Muscat, Oman- fishing in the Middle East – 9 January, 2016

Sunday

In early January I was fortunate enough to travel to Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman, on the Arabian Gulf. I had heard there was some great fishing. So I packed my Berkley Nomadic travel rod and reel and a few bags of soft plastics, jigheads and a couple of hard bodied lures.

After a few days in Muscat I visited the wet fish market in Mutrah. There were tuna of several types, which are caught from the Gulf, using long lines. There were many other familiar looking species – trevally, queenfish, snapper, small sharks, and piles of anchovies/ whitebait. There was a large fish that looked a little like a grunter bream that they call Hamour or Kingfish. There was also the head of what had obviously been an enormous garoupa.

This visit had me fired up so the next morning I decided to walk south, in front of the resort, along the long flat Al Ghubra beach. Oman has very little fresh water so there is an enormous desalination plant at the southern end of the beach which constantly discharges warm water into the Gulf. I was sure this flow would attract fish so I walked in that direction.

The morning call to prayer comes at 5.30 am and is a useful alarm call for a light sleeping fisherman like me. As I walked along the beach in the pre-dawn light the locals were making the most of the cooler northern hemisphere weather for morning exercises. Typical temperatures at this time of the year are between about 18 and 25 C, but there is very little humidity – so it feels quite cool. One lady had decided to read her Koran looking out over the waves and it looked like a pretty calming way to start the day. Despite the cooler weather both women and men were fully covered up – Men in their long white dishadashas and small caps and women in their black abayas and head scarves. The only thing their outfits had in common with a typical Aussie exercise kit was the occasional pair of Nikes, poking out under their robes.

There is virtually no swell in the Gulf but the wind can kick up a few small waves. There were a few patches of flat rock sticking out from the shore but the rest of the beach was flat and sandy. The tide was coming in and would be high at about 8.20 am. Sunrise would be at 6.15 am. The water felt very warm on my feet and the new moon was a few days away.

The Berkley Nomadic NMS761 rod is a five piece – so it will comfortably fit in my suitcase. It is rated 2-4 kg and 7’ 6” long. The action on the rod is a little slower than I would like. I prefer a very flexible, fast (whippy) tip, but this is very difficult to achieve in a 5 piece rod. It’s a pretty good compromise and has enough power to stop a reasonable fish. I rigged up with a 10lb fluorocarbon leader, tied on a 1/8th ounce, 1/0 jighead, loaded a 4” GULP Lime Tiger Minnow soft plastic lure and started casting.

 

It took a little while to get used to the feel of the rod and the jighead was a little light for this rig but I gradually found my rhythm and started to feel a few small bites. As the sun came up I could see tight schools of what looked like small mullet finning around on the surface. Every so often they would scatter as something came at them. I swapped soft plastic to a smaller 3” minnow in the New Penny colour. Just as I was about to pull the lure out of the water on the first retrieve, a fish grabbed it. It pulled and splashed and was brown and sandy coloured. When I got it to the beach it could see it was a lizardfish or grinner (as we know them in Australia). I released it and carried on.

A few casts later I was on to a fish again and imagine my surprise when a small sand/ bar-tailed flathead came wriggling up the beach. It was now a bright morning and getting warm. I caught another grinner and as I moved back along the beach, another small flathead.

I swapped back to the bigger 4” minnow in the Lime Tiger colour and after about 10 minutes I was on to another flathead. By now I was back in front of the resort. The cleaners who were raking the beach and sweeping the paths watched intently. This was a better fish, about 45 cm long. As I landed it one rushed over and asked if he could have it. I was happy to oblige. A few moments later, I caught another and by now, the team had found a bucket and were keenly following my progress along the beach.

I caught two more big grinners which they also happily accepted and one small flathead that I felt I should release, much to their disappointment. I finished up and declined the kind invite to a curried fish supper.

What a great session – remember – wherever you are, it’s always worth wetting a line.

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Tailor & Queenfish – 23 Dec 2010

On Wednesday morning – the rain looked like it would stop for a bit and as the wind was forecast to come from the south for a while, I decided to go for one more Tweed rockwall session before Christmas. The couple of hours either side of dawn has always been the most productive for me in this spot, so I was up at 3.00 am again. I drove down from Brisbane and was at the end of the rockwall, watching the red glow on the horizon at about 4.15 am.
There was a light south westerly blowing and it was quite cool. There was a little more swell as a result. I started with a River 2 Sea 110mm Dumbell Popper in the Pilchard colour. I was blooping it back slowly across the front of the rockwall. Suddenly there was a boil on the surface so I cast out, in that direction. The popper was knocked out of the water by a marauding fish but there was no hook up. After several more casts and hits – but no connections. I quickly tied on a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the lime tiger colour. I used a ½ oz 4/0 jighead. As soon as it hit the water is was snaffled by a solid fish. I had the drag fairly tight and got the fish round to the left (north) side of the rockwall, fairly quickly. Its head was shaking and then there were a few leaps and I could see it was a Tailor. I got it up the rocks and it measured up at just over 60cm.
Then everything went quiet. I switched from popper to metal slug, to plastic, several times but I could not raise a bite. I could not find any Kingfish but after another hour or so, I had another hook up on a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the pearl watermelon colour. This time it was a tiny Queenfish. The range of species in this spot is amazing. After a quick snap I returned it to the water. I carried on for another ½ hour without success and finally headed home around 7.30 am.
Happy Christmas to all and I wish you the best of luck for your holiday trips. Get out there (in your rain gear) and find some good fish. Even if it is raining, the fish still have to eat!

