We got on the boat, still on dry land, and Mo said: right guys, who’s done this before? No hands went up. He smiled in a slightly unnerving way, making me wonder what exactly I’d signed up for and started his safety briefing with the immortal words “remember: fear no fish”. I’d been on many boats before; I even worked offshore for a couple of years and participated in many pre-launch safety briefings. However, I never witnessed a safety briefing centred on a fish! This was different; we were about to head out to target the meanest fish on the planet: the GT. Things were about to get real!
Few sportfish have a cult following the likes of giant trevally. Ancient Hawaiians held the fish in such high regard that Ulua could even stand in when human sacrifice was called for. During the 1990s, now-legendary anglers in Japan started innovating modern topwater sport fishing, and the GT came to international prominence. As the sport grew, so did the fish’s reputation, and soon a trophy GT on a topwater lure was considered the pinnacle of sportfishing. Anglers in the know travelled to Australia, Japan and as far as New Caledonia looking for the biggest geets, as they’re affectionately known. But an unlikely location would emerge as the top destination for true giants.
The Khuriya Muriya Islands are not the kind of place most people could point out on a world map. These five tiny, arid rock outcrops in the Arabian Sea, just offshore from the coast of Southern Oman, are located on the edge of a shelf, dropping from relatively shallow to more than 3,000m in depth. The area is fed by the Indian Ocean version of the Gulf Stream, the cold Somali Current, which runs parallel to the coast and violently switches direction twice a year, dictated by the seasonal monsoons. This confluence of factors combines to form one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet, and it’s here that the world’s biggest GTs can be consistently found.
I was in Shuwaymiya, the home base of No Boundaries Oman, the world-class outfit created by husband and wife team Ed & Angela Nicholas. In the early 2000s, Ed started exploring the coast of Southern Oman and discovered a thriving fishery, mostly unknown to the outside world. Through several adventure-filled trips he quickly realised the tremendous sportfishing potential and before long moved down to the sleepy fishing village to set up No Boundaries. From humble beginnings, they quickly gained a solid reputation as one of the best operators in the business, and word soon got around of the incredible fishing in Oman.
Scrolling through NBO’s social media galleries is like visiting a sportfishing hall of fame. World-renowned veterans alongside rookies like myself, with fish so unbelievable some questioned the authenticity of the reports in the early days. Multiple 50kg+ fish, alongside good numbers of 60s and even the odd 70 are landed every season. At No Boundaries, a 40kg GT is considered average. To cap it all off, Southern Oman is arguably the best light tackle lure fishing destination in the world. The species diversity is unequalled and, thanks to the unique ecosystem, everything grows to monstrous proportions. We had seven days to explore these waters, and like anyone on their first visit to NBO, we all dreamed of a trophy GT.
Captain Mohamed, or Mighty Mo as he’s known in fishing circles, wrapped up his safety briefing on the afternoon of our arrival with a demonstration of proper fighting technique when hooked up to a geet. His dry sense of humour balanced the intense look in his eyes as he tried to explain, with words and actions, to a trio of first-timers what to expect. Mo made it clear that this was a team sport: he’d do his part putting us on the fish and manoeuvring the boat to assist with the fight, but he expected equal effort from his clients. He had the kind of no-nonsense approach, borne from a genuine desire to see his clients succeed, that I’ve come to recognise in only the best guides.
We were up before sunrise the following morning, ready for our first taste of GT action. After a short run to the islands, we soon made our first drift along a promising looking reef in shallow water. Following Mo’s advice, I started out with a popper, but soon everyone was switching lures, trying to find the magic formula of the day. Considering the size of fish in the area, it’s not uncommon for anglers to fish 170g – 200g or even bigger lures here. I played it safe and stuck to 150g poppers, aiming to conserve energy for the days ahead.
We spent our first day casting until it felt our arms would fall off, but no GT ever showed up. Mo worked tirelessly, drifting every pinnacle, reef and point multiple times; while constantly checking in on the other two boats via radio. No one was having any success and it was clear the fishing would be tough. A tropical storm had blown through the week before our arrival, leaving the water unseasonably cold, and this was the suspected problem. Even the famous light tackle fishing didn’t really fire, and we headed in that afternoon with very little to show for our efforts. I was mentally and physically drained from casting heavy gear all day, but I felt optimistic about our chances, given we had 6 days to go.
As luck would have it, we woke up the following morning to a howling gale. We hopped on the SUVs, boats in tow, to the little harbour in the hope that we could still launch, but on arrival, it was clear that was out of the question. Huge, angry seas and high winds are not ideal conditions for fishing off the bow of a centre console, never mind the safety considerations. A couple of guys tried casting light gear off the wall, but it was futile, and we soon returned to the lodge to catch up on sleep.
The weather was totally unpredictable all week, going from flat calm in the morning to a full-blown storm by afternoon. Our guides made the best of the situation, and we managed to squeeze in enough time on the boats for everyone to get some action. Along with a young dorado and a decent queenfish, I boated my first ever GT, a 20kg fish that gave me a taste of things to come.
Our last day arrived, and once again, it was blown out. The weather hadn’t been kind to us, and we lost 3 full fishing days. Only two small geets had been landed all week, and an atmosphere of disappointment hung over the lodge. Most of the group had an early flight the following morning, and we’d be leaving before sunrise the next day. Daniel, an Aussie angler and I had an extra day in Salalah before my flight, and we were chatting about what to do in town when Mo came over and said there was a phone call for me. Ed was on the line, having heard fishing had been tough, he thought maybe Dan and I would like to stay on an extra day. The forecast for the next day looked great, he said, and the next group was not due for two days, so he thought he would ask if we’d like to stay on. What a question!
With conditions looking better than the 7 days prior, we headed out in high spirits the following morning. Several hours of constant casting later, however, we had nothing to show for our efforts, and our hopes of landing the dream fish we came for started fading. I was at the stern of the boat lazily working a large floating stickbait, going through the motions rather than seriously fishing by this point. I heard a commotion behind me, looked around and continued working the stick while admiring the school of giant milkfish passing the bow.
Out of nowhere, a massive explosion erupted behind the outboards, and I apparently hooked a high voltage electric cable. Before I even knew what happened, I was on my back, one leg dangling over the gunwale and my foot jammed up against the cowling of one of the motors, holding onto my rod for dear life and trying not to get pulled overboard. Captain Mo had the boat in gear in a flash, trying to pull the fish into deeper water. By the time he reached me, probably no more than 30 seconds, I felt like I’d gone 12 rounds with a heavyweight. The fish followed its initial scorching run with another, mercifully shorter, dash for the reef before settling into a circling pattern deep under the boat.
In total, the fight probably lasted no more than 10 minutes, but those ten minutes were enough to make me question everything I thought I knew about fishing. What an incredible experience!
Fish care is taken very seriously at No Boundaries, and when the fish was finally landed, it was weighed in a purpose-built sling, posed on my lap for a trophy shot and back in the water in no time. Watching that beautiful fish disappear into the blue was the trip highlight, and a spontaneous, wild celebration broke out onboard. A dream come true; and the perfect ending to a rewarding trip.