The Landing of a  240kg Black Marlin by Tim Sluiscremer

Aliwal Shoal

The Landing of a 240kg Black Marlin by Tim SluiscremerI was diving with Alistair Louw and Garett Staats off my boat (a 4.8m duck with 2x 30HP motors). We launched early through the Umkomaas river and headed straight for the Shoal. Vis was about 15 to 20 meters, a bit patchy with Saicor pulling in on the tide. The current was reversed which is not good for the area.  A few drifts on the North East pinnacle with the sunrise revealed nothing, so we cruised south to Deep Scottbugh to a mark that usually produces couta on the South - North current. Again no fish but the vis was a bit better, about twenty metres. A fishing boat was bending with a couta they had picked it up off the bottom in about 37m of water, which they said almost got taxed next to the boat. We decided to try another , deeper line and thought the vis was clean enough to chum, trying to raise the fish off the bottom were they seemed to have holed up. Al and I were on the first drift.

Elusive Tiger Sharks

The area is known for having some big sharks, tigers and zambies, and sure enough within about 15 minutes we had our first visitor. A 3.5+ meter tiger came out of the blue, drawn to the smell of sardines and neoprene. He came in from my right side while I was on the surface, so I saw him early. Alistair was on the left of me, facing away and breathing up to dive. He descended as the shark came in and didn't see it as it followed him down inquisitively. I was on the surface watching in amasement as Alistair hovered in mid water and started shaking the chum bag at the end of his flasher, with the shark sitting over his shoulder. He still hadn't seen it. I was a little worried with the shark so close, that Al might get a fright, make a sudden movement, and convince the shark that he was a prey species. By now I had a power head on and was breathing up, when I saw Alo turn slowly toward the tiger. It was stationary about a meter and a half off on his right, watching him intently. From above it was obvious the moment he saw it. But full credit to Alo, who composed himself quickly and calmly stared the shark down, not moving away. It turned, circled him once and then came onto my flasher. Only after it had moved away did Alo slowly ascend. The tiger circled us a few times and then suddeny was gone. It was amazing to see such a beautiful animal up close, but I was glad he left without an incident.

Marlin Action

The Landing of a 240kg Black Marlin by Tim SluiscremerStill no fish. The water was looking better though, and we headed further south to a good mark, a pinnacle that comes off the bottom of 31m to plateau at 22m. This area is known by the commercial boats to produce good couta catches but there were none to be found. We didn't even manage any bottoms. Heading back to our first mark we saw a chase on the surface, probably a saily and started talking about how these looked like billfish conditions. We even talked about marlin, Garret landed a nice Black marlin of 98.4kg earlier this year, and in my mind I wondered where I would place my shot. Who would have guessed. A few drifts along the ledge in water ranging from 22m to 26m and still no fish to be seen, despite the increase in baitfish action and the ever present garfish were looking pretty skittish. A school of bonnies came through so I took one and then on my next dive dropped a small kaakop on the bottom. Again it was Alo and I in the water and Garret in the boat. I made a dive and was sitting a little up off the bottom, around 20-22m,hoping for another chance at a bottom when I saw movement out the corner of my eye. Turning, I could make out a large shape coming toward me and my first thought was that it was the tiger coming in again. The shape grew larger and clearer and it was obviously not a tiger shark, they are very square in the face, and this was more pointed, but it was swimming straight in and the vis was about 15m on the bottom. My next thought was a hammerhead, and I put up my gun to poke it off if it came in too close. By the time I realised it was a marlin it was about 3m away and was stopped, staring straight at me. I was using my Rob Allan 1300 Tuna Railgun, it has 2x 16mm rubbers and a 7.5mm spear, factory sharp. And I was lined up directly on the marlin. I initially didn't realise how big it was because I hadn't seen it side on, and I thought it was closer than it was (in fact I thought it was going to swim into me!). My next thought was that if I shoot it in the face its going to charge me and i'm going to be impaled on either the back end of my spear, its bill or more likely on both. So there we were, staring at each other, a type of mexican stand off. Spear vs spear. It was probably no more than 15 seconds from when I first saw the fish but it felt like forever waiting for him to turn. It was opening and closing its mouth. I will have that picture burned into my mind forever. And then I commited: when it turns,i thought, i'll put a shot behind the gills on the lateral line, and if I lose my rig in a blaze of glory so be it. Then it turned and I stretched out my gun and squeezed the trigger. The spear connected with a thud unlike any I have heard and I saw it was good. The fish stared at me with these intense blue eyes and I let go my gun, expecting it to take off. Instead it rolled. I had stoned a marlin. I reached the surface with my heart pounding. I was still expecting to see my float disappear into the distance but it never did. A marlin. Rolled. how big is it Alistair asked me, a hundred? I don't know. Two hundred? I don't know. I'd never seen a marlin before, had no frame of reference.

240kg Dead Weight

But it was big and it had settled on the bottom off the ledge in 31 meters. My heart racing I took Al's gun and tried to dive for a second shot, fearing that some how it would come back to life and disappear. I made it down to about 5m before I had to turn, gasping to the surface. Calm down bru. Breath up, try again. I didn't want any one to help me, even though the fish was dead, I didn't want to loose out on a potential record. I took Alo's gun again and dived. I made it closer on the second attempt, first I saw my gun, then in the distance a huge fish lying on the sand. I kicked on down, but knew I would't make it. I couldn't reach 31m on my best dive, especially not with my heart pounding in my chest. Getting desperate I reached out and fired, the spear fell short by at least 2m. I made it back to the surface gasping. I was being reckless in a very dangerous situation. I wasn't relaxed and I was trying  too hard. But I didn't want any help. We decided to try lift the fish off the bottom on the first spear (it looked like a good shot). It took all 3 of us to get the fish up and I dived down to put a securing shot in mid water. For the first time I was able to see how big it was. I could'nt get my arms around it. It wouldn't't fit in the boat, and there was no way we were able to lift it anyway. We secured it to the side and started a long trek (about 7km!) back to shore, the boat listing like a drunken sailor. Now the worry was how on earth do we come back through the surf. We thought of swimming it in (ja right...) Thanks to Basie Ackermann who came out in a superduck to help us get the fish in. It took five guys to get it into the boat. Weighed at the traffic weigh bridge - 240kg! Rob Allen railgun 1, black marlin 0. When I opened it up I saw the spear had penetrated through the vertabra and into the spinal cord. If I was to shoot that same fish again a hundred times I don't think I would have landed more than five. And with any less of a gun I think the spear would have just bounced off the skin.