Just what makes the GTs and other marine life at the Hallaniyat Islands so big and plentiful? This is a question I have often wondered. And while I haven’t had the time to devote in finding scientific explanations for my theories, I am using the Monsoon season in Southern Oman – known locally as the Khareef (‘the time of ample rain’) – to prepare all tackle for the coming season and investigate further, share my findings with you!
After 20 years of cursing the summer monsoons in Southern Oman that prevented me from fishing for months, I have come to realise it is this exact phenomenon that makes the Hallaniyats so unique and special. Although there is always a huge supply of bait fish passing through this corner of the Indian Ocean, the Khareef starts an immense and sudden increase in food available as the Somali current violently reverses its course.
During the summer months, temperatures in Oman’s capital, Muscat, climb to a sweltering 50 degrees Celsius (122° F). Further south in Oman, however, the climate is very different. From the spring equinox through summer, warming air over southern Asia rises, creating a powerful weather system known to us as the southwest monsoon, and the southern Arabian Peninsula grabs a slice of it. Rain-filled mists transform the dusty landscape into a lush garden, while winds whip the sea into a frenzy of foam. During the monsoon, fishermen pull their boats high up the beach and tend to their nets, but the storms that prevent them putting out to sea are vital to the following year’s catch.
The strong winds create the process ‘up-wellings’ which bring up cold nutrient rich water from the deepest trenches. Once near the surface the sunlight sparks a massive explosion in micro plankton which kick starts the entire food chain here. Scientists believe this is the reason why the local Humpbacks are the only ones of their kind not to migrate to the colder waters of either poles during the summer months. There is enough food here to fatten up on and sustain them year round. Although still unconfirmed, they also believe there is a sub species of the Blue Whale that is also non-migratory and native to Southern Arabia. Oman Humpbacks and Blue Whales, it seems, are as unique as their South Arabian habitat.
The Hallaniyats are also the only place in the world where you can find kelp forests thriving alongside coral reefs. Kelp needs colder temperatures to grow in while the Coral is a warm-tropical resident but the cold summer currents enable large kelp beds to grow for 4 months of the year. Last year, when fishing the islands in November, large clumps of kelp had broken off floating away on the now warm current. Any structure like this provides one of my favorite fish with some great structure and we caught some big Dorado throwing soft baits and plugs.
March seems to consistently be a month when some real monster GTs are landed at the Hallaniyats and it won’t be long before someone catches a World Record here. GT fishing is world-class throughout the year, but things are turned up a notch even further in March. Why? Now looking at the Somali current flow charts it is clear that March & April are months of transition between these well defined current systems and this must be the reason why the Geets feed heavily and aggressively during this period. October also seems to be a similar period, so I will let you know how we get on this year.
I am looking forward to implementing the first tagging system for GTs in the region so we can really get some idea of just how plentiful these fish are. Myself and Ashraf who runs the other lodge in Shuwaymiah are very keen to ensure this fishery stays pristine. Nomad are the pioneers and its great looking at what they have put in place in Australia. We are discussing making sure all guests to either lodge only use singles on the tail of the lure. Nothing worse than seeing a fish come in with treble destroying its underside.
I have spent my whole life fascinated with the ocean and any form of wildlife. Although I already know the islands and fishing grounds well my knowledge of the location will be invaluable after fishing it daily this coming season, I cannot wait! I finally have the opportunity to live the dream and hopefully make a positive impact on the wildlife in Southern Oman.
Not intentionally damaging, a lot of the locals just lack some basic education to ensure their fishery stays so productive. The locals here are real seamen in their simple vessels with a single 75hp, 2-stroke on the back. A bunch of them will pile into one and off they go far out to sea with their nets or handlines. They use no compass, GPS and are miles from even seeing the shore, yet even in the roughest of seas they will venture out with one stood on the bow with the sea legs of Poseidon.