The Sudanese coastline is not the first place you think of when planning a fishing trip. It isn’t really on the map as a fishing destination and for that reason not many people go there. What it lacks in anglers, it more than makes up for in fish that grow to monstrous sizes…..which is exactly why my friends and I decided to go there!
Big Giant Trevally and Dogtooth Tuna were top of the hit list but there are plenty of other fascinating fish species to target too. Taking a trip to Sudan was always going to be adventurous, but this trip in particular had its fair share of problems!
Once we arrived, it was a two-hour drive through the desert of Sudan until we finally got to the coast and the harbour, if you could call it that! There were just three worn-out boats on the shore and we loaded our gear into one of them and headed out towards a larger vessel on a mooring. She was called “Scuba Libre” and was to be our home for the next 10 days. We had gone for a ‘live-aboard’ option as it gave us the best chances of exploring this wild area of the Red Sea.
One of our suitcases had not arrived on the flight, so first job we had to do was split the gear amongst us so that everyone in the group was set up for popping and jigging. Given that we were going to spend the next 10 days at sea exploring various uninhabited islands and reefs then delivery by the airline was not an option. The luggage would have to wait for us at the airport when we returned.
The beauty of staying on a live-aboard meant that we were fishing within an hour of being on the water. Our first location was a very tasty looking reef that we drifted steadily along, working our lures. The waters are so rich and untouched that it wasn’t long before the first of the hard fighting GT’s were hooked and landed. Followed by some Snappers and Bluefin Trevally. The lost luggage was soon forgotten about!
All of a sudden, my stickbait was intercepted by something completely different. A big barracuda came cart-wheeling out of the water and Mahmut, our guide, quickly drove the boat away from the reef. Above the deeper water I had a much better chance of landing the fish. The spectacle continued for some time. One moment the barracuda was airborne, the next he was swimming super-fast towards me. I lost contact as the fish slack-lined me. Even my trusty Spheros 18000 reel couldn’t keep up! I had no idea if it was a good hook hold or not but hoped that its razor-sharp teeth didn’t cut me off. I just had a fluorocarbon leader.
When contact was restored, the barracuda sounded and ploughed under the boat. Steady pressure with the heavy tackle eventually wore the fish down and Mahmut and I were able to lift the barracuda aboard. As I removed the stickbait, I was in awe of the cudas impressive dentistry and after a few quick snaps released the fish to fight another day.
It was a great start, but unfortunately, we had engine problems at the end of the first day. After much scratching of heads, the crew discovered the problem and needed to send someone back to the mainland to source a new part. This meant the live-aboard was out of action for a few days and with just one tender available for 6 anglers, we had to split the group and rotate between shore and boat fishing. Thankfully, the shore fishing is also excellent and provided an exciting new aspect to the trip.
Our first session on the shore was rather interesting. With crystal clear water, we could see many different types of fish and vast areas of brightly coloured corals. With all the structure and channels there had to be some great ambush points for the bigger predators that we were seeking, so we got to work with our top water lures. We had some brisk sport with all different kinds of snappers, groupers and gars attacking our artificials. It was wonderful being able to wade through the tranquil waters, sight-casting to the fish.
We pushed out further and got to one of the deeper channels where I started working a ‘walk-the-dog’ style lure. The action was great and looked very appealing as it came over the top of the ledge, a perfect ambush spot. I made a couple of more casts and then the lure was hit by another fierce looking Barracuda. This one headed straight for the corals and I had to leap in and swim across to get above it and keep it from cutting me off. I eventually found a ledge to stand on and play the fish out as it repeatedly tried to head back into shallow water. I got lucky once again and managed to avoid getting bust off, releasing yet another fine specimen.
We switched with the other guys at lunch and jumped in the boat for an afternoon of popping with the heavy tackle, seeking the giants of the Red Sea. We experienced hectic action with many GT’s and Bluefin Trevally falling to the charms of our large poppers, its hard work throwing these for hours on end but so rewarding when the fish come up and hit them.
‘Last cast!’ was called and I made one final throw to the point of the island we were fishing and saw a large GT come up behind the lure. Several fierce pops later, the water violently erupted and the fish bolted into the depths seeking the reef. My 10kg of drag barely had any effect. These fish are incredible and I fought this one for well over ten minutes, they have to be one of the strongest in the ocean. Thankfully, my tackle held out and we managed to win the battle. It was a fitting end to the day and afterwards we headed back to the ‘Scuba Libre’ feeling satisfied.
