Tanzania Report by Eric Allard

Windy Months

Eric Allard and Nigel Spenser with a good catch of Dorado, Wahoo and CudaLate February usually marks the end of the strong northerly Kaskazi wind and the return of good spear fishing conditions in East Africa. March is usually dominated by the doldrums, that time of the year when the sea is as flat as an early morning lake and sailing boats stand still as if they were in some sort of a vacuum. These months are two of the best months for wahoo and dorado. Sure enough the wahoo - scarce and shy up until then - were plentiful around Tanga. The water was as blue as can be and local artisan fishers, in their traditional 'dau' and 'ngalawas' were catching quite a few wahoo and dorado along the weed lines some 7 - 8 nautical miles offshore. I managed to get some good blue water sessions in during late February and early March, just before I left for Cape Town with my family.

Shoaling Wahoo

The best days were marked by wahoo swimming together in schools of 20+ individuals. They were mostly small, 8 - 14 kgs each, with a few individuals close to 20 kgs. I was able to take friends, to whom I try to describe such sights, to actually see and feel what I tried so hard to describe. They were able to watch me in crystal clear water dive down and get wahoo to approach me close enough to spear them. Days like that blow my mind so it must be quite a sight for someone who has never seen anything like it. Needless to say, they really enjoyed their trips. On one day I was lucky enough to spear 4 wahoo (but not so lucky - or good - to loose another 3) with the largest being 18 kgs.

 

A day out to the weed lines looking for large bull dorado of 15+ kg which the local artisan fishers were catching yielded nothing except some beautiful free diving around a large log that must have been in the water for years and years. The log was like a floating reef, teeming with fish under it. A friend and I were continuously surrounded by up to 10 baby black-tip sharks, a large school of trigger fish, rainbow runner, small wahoo, a few small dorado, and so much more. It was spectacular to see and very fulfilling even though it yielded no fish for dinner.

Doldrums off the coast of TanzaniaNew Edition

After that it was off to Cape Town with my wife and son to have a baby! Our several previous trips to Cape Town have been great and we have some good friends there, one in particular who very much loves his spear fishing. Thanks to him I had the privilege to go spear fishing for longfin and yellowfin tuna off Cape Point. We've never tried chumming in East Africa so doing so for tuna off Cape Point was a whole new experience. I can't say just how much I appreciate the warm waters of East Africa!! The trip yielded 3 longfin tuna and I almost crapped into my wetsuit when a seal darted in front of me while I was down, expecting a blue or even worse, a white shark to appear at any time!!!

In late April it was back to Tanzania with a new baby, Francesca; welcome to the world! I was happy to be back although May, June, and July are traditionally poor spear fishing months. Those are our winter months dominated by monsoons. Seas are generally rough and with heavy rains, as we've had this year, rivers and estuaries are pumping plenty of brown water a long way offshore. So May and June were spent generally catching up on work, setting up new gear acquired in South Africa, and restlessly awaiting the opportunity to get in the water.

Black Marlin Aplenty

Nigel Spencer with a 30kg Cuda off the Tanzanian coastSure enough that opportunity came when in early July the wind died and sea went uncharacteristically flat. Fishing reports from local artisan fishers around Tanga in Tanzania were still pretty gloomy with no decent fish being landed. However, the Watamu Banks off Watamu in northern Kenya were pumping with fish and reports came in from sport fishers that they were landing plenty of wahoo and Black Marlin (one boat had 12 'blacks' in a period of 2 weeks), and the occasional yellowfin tuna.

On only his 3rd trip of the season, Nigel in Mombasa, after being out of action for almost two months with a serious sinus infection, speared a beautiful 30 kg King Mackerel in the murky waters of the 'White House' reef north of Mombasa. He also had a mixed bag of Golden Trevally and Green Jobfish. Following many exchanges and reports from Watamu, Nigel and I got together for a weekend of spearfishing on the Watamu Banks. We were hoping the fragile good weather would hold and the fish would stay, but alas, it wasn't going to be.

Strong Winds, Clean Seas

 The weather turned out to be pretty terrible by East African standards, with 17 - 24 knot winds and 10 foot swell. Not exactly what we are used to here! In any case, we had come all that way and were going to give it a try. Our little 15' Wild Cat was the only boat out on the Saturday, and we snuck out of the Mida Whale Rock mlango - the opening in the reef - without any difficulties. We encountered blue water only a few hundred meters off the reef. This cheered us up and it was an easy 8 nm ride diagonally through the swell to the Wahooville point on the Watamu Banks.

With Salim at the helm we were in an out of the boat for some 6 hours of drifts that started in 100 m of water and ended when we drifted onto the reef. The water was a surprisingly very cold (by East Africa standards) 23 - 24 degrees Celsius, but the water was clear and the wahoo were around. I saw three on my very first drift and took a 'Hail Mary' long shot at one, which ended up missing the fish. By our third drift Nigel speared a nice 12 - 14 kg wahoo right in front of me. A couple of drifts later he had a second larger one, probably a 15 - 16 kg fish. Nigel was obviously unaffected by the otherwise poor conditions! I on the other hand, was more affected by it and was just not getting in close enough to the wahoo. They were certainly not as prolific as we had expected after the reports we'd received from the previous week, but they were certainly there. I soon had a decent size dorado that must have been lost....it is completely out of season for dorado. Nigel lost two more wahoo and got a small King Mackerel close to the end of the day. We'd seen no Black Marlin despite having many schools of mackerel swim by us. Considering the conditions, we'd had a pretty good day.

Freediving with Dolphins

Sunday was marked by even worse weather. Although the swell was down, the wind was up and the sky was completely overcast. Still not the conditions we are used to up here. We narrowly squeezed through the mlango without a scratch (but with a fright!) and cruised onto the banks. The water was still clear and for the first couple of drifts we had some spectacular free diving with a pod of some 10 - 20 bottlenose dolphins. Nigel soon had his first wahoo of the day and although I was feeling more comfortable than the previous day, I still was not seeing as many fish as Nigel, nor getting in close enough. The only other boat out at sea for the day, a sport fishing charter, hooked a 400 lb Bull Shark a few feet from where we were free diving. They also later hooked a Black Marlin, while we once again saw no sign of them. They certainly were around but we just weren't seeing them. Nigel was working his flasher well and had another wahoo shortly after, and concluded the day with a small King Mackerel.

More

At the end of the cold and weather beaten day, it was a relief to get back into the calmness of Mida Creek and a hot shower back at the house. All in all it was a pretty good unexpected weekend of spear fishing during our winter weather. Still not too long to wait for the start of the good season sometime in August and we have plans for some more spear fishing trips off the Watamu Banks, the remote southern Pemba and Kilwa islands, and naturally closer to home. Stay tuned for more East Africa reports toward the end of August.

Happy dunga to you all .