The charter boats start fishing much earlier in recent years than was the case before, and Tarka is usually amongst the first to start catching, out from Watamu on the Banks in early July – last year it was with a couple of sail, three wahoo, three dorado and a kingfish, while a couple of days later the first black marlin was caught.
This was the pattern of catches for several weeks, and Alleycat soon joined in with a pair of blacks on two successive days, while Neptune from Malindi found a striped marlin mid-July, an unusual catch at this time of year, followed by a 140kg black marlin and an amazing day with fourteen sailfish. Ol Jogi and B’s Nest also found marlin and sailfish and these catches continued into late August. The fish were around the Banks, with areas near the Boiling Pot often yielding sailfish, for those with strong stomachs!
In September the marlin fishing slowed, and as the peak August tourist season ended the number of boat trips diminished. There were some rough windy days with rain, but the annual wahoo run with the fish concentrated at the top of the Banks yielded some good days with fish up to 20 kgs, while good catches of school yellowfin tuna were made off Malindi, Eclare boating twenty-seven one day, and there were some sail there too. When the fish were slow, there was always a chance to watch the humpback whales, normally seen around this time. At Mombasa, Whatever It Takes caught a striped marlin with a second one up, so the fish in action further south as well.
The North Kenya Banks has always had a reputation for big yellowfin at this time, and Clueless found over 500 kgs of tuna en route to Lamu and released a huge black marlin estimated at 330kgs on their return trip. Neptune motored out to fish this area, finding 700 kgs of tuna one day, and on another battling another huge black which eventually broke the leader and could have gone 350kgs! Other boats had good days with some fish up to 50kgs, and marlin as well, but it can be too rough to fish out that far some days. Marlin also appeared in the Pemba Channel end September, with Broadbill tagging a stripey and Kamara II a black marlin.
The October holiday weekend sees the Herbie Paul Memorial Tournament fished out of Malindi, the oldest tournament along our coast. Won this year, by a large margin by the team on Ol Jogi, with five sail the first day, when many sail were seen, and two more on the second day, when no other boat scored, it shows how fishing can vary from one day to another! Earlier, a 62kg giant trevally was caught on Unreel in the Boiling Pot, probably the biggest ever landed in Kenya, while Neptune out on the North Kenya Banks had two stripeys and fifteen big yellowfin. As the month ended, sailfish catches improved at Malindi, but the marlin on the Banks seemed to have moved on.
November traditionally begins the peak sail season off Malindi, and this year it certainly seemed that way with huge shoals of sail seen finning and chasing whitebait and sardines – -but could the anglers catch them! They proved very difficult to raise and hook but just to see all these fish is an amazing sight. But one day when it poured with rain all day Snowgoose caught thirteen! Down at Shimoni, Broadbill had a huge yellowfin over 150lbs and some stripies were caught, while small boat Pikapika was spooled by a big blue marlin on the first run! At Lamu the sailfish run proved disappointing by their standards, but on the NKB a team of German anglers had great success deep jigging for yellowfin, a method not tried here much yet. In the annual Eye Go Fishing tournament at Mtwapa the winner was Bado with a sailfish tagged.
The wind had seemed to be trying to swing into the north-east but kept switching back south as December progressed, upsetting the sailfish which were reluctant to feed. At the Capt Morgan tournament at Hemingways six boats caught a total of fourteen sail on the best day, with White Bear the leading boat over six days with nine sail, and the total was thirty sail and one marlin, all released. Alleycat had a client wanting sharks, and one tiger shark over 1000lbs was released, with another estimated at 800lbs for those who want more than sailfish! The Wildfly teams from South Africa fished a fly only competition, with the Kenya team coming runners-up, which will be seen on TV. Sailfishing at Lamu improved, with Black Widow tagging thirteen up there one day. Boats started fishing in the Rips, Tarka releasing a blue marlin and both blues and stripies being raised, and White Mischief released a couple of broadbill caught during the day with the ‘deep drop’ method. At Shimoni, Kamara II had a triple strike of striped marlin, tagging one and Broadbill tagged another, so the run was starting down in the Pemba Channel. The month ended with the Watamu SFC Xmas tournament, which was won by Unreel with a striped marlin, a sailfish and several dorado, while Blue Eyes was second with a big blue marlin of 360lbs, which died on the line and had to be boated. The wind had switched back south just before the tournament upsetting the billfish, but changed again a few days later to improve the fishing.
