Tanzanian Black Marlin by Eric Allard

Another Day in Paradise

Eric AllardIt was another partly cloudy November day, not exactly the bright sunny weather I was hoping for on a spear (free diving) fishing day. However, the sea was flat and as I was having breakfast, I could see that the water looked clear. From the beach I could see the deep blue colour of the offshore water coming in behind the islands through the gap between them. It was going to be a good blue water day! I was excited about the prospect of getting into beautiful clear blue water, and was fretting to get to work to finish off the few errands I wanted cleared before I went out spear fishing. The work load had been very heavy over the past few months, and that coupled with the inconsistent weather we've been having - lot's of rain and wind, and the sea was still not calm and clear - meant that I'd only been out spear fishing twice since April. The first two trips of the season, within the past 14 days, with my sighting of a few wahoo (one which I speared) and plenty of rainbow runner schools in the area, had shown good prospects for the season. Today, the tide was incoming and would hit high at approximately 14.00 hrs. I was therefore aiming to be on my boat at the club by 11.30.

Better Late than Never

Naturally, work took longer than expected and as I went to board the boat at 12.00, I realized that I forgot the boat keys in my rush to leave the office. Damn!!!? I thought, 'not a nice omen for the day,' but opted to think positive and not let the delay affect my attitude. Getting my little 15 foot cat, 'Debonair,' on the plane on flat seas half an hour later certainly helped to keep my spirits and attitude on a high. Despite more clouds in the sky than I like, the day was amazingly beautiful. While closing in on Fungu Nyule reef another 20 minutes later, I was flagged down by some returning fishers. I recognized them as part of the group of fishers that every day anchored in the same 115 metre deep spot where I like to start my blue water drifts. I slowed Debonair and approached their 'Dau.' We saluted repeatedly as is customary, after which I asked about their fishing trip. They had a sailfish on board and told me of many wahoo in the area! 'Great,' I thought; 'billfish and wahoo in the area!' I handed them a water bottle they requested and sped back out toward my blue water spot. The tide was high enough to cruise Debonair over the shallow reef, and as the reef dropped down on its eastern side, the water was bright bright blue!!! Wow, it was fantastic!

Ready and Able

Eric Allard 200kg MarlinAs I approached my spot, I noted that there were another 5-6 local fishers' boats anchored there. Amazingly, these fishers anchor their wood boats on the same +100m deep spot every day, carry a large rock in their boat which they chip and use as one-time-use line weights, and fish using hand lines. For many years I chose to stay close to the reef, watching them from afar too afraid to dive among them, without knowing how rewarding blue water hunting could be. That all changed in November 2002, when I started spear fishing for tuna feeding on the yearly mantis shrimp frenzy, and I now feel very comfortable diving into deep blue open water. I slowed Debonair and Ali, my assistant on the boat, dropped my two Rob Allen floats over board and hooked the end clip to the back of Debonair.

Things look Good

I scanned the surface of the water for any action as I put on my wet suit. I rigged my Rob Allen Carbon Rail 140 Tuna gun and approximately 200 m upstream of the spot where the local fishing boats were anchored, Ali dropped the two Rob Allen flashers into the water and I jumped into the beautiful big blue! The water was beautifully clear, although there was quite a lot of plankton, as usual. Due to my shoulder injury, I loaded with difficulty. I had time for a quick shallow dive just before drifting into the spot where the local fishers were anchored. I did a dive to approx. 15 m and saw a small wahoo swim a safe distance away. On surfacing I drifted past some of the anchored boats and politely chatted to the fishers. They confirmed that there were some wahoo in the area. Some 45 minutes and a few dives later and I had drifted onto the 40 m edge of the drop-off, some 500 m north of the spot where the fisher's were anchored. There were loads of unicorn fish and rainbow runner swimming at a depth of approx. 15-20 m. Still no nice fish to spear.

