Hunting Dogtooth Tuna - Northern Mozambique Islands

The Plan

The Boat used at VumbaThe plan was for 6 South African spearos to travel up to Vumba Island and hunt the surrounding reefs for dogtooth tuna. Vumba Island is 120 miles north of Pemba and entails a 15-hour boat ride if conditions are fair. Our flight got in at 13:40 and the plan was to pack the boat and leave Pemba at 15:00 and to motor up through the night arriving at Vumba Island around 06:00 the next morning. The flight up along the coast from Beira showed fair seas with little or no wind. This changed as we neared Pemba and on landing we were met by a howling onshore wind.

Rough Night

As we only had a week the decision was made to push on despite the rough seas and with a fully laden boat we set course for devils point about 15 miles across the bay. The going was very slow and with darkness conditions seemed even more unpleasant. After traveling about 20 miles we anchored in the lee of a small island and got the pot on the go for curried fish with an ignoblis that had been caught trawling earlier. That night we slept packed tightly together on the deck of the boat whilst the wind howled about us.

55kg Yellowfin Hooked

The next day our spirits lifted as the seas started to settle and the miles slowly slipped behind us. Mid morning we trawled through some bait fish action and all three rods were in. Two smallish yellowfin were soon on the boat but the third rod was into a strong fish. Eventually 2 hours later after drifting back several miles in the strong current Brett Dickson landed a 55kg yellowfin tuna. As we would only reach the island later that night we made the wrong decision of stopping around 16:00 on a small island. The sushi was swiftly eaten and that night we ate braaied tuna and bedded down under the stars for a good nights rest.

Vumba Island

Vumba IslandMid-day Sunday saw us setting up camp on the island and all electing to go for a shore dive off the island to get something for the pot. Vumba Island is 20 hectares+ with a lovely beach and a camp set in casuarinas watched over by a baobab tree. An idyllic setting.

Amazing Fish Life

Mark, Rio Leuci, Brett Dickson and Brad Masters all landed large kingfishMonday we left early for the 0ne and a half hour trip to Vamizi Island. The drop-off here is hard to put into words. The area is rich in corals and has a gently sloping ridge down to 18m that then plunges straight down to 50m and then drops off into a void of 400m. With 50m visibility and fish all over the place it is hard to know where to start initially. Cuda, seapike, ignoblis, fulvies, kaakap are all passing through on a regular basis with large coral trout, napoleon wrasse and snappers plus a host of other reef fish making up a rich mix of fish.

The Elusive Dogtooth

The first fish that I shot was a small dogtooth that in hindsight was not a very clever thing to do. It makes a lot more sense to let these fish grow into the monsters that they will eventually become. Bryan Gale with 37kg dogtoothFor my troubles I was immediately reefed up in a coral bomie and did not check my spear line, which parted a short while later on a decent fish. Guys were seeing the odd big dogtooth but none were approachable. Bryan Gale had been burleying like crazy all day and was eventually rewarded when a 37kg dogtooth came in to investigate all the commotion. Bryan and Brett Dickson were diving together and both saw cuda estimated at over 40kg but were not able to get near them. The day ended all too soon and there was much discussion on the trip home of who saw what. Bryan was king of the first day and was in the running to scoop the kitty with each diver being in for R50.

Plenty of Luck

The next day we headed for a different spot that looked very promising on the chart with a 4m pinnacle plunging into the depths. We got the drifts wrong and wasted time with the only big fish seen being a Zambezi shark, one of two sharks seen the whole trip. Onto some 18m ledges with a big drop-off further out over the sand. On my first down I saw a small fulvie that I planned to shoot for burley and tapped my gun to bring him in. Luckily he showed no interest as a short time later a big dogtooth angled in to see what was happening. My shot was through the thick part of the body between the dorsal and the tail. Luckily there were no coral bomies at hand and the fish ran for about 1km where I was able to boat it. I got dropped off in the same spot and on my first down another dogtooth swam past me on the bottom. So my tally for the day was two dogtooth of 30 and 33kg respectively.

Seen but not Boated

John Little with a dogtoothOur last day saw us back at Vamizi Island with its stunning drop-off and crystal waters. The water was slightly colder than the first time and the fish were running deeper. Mark Keyser saw a large marlin and some big yellowfin were seen but things were a lot quieter in the cooler water and the fish were difficult to approach. Mark, Rio Leuci, Brett Dickson and Brad Masters all landed large kingfish but no one managed to beat Bryans weight and his 37kg dogtooth took the kitty.

Observations

We all dived with two foamed filled floats with 30m+ of float line with two bungies of between 2m and 5m and 1.2m up to 1.4m guns. All guns were rigged for a brake-away system and because of this I think you only need to take two guns, as there is little chance of losing a gun. Flashers did not prove to work well with burleying being the way to go. For me the trip was fantastic although the boat trip up to the island was too long. On future trips I plan to fly to Pemba, overnight, and then catch the bus to Mocimboa 330km away arriving at 14:00. Board the boat there for a two-hour run to the island and have six full days of diving. Then repeat the trip in reverse to get back to Pemba and the flight home. This way you will have a lot more diving time.

Safe diving, John.