swore in unison, something along the lines of “Holy f**k look at the size of this thing!”’ By that stage we were completely exhausted and the wind was blowing a steady 15 knots with small white caps, and the current was pulling hard. We managed to roll the fish over and unwrap the leader from her rigid pecs and enormous propeller, and I tried to hold onto the bill while Xuadrack got a rope ready to tie her up alongside. A bigger than normal swell pushed the fish into the side of the boat with me hanging on for dear life, and then the fish drifted back about a metre again with the roll of the big swell. Hanging on with the last bit of energy I had, determined not to let go, I lost my footing and fell head over heels over the gunnel, onto the fish and into the cold, black water. Let’s just say with a dead, bleeding fish in Zambezi-infested waters, I swam round to the engines and got back onboard in record time; Chad le Clos would have been impressed! Totally shattered but pumping with adrenaline, we finally managed to get a rope around her tail and around her thick bill. Knowing all too well that we had no chance to pull her onboard, we secured the rope to the base of the fighting chair and started to tow her back to Pestana Lodge at low speed.
Lucky for us, the tides were in our favour and we had full high water at 8.30pm when we arrived, so we drove the fish right up to the high water mark. Most of the village and lodge staff had already heard about the catch and were waiting to claim their slab of fish to feed their hungry kids and family back home. Unfortunately no scale was available on our side of the island so measurements were taken; based on the girth and thickness all the way to the tail the fish was estimated to weigh 1 012 lb. We didn’t weigh it so we can’t really claim it, but I’m more than happy to call her 950 lb+ and the memories of that afternoon and evening will never be forgotten as long as I live. There are some real big girls out there off Bazaruto and the Zimbabwe boys on Quatro fought a fish they called well over 1 400 lb for 9.5 hours on 130 lb tackle a few days earlier. Unfortunately she outsmarted them and got free a few metres from the leader. No strangers to big fish, Bruce de Burg called her “absolutely ridiculous” in size and the biggest fish he has ever seen. We also had our fair share of bad luck in the week before, losing four good fish in the 600- to 850 lb range in a row, with hooks turning back into the bait and hooks pulling just out of reach before we could grab the leader. That’s
marlin fishing for you — ten hours of mind numbing boredom for that one hour of pure adrenaline pumping ecstasy! It’s definitely days like those when you lose good fish that make one truly appreciate the days that a big fish is landed and when all the odds are in your favour and a plan comes together. Once again my sincere and heartfelt thanks and gratitude go to my skipper Xuadrack whose local knowledge of the Bazaruto waters is unparalleled and his dedication and passion to catch big marlin is something you don’t see too often. Thanks also to Gussy for being there to offer support, help catch bait, pass me beers and drive my chair while still being able to shoot some great shots with her camera. Thank you also to all the staff at Pestana Lodge — Louise and her team are absolute legends and ensured we were well looked after as always. And finally, thank you to Mark for the use of his beautiful villa and boat; without your friendship and generosity I would not have been able to catch this fish of a lifetime and experience the beauty that is Bazaruto Island. I have a few more adventures planned in the upcoming months — Kenya, Costa Rica, Cape Verde and more... — but I’m hoping that time will pass quickly so that Bazaruto comes around again real soon.
SA ANGLERS ARE TOPS 2017 Billfish Foundation T&R Awards
ACH year The Billfish Foundation recognises the best of the best in the billfishing community to acknowledge the significant effort they contribute to the Billfish Foundation’s Tag & Release Program and billfish conservation in general. Since its inception in 1990, the program has grown to accrue nearly 240 000 tag and release records to become the largest private billfish tagging database in the world. In the last year alone,TBF has collected nearly 15 000 records! The information gathered through tag and release efforts has been invaluable to help better manage billfish stocks, better understand these fish, and preserve the sport we love.This has only been possible through the efforts of conservation-minded captains and anglers across the globe. Winners were recognised at the 2017 International Tag & Release Awards Ceremony held at Miami’s Jungle Island Treetop Ballroom on 16 February. A few South Africans featured promi32 • SKI-BOAT March/April 2018
nently among the anglers honoured, some of whom are regular contributors to SKI-BOAT magazine. Sean Van Veijeren (left) was third in the category for Top Pacific Black Marlin Release Anglers. Stuart Simpson (below, left) was first in the category for Top Atlantic White Marlin Release Captains and second in the category for Top Atlantic Blue Marlin Tagging Captains. Brad Philipps came second in the category for Top Overall Release Captain and second in the categor y for Top Pacific Sailfish Release Captains. Darr yn Du Plessis of Soolyman Charters was first in the category for Top Indian Ocean Sailfish Tagging Captains, second in the category for Top Indian Ocean Sailfish Release Captains and third in the category for Top Indian Ocean Sailfish Tagging Anglers. Congratulations to these men — we’re proud to be associated with you. For the full list of winners visit <billfish.org/news/announcing-tbfs-2017tag-release-competition-winners/>.
SKI-BOAT magazine — now in its 34th year — is Africa’s leading deep sea angling publication with an extensive readership in South Africa as...