Fishing for Pelagic Species off South Africa’s East Coast

by Stuart Jones, South Africa

The warm water of the Mozambique Current pushes close to the South African East Coast during the summer period, this warm water along the coast line it brings with it some exceptional pelagic fish species. These fish tend to visit this portion of the coastline for the period of time as they migrate South from Mozambique. With this, many local places along the coastline experience great quantity and quality of these pelagic species, with majority of the angling done off boats and paddle ski’s. With my home being situated in Durban, South Africa this time of the year is perfect to get out on the water, put some VMC products to the test and to land some exceptional fish.

The majority of the fish targeted are pelagic’s including Dorado (Mahi Mahi), Wahoo, King Mackerel, Yellowtail and Yellowfin Tuna as well as black and blue Marlin and Sailfish. All of these species are notoriously strong fighters where only the best will do. When it comes to targeting these fish there are numerous ways to go about it:

Livebait fishing

Probably the most popular method to catching these fish is the use of live bait. Here we use a variety of baits including Green Mackerel, sardines, Bluefish and a local bait fish called a Mozzie. When targeting the Dorado and Wahoo live baits are rigged on light multiplier outfits with a light fluorocarbon leader and a short #7-9 Piano wire bite trace. These baits are presented around floating structure and often anchored cargo ships that are waiting to enter the port. A VMC 8/0 7118 live bait hook is often bridled through the nose or behind the dorsal or anal fin of the bait. This method proves to be very successful and the hook up ratio is normally exceptionally high.

When targeting Yellowfin Tuna as like in many other areas of the world local pods of Dolphins are sought after where live baits rigged on heavy spinning gear with 65lb+ braided line and long 80lb fluorocarbon leaders are used in these pods. The baits are bridled again in through the nose or behind the dorsal/anal fin again with the faultless 7118 livebait hook. However depending on how finicky the tuna are the hook size may vary from a 5/0 to 8/0 and sometimes the new, No. 2- 7554 2xstrong treble is used. These are both exceptional hooks that are very strong which allows the angler to put intense pressure on the fish. These Tuna are tenacious fighters and fights can be dragged out over long periods of time. The 7118 and 7554 never show any signs of opening under the pressure. We tend to have a real shark problem and losing fish to sharks during the fight is common, this often leads to the angler putting more pressure on the fish to try and land it sooner, this is why the 7118 and 7554 are my number one hook choice.

King Mackerel is a very sought after species along the coastline and when they make their appearance many anglers are seen to be targeting them. Traces are constructed with VMC armour all round. VMC power swivels, singles (often a 5/0 7118 livebait) as a lead hook and two trailing 2x or 4x strong trebles (2xstrong 7554) are used on full #7 piano wire. A flasher skirt if often added to draw in some added attention. King Mackerel are renowned for their speed and this is why quality and needle sharp hooks are a must when it comes to ensuring a solid hook up.

Trawling

Another method used to target these species is trawling a wide spread of lures behind the boat. These spreads with the help of outriggers usually consist of 7 or 8 rigged lines and a teaser spreader bar or dredge. When trying to target all species at once a wide variety of lures and lure sizes are used. A crew’s organisation/skill, water colour, temperature and depth all play vital roles in this methods success.

This is where a lot of the bigger specimens of Dorado, Yellow-fin Tuna and Wahoo are targeted as well as the billfish. Baits that are in the spread consist of a variety of Kona’s and Rapala style swimming lures that are capable of being pulled at high speeds (6-8 knots). All swimming (Rapala style) lures are rigged with VMC 6xstrong 7560 and VMC split-rings, this is an exceptional hook and is my go to heavy duty treble. Some of my favourite lures to trawl are Williamson Speed-Pro’s, Rapala X-rap magnums and Williamson Depth Charge.

I take great pride in the spread that I set and fish. I enjoy this aspect of fishing as you always have to change and adjust the spread to adapt to changing water conditions. The addition of outriggers onto a boat makes a huge difference, they allow us to get 2-4 extra lines out to the side which widens the spread and water area that is covered. I tend to set a wide variety of kona lures that differ in shape, size and generated action. I re-rig all my lures one I take them out the box and arm them with all my favourite VMC products because when dealing with better quality fish that strike at high speeds only the best quality will do. Often to add some extra action and flash to the konas I add a dead Ballyhoo, Japanese Mackerel or fresh belly strip/shine.

In rigging all these baits I use a variety of VMC products, obviously to get the most natural action out the baits the hook size varies in accordance to the lure size. When it comes to the hooks that I rig the lures I have a variety of favourites. The 3 main types of VMC hooks that I use to rig my lures with are: The 8255S - O'Shaughnessy Stainless Steel in a 6/0 and 7/0, the 8700S - Dynacut Southern Tuna Stainless Steel in 7/0, 8/0 and 9/0 and then the 8705 - Dynacut Bay King / Offshore in 6/0, 7/0, 8/0, 9/0 and 10/0. These hooks are extra strong and allow for a solid hook up, their pre-sharpened, perfect point allows for great penetration even through the hardest parts of these game fishes mouths.

Extreme reaction hard-baits

My last and possibly most favourite technique to target these gamefish is on extreme reaction hard-baits that are fished on light inshore series spinning outfits with 20lb braided line. This light tackle fishing allows for large amounts of enjoyment, especially when targeting Dorado due to their acrobatic fighting nature. There are numerous makes of baits that you can throw however my personal favourites are the Rapala: Xrap 10, Xrap 10 Deep, Shadow Rap and the Max Rap.  Due to the Dorado’s acrobatic fight it is not uncommon to lose the fish by it throwing the hook. However once I changed the standard trebles to VMC’s new 75' Series trebles my loss of fish has dramatically declined. On all my lures the stock trebles are changed to 7554 and 7545 size 2 & 4.

These trebles are unreal and have proven to get the best hook-up yet. However in adapting to new techniques I have also added 1/0 7226 - inline single hooks, this has also proven to be very successful.

VMC make products of the highest quality that I have put though heavy testing. They have performed flawlessly and are the only hooks I will use.  The new 75' Series trebles are nothing short of incredible. They are by far the best trebles I have ever used in fresh and saltwater conditions. South Africa plays host to an incredible seasonal fishery, in these conditions, targeting the biggest pelagic species requires nothing but the best. This is why I choose VMC!

Thank you to Stuart for sharing his experiences with us !