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An Unexpected Ending


On the line! The blogger playing ‘something big’ offshore.


The canyons situated offshore from Watamu, Kenya offer one of the best chances of a grander Tiger shark in the world.


When these fish are at home then the action can be incredible.


There is no captain more capable of finding these fish than Captain Salim “Papa Zambarani” (Swahili for father of tigershark) himself.


I have been fishing with Salim for nearly twenty years now. I first met him when he was a mate aboard Snowgoose then owned by Andrew Wright. During those early years Salim taught me a huge amount about fishing and the waters off Malindi and Watamu. When Andrew sold Snowgoose to Kingfisher Salim took over as the captain of Snark working for Kingfisher. After a number of years with Kingfisher he has now moved on to captain the aptly named Zambarani (Tiger shark) a well-equipped fast Phoenix Sportfisher owned by Kleis .Reedijk from Holland.


Salim is a most knowledgeable captain and angler. He is a superb person to have in charge if you are contemplating a spot of light tackle fishing for sails or marlin. He runs a very ‘calm’ boat and I cannot recall him ever raising his voice, even when someone has done something very stupid and lost a fish (that happened a few times in the early days I can tell you).



A sailfish caught on light tackle is tagged and released.


When the tigers were located in the canyons off Watamu Salim soon established a deserved reputation as the captain who could find them. Although I have never fished for the tigers when they have been really in residence I have experienced some exciting days slow trolling a big deadbait on a downrigger along the canyon edges. Denis Froud my fishing mate and I had five strikes on one such day out. We both released a fish in the region of 350lb to 400lb. The highlight of this day however was the ‘mama’ that followed my fish up to the surface. I was playing my fish close to the boat when the crew started to wave furiously towards the water some twenty metres off the stern. I looked up to see a huge tiger on the surface. It must have followed the ‘baby’ on my line up just out of curiosity. Salim, Denis, crew and I estimated that fish at WELL over the thousand pound mark. I had been using a handheld GPS that day and every strike was within twenty metres of each other. Two days after we returned to the UK Salim sent me an e-mail to inform me that he had just released a fish estimated at 600kgs from that very location!



Early morning in Malindi Bay and a local fishing Dhow leaves for the open ocean.


So it was, this year that despite the marlin fishing in Malindi bay and the rips being exceptional Denis and I decided to spend at least half a day in pursuit of a big tiger on 50lbs class tackle (Penn International 50w and Berkley IGFA 50lb nylon). After boarding Zambarani in the muddy waters of Malindi bay we headed out on a southerly course for the banks and canyons. We were soon in amongst the early morning birds and catching perfect bait sized sierra mackerel. Having caught ample supplies of bait for the day we set course for the canyons. Upon arrival we found the water conditions were pretty good. There was a slight southerly current and clear blue water. We set two 50lbs class stand-up outfits. One clipped into an outrigger with the bait splashing enticingly (we hoped) along the surface. The other set on a downrigger starting at 180′. Denis and myself always fish an hour about in these situations. Denis took the first hour on the downrigger rod and I watched the surface bait. Salim set up a very slow troll along the canyon edge with the slight current ensuring that the bait was in a good position tight to the canyon edge. After about forty-five minutes the rod tip dipped as the band below snapped. Denis sprang into action and the rod bent over in a satisfying curve. However nothing seemed to happen and for four or five minutes Denis felt just a dead weight. Suddenly the rod came up and whatever it was had gone.



Denis seen here playing that unknown fish. Seconds later it was gone!


We fished on – rotating rods without any further action until about midday when we decided to give it another hour before setting our stall for marlin in the afternoon. The crew started to prepare lunch for us and we could soon smell the aroma of fresh fried fish coming out of the cabin. It was now nearly one and lunch was served. I said to Denis that we should “eat lunch, up baits and head for the rips”. He agreed with a nod of the head as he tucked into his plate of fish and sweet potatoes. Almost as I took my first mouthful the rod tip on the downrigger rod dipped came up and then started to bend over as I grabbed it from the rod holder.


I am not sure where my diner plate ended up!


But was I bothered?


The rod took a healthy bend and line was disappearing at a steady rate from the reel. All looked good. The fish felt heavy and we all thought that I was connected to a fair sized tiger. For the first twenty minutes or so the fight was steady rather than spectacular. I was slowly gaining line in low gear with short interruptions when the fish decided it would look elsewhere for safety.



Applying steady pressure to the fish and making the line sing a little!


After thirty minutes the fish started to come much easier. I was gaining line quickly and had changed back to high gear. We thought that the fish could not be too far down and the crew looked intently for a dark shape to appear. Imagine everyone’s surprise then when a huge gaping mouth suddenly appeared at the transom. The mouth belonged to a rather large Warsaw Grouper.



The rather large mouth of the grouper at the transom.


These fish raise good money in the local market and before we really had time for a debate the crew had the fish onboard and quickly dispatched. Although I am sad to see any fish taken onboard this one would raise the equivalent of several weeks salary for the crew when sold in the fish market.


Salim estimated the fish at 130lbs and when weighed at the Malindi Sea Fishing Club it balanced the scales at 135lbs. On checking the Sportfishing Club of the British Isles records later that evening I was surprised to see that it beat a long standing Andy Nicholson record by some 80lbs.



The fish on the gantry. Salim, Grouper and me. Not sure if any of us would win a beauty contest!


An unexpected ending indeed!


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