I’m drifting along in the warm blue Mozambican water with thousands of Rainbow Runner coming through and suddenly this massive dark shape glides in on the flasher. I can’t believe my eyes, it’s a Marlin!
It was at that exact moment that I understood why Mohammed and Khalid had joined me off the island f Inhaca – Mohammed wanted to shoot his movie somewhere different, somewhere where there would be more than just the run of the mill Couta. They wanted something special, and special is exactly what we found.
We were based on the mainland at Santa Maria in a luxury house at Ponta Torres Lodge. With a rim flow pool, pro chef and all the mod cons you could want, life off the water was heaven. Dinners were usually a massive seafood feast with more prawns, crabs and clams than any of us could eat! The old dhow beach bar became a hazard to navigate past after dives, but one or two Laurentina’s never killed anyone…
We speared some amazing fish, and dived some superb spots on this trip. The goal was trophy fish for the film, so we spent most our time out in the deep blue looking for bill fish and big Wahoo.
So, there I was, with a massive lit up Marlin coming onto the flasher. Mohammed had already seen it so I turned on my camera and dived. Not wanting to spook the fish, I kept my distance as Mohammed got into position. The Marlin was a bit too far away for a good shot and Mohammed hung patiently just below the surface, waiting and hoping that the Marlin would come back in. We both watched longingly as its big sickle shaped tail swept from side to side as it disappeared off into the blue.
Knowing that you usually don’t see many Marlin, we were left feeling a little deflated. Then, to our amazement, another Marlin cruised in right under the flasher! Mohammed made a quick dive, and not wanting to let this one get away, he quickly put in a good shot just above the pectoral fin. We were met at the surface by his two 40 liter floats doing handstands. Mohammed was over the moon, and then disaster struck! The line went slack and the buoys flopped flat on the surface. Every spearfisherman knows the feeling; from uber stoke to complete depression in a split second.
Back on the boat we found that the mono line had broken at the crimp. We also realised that Mohammed had not been using any bungee lines and the pressure of the two 40 litre buoys had just put too much pressure on the gear. So, with a new spear and bungee lines added to his setup, we got back into the water on the off chance that we would come across something big again.
You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but yes, another Marlin came in… the third one in 2 hours! This beast came in below the flasher and it was by far the biggest of the day. The huge fish arced around us like a ghost sub. Fish don’t get that big by being stupid and it stayed just too far away to attempt a shot, but close enough for us to be awestruck by its size. The fish slowly swam off into the blue, and we were all able to surface again. If our trip had to have ended right then, we would have gone home happy. The spot was just so special and its potential seemed endless.
We continued looking for Marlin over the next couple days, but unfortunately we didn’t see any more. There was one spot we often dived that had a huge resident shoal of Kingfish. They were mostly just Bigeyes, but we often glimpsed massive Ignobilis lurking below. I managed to time one of my dives perfectly, and got deep enough to get close to one. One curious Iggie hung beneath me, taunting me deeper than I had anticipated. Finally the shot presented itself and as my spear penetrated, the fish did exactly what every Kingy with a spear in it does…. it went straight down!
My blue water bungee tightened up and both 11 litre floats quickly went tail up on the surface. I grabbed the line to keep pressure on the fish, but then realised that the water was deep enough to not worry about the fish hitting the reef. In fact, the tussle was quite lekker. Ignobilis always stress me out as they smash up your gear on the reef, but this was one time where I could enjoy the fish pulling me around without any worries. A good fish in the twenties finally came up and we got the camera out and took some pics.
The exciting thing about the deep was the occasional Wahoo and Couta that would pull in and surprise you. Over the few days we spent in the deep, we landed up with some seriously good Wahoo and Couta which broke the quiet spells while we continued to look for trophy fish.
The best Wahoo of the trip was shot at one of the regular spots called B24, which is short for ‘24m Bank’. This spot is well known by spearos for Couta and Wahoo. The water was not as good as out in the deep, so you can imagine my surprise when this huge Wahoo swam right over me, silhouetted by the sunlit surface 18m above. Not wanting to spook the fish, I drifted upwards in a similar direction as the fish was heading. I was still nowhere near the fish when I saw Mohammed lining up for a shot. Thwack! The spear landed and the fish did a few shakes before disappearing in a trail of bubbles. The huge Wahoo eventually tipped the scales at 28kg and was a personal best for Mohammed.
As on most trips, we had a couple forced rest days due to bad weather. We nailed the interviews and other film stuff in the mornings and then headed out for lunch in the afternoons. There are 2 famous eating spots on the island. Lucas’s is tucked away in the back of the village – really good! And the Beach Bar is not to be missed – the awesome setting and open fire kitchen is definitely a unique experience.
After all the time we had spent searching out in the deep for trophy fish, we had each only racked up a couple Wahoo and Couta. With more bad weather on the way, it looked like we only had one day left to dive, so we decided to forget about the film and go and have some fun. It would have been relatively easy to go and find loads of Couta, but back in Qatar, Mohammed and Khalid often shoot Couta far bigger than we get. The decision was made to go find other species that they don’t usually get. Our trusty skipper said he had some good fishing marks but I was a little skeptical as fishing marks are generally not good for spearing. Little did I know just how productive his ‘secret’ marks would turn out to be…
Our skipper stopped the boat, and chirped, “Let’s put some fish on the boat for a change.” It wasn’t 5 minutes and we were into fish. Mohammed and Khalid were seeing fish they don’t get at home and would come up trying to explain what they saw and asking if it was something they could shoot. We quickly got some good Snapper and it was off to the next spot which was apparently known for Marbled Grouper. The guys got a good one each, but I didn’t manage to find anything special. So it went on, from spot to spot, here you will find ‘this’ and over there ‘that’. Mohammed even got a beautiful 11kg Harry Hotlips to add to his ‘first time species’ list.
