“The Mystical City of Gold”
Off shore of Fujairah, Northern Oman, must surely be the mystical city of gold. Can you imagine somewhere between 300 and 500 semi-permanent floating FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices), all perfectly legal, moored off shore in a warm Dorado-rich current?
FC, our guide and skipper, who works for Nick Bowles’s Ocean Active operation, had insisted that all we needed was ¾ oz GT Ice Cream Needle Nose plugs and light spinning rods and that we were going to have Dorado action from heaven. When he mentioned that the Dorado chase the Needle Nose while it is still in the air before it hits the water, there were quite a few “Ja, sure’s!!!”, me included. It didn’t help his cause when the first few ships yielded nothing and all we saw was Tuna busting up randomly, but always gone when we got there. FC was starting to look a little like a “Deep-Diving Rapala” (long lip) and there was a lot of banter about the “Wild Dorado” and how tired we were.
We headed further out to sea to where some far bigger vessels were evident and one could immediately see signs of current from the way these ships were facing in the same direction. The next stop was an immediate “ON” for Richard when a decent sized Yellowfin came up, smashed his Needle Nose on the surface and smoked his Shimano 2500 Sustain into the depths. A fish like this certainly takes a bit of time but I was amazed at how quickly Richard pulled the fish on the 7’ Cumara that he was using. With the Sushimi safely in the boat and carefully tucked away on ice, we entered the next few hours, which in all honesty became quite fuzzy with delirium. I think it started when Brad shouted “I’m on Dorado!”. Those were the pearly gates. We had arrived!
What quickly became evident was that the bigger the vessel and the more laden she was, the more fish there would be on her bow catching a free ride in the current and snatching up the morsels that came along. There were many different species involved but there was total domination by the Dorado. Arriving at a new vessel, the Needle Noses would start flying out towards the bow from about 50 metres out. Long before the plugs hit the water Dorado were coming from all directions grey-hounding and torpedoing through the water at the landing spot. If by chance one came off, you were almost immediately on again. Huge shoals of 20 to 30 fish would come racing past the front of the boat excited by the action. The mayhem on the boat was unbelievable! Whoops of disbelief, directions of “come over”, “go under”, excited shouts of “check that”, “can’t believe” were interspersed with cheers and plea’s to FC, our overjoyed but getting tired captain/fish-landing man.
With so many willing fish we had the opportunity to experiment with lures, hook systems, etc. The stinger-type setup was absolutely amazing. Not only were the hook-sets much firmer but one can also use the Needle Nose to help boat the fish. We tried both the red bleeding stinger and the “split ring, swivel, split ring” toothed-fish version, there was definitely a preference for the red bleeding stinger. ***PHOTO OF BLEEDING STINGER and SPLIT RING SYSTEM*** PIC-C In the calmer glassy-type conditions the ¾ oz Needle Nose was by far the top lure, but as soon as the chop increased a little we found ourselves fishing mainly with the 1½ oz. Longer casts were easier and the slightly bigger size definitely made it a bit more visual, especially in the air. These fish have obviously refined the art of hunting flying fish and visually identifying targets in the air is par for the course. I couldn’t believe what I saw, fish chasing the Needle Nose long before it hit the water.
We found that a very fast retrieve straight after hitting the water worked well. As the lure got closer, we would raise the rod tip and slow down the retrieve to get it chattering along on the surface wagging its nose in the air. More often than not the Dorado just smashed it as it hit the water, or as soon as we started the fast retrieve. The fast and noisy retrieve seemed to bring in other fish that didn’t see or hear the plug hit the water the first time creating more competition for the lure. It is very important to remember to not attempt to set the hook when you see the fish eating the lure, ignore the fish and just keep winding, waiting for the rod to start bending. Only when there is a solid bend in the rod should you attempt to work the hook in. Failure to do this will definitely result in missed strikes. It doesn’t matter whether you are fishing for Garrick, Natal Snoek, big Shad, Kingfish, Dorado or Tunny, the principle is the same.
Leader size is very important, especially with Dorado. On 30lb braid you should be fishing at least 50lb flouro on the leader. A good strong leader prevents burn-offs on other lines and also when other fish try to attack the lure that is already in another fish’s mouth. When handling the fish close to the boat, a thicker leader makes for much easier leadering when fish are to be released. Remember that the leader knot should be kept out of the guides as much as possible, especially when one is engaged with lots of fast spinning action. A knot passing in and out of the guides with each cast will quickly deteriorate. Ideally, make sure your leader ends about 20cm from your top guide with your normal length casting drop.
