Dancing with a skipjack

Chris Schoultz carries a skipjack caught in the Swartkops River  Picture supplied.
Chris Schoultz carries a skipjack caught in the Swartkops River Picture supplied.

The Swartkops River has always been known for the skipjack that have been caught there over the years – and what an exciting experience it is to catch such a fish.

They are usually only caught during the day and on a lure. I remember fishing at about 9pm one Friday evening for grunter, using some prawn.

I was reeling in my bait when all of a sudden, I felt this heavy knock and my drag started screaming. This was during a dark moon spring tide and little ambient light was available.

It was a perfect evening, with the surrounding light impressively glinting over the water, providing a bit of sight.

I was quite disorientated as the line had moved in an unexpected direction.

This was certainly not a grunter and too fast for a kob; however the knock was much like that of these huge beasts that often give you the run-around.

My first concern was how much line was left on my spool, as line capacity is not a real factor when fishing for grunter.

I could feel the fish slowing and then stop just before it spooled me – what a relief! This had happened before and it is a great disappointment as it leaves you always guessing as to what had been at the end of your line.

Was it time to up anchor, was my first thought. But the fish then started to move slowly out in the deep, confusing me even more.

The weight on the other end was more than I had experienced with any other fish I had caught. By now I had the fish circle the boat and a little line had been retrieved, but not much.

This continued for some time. I could not feel the head shaking – the characteristic sign of big kob. The guessing game was on!

About an hour had lapsed and I had managed to haul the fish closer, but what confused me was the heavy weight I had on the other end.

Fishing with 4kg line does not allow much pressure to be exercised.

All of a sudden the game was on and I was back where I had been an hour earlier.

What I did observe (but failed to pay too much attention to) was a loud splash a distance away as the line peeled off my spool once more.

The fish was tiring as the scene played out a second time, making the retrieval of line easier and quicker. My nerves were shattered at this stage and still I had no idea what was on the other end.

By now the fish was swimming close to the surface. Eventually, a skipjack of more than 1.1m was safely on the boat and the contest was over – and so was the fish. It had fought to the death.

On closer examination, my hook had fouled in the fish’s gill plate, explaining the weight and the circular approach while the fight was on. I could not turn it.

This also explains the large splash, as they often exit the water in an effort to expel the hook.

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