The last few years have seen the new fishing season open with plenty of small black marlin on the Banks, but this year has been different. While a few marlin have been caught, the main emphasis has been on plentiful shoals of sailfish right outside the Watamu mlango, running along the outer reef in the stretch between Mida creek and the islands off Watamu beach, known as ‘Sailfish Alley’.
While the boats generally fish along here en route to the Banks, and often raise a few sail, no one recalls a day like July 29th when skipper Pete Darnborough in Alleycat caught 23 sailfish for his anglers and were home by lunchtime! What an amazing day!
One wonders what causes these changes in the fishing patterns, as weather conditions and water temperatures seem to be normal for this time of year, but these fish start their migrations perhaps thousands of miles away where conditions could alter considerably. In the late 1970’s the sailfish vanished from Malindi waters, and I recall one year when only about a dozen sail were caught off Malindi in January, with anglers blaming trawlers, commercial fishing with long lines and many other factors – but a few years later, record numbers of sailfish were back again. A run of mantis shrimps a few years back, which continued for three years completely altered fish patterns, with huge shoals of very big yellowfin tuna everywhere while marlin were few and far between.
Fishing started in early July with Tarka and Alleycat out, the former boat landing a black marlin of 78kgs on July 3rd, but it was five weeks before they found another marlin, but they caught about thirty sail in seven trips, with up to eight in the day in this period. Unreel started mid-August with a sail and a couple of big wahoo, one wahoo of 34kgs a notable fish, and Furio II, a small private boat had three sail for the Italian owner, a local resident.
Hemingways boats were active well into the off season, with Sea Storm getting a striped marlin in the middle of May, before retiring for her overhaul, and B’s Nest was catching sailfish in July, five one day and six a week later, then adding a good day with a black marlin and two wahoo for Barbara Elswick early in August. Ol Jogi also entered the fray in August with a black marlin and five sail for anglers Alistair James and Philip Steyn, who also caught four sail going out again the next day, while the Hamilton family from Dubai had four sail as well. B’s Nest found eight sail last Sunday with Daniel and Benjamin Mikelian on the rods, then followed with a mixed day with a sail, a giant trevally and a dorado, and all the boats have had some good wahoo running over 20kgs.
Malindi boats have also been fishing down Watamu way, but results will come next week, it is quite a long trip for them to the Watamu mlango where the sail are. Naturally, if one is fishing this area for sail then one is unlikely to catch marlin, normally targeted on the Banks five miles away with live bait, There are plenty of frigate mackerel around for bait, a good point as live bait can be very hard to catch, and usually no bait – no marlin!
With better figures for tourist arrivals emerging, we can hope for a good fishing season as a boost for one of Kenya’s great attractions.