Offshore Fishing

Fishing Ghana on the Hooker

© CAPTAIN JOHN ANDERSON

Next Record Blue Marlin

There are places for blue marlin fishing that seem to exist only in daydreams and conversations at the bar after a day of fishing.

Anglers tell stories of villages enclosed by palm tree hammocks, situated at the mouth of a river that empties into a remote section of the ocean. The allure is that these remote areas could be home to the next world record blue marlin. I was lucky enough to visit a place like that last April and fish with an all-star crew aboard one of the most famous boats in sport fishing history.

Ghana is a former British colony on West Africa’s Gold Coast between the Ivory Coast and Togo. The country boasts the longest running democracy in West Africa. The natives are English-speaking and very friendly. My African journey began in Accra, the capital. After a 16-hour plane ride, a short drive took us to the Hooker compound – my group’s home for the next week. The compound is in the town of Ada Foah at the mouth of the Volta River. Ada Foah is sparse with a few private homes, a hotel, and a native fishing village. The accommodations at the Hooker house, however, are comfortable and the staff of seven made us feel welcome.Worldwide Angler Magazine Cover© CAPTAIN JOHN ANDERSONWorldwide Angler Magazine Cover

For centuries, Ghana’s natives have fished offshore for snapper and small tuna. Yet, only in the past decade have the first lures been plunked in the water for blue marlin. From the time boats began venturing out for blue marlin, the rumors began to spread about the size of the fish caught. These were partially true because the initial forays had reaped large catches in short periods. A few well-known skippers brought boats from Madeira, and set up charter operations 

They quickly put Ghana on the map as a major destination for large blue marlin. Today, many consider the waters off the coast of Ghana one of the prime places on the planet to catch large Atlantic blue marlin. The list of anglers who have tried their luck off Ghana reads like a Who’s Who of marlin fishing. Peter B. Wright, Stewart Camble, Don Tyson, Jerry Dunaway, and Skip Smith are just a few.

Capt. Clay Hensley brought the incredible action to the mainstream fishing community on his DVD, “Ghana.” The video, shot aboard Hensley’s boat, the Hooker, showed several large blue marlin caught, including the 1,030- pound marlin hoisted in April 2003. Also shown is Candace Meyer catching the women’s all tackle world record yellowfin tuna that weighed 314 pounds, and the women’s all tackle big-eye tuna record that weighed 370 pounds.Black Marlin Boatside© CAPTAIN JOHN ANDERSONBlack Marlin Boatside

The Hooker is an icon in the fishing world. A beautiful 43-foot G&S, the vessel made its reputation as the game boat that accompanied the Madam around the world, setting countless light tackle billfish records.The crew onboard the Hooker is as well versed in blue marlin fishing as any in the world. Hensley, who brought the boat to Ghana from Madeira, has more than 20 years of blue marlin experience from Hawaii to Africa and everywhere in between. He spent six seasons fishing in Madeira before moving to Ghana and has caught 10 blue marlin that weighed more than 1,000 pounds apiece, including two “granders” in one day for Guy Harvey while fishing off Madeira.Australian.  

Bo Jenyns works in the pit on the Hooker. Many consider Jenyns to possess one of the most colorful personalities in sport fishing and to be one of the top wiremen in the industry. He has “wired” more than 30 blue and black marlin granders all over the world – most from his seasons fishing for black marlin on the Great Barrier Reef. [Editor’s Note: To “wire” a fish is to grab the leader in order to bring the fish boat-side to release it for conservation.] The second mate on the boat was Frankie Kogolegba, a native of Ghana. Kogolegba has spent the past six seasons fishing on the Hooker and the Shy II off Ghana, and has wired 150 blue marlin weighing more than 500 pounds.Blue Marlin abourd the Hooker© CAPTAIN JOHN ANDERSONBlue Marlin abourd the Hooker

The Hooker fishes a basic spread consisting of two lures with hooks in the long riggers and two large bridge teasers, with a pitch-bait in the cockpit. Most of the lures the Hooker fishes are Black Barts, Pakulas, and Aloha lures. Hensley also wanted to pitch-bait as many fish as possible. The fish in Ghana tend to be lazy eaters due to the amount of bait available. Over the years the different crews have tried everything possible, legal or not, to try and improve their catch ratio but haven’t found it yet.

After I left Ghana, the Hooker went to all bait and switching to end the 2006 season and caught 16 marlin for its last 23 bites. [Editor’s Note: To “pitch-bait” is to tease a fish and then switch the teaser with real bait after the fish is excited.] After leaving the river mouth, the trolling grounds run east to west along the coast and take a half-hour run to reach them. The “café,” the “slope,” and “pram pram” are all proven areas that hold fish and lots of bait.

The fishing grounds are surrounded with local netting boats. These large colorful dugout canoes set out small “sain” nets for skipjacks that are abundant in the area, and gill nets for flying fish found on the drop off. After watching the game boats in the area catch big marlin next to them while trolling, several of the net boats now troll when moving from spot to spot and have caught a few big blue marlin from their canoes. With one boat fishing such a large area, it took three days to find the right conditions and raise our first fish. The small blue took a shot at the left long lure and was only on for seconds before the hooks pulled. Later that afternoon we raised our second fish on the long corner teaser. The small fish attempted to eat the mackerel pitch-bait, but we were unable to get a solid hook up on the small fish. The fourth day proved to be our best.Nice Yellowfin Tuna© CAPTAIN JOHN ANDERSONNice Yellowfin Tuna

Returning to the area where we had the two bites on the previous day, we proceeded to raise five blues. None of the fish committed to any of the lures or pitch-baits, but usually gave a halfhearted swipe or two with its bill before returning to the thousands of small tunas that it had balled up on the bottom to feed on.

On the fifth morning, Hensley got a good mark of a fish above a bait ball. At that instant, a very large blue marlin crashed the long rigger, ripping off several yards of line before coming unglued. Hensley just smiled in disappointment. The last fish of the trip was a perfect example of how frustrating blue marlin can be. The 250-pound fish came up on the short corner and proceeded to swim back and forth looking up at the pitch-bait for about five minutes. Then it put on a show five feet behind the transom. The blue, all lit up, did little more than stick its bill out of the water and fl ip the mackerel into the air before fading off. These are the moments that make blue marlin fishing frustrating, yet addictive.

Our group saw 11 blues and got nine bites in six days.  Unfortunately, we did not catch one. As frustrating as it was to travel so far and not catch a fish, the experience of being in Africa made it worthwhile. Clay and Bo are two of the most laid back people with whom you could ever book a charter. I am already planning to return in 2007 because the next world record blue marlin could come from Africa, and I know the crew on the Hooker will be ready to catch her.

◀ Previous Article Next Article ▶

Cancel Reply

Ajax-loader

Quick Submit: Ajax-loader

We value your privacy and only require a valid email to post a comment.

Comments
Reply
tropicalghana @
02:30AM on May 02, 2010
The marlin is back in Ghana after a couple of years of few of them seen... In two consecutive days we had 5 strikes, raised one up (650 Lb), 2 hooked (300 Lb and 700 Lb.) and saw 2 more behind the lures. While fighting the marlin we raised, we saw a second one 1 mile away continuously jumping outside the water.... They are definitely here...... cheers... Marco
Reply
jujuman @
09:03PM on August 09, 2010
@tropicalghana: What boats are fishing Ghana for marlin now? Are they available for charter?
Reply
saltyman @
12:17PM on March 18, 2010
Great story, again!!!!
Reply
t. @
01:50PM on March 12, 2010
Sweet.
Subscribe

Subscribe to new articles posted.