TOUR DI­ARY: FISH­ING ON THE SKELE­TON COAST

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HP Jor­daan and his friends go in search of big kob

HP Jor­daan and his friends sim­ply love sea fish­ing – al­ways from a re­spon­si­ble per­spec­tive. This is an edited di­ary ex­cerpt from a re­cent trip along the Skele­ton Coast north of Hen­ties Bay.

You know it’s time to go fish­ing in Namibia when your in­ner cave­man starts to claw to the sur­face. Yes, it was time to go back. We did the first leg of the trip, from Cradock to Wind­hoek, in one shot. There were nine of us in two bakkies: a Mazda Drifter and a VW Amarok. We ar­rived in time to watch Prov­ince sneak a win over the Li­ons and re­claim the Cur­rie Cup.

We un­der­took the tor­tur­ous 24-hour drive from the Eastern Cape so we could at­tend the Ok­to­ber­fest in Wind­hoek. Eis­bein and sauer­kraut were on the menu that evening, and yes, some beer too.

Next stop: St Nowhere

The gravel road turn-off (D1918) just be­yond Usakos to­wards Hen­ties Bay is al­ways a sign that you’re get­ting close.

Af­ter stock­ing up on ev­ery­thing but the kitchen sink in Hen­ties, we squeaked some takkie along the Salt Road (C34) to St Nowhere, about 104 km up the coast. Se­ri­ously, that’s the name of the place. And it’s an apt de­scrip­tion. We had booked 11 nights at a cabin called Groot­drink – there are sev­eral sim­i­lar cab­ins for rent in St Nowhere, as well as camp­sites.

Af­ter un­pack­ing we had enough time for an af­ter­noon fish­ing ses­sion. I drove the Amarok with my fa­ther Boel, brother Jayson, and Jaco and Pi­eter van der Westhuizen (also fa­ther and son) to an area called Richtersveld just south of St Nowhere. The oth­ers – Her­man Neeth­ling, Gerrit Goosen, Stoney Steenkamp and Jo­han Ven­ter – drove the Mazda north, to a spot called Blare.

The sea looked amaz­ing and the weather was great. For the first time I was able to fish in Namibia with my shirt sleeves rolled up, a wel­come change from the beanie, Buff and jacket of pre­vi­ous years.

Some days are slower than oth­ers on the Skele­ton Coast, but the fish are al­ways there. Thank­fully the sea didn’t dis­ap­point and from the first cast we were vas. We landed a lot of young kob and a cou­ple of de­cent-sized spot­ted gully sharks and smooth-hound sharks.

As dark­ness de­scended we headed back to Groot­drink, only to be greeted with the news that we had to­tally missed out. Ap­par­ently the big kob were on the bite at Blare. The guys had smashed most of their pre­vi­ous per­sonal bests. Stoney caught a 18,47 kg kob – the fish of a life­time!

Kob time!

The com­pe­ti­tion was on! Fa­thers and sons in the Amarok vs the manne in the Mazda. The next day we headed up to Ugab Fence, about 20 km north of St Nowhere, with plans to fish down to Blare.

We landed a lot of fish, but noth­ing spec­tac­u­lar. Pi­eter made a sur­pris­ing catch: a young elf, some­thing sel­dom caught along this coast­line.

On the Skele­ton Coast, fish are caught very shal­low and thus it is of­ten the com­plete novice – who can’t cast very far – who catches the most or the big­gest fish. Many of the species feed right be­hind the break­ers. This is one of the ma­jor at­trac­tions of fish­ing in Namibia, as it be­comes a fam­ily af­fair, with kids, new­bies and pros all able to catch good fish.

At Blare we caught many kob, but noth­ing note­wor­thy. It was not un­til sun­set that my dad got stuck into a good fish. Con­fi­dent that it was a shark, he pulled it hard. Gen­er­ally one can feel the dif­fer­ence be­tween a shark and a kob, but af­ter fish­ing all day I sup­pose the tired­ness al­lowed for an er­ror in judge­ment. It turned out to be a kob, not a shark, but my dad man­aged to land it any­way, de­spite his heavy hand. It was a per­sonal best for him: 102 cm. Wel­come to the Me­tre Club!

