Wind in the Sails
12 Feb 2011
Written by Jonathan Booysen
Hendrik McCarthy had arranged a fishing trip for Saturday the 12th February 2011 with his good friend Zack on Zack’s Yacht “Vagabund”. Zack was super keen to fish for marlin and he had bought a few nice lures and good tackle for the job. The yacht was not rigged for fishing so on the Friday; we made a few make shift plans and discussed the drill for the next day. I have never fished for marlin on a yacht before so I knew we were in for some interesting times if we hooked up.
At 4:30am on Saturday morning, Ettiene de Villiers and I arrived at the mooring of the Zululand Yacht Club. We met up with Hendrik and his wife Cornelia and Zack and his wife Magda. After a quick safety brief, we cast off and slowly headed out the harbour. The plan was to head north in the shallows and then head offshore into the current and work our way back.
The trip north was like no other I have had before. The yacht had two 30HP motors in it so our top speed was only about 6 to 7 knots. I am used to running up north at speed and setting lines within half an hour of leaving the harbour. Not on this trip! We had no option but to relax and enjoy the trip. This did however have its perks. The warm oats breakfast and cup of coffee en route to the fishing grounds was a nice bonus while we watched several ski-boats shoot past us with the crew holding on for dear life and ducking for the spray coming over the nose.
At 8:30am, we were in 60m of water near Dawsons. The water was a strange colour with a tint of green. We set the four lines, two 50Lbs rigs with small lures and two 80Lbs rigs with larger lures. I also put out a string of teasers. There were no outriggers so the lines were run directly from the rod tips. With the sail down, I trolled deeper trying to find the blue water. Our speed was around 5 knots so we put up the small sail to increase the speed to about 6.5knots. The lures were tracking beautifully. There was hardly any white water behind the yacht and the teaser looked stunning. I tacked shallower at 600m then deeper again after crossing the 250m contours. We decided to test the sounder to see what depth we could read and were pleasantly surprised when it lost bottom at 1200m!!! The water was still a strange colour so I suggested we head shallower to where we had seen a few birds and flying fish. By now it was almost 1pm, we were in 800m and we were getting despondent. We were all dosing off when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a flash behind the teaser. I looked again and saw a shortbill spearfish behind the big lure next to the teaser. I shouted to Ettiene as the fish took the lure. The reel ran for a second or so before it stopped. I ran to the 50Lbs rod with the small lure on it and pulled it into the area where the fish was. Almost immediately the lure was smashed... hookup! The other lines were cleared in no time and we strapped Magda into the harness.
We knew it was a small fish so I just put the motors into neutral. The sail kept us going at a perfect pace. Magda brought the fish to the boat relatively quickly and Ettienne took the trace. The fish was hooked in the eye and bled a lot. It was still very feisty and Etts had to let go of the trace to prevent the hook from pulling. We decided to load the fish due to its injuries and when Etts took the trace again, he lifted the spearfish into the boat. Only then did we see that it was a really big shortbill ... and Magda’s first billfish! Awesome.
Etts and I set the lines again and sat back to relax. It was going to take a while to get home so we decided to head in the harbour’s direction. We were in 160m when Etts shouted “Daar gaan hy!” I looked back to see a big splash on the same lure that the shortbill ate. The 50Lbs reel took off smoking! We pulled the motors to neutral and cleared the deck. Moments later, the fish erupted out the water tearing up the surface. After about 10 jumps it ran shallower at speed. Hendrik was on the rod and kept the fish under control while I floored it at 6 knots, helping him gain line. I found it extremely difficult to maneuver the large yacht with the small motors, but luckily the fish settled down and stayed away from the rudders.
With most of the line back on the reel, I could back up on the fish to stop it from taking too much line. Hendrik used the swell and we gained line slowly but constantly. After 45mins, we had the windon splice out of the water. Before we could grab it, the fish sounded again. After another 15 minutes, the leader came up again. This time Ettienne managed to get hold of the leader and lifted the fish to the surface where he grabbed the bill.
It was Hendrik’s first marlin and he asked to load it. Etts and I obliged and put on the bill rope to pull it on board. We managed to get the head out the water before we ran out of steam. Zach took the end of the rope and attached it to one of the sail winches. One flick of a switch and the fish sailed onto the deck ... no mess no fuss! With the fish lying on the huge deck, it looked about 130kg, but it was in excellent condition.
We had drifted a few kilometres and were straight off the harbour mouth. It took us 2 hours to get back to harbour before we could weigh the fish. We eventually had it on the gantry at 7:30pm. The shortbill weighed 21kg and the blue pulled the scale to 170,6kg! Not bad on 24kg line ... 7:1.
All in all it was a great day and I thank all who made it possible. We had to change our style of fishing from the normal rushed pace to a laid back, ‘come what may‘ attitude ... I must say, I could get used to it!