By Edward Truter
Some time ago, some of my friends who I fish offshore with (usually casting and jigging lures on light gear) mentioned that while doing some low-key chumming over a reef off Port Elizabeth, number of seventy-four seabream (Polysteganus undulosus) came in for a snack, together with other bits and bobs. I had been wanting to revisit slinging fast-sinking heads offshore on my 9 wt for some time, so when I heard this, I made a mental note to get my plan together.
When the next trip came up I was on board and off we went. We arrived at one of the spots, put a light scattering of sardine chunks in the ocean and up came the seventy-four, blue hottentot (Pachymetapon aeneum) and a bit later over another spot, carpenter (Argyrozona argyrozona) too. Long story short, they were all pretty easy to catch. It was simply a case of shoot out a cast up-current with a type-7/8 sinking head (mine is on an intermediate running line), let it sink and then do a slow, rod-tucked-under-the-arm-hand-over-hand retrieve. The fly was an olive over white Clouser, of course, with a pearl diamond braid body for some bling. I caught fish, all three species, nearly shot for shot as long as the chum kept the fish within range of my cast. The strikes were all positive but not aggressive, I guess because the fish were keying onto the slowly sinking chum rather than live prey. We fished over pinnacles and bumps where the water depth was anything from 30 m to 15 m, but even in the deeper water, just a little bit of chum got the fish close to the surface pretty quickly.
What’s really cool about this story is that seventy-four were once catch-a-boat-full super-abundant, especially in Natal, but then collapsed into total oblivion for decades due to overfishing (by hook and line). Their numbers were so low that many scientists thought that even with the total ban that was instituted to protect them, they would never recover. But thank Poseidon they have recovered and for some years now have started to become abundant in some areas. In fact, it might even be an idea to lift the total ban on them and institute it for a whole lot of other species instead. Even better would be just a total re-hash of the recreational offshore laws (actually all marine fish laws). Imagine for example if the limit for offshore reef species was changed to one fish per person per day of any species and any size under 10 kg? A very simple rule, very simple to follow, no interpretation or excuses. I think it could work.
I apologise for the crummy cellphone pics of little fish, those were just the pics I had snapped because it was my ‘first one’, I did catch bigger ones, no monsters, but certainly a couple of solid ones of all the species. I seldom bother with pics these days, which I hope I don’t regret when I’m older. It was a fun day out.