Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Steve with a Moray eel caught from one of the reefs off the coastIf variety is the spice of life, then we've had a spicy angler visit us indeed. California-based angler Steve Wozniak has fished across the globe, having caught over 390 species of fish in 31 different countries. He spent two days fishing with us in Faro over January 22 and 23, and apart from experiencing our normal excellent Winter bottom fishing, he also showed us a few tricks of his own.

The saltwater fishing in our region can be excellent. We are certainly known for summertime shark and big game, but the wintertime reef fishing is a relatively untapped bonanza of outstanding table fish - and a few outsize surprises as well. The January weather was relatively stable, and on both days, we were favoured with little wind and eminently fishable seas. After breakfast in Silves, we met up with the boat in port and made the short run out to our first reef.

Typical gear for the bottom fishing is relatively light, especially in the tips. Detection of light bites is critical, and this is aided by using the newer braided lines, which have minimal stretch and can telegraph the lightest tap from 150 feet down. While the commercial fishermen use longer rods to 3m or more and braid in the 20+ pound range on revolving spool reels, Steve was quite successful with rods in the 7 foot class and 14 pound braid. Terminal rigs consist of a paternoster with 2-4 hooks in the #2 size, plus a 1-2 ounce sinker to reach the bottom. Baits are many and varied, but pile worms, clams, and shrimp all seemed to be effective on the reef fish.

On our first day, we had to move around to a couple of different reefs before we found active fish. But when we hit the right rockpile, sea bream and other assorted reef-dwellers, such as besugos, bogas, and choupas, began to come in one after the other. Most of these fish were in the 500g range, but give an excellent account of themselves on light tackle. This action was steady and continued through the day, but the real fun started when Steve pulled out some heavier tackle in the 10-15kg class and rigged up some large live and dead baits. Sardines, mackerel strips, and live bogas up to 20 cm were put on the bottom on a sliding sinker rig, with the reel left in free spool and the strike alarm set.

In less than 30 minutes, the big gear got hit. Steve let the fish run, then set into something that was obviously not a bream. After a spirited battle than included several hard runs, he boated a solid conger eel well over a meter in length. Over the next few hours, the big gear was hit several more times, and in the afternoon, Steve landed a 3 kg skate, considered by some to be the best table fish in the area.

Some of the fish Steve caught on his trip with Tightlines.

On the second day, we explored some reefs to the east of the harbour. It was a bit windier than Saturday, but still easily fishable with no discomfort. We found the biting fish fairly quickly, and again filled our sacks with a variety of bream and other bottom fish. The big rods came out again, and Steve pulled in 2 congers quickly - quite a meal for someone. The real surprise came at the end of the day, when a big slab of mackerel at 140 feet got hammered. Steve struggled to get the rod out of the holder, and the battle was on. The fish made several tough runs at the bottom, then slowly began to come up. After about 10 minutes, it came into view - a moray eel, over 10 pounds. Landing it was a bit of excitement, but Steve had brought an excellent lip-grabbing device and we finally got the creature under control. In your own fishing, though, be careful - these eels have tremendous teeth and jaws, and are much slipperier and more manoeuvrable than a regular fish.

An excellent weekend on the water, and we're looking forward to having Steve (now it's 32 countries and counting!) back in the future for some shark, offshore, or any of the excellent freshwater fishing we can offer here in Portugal.

If you would like to get to grips with some superb sea fishing in Portugal? Do as Steve did, he made the most of a Sea Fishing 3 Day break you could do the same or come for a full Week

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John Bate

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