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October 15, 2011

KENYA boats on the podium at Latham Island tourney

Latham island is a small uninhabited rocky isle that rises out of very deep water forty miles out from Dar-es-Salaam, notable because of  the great variety of gamefish in it’s vicinity. This tournament has become an annual fixture with excellent sponsorship, and due to it’s popularity there are not enough game fishing boats locally for all the contestants. So every year at this time a fleet of the top Kenya sportfishing cruisers make the long run down south to compete.

This year the winner was Tanzanian boat Mistress with two blue marlin tagged, skippered by well known Kenya captain Ali al Harazi. Second place went to Unreel, from Watamu with skipper Rob Hellier, which despite losing a good blue marlin, had a big catch of sixteen yellowfin tuna, running up to 40kgs each and a wahoo, while third was B’s Nest with a striped marlin released, and Tarka, also with good catches of tuna and wahoo, came in fourth - both these are Watamu boats, with local skills proving effective in far off waters!

An interesting catch was two rare short billed spearfish on White Bear, these fish are more common down south than in Kenyan waters and this same boat last caught spearfish off Watamu nearly twenty years ago - a cast of which can be seen on the wall at Hemingways!

The weather was wet and calm, important as there is no suitable overnight mooring off Latham, and the boats have to run a dozen miles to another island to anchor.

On the return run, passing through the Pemba Channel off Shimoni, many of the boats had marlin strikes, with Tarka hooking into a very big blue marlin which spooled all the line off a 24kg reel. When this occurs there are three possibilities -  break the line, pray, or for action skippers like Callum Looman, clip the whole rod and reel to another line and throw it overboard! The first rod was duly recovered, but reels do not function their best when they have been deep under water, and the line eventually broke to free the huge fish.

It would seem from this that there are probably plenty of marlin around in the Pemba Channel, and Broadbill, with skipper Pat Hemphill, played a good fish on 15kg line which eventually broke free, but there have been very few charters and when boats don’t go out, they can’t find fish!
With most of the boats away, it has been a quiet week at Watamu, but both the South African catamarans Castle Lager and Contagious came home with a couple of sailfish flags, while Seastorm released a good bull shark of about 150kgs for Poultenay Courtenay and Alleycat tagged a small mako shark, rare in these waters and the only shark which scores gamefish points in tournaments here, most of which require sharks to be released due to their endangered species status. Earlier in the week this same boat released a black marlin and a sail, and another day caught seven wahoo with Mr Yencken fishing as well as losing a marlin so there are still billfish around as well as the yellowfin tuna and wahoo which normally proliferate this month, with warmer and calmer days out at sea.

The first major tournament of the season here is the Malindi Herbie Paul Memorial Festival over the holiday weekend of the 22nd/23rd October - it looks as if there will be plenty of sail and yellowfin tuna in Malindi waters so good action is expected.

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