When Cape Town comes to an angler’s mind, he thinks of big tuna, big bronze whalers, snoek commercials and some yellowtail. What doesn’t come to mind is the phenomenal light-tackle yellowtail fishing Cape Town has to offer.
By Lloyd Pereira
Over my years of international travel and recent years of filming, I’ve angled in a few destinations where the number of fish we caught in half a day was – to me –astounding.
As the agent for Mako eyewear and Mustad hooks in South Africa, travelling to Cape Town for ‘work’ is part of my portfolio. During the past couple of years, I’ve come to be good friends with Keith from The Fishing Specialist tackle store. He knows my passion for fishing, so he arranged to take me out on his friend’s boat for a day of yellowtail angling. Having never caught a yellowtail in my life I was, as always, champing at the bit.
Mindful of Cape Town’s unpredictable weather, Tuesday was deemed to be the day. Early on Tuesday morning, I met Keith and we travelled to meet his friend Mark Johnson. Now Mark has a personality that is larger than life, and a passion for angling that makes me look bored in comparison.
We hitched up his Yamaha 565 boat and headed off to Yzerfontein. Yzerfontein is up the western coast and tends to hold the fish throughout the winter; around November, the fish tend to move towards Cape Point for the summer. But this was early November and we were on the cusp so, after Keith did lots of homework, Yzerfontein was the call.
After an hour’s drive, we slipped the centre-console boat into the calm harbour. We drove out to Dassen Island, 4km to 5km out to sea, and then it was time to start spotting for bird activity. The basic game plan was to spot birds diving, drive up them and then throw plugs and spoons onto the activity. The yellowtail push the bait fish up to the surface, making them accessible to the birds, and the birds dive down to eat them. You drive up to the activity but not onto it: if you get too close, the fish sound immediately and the birds scatter. This time, in almost all cases they did this anyway but, if you were not too close, you got a couple of casts in first. This is why a centre-console boat and the ability to throw far is so important.
Game fish on light spinning gear
The yellowtail were not huge and, unlike in KwaZulu-Natal, the sharks are not a problem either. This was a phenomenal opportunity to fish for game fish on light spinning gear. I was using my new Daiwa Procaster 4000 loaded with Mustad 0.10mm 25lb braid and my new Saltist 8’6” spinning rod. The Procaster is a more than adequate reel. The 4000 size is excellent because the bigger arbor assists in casting further and taking over 300m of braid. The 25lb Mustad braid is thinner than anything else I’ve seen out there of the equivalent breaking strain – 20lb is a little too light and 30lb is a little too heavy. The Daiwa Saltist 8’6” spinning rod is ideal for this kind of fishing as the length helps in getting to the fish before the the noise of the boat causes them to sound. The Fuji tangle-free guides are made for spinning with braid; the action of the rod gives it not only a phenomenal casting ability but also pulling power when you are fighting a fish. The spoons and plugs we used were of a mixed bag; the key in my mind was smaller spoons and plugs and wound at pace with a nice single at the back. A bigger hook worked better for a good hook-up ratio and for unhooking fish as well. The Mustad 9174NP-BN has a wide gape, a short shank and a large eye ring to fit the split rings and so is an ideal hook for this kind of fishing. The 5/0 worked well for me. Keith’s other suggestion was to use a slightly heavier leader so that we could swing the fish onto the boat without having to gaff or net them. For this, the 0.60mm was perfect.
Importance of sunglasses
One of the other very important items for a day out on the boat, especially because of the sight-fishing aspect, is a proper pair of polarized fishing sunglasses. My marvellous Makos are top of the range with their new High Definition lens technology and glass lenses. Getting to see the fish in the water first, more often than not, is the difference between catching or watching. Seeing Keith wear his 8-year-old pair of Makos warmed my heart.
A successful experiment
Now, let’s get back to the juicy part of the yellowtail. As we got a kilometre or so past Dassen Island, we saw the Mark and myself have our first casts at the activity. Mark went on and then I did, and we tussled our fish, giggling like kids. We both landed a fish – and it was my first yellowtail. The yellowtail is a beautiful fish that fights well and to catch it on light tackle was magnificent. We proceeded to chase birds all morning, casting into shoals of fish, at times numbering in the hundreds. We often had anywhere between three and 10 fish following our plugs and spoons as we wound them fast on the surface.
When the fish were following our lures, about one in three occasions we’d hook up, which kept our hearts in our throats. The fish were on average between 3kg and 5kg, with the occasional one in the 6kg range. This is truly magnificent fishing and I have very seldom experienced excitement at this level. I think between us we must have caught well over 50 fish in five hours. We just made pigs of ourselves, trying to satiate our impossible lust for catching fish. We released most fish, but a couple were kept for the ‘church’.
By twelve noon, we had burned a sufficient amount of fuel to start questioning our next charge towards birds, and we had seen enough sun. Also, the knowledge of having to clean the boat and then the drive back to Cape Town combined to sway us back to the harbour. And so, one of the most memorable days of angling came to an end. And, as in almost every case, the realisation and enjoyment came afterwards as we reflected on a phenomenal day’s angling.
I would like to thank Mark for taking us out on his immaculate set-up boat and Keith for sharing his knowledge and putting us onto so many fish. And both for taking the day off work – although I don’t think that was too hard a decision.