In search of the elu­sive “diesel en­gine”

Smaller kob were ever present over the next few days, so I turned my at­ten­tion to steen­bras fish­ing us­ing my light rig. (See side­bar “HP’s Fish­ing 101” – Ed.)

We even­tu­ally found the steen­bras, but not at the size we were look­ing for. That elu­sive “diesel en­gine” still haunts my dreams and I will keep re­turn­ing to stalk the flats un­til I mas­ter the art of catch­ing the Namib­ian steen­bras. (The West Coast or Namib­ian steen­bras is not known for its speed, more for its strength and power, hence the nick­name.)

Not only were we land­ing lots of young kob and steen­bras, we also got stuck into the ju­ve­nile galjoen pop­u­la­tion. As soon as the wa­ter turned a lit­tle murky they were on the mus­sel bait like kids on cake.

I also wit­nessed some­thing very sad: peo­ple fish­ing for galjoen with worms. They call them bloed­wurm in Namibia, but they’re dif­fer­ent from the blood­worm we get in South Africa. They’d caught bags of galjoen and steen­bras. Cast for cast, they pulled them in, two at a time on oc­ca­sion.

The har­vest­ing of th­ese worms is ex­tremely dam­ag­ing to the ecosys­tems along the coast, and the num­bers of fish caught us­ing them do se­ri­ous dam­age to the sus­tain­abil­ity of the species. Un­scrupu­lous fish­er­men throw hand­fuls of th­ese worms into the wa­ter be­fore they start to an­gle, caus­ing the fish to go into a feed­ing frenzy. An hour or so later, they haul the catch out in droves.

This can con­tinue for a cou­ple of days. It’s il­le­gal to use th­ese worms or be in pos­ses­sion of them in Namibia.

Four strikes, four fish

The days passed and our time in Namibia was slowly drawing to a close. By now, word had spread about the good catches at Blare. It looked like a Dur­ban pier in shad sea­son. Guys were shoul­der to shoul­der. Not my cup of tea, thank you.

My dad and I kept ven­tur­ing north, work­ing our way back down to Ron­dek­lip each day. From there we would head to the main road and back to St Nowhere.

The last day of the trip co­in­cided with the full moon spring tide. On the low we were able to reach ar­eas that were usu­ally in­ac­ces­si­ble. It was one of those ses­sions that I’ll re­mem­ber for a long time to come. It had ev­ery­thing I love about fish­ing: good con­di­tions, un­con­gested wa­ter, some wad­ing, lures, bait and the chal­lenge of land­ing your gear in the right spot. The surges knocked us around on the sandbank while we strug­gled to find de­cent foot­ing, but cast for cast I was get­ting pulled flat. My first cast landed a 75 cm kob. Sec­ond cast: 85 cm. Third: 88 cm. Fourth: 80 cm!

My dad some­how man­aged to lose a few fish in the process, but this en­sured he was around to take pho­tos of my catch.

Fi­nally he got his turn in front of the cam­era, with a good 90 cm kob. I topped the trip off with one of the big­gest fish I’ve ever caught in Namibia: a beaut of a kob, 101 cm, caught with a buck­tail jig. I bat­tled a seal, three or four other lines in the wa­ter, a big drop-off and rolling waves that had me nearly neck-deep at times.

A few snaps later, I man­aged to re­lease the fish. The big kob caught from Septem­ber on­wards dur­ing the warmer months are all breed­ing fish, off to spawn in the calmer wa­ters of Walvis Bay and Sand­wich Har­bour. Hope­fully in years to come I can catch their off­spring.

There was talk of our an­nual trip com­ing to an end. But af­ter the good catches in Novem­ber 2014, I’m not so sure any more.

Let’s just say, if I hear Namibia call­ing, try to stop me…

For ac­com­mo­da­tion in the Hen­ties Bay area, see page 109. Visit rushof­blue.com to read about more of HP’s fish­ing ad­ven­tures.

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