By: Wesley Peens
We all know that a trip to Mozambique these days can be expensive, and because of the cost involved, logistical issues, fishing pressures and a few of the complications we have on the roads of Mozambique, we find ourselves researching each and every trip to ensure that we have the best possible experience.
For this trip, Rudolph Scheepers and I, from Team ASFN, have an area in mind, situated between Pomene and the Saint Sebastian peninsular, an area that holds good structure and eco-sources in the form of reef systems, estuaries and healthy beaches.
After a few months of research, we decide to tackle this project and start getting our ducks in a row. We have a few goals for the trip and have allocated a week to achieve them. Our main goal is to target that giant GT off the beach. This area is definitely his home; we, on the other hand, are visiting, so it is all about trying to work out his eating patterns, tidal movement and what structure to fish. A fish of 10kg will have a different eating pattern from a giant of 40kg; different food sources and feeding habits all come into play, so basically this is a project, and we need a project plan.
So now that we have our project in mind, we need a place to stay. Morgan O’Kennedy of Big Blue Charters in Vilankulos mentions that there is only one lodge in the area: Mahangate Lodge. Luckily for us, he has a relationship with the developers. Brilliant news, and after a few weeks of communication, we have a place to stay.
So the project is a GO! Tackle-packing, rods-building and logistical headaches … But that’s fishing, and that’s why I love to go on fishing trips. For me, the planning of a fishing trip is the most exciting part: the behind the scenes, what to take, the area research, what species are we going to target, what fishing tackle will be able to handle your catch? So many questions; let us hope we have all the right answers.
The giant trevally is one of the strongest fish in the ocean, a complete and utter bully of his surroundings who has the ability to break tackle, definitely a few hearts and, at the best of times, your sense of humour. As an angler, the rewards are big. There aren’t many sights as beautiful as landing a GT from the beach; the overwhelming presence of the fish is unmistakable, a unique silver shine and huge shoulders, with a look on the face that will intimidate most. A spectacle of a fish that, if it had to open its mouth to full capacity, would have the ability to engulf the head of a fully grown man with ease.
Now we are talking. The target is a giant. Let’s do this …
The journey to Mahangate from South Africa is a long one. You can drive, which will take about 16 hours and comes with the normal Mozambique “road tax” complications, but it’s a pleasant ride with good roads. Or you can fly in, which takes one-and-three-quarter hours from Johannesburg and is hassle-free. On this trip we choose to drive; we have so much fishing tackle and a common unwillingness to leave any of it behind. Obviously we are fishermen!
The drive is absolutely pain-free. We share the driving and, after turning off the main road and an hour on the sand road, we arrive at a parking bay. We all kind of look at each other with one thought in mind: “IS THIS IT?”
The parking area is situated at the back of the lodge, so all you can see initially is a dead-end and bush, with a glimmer of what may be a footpath through the bush. But then, WOW. Not for one second did I expect such an amazing sight; the lodge is truly beautiful, and what a view!
Long story short: we meet Morgan and the crew at the lodge, unpack the gear and seriously get down to business. Fishing is the focus, the 16-hour drive long forgotten.
One of the lodge’s many great attributes is that it is situated high on the overlooking dune, and gives you the best possible view of your fishing area and the beach formation. Because the estuary is tidal, it has a mouth area where the main body of the seawater comes into and out of the estuary system. With this tidal movement, your bait fish will follow the same process to venture up and down the system. Obviously, with this movement of bait fish, you will find the pelagic species that feed on it following closely behind.
Luckily for us, on this specific trip, the beach formation is great and there is relatively deep water in and around the mouth, with good sand-bank structures creating fantastic-looking feeding grounds for GTs. With this in mind, we will use the next few days to target that illusive donkey of a GT.
The GT is a predator that uses a sense of smell, vibration of movement and its acute eyesight to hunt, and these are the senses that, as an angler, you should focus on to maximise your potential for a bite. As a strong, dominant hunter, the GT is an opportunist and will search for food where the bait fish will not be at their most comfortable, where they will have difficulty sensing the GT on the hunt. Rolling white water over sand banks on the edge of a deep hole, strong currents, river/estuary mouths, rocky formation – these areas are often top of the list as hunting grounds.
At Mahangate, the estuary mouth is running out into a body of water that has some depth, and alongside this deeper water is a rolling, A-framed sand bank that creates the working white water needed for ambush purposes. It’s definitely a place where the GT would hunt. Perfect place for a bite!
Rudolph, Morgan and I each have our own perspective on how we are going to target the GTs; Morgan decides to go the smelly-bait option, while Rudolph and I focus more on the larger live-bait option. It is all about heavy tackle: 13-14ft rods – Rudolph fishes with his Kingfisher Poseidon Heavy, Morgan with a Poseidon Medium Heavy as he is casting bait, and I use my Shimano Technium Heavy, as I am sliding live baits up to the weight of 2kg. Our reels consist of a Shimano Trinidad 30A, Shimano Torium 30 and a Daiwa BG 40. Line class ranges between 0.50mm and 0.55m with braid backing. So we are all very comfortable that, with this tackle, we will have the best possible opportunity to land a good fish, if we can get a bite.
Morgan has arranged fresh karapouw (maasbunkers) from the fishermen, and as a rule, fresh local bait is always top of the list when it comes to a cut-bait selection. We, on the other hand, have to fish for our live bait every day, which proves to be rather difficult at times. Many live fish species will work, but the two main food source species are the green spot kingfish and the large spot pompano – both have a proven record.
This week, we manage a variety of GTs; the smaller fish between 10kg and 25kg seem to come on the cut smelly bait, and Morgan definitely shows us that this method works well during the low-light conditions.
Rudolph and I stick to our guns with the live bait and wait for that big fish. On this particular day, we spend a good few hours with our drop-shot rods trying for a live bait each. Luckily we manage one bait each, and during one night session, just on the turn of the tide, Rudolph hooks probably one of the biggest GTs I have ever seen off the beach. After taking 600m of line and a powerful two-hour fight, with the fish beat and swimming up into the estuary mouth, the hook’s pulled! Broken hearts all round.
So we know that the “boss” is in town and this definitely gets the boys excited. During the next outing, we decide to fish the same tide, but the sea has turned on a little; it is building and strong, and we have to look long and hard to find the structure needed to, hopefully, produce a bite.
After another session of live-bait hunting, I am fortunate enough to find a good-sized green spot kingy of about 2kg, and by using the heavy tackle described, I manage to slide the live bait into some good water. A live bait of this size can really cause distress signals in the water, and when the GTs are in feeding mode, it doesn’t take them long to find the bait. WOW, what a bite – screaming reel that is stripping line at a rate of knots. As I set the hook I can feel the head shake, and in my mind I know that this is him, but not wanting to curse myself, I decide not to call the fish.
After 30 minutes of maximum pressure, we see the “silver slab” in the waves. The knees wobble and buckle a little, the heart races, and from there on out, it’s stressful, and every movement of the fight is dramatic. DON’T LOSE IT! NOT TOO MUCH PRESSURE! All those contradicting thoughts race through your mind. After a few touch-and-go minutes, we have the fish on the beach. Even after catching a good few of these fish in your career, not much prepares you for when a fish of this size comes out of the water. The measurement gives us a weight of about 45kg – a catch of a lifetime. A world-class GT that will definitely set the bar when it comes to the potential for GT fishing at Mahangate Lodge.
With 15 GTs from the boat and beach over five days of fishing, between 10kg and 45kg, it’s very clear that this is one of the GT capitals of Mozambique.
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