January found the wind blowing correctly from the north, and Black Widow tagged three stripeys and five sail one day to show how good the fishing can be with all factors favourable. More boats had sail than marlin though, but other days marlin were plentiful, with some black marlin caught as well as blues and stripeys – most boats were fishing the Rips now. Malindi boats moved to anchor in Watamu, and had some good days in the Rips, but also found sail off Malindi with Neptune catching thirteen one day. As the month progressed these sail at Malindi really turned on, with Snowgoose and Tarka both having fourteen in a day, while other anglers chose to chase the marlin in the Rips mostly for singles. The Delamere Trophy at Kilifi was won by Delta, with a blue and a striped marlin as well a a sailfish, for a grand slam. Four marlin and thirteen sail were caught by the eleven boats. Several other boats scored a grand slam before the end of the month, which saw fishing improving in the Rips as the month ended.
February continued with good sailfishing at Malindi, and the annual Billfish University tournament from Hemingways had good catches with up to sixteen sail a day on the lucky boat, though it was interesting that each day there were unlucky boats with poor scores. Boats after marlin in the Rips had some double headers, Tega with a blue and a stripey and Tarka with three stripies and a sail. But the weather continued cool and overcast, unusual at this time and this probably influenced the fishing unfavourably. The Malindi Billfish tournament was won by Snowgoose, with Egon Jenke catching a black and a blue marlin as well as two sail for best angler. The next three boats all had two marlin and a sail. The Kilifi Classic followed the next weekend, but proved rough and windy, not great for small boats, and it was Seahorse which came first with two stripies, a sail and a wahoo, closely followed by Clueless and Delta both with two marlin. The water in the Rips had turned rather green, but sailfish continued to be caught off Malindi as the month ended. At Shimoni the fishing was quiet but White Otter had a tremendous day with a triple strike of stripies and all three tagged at the beginning of the month, and released a blue marlin estimated at 500lbs mid-month, while Broadbill had a blue of 423lbs.
March started with the Watamu SFC tournament, and fishing in the Rips was quiet, but with marlin scoring so highly most boats chose this option rather than the sailfish at Malindi. Black Widow ended up winner with a blue and a striped marlin and two dorado, just ahead of Unreel, which had the same less one dorado! Interesting to note a spearfish was caught, a first in a tournament here, although a few are caught along the coast every year. Ten marlin, the spearfish and eight sail were caught by the twenty-two boats entered. The ‘Friends of Kenya’ tournament out from Hemingways followed a couple of days later, but the night fishing was cancelled for security reasons so two long days ended with Joint Venture winning, with a big blue marlin of 223kgs and a sailfish, and Instedda was second with a tagged blue and four sail. Ol Jogi chose the sailfish option at Malindi, but despite ten sail only managed fifth place. The wind then seemed to set south, but the Penn Challenge at Malindi with ten Dutch teams saw Neptune the winner with two marlin and fourteen sail over four days. As the month ended the south wind blew harder, the Rips went quiet and boats concentrated on the Banks for wahoo, dorado and tuna, while the sail remained around Malindi.
April showed the ‘kusi’,( the south east monsoon wind) pattern of fishing with a run of wahoo and plenty of dorado around, and some sail continued to be caught both at Malindi and on the Banks, while the latter area also produced some black marlin, but as the Easter holidays ended fishing clients became fewer and the boats started to come out of the water for overhaul.
A few boats fish all round the year, and interesting to see at Shimoni in June Pat Hemphill in his Broadbill going out for a trip and raising a triple-header of shortbill spearfish ending with two tagged. For Pat, our most senior skipper with over fifty years on the job, this was a first as these fish are very rare in our waters. As this goes to press in July, some boats are out for the new season and black marlin and sail are already being caught in the Watamu Banks area, so lets hope for a great fishing season everywhere.