Engine Trouble and I meet the Monster

I called on Ali to pick me up so we could move back upstream and start a new drift, but noticed he couldn't start the engines! Damn old Mariners!!! Another delay!! I swam for 15 min to reach the boat and soon started the flooded engines. We cruised back upstream and from a distance watched one of the other boats bring in a fish. I went in for the second drift and some 200-300 m north of where I entered the water, at a depth of approx. 15 m I saw 3 small wahoo coming toward me from the east. They were too shy and did not come close enough for a shot. I surfaced and took a few more breaths to make another dive for the same wahoo, and as I submerged below the surface, I spotted a school of unicorns below me. I was back on the 40 m edge of the drop-off. Moments later I saw a giant swimming toward me. In a fraction of a second I realized it was a marlin. Blue fluorescent stripes glowed on its back and I continued my descent to intercept it. The giant turned slightly away from me and came past me. I selected my spot just behind the gill cover and pulled the trigger. I saw the spear hit the spot and felt it was a good shot. I raced for the surface and my reel screamed as the line was pulled out from it by the fish as it made its first run. As I turned on the surface, Ali was close by and I screamed for him to pick up my flashers and follow me. It was 14.10 hrs.

The Fight is On

The reel emptied within seconds of me surfacing. I had unclipped the clip holding the Rob Allen buoys to my weight belt and clipped it onto my gun. I let the gun go as the fish continued its run. I swam after the buoys at full speed. Fortunately the giant fish swam along the surface. I was afraid of it diving deep and getting entangled in some obstacle. After 20 minutes I caught up with the fish as it slowed down. 'A big black!' I thought. The shot looked good as the spear seemed well embedded. I could not see the spear exit on the other side. I was not going to take too many chances at pulling hard on the line to bring in the fish sooner. My heart was still racing with adrenaline and I opted to wait for the fish to tire on its own. I did not have a second gun so it was going to be difficult for me to get a second shot into it. I hoped the chase would not last long. One hour later, I was exhausted! I asked Ali to rig the second spear with a thick anchor line and hand it to me. I swam to the gun and disconnected it from the buoy lines. I loaded the gun and began my chase a second time. However, the fish figured it needed to step it up a notch and I could not keep up with it. I swam to the boat and got on. I followed the buoys from the surface until I saw them slow down, and jumped back in the water. Once again I could not catch up with the fish. Half an hour later I got back on the boat and took another rest. I got into the water one more time and swam after the fish for another hour, expecting to catch up with it at any moment. It never happened as the fish just kept going at what looked like very slow for the fish but was very fast for me.

Getting Late but the Giant is Mine

I eventually figured that at the same rate, the fish would never tire. The fish certainly weighed well over 100 kgs and a 750 gram spear with some floats attached to it embedded in its muscle was not going to stop it going where it wanted to go. It was now 17.30 hrs. and I was no closer to bringing the fish in than I was when I first speared it. By then we had swam many miles in circles and once up close to the reef. I got onto the boat one more time and decided to use the boat to get close to the fish. It eventually swam over another reef and was now moving slower in about 15-20 metres of water. I jumped back in the water over it and quickly dove down toward it. I put the second spear on the other flank and watched the spear penetrate the top of the neck and exit close to the pelvic fin. The fight is over. I surfaced and held a high fist to Ali, who was watching from the boat! This fish was not going to get away! It took another 15 minutes to bring the fish to the side of the boat. It took another 15 minutes to pull it into the boat. Little Debonair listed heavily to one side and the deck quickly filled with water. We had to maintain the boat moving in order for it to self bail. I was completely exhausted and could not put much energy into pulling the fish onto the boat, and so it took longer than it could have.

200kg Black Marlin

Eventually the fish was on the boat. It was 18.00 hrs. That is when I realized it was a MONSTER fish!!. I could not estimate its size, but it was well over 100 kgs for sure. A big black Marlin!! Just what I was hoping for during my last trip a few days ago!!!!! Needless to say, I was awestruck by what I had managed to achieve. I really could not believe it.

We planed Debonair into the Club at 18.30 hrs and a large crowd of friends had gathered around to see this monster. It took 8 persons to carry it to the scale. We hoisted it up and it beat the scale at 150 kgs. WOW!!! Over 150 kgs. Some estimated it would weigh 200 kgs, some more! Well, we eventually weighed it on a digital fish factory scale.....it weighed a whopping 200.00 kgs!!!!! YEAH!!!!

Good hunting to you all,
Eric Allard