Excitement grew as anglers weighed in their big hamours, dorados and tunas. But the day belonged to the four-member Shark II Fishing Team from Abu Dhabi and the rope from the weighing scale snapped, unable to hold their 60kg yellow-fin tuna
"Anyone can be a fisherman in May…"
From The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Santiago, Hemingway's old man who went without taking a fish for 84 days and returned each day with his skiff empty, said this in September, the 'month when the great fish come', just before he caught a huge marlin from the ocean depths. With a couple of hours yet for the Sun to disappear behind Jebel Sifah and the boats of the recreational anglers already back at the marina, the onlookers should have recalled Santiago's words and thought: "This is May, and they might have had some good catch."
They see a smiling Mazin emerging from his boat Octapus holding a hamour, the largest from around 10 he caught that day. Then, there's Hani, the defending champion, with another hamour but a bit smaller in size. Excitement picks up as Ahmed from boat Shihab I weigh in a 22kg long-tailed tuna and the biggest team in boat Sedef produces seven dorados (dolphin fishes), the green beauties. But the day would belong to the four-member Shark II fishing team from Abu Dhabi, and the rope from the weighing scale snaps unable to hold their 60kg yellow-fin tuna.
Marko Randjelovic, the marina manager at Jebel Sifa marina had been checking with local fishermen and weekend anglers for the last two weeks inquiring about their catch, whether they saw big fish like marlins and sailfish to make sure it's the right season to organise the second annual game fishing challenge by Muriya's Jebel Sifah, in collaboration with Muscat Game Fishing Association (MGFA) and the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). "Today was, indeed, not bad, looking at the fish they have caught; that, too, braving the extreme heat. When you catch seven dorados, definitely you have a great day out fishing," Marko points out.
A total of 14 teams had signed in – six teams in IGFA category and eight in the open class. Due to engine trouble with their boats, a couple of teams cancelled and some after failing to catch any fish did not show up. The boats had set off from Marina Bandhar Al Rowdha at 7 am last Saturday and had to be back by 4 pm at Jebel Sifah marina. "We are all civil engineers, a mix of locals and expatriates, and have our own boat in Abu Dhabi. We have been taking part in competitions at several parts of the world for the last five years and it's great to win in this amazing waters of Oman," says Mohammed Eldaghma, from Shark II Fishing Team, who finds a great future for the Sultanate in organising IGFA events.
Raising the status
Held for the second consecutive year, the game fishing event has gained reputation as it accommodates both, traditional fishing methods and IGFA rules and regulations. "Our aim is to achieve this balance as the event must also comply with IGFA regulations to attract anglers from outside," says Richard Lakey, the key person behind organising the event. According to Lakey, the event will continue to grow in strength in coming years.
At the moment, the event is more of a family fun and enjoyment. However, competitions featuring local fishermen who may use rods and reels which need not be consistent with IGFA rules, cannot gain international status. "It has to be in accordance with those rules. We are trying to raise the status of the event so that the winners could be invited to take part in other IGFA events worldwide. So that's the future," Richard adds.
Philip Battly, the president of MGFA, says such events would spur the association members and recreational anglers to come together for 'conservation, good fishing and friendship'. "We want to extend our activities outside Muscat, travelling down Oman's beautiful coastline. This definitely has caught the attention of anglers outside the country, as is evident in the participation of a team from Abu Dhabi. We will try and build it up," he asserts.
Game fishing is definitely growing popular in Oman, say the participants. "This is my hobby for the last 3-4 years and I go fishing almost every weekend. In the previous competition, too, I stood second and I had caught a hamour of the same weight," says Mazin Alasfoor, who runs his family business in Muscat. Oman, according to him has a massive potential in game fishing and he hopes such events could raise the awareness among the fishing community against over fishing and littering in the sea.
"We want to focus on conservation and the educational side of fishing, while making Oman well-known for game fishing, to attract more sport anglers," says Marko. The partnership with IGFA is aimed to bring in the awareness on preservation and conservation, he adds. The event was definitely bigger than the last year's competition which had featured just six boats. "We are thinking of making it a bit wider, making it a week-long challenge in the open class, giving more days for anglers to bring in big fish. There are fishing challenges that may last one to six months in other parts of the world," he says.
The Muriya has also plans to conduct regional level game fishing competitions, according to marketing director Bahaa Hefzallah. "This time we had the team from Abu Dhabi and I am sure that, if promoted better next time in places like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait, we will have a regional open challenge. We might arrange one in Salalah in October-November every year besides the existing annual completion in Muscat in April-May," he adds.
Marina manager, Jebel Sifa marina
"We are thinking of making the events a bit wider, may be a one-week challenge in open class, giving anglers more time to bring in big fish. But in the IGFA category, we have to restrict it as a day-long event."
President, Muscat Game Fishing Association
"We want to take this sport down the coast of Oman, travelling to places including Barr Al Hikman and Masirah Islands, extending MGFA's activities all over Oman which has a lovely coastline."
Member, Shark II Fishing team, Abu Dhabi - Winner, IGFA category
"We have competed in several parts of the world, but it's our first time in Oman and we have won. I think Muscat has great potential for organising international game fishing events."
Businessman - Runner-up in open class
"Game fishing has been my hobby for the last 3-4 years and we want to encourage youngsters into this sport. But we are facing problems like over fishing and littering in the sea. I hope such events would create awareness among fishermen."
Banker - Second runner-up in open category
"I was defending my title and I came third this year. I was into fishing since my childhood days and the sea is the place where I find total peace and rest. My secret technique for competitions is called 'SOOT', and it really works well in Oman."
Open class1. Ahmed Al Hasni (Boat Shihab I) – 22 kg long-tailed tuna
2. Mazin Alasfoor (Boat Octapus) – 5kg hamour
3. Hani Macki (Boat Octapus) – 4kg hamour
1. Shark II Fishing team (Boat Pursuit) – 60kg yellow-fin Tuna
2. Luke Bassett (Boat Sedef) – 11kg dorado
3. Ross Whitehead (Boat Sedef) – 9kg dorado