Tweed River – The Rockwall – Kingfish and Amberjack – 19 Dec 2010

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Saturday

As you may have read, my latest early morning foray on the Tweed River rockwall ended with no fish but a close encounter with something powerful. Predictably, I kept replaying the final moments of losing that fish in my mind and it grew and grew.
On Friday night I went to bed primed for an early start. I wanted to get back down to the Tweed River rockwall before dawn. Rain or shine, I was on a mission. The wind and tides looked good. I was on the road at 3.00 am and wandered out along the north rockwall at about 4.15 am, just after first light. Conditions were perfect. There was virtually no breeze or swell, the water was very clear and it was very humid and overcast.
This time of day is definitely the best time for a surface popper lure. I rigged up my favourite – the RIVER 2 SEA 110mm Dumbell Popper, in the pilchard colour. This time I had 40lb PLATYPUS Bionic Braid on the spool with a 40lb fluorocarbon leader. In my experience, the most likely time you will catch fish on poppers is during the first few casts in the pre-dawn light. If the water you arrive at has not been disturbed all night and the fish’s predatory instincts have just been triggered by first light, you have a winning combination. My theory was spot on. I cast the popper out about 35 metres and slowly blooped it back towards the base of the rockwall, pausing for a second or too, every few metres. About 8 metres from the wall there was a great surge of water from the left and the popper just disappeared, the line went slack as the fish swam towards me. I wound like mad, yanked the rod tip up to strike and then all hell broke loose. Line was peeling off the spool and I immediately started to try and pull the fish round to the north side of the wall, where I might have a chance of landing it. I soon realised that was probably not going to happen. It turned and headed in the opposite direction – round towards the Tweed River mouth. I still had not really seen it. I thought I was making headway but as soon as I got line back, it would just make another blistering run. I scrambled over the rocks at the front of the wall, in the vain hope that I could keep it clear and maybe land it round the other side. Now I could see it and it was a big Yellowtail Kingfish – perhaps around the 80 cm mark. Directly out front, it finally decided to dive down to the base of the rocks and successfully left the popper locked in the barnacles somewhere down below.
My next popper was the HALCO 105mm Roosta Popper in the pink fluoro colour. I had to wait for a moment to stop my hands shaking, so I could tie it on. I cast straight out in the same direction and there were plenty of swirls and lunges, but no hook up on this retrieve. Two or three casts later, I could see the fish following the lure in and again. There were several hits but no hook up. On the next cast, I slowed it right down and less than 2 metres from the wall the popper was completely snaffled. This time I had no chance. The reel screamed, the fish went straight down. I never even saw it and that was the end of my second popper.
I was out of poppers and now it was really getting light so I switched to a metal slug – a SPANYID 85g Raider. I cast round in a semicircle, off the end of the rock wall and most times I got a group of Kingfish following the lure in but they would not strike.
At around 5.30am I decided to switch to a soft plastic lure. I put on a ½ oz, 4/0 jighead and loaded a GULP 5” Jerkshad in the banana prawn colour and cast out as far as I could. I let the plastic sink down and then started jigging it along the bottom. It was hit almost straight away. I set the hook and moved down to a flat rock, as close as I could get to the water. I decided I was not going to mess about this time. After a couple of runs, I tightened the drag and started winding in as fast as I could. The fish tried to dive into the rocks several times but I eventually dragged him clear and up onto the ledge where I locked it down under my foot. It was a Yellowtail Kingfish, just over 65cm and therefore legal in NSW. About 500 metres north, in Queensland, the size limit is 60cm. I wonder if the fish know how long they are and where they are safe? I cleaned it and then put it in the bag.
I put on a GULP 4” Minnow soft plastic in the pearl watermelon colour and cast this out. At about the same spot, it was grabbed and the fish charged off. Once more, before I could get any leverage, the fish was down in the rocks at the base of the wall and gradually it pulled and pulled, until it rubbed through the 40lb leader. I tied on another soft plastic in the same colour and after another three or four retrieves, I had a fish on again. This was a slightly smaller fish and with a fairly tight drag I managed to land it. It was another Kingfish – but at only about 55cm – it went back.
Things had now quietened down a bit and it was around 6.30 am. I was still casting the same weight jighead but now I had switched to the GULP 4” Minnow in the peppered prawn colour. Just before 7.00 am a fish whacked the lure close into the rocks. Again it tried for the base of the wall but, after a short fight, I heaved it out and got it safely up the rocks. It was a 48cm Amberjack and there is no size limit on these in NSW, so he went in the bag with the Kingfish. In Queensland, they have to be over 50cm.
After a about another ½ hour I gave up and headed home. It had been a fantastic morning of land-based fishing with plenty of action in calm, safe conditions.
I did conclude that the size and bag limits don’t seem very logical in this area. I think most fisherman want to do the right thing, but such small differences between the states only serve to confuse us. Surely it would be better to standardise the size limits for as many species as possible. I can’t believe that the science can support no limit for Amberjack in NSW and a 50cm limit further north in Queensland. If the intention is to protect breeding size fish, are the scientists saying that Kingfish breed at fewer than 60cm in Queensland, but they need to get bigger (65cm) to breed in NSW? If anyone understands the science behind it please add a comment.