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Fishing Oman...Where?

By: Olle Antheunis

Oman This month, game-fishing in the Gulf of Oman. Game-fishing itself already sounds quite excellent, but first I want to tell something about Oman, because that intensifies the feeling of fishing on tropical waters. Oman... who has ever heard of the place, let alone has been there. Well I have been there and from the first moment on, when the warm and moist air welcomed me like a warm blanket (Dutch saying), I knew: "Oman, a different culture, a population I know nothing about; this really sounds promising". A life at the coast in the Middle East, the authentic Arab fragrances you can smell in those little alleyways, along seemingly endless rows of so-called "Jewelry Stores". The strange people who, normally spoken, are a foot smaller then I am and who speak a puzzling language. A country where it's normal that a man is married to 3 women, as long as he can support them in a good and equal way. A very common sight is an Arab man in a "Jewelry Store" buying gold for his 3 wives who are standing next to him all the time. A famous Islamic saying is "Love doesn't come from the heart, but hangs around the neck".

Oman, a country, whose cities aren't even 15 years old, used to be different. Before then it was all desert, this all disappeared when the o so famous welfare came lurking around. Living on a cliff, at the coast, my little craft to go out fishing was only a couple of hundred yards away from my house. If I would tell everything about Oman what I would like to do I would still be writing today. I'll spare you the details of this beautiful country, because it has to be a fishing journal.

The little craft I went out on sea with for a period of 4 years, for wrong impressions, was a very simple fiberglass boat with a 25 horsepower Suzuki engine. The boat was about 1,5 meters wide and had a length of about 4,75 meters. A boat like this is really what you call "back to basics". This was also my way of fishing. Most of the time I went out with 2 or 3 friends. Sometimes I also went fishing with Omanis, but for them fishing is a normal habit passed on for many centuries. Because of these Omanis I've learned something about the sea over there. Not only have I been in schools of 300 to 500 dolphins, but I've also seen a Minky whale in open nature. Four kilometers out on sea there was an island called "Al-Fahal Island". It was the perfect spot for snorkeling, because of the nice corals and the most beautiful and varied species of fish. I'm talking in the past because I lived here till my nineteenth; I'm 22 now.

After a while you learn about the sea. The places of the different reefs are quite easy to locate (without GPS or depthmeter), because you can always find your way if you know your position on sea. Landmarks are a very important makeshift. Although you need quite some experience for this kind of fishing.

My story is situated on a midsummer's day on a very calm sea at about ten o'clock in the morning. The preparations for my fishing-trip had been really simple. The night before we went out we had already arranged fuel (50 liters for $11, -). Our fishing-gear for the day consisted of: 3 rods, a couple of Coleman's for the drinks and beverages, our tackle-boxes and a big parasol to protect us against the singeing sun. We left the bay at around 06.30 in the morning. Talking of we: Roger, Alvy, Marc and me. Four Dutch youngsters on a little boat on the Gulf of Oman. First we wanted to go to the "fish-soek" (an authentic Arab fish market) to get our bait for the day, dead sardines. Then we wanted to go trawling on whatever available. We didn't go specimen hunting, because the summer period isn't a good season to go trolling.

During this period the sea temperature rises to such a level that game fish like Tuna, Kingfish, Sailfish, Barracuda, etc., seek for deeper water. The fish-soek was situated about 8 clicks East of the bay.

The ride to the fish-market was as beautiful as always. Traveling past huge cliffs with on the background the outskirts from chains of mountains. These mountains separate the coastline from the interior. After we had been to the "soek" we decided to go trolling at about 6 or 7 kilometers out of the coast. It was about 09:00 A.M. The sun was already high in the sky and the temperature was speeding up the thermometer, it was already about 38 degrees Celsius in the early morning.

We were trolling with 2 twenty-pound rods. The reels (2 Mitchell Overseas 20) were accustomed to the rods. The rattles of the reels were on. With a strike these rattles make an enormous scream, whereby the adrenaline-flow through your body is just enormous. Oman

On the mainline (45/00) we had two Rapala deeprunners. These were dragging through the water about 35 meters behind the boat at a depth of approximately 3,5 meters. One was blue the other black and they both had a silver belly. We used these colors because it was a really bright day.

After we had been trolling for about half an hour, we saw an Omani fishing-boat in the distance. The boat was surrounded with a lot of black dots (seagulls). We went closer to try our luck over there. When we arrived at the spot we could see the sea boiling of all the tuna swimming at the surface. This phenomenon is very rare for this time of year. There were tuna everywhere, chasing for bait with their high and wide backs coming out of the water. We saw the Omani fishing-boat catching one after another. They used "life bait".