The jig fishing was also excellent during our trip. With many steep underwater banks and drop off’s it’s perfect ground for this technique. However, deep dropping with 200g + jigs for hours on end is a serious workout, add a load of hard fighting fish into the equation and it’s easy to see how physically exhausting it can be.
We had some memorable moments, one hotspot in particular produced fish after fish and non-stop action. Jorg, in our group, managed to break a rod early on in the session, such was the strength of his fish. It had to be handlined up some 60 metres by our guide Federico. We continued jigging and had a continual stream of Amberjack and Almaco Jacks coming aboard, it was incredible sport.
Then Malcolm and I got into a serious double hook-up with some crazy strong fish. It was an epic struggle to keep the lines from tangling as the fish fought deep below us. It was all happening, then just as we were winning the battle a big shark appeared on the scene looking for an easy meal. The thought of losing these fish to the tax-man was too much for Malcolm and he managed to haul his fish, a big Amberjack, up out of harms way into the boat. That just left my fish to run the gauntlet and I’m happy to say I too managed to get my fish in the boat without getting taxed. It was a cracker of an Amberjack as well, easily 30 lbs. Wow!
As the time slipped by, the live-aboard got repaired and the weather deteriorated. The wind started to howl and we still hadn’t encountered the big trophy size Dogtooth Tuna we so desperately wanted to catch. We concentrated our efforts on this species but with the difficult conditions fishing wasn’t easy, and was becoming dangerous. Big hooks, wild seas and rocking boats are not a good combination and I had already suffered with one hook through my hand earlier in the week. We had to take care, especially in the remote location of the Red Sea.
We targeted a wreck for the Doggies as it was the perfect spot for them and Malcolm got lucky with a fantastic Coral Trout early on. As the sun slipped low in the sky, I tried a popper and was rewarded with a fantastic hit. As the fish rolled there was no mistaking the tail of a Dogtooth Tuna….the fish I had been waiting for!
It ran hard for the bottom, so hard that I had to use all my strength just to keep the braid from getting cut on the side of the boat. This fish was next level and took me very much by surprise. It was insane how hard it pulled and once it finally tired, Federico helped haul it into the boat and laying there in front of me was my first metre plus Dogtooth Tuna. I was speechless, they grow much bigger too!
The next day we tried again and sent our jigs down with fresh determination, in the hope of a real monster. We fished several different spots with little to show for our efforts other than a small Amberjack. The Doggies were conspicuous by their absence.
Late in the day we finally hooked a big fish, this time it fell to the rod of Pavel and he was engaged in a mammoth tug of war. This was easily the most impressive fight of the trip, the fish just never gave up and we were debating whether it would be a big GT or a Doggie. Finally, all was revealed after a further 15 minutes of battle when Pavel was treated to the sight of a truly gigantic Dogtooth Tuna laying on the floor of the boat before him.
That wasn’t the end of the action that day as the radio soon crackled to life with shouts of ‘Monster Doggie!! No camera!!’ So we headed over to the other boat to do the honours and found another Dogtooth being proudly displayed to the lens, this one a fraction bigger. The mystery of the missing monster Dogtooth Tuna had been solved!
For the last couple of days, we were able to relax and enjoy the quality fishing, splitting time between the boat and shore but the strong wind kept making things difficult. It got so bad that one of the tenders we were towing behind the mothership actually capsized. All the items and equipment from within were floating in the rough sea and a rescue mission managed to secure most of the stuff. Sadly, the tender sunk to the bottom so GPS points were plotted to enable a rescue mission at a later date.
Fortunately, the next morning dawned calm and tranquil enabling the guides to get to work. The water was 8 metres deep and they were able to dive down and attach ropes which were then connected to the pully system on the mothership and haul it up to the surface. It was all rather dramatic and provided quite an end to the trip. Thankfully, nobody got hurt.
It was an epic trip to a very unique and exciting fishery. With shore and boat fishing options it ticks many boxes and all in a rich and untouched environment. The variety is great from beautifully coloured Groupers, Coral Trout, Red Bass, big GT’s, Dogtooth Tuna, brutal Barracudas and more. All in all, a fascinating area to visit and fish, highly recommended!
For more information about this area and the fishery, take a look at the site of Wild Sea Expedition.