Kob slaughter at PSJ
As the Moka Pot finally starts to bleed rich black coffee this early morning, to the sound of the cold front – the driving rain, the wind through the trees – I reflect on my last fishing experience. Spending time down in our beloved Port St. Johns is always too short. Driving into town and driving out seems the same trip. Lost somewhere in the middle are the layers of imagery, sounds and scents that come out of PSJ each time. Lucky for cameras!
Beelining for the point, rods already ready with leaders and even lures tied days before, is how it always starts. Heart in mouth as the ocean comes into view alongside another favourite carpark. But no crowds this time. No traffic jam. Nobody. Looking up towards Cape Hermes and into the corner, a few fishermen are dotted along the usual spots. Looking quite active. But not in a frenzy for sure.
The frenzy is hard to describe. Kob frenzy. This what happened to me once upon a time…two years ago this time…
I grabbed a coffee with Brucifire, after breakfast, at the Jungle Monkey. I was going fishing anyway, but was super excited this crisp and clear Wild Coast morning. As I collected my fishing thoughts and things, owner Mike came up the ramp.
“I am just gonna go and catch a fish quick ok”.
Mike chuckled. Bruce cheered him on with a laugh too. I had been there a week with no results!
Bruce elected to stay. He was entertaining, and being entertained, by two genuine Ethiopian Rasta priests, that happened to be passing through.
The adrenalin, came like this. I have seen plenty sharks, casually lolling on the surface. But never a kob. Never mind a huge one. And so when I jumped from the car at favourite carpark, shouldered in pass the spectators to get a better look – there they were. But my brain could only process that these fins and fish were zambezis.
“Hey howz those sharks man!”
The guy next to me goes…
“Nooit bru, dey kob.”
From that second and onwards, is all a blur. I do remember every thought leaving my head, as the adrenalin surged. Time stopped. The world stopped. I managed to get back to my car to my favourite rod at that time, a 20lb braid packed Okuma Ceymar with a red and black Sensation Adventure 9 footer. I flew off the cliff down to the players area and found a spot. I let that Mydo SS Spoon fly right over the estuary – and then didn’t know what to do. Crank it? No ways. Slow on the sand? Ok. The fish had shown themselves to me, and I was gonna get one. But not with that spoon. It just made no sense in this scene. So after my second nerve wracking slow retrieve, I clambered back up the cliff to my trusty old VW mobile tackle box, and grabbed the biggest plastic and jig head I could find fastest. The plastic was a good 9 inches, split tail, and in light pink. Huge. The jig head was an easy choice – my very own Mydo Luck Shot, but this time in 2 ounce configuration, with a solid 9/0 hook – that stuck out from the plastic a good 20mm. The plastic sits way further back on the hook with a Mydo jig head, a huge advantage over regular jig heads. The hook was super sharp. And for extra effect, I placed a Mydo Bill plate, in shiny stainless steel, over the jig head. This adds more flash and action, and in as much as this all sounds like a Mydo ad, this is how I did it ok!
My first cast.
I first threw the rig into the deep channel to start with. I just wanted to get my swimming action right. On my second twitch off the sand, my rod went double. I love this outfit as it put on enough brakes to set the hook with the huge 9/0, but maintained enough tension through the famous kob head shake – by being so nice and soft in the front part. The little Okuma was filled with braid, and the fluorocarbon leader very carefully tied back in Port Shepstone already. Figure of eight system as described here.
It was a huge battle. And the kob showed itself quite soon into the fight. A magnificent performance right on the surface, in front of a riveted crowd up top. A guy was fighting a garrick alongside me and we had to switch places many times. My fish loved to drag me all the way up the slippery and loose rocks. To the top, and then all the way back down to the mouth. A pushing tide. Anglers everywhere. So much fun!
But it was a really difficult time for the fish too. Being on 20lb meant my rod had to do all the work. The leader was tied short too. I don’t like my knots in my rod eyes for exact situations like this – where a longer leader would have had knots being damaged each time the fish got close. But I was determined as this would do wonders for the Mydo PRO campaign. I ducked and dived and pulled and pushed my way up and down that strip for 45 minutes before I had him close.
A few of the local pros had gathered around me, and were being wonderful hosts, hauling me across the treacherous terrain when I needed it. The guy next to me eventually lost his garrick – a monster of over 25, I saw it a number of times. The split ring on his lure failed. Man was this guy broken. The kob had by now disappeared and nobody was throwing anymore. It was just me and this kob left.
And so It came to the gaff, which I never even saw. I had given up on a healthy release, especially with the shark factor here, but when that fish came close, a gaff flew past me at lightning speed and bang into the fish. And as the guy dragged the fish up the rocks, the hook fell out! It had been a solid hour of battle.
And so it came to be, that I hauled this kob up the cliff, and never set it free. The light tackle was the problem. But I fish light – so many more strikes. So much more fun. The penalty is this. Big fish get worked too much, and if you release them, they die. I should have had 50lb braid for sure.
I should have had 50lb braid for sure. I have been fishing heavy (40lb), in PSJ since this fish.
Which brings me to today’s story, and what has been on my mind.
Kob are subject to whims to feed which come from above, or the stars, or the moon. They just go dilly. Sometimes they congregate to spawn, and enter a feeding frenzy just thereafter to replace energy used. I was lucky enough to have had invested enough time casting from those very same rocks, to get the timing right for one of these magical moments.
And when I loaded the fish, which once again goes down at 25, because that was the limit of the scale we could find, one of the locals said to me…
“Hey stash that fish or you can’t take another one…”
I was taken aback. I told him that no way would I take another one?! What for? But as reality set back in, I had to think that this guy, who has been here and caught these kob his whole life, feeds his kids this way. Me and the locals have had long conversations about this, shoulder to shoulder, casting lures until we convinced ourselves to save it for the next session. They all get a few. And they are worth a packet. R1000 a fish easy. He reckons he gets 5 to 10 a year. Some of his mates get more than that. All on lures. Subsistence? Could be? Borderline.
And now we have these two guys, being photographed with far too many kob, all at once. You are only allowed one big one and smaller one really. These guys had the whole family. The smallest looks about 10. And the biggest look 25 or more. Story so far is that these guys had a military-style operation going, with trailers with tanks of livebait. Motorcades of 4×4’s. All the best kit. Not subsistence.
The pics were shot about a week ago. And has already been doing the rounds on the internet as most if you will have seen. These are the breeding stock of our kob population smack bang in the most vulnerable time in their lifecycle. Breeding time.
DAFF have the pics and have asked for assistance in this matter. They need to know how many anglers were involved. Where and when this was. They have a marine inspector on it right now. He is in PSJ, where the community is assisting him. In the meantime, mail any information to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can pass it on.