In the early morning before they go out they catch their bait with casting nets. The bait is being kept alive in a big reed basket. The basket is being kept alongside the boat. The basket has got numerous tiny holes so there is a never-ending flow of fresh water coming through. Unfortunately we didn't have these supplies. But we didn't fish to support our families and ourselves but just for fun.

We started making runs through the scholars of tuna. We used every different lure we had. Different colors, sizes, deeprunners and floaters. We used different types of squids, from Muppets to small Conaheads (in all kinds of colors), but not a single bite at all. We saw the tuna swimming everywhere but probably of the extreme high temperature they only wanted "life bait" for breakfast. The Omani fishing-boat was catching one after another with their bait, all of them between the 25 and 35 kilogram. Not really big but very good fun though if you catch one after the other. We even asked the Omanis if we could have some of their "life bait", but they rejected. Then Roger said who was steering: "Let's just put a small handline in between the 2 rods.

I'll just explain what I mean with this little handline. Sometimes when we went "babytrolling" at the island we used a small handline (25/00). At the end of the line a small (2 inches) plastic squid covered a small hook. With this rig we would usually catch little queenfish, small Rainbow runners, and different types of Trevally. Loads of fun, because an average catch of 50 or 60 fish in two hours wasn't uncommon.

I said to Roger: "You must be crazy, if a Tuna bites on this little rig it will be gone in a second." He said: "Yeah I know but then at least we will have had some action." He was right about that, so he put the little rig in the water. Roger steered the boat with his left hand and held the line in his right hand and then after 5 minutes it happened.

A dolphin-fish divided the surface in two to show her majestic colors. These fish have an elongate compressed body and long-based dorsal and anal fins, real predators. They have got the most beautiful orgy of colors you can imagine. On the flanks bright yellow with bright green or bright blue with dots with no definable colors. These dots can change from red to silver or blueish. Male dolphin-fish are called "Bull" because of their steep forehead profile.

This dolphin-fish (also called Dorado, mahi-mahi, Latin name: Coryphaenidae), a bull, divided the surface into two parts to subsequently dive upon the little squid. We saw this happening from a distance of about 15 meters. It seemed like an eternity but in fact it was only a fraction of a second in which this all happened. Now reality started.

The thin line (25/00) was torn out of Rogers's hand and in a couple of seconds the Dolphin was almost at the horizon. This wasn't really true but so it seemed. With graceful jumps out of the water it was making it's way away from the boat. I took over the line from Roger, because he was also steering the boat, and tried to stop the fish in it's run. I had protection around both my forefingers; otherwise they would both have been clean-cut. It was a miracle the fish stopped after approximately 50 or 60 meters. I only had a couple of meters line left on the spool. After 10 minutes I could slowly get some of the line back. I was completely focused, battling the fish meter for meter, because the line could snap with every wrong move I would make. When the dolphin-fish got sight of the boat it made a run straight down. The only thing I could do was to give as much wait on the line as I possibly could without breaking it. It really was a battle for life or death between human and animal. I stopped his run at a depth of about 25 meters (depth of sea was about 100 meters). The battle was getting into a deadlock. I didn't know what to do any more. The fish was straight beneath the boat and I couldn't get any movement in him whatsoever. It felt like a huge rock you just couldn't lift up. If I tried to bring him up I could feel the line stretching.

For about a quarter of an hour I just stood there on the edge of the boat without gaining a single meter of line. The sun, already high in the sky, was burning like hell. At last really slowly I could get some of the line back. Then we got our first real sight of the fish. At a depth of about 10 meters we saw the fish in the clear ocean water. And he was humongous estimated weight of about 6.5 kilos. For Omani standards this is a very good size in other parts of the world though they can get up to 25 kilo.

When the bull got sight of the boat it made a run to the surface. I thought: "Is this fight still not finished." He divided the surface into two parts again and in a last desperate attempt he tried to make another run. I was already fighting this fish for about half an hour, still with my bear hands with that really tiny rig. So in an ultimate effort I tried to stop the fish in it's run because I was getting quite exhausted.

With as much strain on the line as possible, without snapping it, I let the dolphin-fish swim circles around the boat. He was swimming at the surface and because of the centripetal force he was swimming circles. The circles became smaller and smaller because I could slowly get some line back. His eyes told the truth: "I really tried my best but this time you win". When the Dorado was next of the boat it was gaffed. The fish in all his pure beauty was now aboard after three-quarters of an hour of hard labor.

The Tunas now were already long forgotten and around lunchtime we went back to the boat-club to tell this great adventure to everyone who wanted to listen to it.


Olle is a Fishsniffer reader and a 22 year old economics student from Holland. Pictures are borrowed from: Chamber of Commerce.


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