At the second to last spot, we were told that it was where you get very big “Green Grouper”. I was not familiar with what a Green Grouper was, but we jumped in for a look anyway. The new species of fish turned out to actually be monster Green Parrots! Much to the dismay of the skipper, none of us were interested in shooting them, even though some must have been close to the 20kg mark. A big Kakaap swam right over me while I was watching the Parrots and I quickly stoned it. It was the biggest Kakaap of the trip so far, well over 10kg and I was super stoked. I jumped into the boat and was very happy with myself, until Mohammed surfaced with a +20kg Malabar Rock Cod! With a big grin on his face, he told us how he had shot the fish ‘right between the eyes’.
At the next spot our skipper piped up, “Ok, now here you get big Kakaap, many of them up to 16kg!” I was thinking 16kg… ya right, don’t we wish. The vis didn’t look great, so we took our time getting our gear on. Khalid was first down and came up shortly after with his line in his hand. Up came a big Kakaap, and I was thinking ‘my turn’. I went straight to the bottom in around 20m, and saw 2 Kakaap moving around in the gloomy vis. I knew there were bigger fish around, but after waiting for a while, nothing came in and I decided to surface.
When I hit the surface, Mohammed was wrestling the mother of all Kakaap, it looked huge. We quickly weighed the fish, but the motion of the boat made it difficult to get an accurate reading – it bounced between 12 and 13kg. The fish was bigger than mine from earlier in the day and my competitive streak kicked in. We headed up for another drift over the same spot and I put on my A game, only to end up being totally frustrated by the Kakaap. There were quality fish around so I kept holding back on fish I felt weren’t big enough. I was still fishless when the skipper started to get edgy as he wanted to head back or he would have to navigate the channels in the dark. The guys were getting onto the boat and I could not resist one last dive. As I hit the bottom, I had already decided that the first half decent fish that swam past was going to get it.
A smallish fish of maybe 6 or 7 kg came in and I quickly shot it. I eventually got the fish to the surface and it was way bigger than I initially thought, just over 9kg. While we were packaging our gear away on the boat, I realised that I was letting 10-12kg fish swim past on previous dives. We had only spent half an hour in horrid conditions on the spot and had still got amazing Kakaap. This was definitely one of the most special places I have ever dived. Too bad we left it to last… or maybe that was our skipper’s plan all along?
With the weather closing in we did not expect to get a dive in on the last morning, let alone travel up to the Kakaap spot. When we got out of Hell’s Gate, the southerly wind was already pushing and it was touch and go as to whether we’d even get into the water. As it was our last day, we took a chance and headed out to Baixo de Santa Maria for a quick last dive.
The sea was seriously rough but there were some good bait fish on the outside drop off which we hoped meant that there would be some gamefish around. After the 3rd drift we had only shot 1 Kakaap and I could see that the guys on the boat were taking strain. We were drifting along when I saw a good coral bommie coming up and I dived to investigate. I reached the pinnacle at 25m and slipped down the side. The water was so clean that you could make out the surface above clearly and the drop off disappearing below. Just before I turned to go up, a Marbled Grouper appeared behind me. I didn’t take the shot straight away as I was worried that if I didn’t place it well, the fish would go straight into the coral down the drop off. This is the diver’s dilemma – the weighing up of various outcomes, all in a split second.
I had the front of the fish’s head lined up and decided to take the shot. Unfortunately, as I pulled the trigger, the fish bolted and the spear landed behind the pectoral fin. It screamed off across the reef and I watched it swim under a large coral plate as I headed for the surface. I quickly tied off my line and Khalid passed me a buoy to help put as much pressure on the fish as possible. I cursed myself while I was getting my breath back. Getting the fish out could have meant anything up to ten dives and the coral plate it had gone under looked deep!
Fortunately, the current was not too strong and I was able to swim back over the mark and dived down the line. I eventually reached the coral plate and untangled a loop from the edge of it. I followed the line under the coral and was overjoyed to see the Grouper still on the end of my spear. The float had done its job and the tension on the line was keeping the fish from going any deeper. I grabbed the spear and worked the struggling fish from its lair. It came out fairly easily, but as I got it into the open, it started thrashing around and I had to drop it. I looked down as I headed for the surface and to my relief the fish was still in the open. It was then an easy task to pull the fish to the surface. Once it was subdued, an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and accomplishment came over me, the fish was big and the dive was deep. I now understood why so many guys specialise in hunting these species.
Driving back to the lodge for the last time, I could not help wanting more. I always hate the end of a trip, no matter how good it has been. I would normally never spend so much time looking for trophies in the deep, but somehow it just seemed like the right thing to have done at the time. With the constant bird and bait action, there was always a very real chance of something incredible happening. I then started thinking about the “Kakaap” spot…what would this awesome place produce on a good day?!
With all the gear and cameras packed away, we made our way back to Maputo. I took the pothole riddled road back to South Africa, while Mohammed and Khalid navigated airport customs back to Qatar. For Mohammed and I this was not the end, but rather the beginning. We have already started to plan new trips to even wilder and even more tempting locations.
What can I say, we are addicted!