We noticed a number of really big bull Dorado generally on the outskirts and obviously very wise. We got these fish to respond to larger Needle Nose’s very easily. The problem however was the weight. The heavier the lure, the easier they threw it. A big, but light Needle Nose, is definitely on the cards for Dorado. I am sure that the reason for the success of these lures for most predators that take prey off the surface and especially the Dorado, is its resemblance to both the flying fish and the half-beak (Ballyhoo). It imparts the same sort of action as both of these fish when they are on the run. The difference between the shoal fish, which were probably averaging at around five or six kilos and the really big bulls, was immediately evident on the hook-up. The smaller fish would grab the Needle Nose and take off with all their mates in pursuit trying to steal the prize. The big bulls however would grab the Needle Nose and do nothing until they felt the pressure. They would then thrash their heads from side to side for a while before moving off, often not really too phased. Staying with these big fish was definitely more of a problem than the smaller ones, as somehow they seemed to be able to get help from their mates in burning you off or pulling the lure out of their mouths. There is no doubt that there is a lot of this that goes on amongst our predatory fish. A lot of cases where hooks are straightened, traces broken, leaders burnt etc., must be attributed to this. It is simply one fish trying to steal the other one’s food.
I was fascinated to yet again experience the ease with which fish learn about a lure. At each ship that we visited the first cast was an instantaneous chase. Once that fish was landed it took a few more casts to get the next one. To catch the third fish was really a challenge and then it was game over. It is not the first time I have seen fish do this. Any type of fish that hunts in loose packs together first try to steal the lure out of the other’s mouth, then they swim with the hooked fish for a while checking it out and normally once you have caught the third fish, they are not only totally disinterested but will also shy away from the same lure. Change the lure and the whole process repeats itself. We simply moved on to the next ship! FC by now was absolutely knackered and not good for much other than reflecting on how cruel life was. He snuck in a throw while everyone else was fighting fish and immediately got a “klap” from something his tackle couldn’t handle. His next attempt led to a broken rod and then we had to put him in a straitjacket.
We saw a number of big Bull Dorado. Two individuals were really exceptional. I managed to hook the first and bigger of the two but was only on for a minute or two before somehow being cut off or burnt off. A short while later I hooked the second individual, which made me start wondering whether it was such a bad thing to have lost the first one. Talk about not wanting to give up. I am sure FC was somehow coaching that fish to keep me going for as long as possible (FC needed the break). Seriously, fishing with a 5000 Stella, 30lb braid, and an 8’ Aerocast, I really thought I could handle most fish that would eat my Needle Nose. After twenty-five minutes I started wondering whether I would every land the fish. Every time those beautiful gold and blue colours got close to the boat my hopes would be dashed as it pealed off line on its way back down into the depths. Pressure and patience eventually won through and after a few quick pictures we were able to watch it glide off back into the blue.
This should have been the end of our fishing at Fujairah as we had got more Dorado footage than one could ever hope for and some good fish as well. Everybody however seemed to find some reason or excuse as to why we should go back for at least one more day and just as well we did.
The day kicked off with us getting totally smoked by Yellowfin on Needle Noses, but after the initial flurry they seemed reluctant to rise to the surface lures. Brad then found them eating the 2oz Astro Jighead with a 5” Riptide Pearl Jerkshad and after catching one each, we moved off to the other ships and had a lot of the day-one action all over again. By now bodies were tired and the enthusiasm for Dorado had waned, so we decided to call it a day, but have one quick dip at the Tuna spot on the way home. As it turned out the action was really hot in the Tuna hole and Brad got four really nice fish on the drop shot. There weren’t just Tuna about as we saw shoals of Rainbow Runners and Brad managed to persuade one to eat his drop shot. We also caught some Eastern Little Tuna and had a few bite-offs from suspected Baracuda. Richard even managed to catch a little Prodigal Son. It was definitely the Tuna though that made the day a very memorable one.
For boat-based light spinning action, Fujairah is very hard to beat. The volume of fish was amazing and during all this time, we only saw two local commercial fishing boats and they were focusing more on Tunny than anything else. If you are looking for guaranteed Dorado action, this is the spot.