”.  The overall stats were impressive; 27 GT’s landed with 6 fish genuine 50 kg plus fish – not guesses, these were weighed on the boat, tagged and released.  It was impressive to see the fish handling practises of the crew.  Mo and Yassar the two skippers of the No Boundaries casting boats treat GT's like a member of the family.  A sideline highlight was Andrew and Ed deploying a satellite tag onto a solid GT, funds for this tag were raised some time ago and its great to see one hanging off a GT.

You can book your own monster hunting adventure in Southern Oman by visiting No Boundaries Oman
I doubt you would be unhappy with any aspect of a trip with these guys, Ed and his staff are competent, entertaining and professional and we have no hesitation recommending them.  The businesses motto of "Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time" is right on the money.

Successful lures (GT sized) for the crew included
Fullscale Kong 180
Heru Cubera 150
Hammerhead E cup
BCS Wavewalker
Hitter Kimitsu 150 
Craftbait GT3

Enjoy some images from our adventure

Jason and his black beast
Spangled emperor were prevalent inshore and partial to a sinking stick bait
TMac and a grumpy inshore bream taken off a bait ball
Mark is pleased with this dark Geet
Toby and his monster :)
Andrew Smith and his bus sized GT!  Adhek Big Buffalo did the damage
Genuine weights, no guesses here
Sat tag being deployed
And ready for release with her new hardware fitted!
Big Buffalo strikes again - large chuggers, especially those able to take large strong hooks were vital
Jason - seriously its that big!
Andy and the boys giving this GT a bath
Crunch - these guys love diving for the reef
Experienced GT angler Stephen Callus
Take a breather Tobes, take a breather
Ed Nicholas and a GT in the order of 55 kilos plus
Lovely bull mahi taken on stick bait near some flotsam
Queenfish on Lurenzo Espetron
The authors big fish on Temple Reef Lambo
Crazy country
Andrew and Adhek Gecko eating bream
Double trouble - the SACL Mikros appealed to numerous inshore species
Ton upon ton of inshore mullet
Andrews gnarly big bream
Chunky GT plucked from the queenfish for Steve
SACL Mikros eating queenfish, a moment later the hooks were in Mark, a moment later they were deep in Yassar!
Now that IS a queenfish - 115cms is more than enough
Squidding in Oman? you need to catch dinner
See what happens when your not watching Ed?
Rafts of monster milkfish
Double hookup on the first drift - Stephen on the bow and Mark at the stern
Bucket mouth monster
Oh Jase......
Inshore action on the sardine balls
Weigh, tag, release
Ed in beast mode
Say no more, this fishing destination is off the chart
Postscript - April provided even better fishing than we experienced, and by a good margin!  The scores of 50 even 60 kilogram fish was simply unchartered territory.  The monsoon will very soon shut this fishing down however until the new season begins later in the year.  As a fitting end to this blog, in April Ed Nicholas was fishing with friends and first fish of the day he scored the fish of his dreams - a 25 minute fight ensued against a locked drag - 5 times the spool on his Stella 18,000 almost emptied, all against impossible  pressure.  Somehow Ed managed to boat this fish, few would I assure you.  Al big fish on No Boundaries go over the scale.  This fish hovered between 68 - 72 kilograms..... the all tackle IGFA world record is 72 kilograms.  Of course, this fish was tagged and released.  Congratulations Ed on your exceptional operation and to you personally as an exceptional angler from the Ebb Tide Adventures Team - here is the fish.