THE STUNNING SEYCHELLES
CHASING BLACK MAR LIN in the INDIANOCEAN
Chasing black marlin in the Indian Ocean By Sam White
THE WEATHERED OLD CAPTAIN, ROLLY PIERRE, HAD FISHED OFF DENIS ISLAND FOR MORE THAN FOUR DECADES, LONGER EVEN THAN THE FRENCHMAN, THE ISLAND’S PREVIOUS OWNER. LEAN AND WIRY, PIERRE SPOKE WITH A SOFT PATOIS — I HAD TO LEAN IN CLOSE TO UNDERSTAND HIM — BUT HIS TONE WAS STRONG. “I GREW TIRED OF THE KILLING,” HE SAID FLATLY.
We ordered another round of local Seybrew beers from the Indian bartender; Pierre continued: “The first time I met your friend Henry, I thought he was crazy. He got on my boat with two 20-pound-test rods and a tag stick. I asked, ‘What are you going to do with all that?’ He said that we were going to catch some sailfish and then tag them. But that would mean letting them go? I thought it was strange at the time when we killed everything. But then I understood that this was the future. Our future.”
I traveled to the islands of the Seychelles at the invitation of Henry Riggs-Miller, a buddy from South Florida who had married a beautiful Seychellois named Allie and started a family a few years ago in these incredibly pristine and beautifully remote islands in the Indian Ocean some 500 miles east of Kenya. After a full day of travel and fighting some world-class jet lag, I landed in the capital city of Victoria on the main island of Mahé around 7 o’clock in the morning; after a quick breakfast, we stepped aboard the 42-foot Cabo, Alati, at Eden Island Marina, slipped the lines and headed offshore. Nothing like getting a quick start. Capt. Perry Rosalie pointed us toward the drop-off around an area the locals called Bossy (pronounced BO-see) about 33 miles offshore. Since we were looking for marlin, the spread consisted of big lures in close and Ilander/strip-bait combinations on the long riggers. We had a pair of 20-pound outfits with ballyhoo ready in case we raised any sails. All-Around Action It didn’t take long for the action to heat up along with the temperature (the Seychelles lay just a few degrees below the equator). Shoals of birds wheeled over bait pods and bonito. The area looked incredibly fishy. Within a few minutes of putting the lines in, a pair of yellowfin tuna crashed both riggers and the fight was on. After boxing a pair of chunky 35-pounders, we set up again and were rewarded with more bites almost immediately. Rosalie finally had to ease away from the tuna action in hopes of finding a marlin. Later that afternoon, I pitchbaited a sailfish off a teaser to give us our first billfish of the day. While we didn’t see a marlin, it was a heck of an introduction to the fishing off the Seychelles. “Black Marlin, Right Short!” Day two meant an earlier start and a full day on the water, so we headed a bit farther down the line to the Tutune area, about 40 miles distant. We deployed the same setup as before, with 50s and 80s armed with lures in the spread and lighter gear standing by. Around midmorning, we finally found what we were looking for: A nice black marlin charged in and walloped a pink-and-white Mold Craft Super Chugger on the right short. After a short 15-minute battle on stand-up gear, I released my first black marlin, a fish we called 250 pounds, now sporting a red TBF spaghetti tag in its shoulder. We also continued to battle countless yellowfin tuna along with wahoo, which ranged from 25 to 40 pounds. These striped speed demons were so thick that all our teasers and squid chains had to be rigged on cable to prevent an instant cutoff. Riggs-Miller and I ended up pitchbaiting several wahoo off the teasers, using strip baits on wire leaders with small chugger heads and J hooks, which was an absolute blast on 20-pound tackle. Because we were fishing a tournament the next day, we headed back a little early to attend the captain’s meeting. Once there, I was stunned to learn that my black was the 500th billfish tagged that season in the Seychelles — word of the catch even made the local newspaper. Tagging that many in a season is an incredible accomplishment, considering that just a few short years ago, releasing a billfish was unheard of. Tournament Time Day three of the trip had us fishing in the one-day Seychelles Big Game Classic. We switched boats to the 32-foot Cabo,
Not long ago, Capt. Rolly Pierre boated all marlin and sailfish as trophies for his clients. He quickly embraced the release ethic and is now one of the top tagging captains in the region.