It’s early morning on the east coast of the UAE. You’ve been waiting for a bite for half an hour and have watched the mountains in the distance emerge from the fog. But, just as your grip loosens slightly, there’s a sudden tug on the line. You swing the rod high and the reel whirrs into life as a behemoth of a dorado, glimmering yellow and bright green, leaps up and back into the water with a crash. You brace on the side of the boat as the rod bends double. He’s well hooked, and it’s going to take some fighting to bring him onboard. Sound like fishing as you imagined it? Forget measly catches and exhausted, overfished waters, the big fish are out here.
Development along the coast of Dubai may have hampered fishing in the UAE slightly, and the sailfish might have moseyed on out of the city’s waters, but it is getting better, with attempts being made to protect the big blue. Dialogue between local fishermen and sports fishermen is developing, with an emphasis being on sustainability through sport. The UAE hopes to host the second Fujairah Classic later in the year, with just that as its objective.
The development of Dubai’s waters might have been a blow to fish stocks in recent years, but it is recovering. While sailfish sightings have dropped from highly frequent to nil, the presence of hammour, barracuda and the occasional tuna still keeps boats out there. The arrival of The Palm Jumeirah moved a lot of the bigger fish further out to sea, but there are reports of vast amounts of fish moving inland as the dredged sand structure provides an unlikely feeding ground for smaller species. For those looking for DIY fishing in the centre of town, sections of Dubai Creek offer worthwhile catches of hammour and kingfish.
We like Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa provide boats for four hours, maximum seven people, at a shockingly low Dhs1,750. Call 04 883 600004 883 6000 for details.
East coast (from Dibba to Fujairah)
The east coast is a hotspot for anyone up for bagging their first big one. Pull out a jumping, fighting dorado (mahi-mahi), a sizeable kingfish or a queen mackerel. There’s even been significant sailfish activity here in recent years, with captains reporting catches no smaller than five kilograms of this huge, fighting billfish. The presence of tankers on the horizon may be off putting for those in search of wide open waters, but their dark shadows surprisingly attract big fish, who like to shelter in the shade. While the east coast may have been blighted by a persistent algae bloom (‘red tide’) in the past year, and oil in the water continues to be an issue, this area is still ranked alongside some of the best fishing spots in the world.
We like Méridien Al Aqah Fujairah offer four-hour trips for maximum six people at Dhs 1,850. Captains with knowledge of trolling, popping, jigging and flyfishing (with lessons) available on request. Call 09 244 900009 244 9000.
West coast (from Ajman to RAK)
The wide open waters of the west coast of the UAE remain pleasantly overlooked. While several big hotels operate deep sea excursions, with the chance of pulling out barracuda, sultan fish, the occasional tuna and a big ol’ catfish, this is still largely untouched territory and the waters are more popular with divers than fishing folk. As development is still fairly new on this side, a catch and release policy isn’t the rule across all the companies, so be sure to insist. This does, however, mean that, should you land a big one, many of the hotels are willing to cook them up for you afterwards.
We like Hamra Fort Hotel and Beach Resort has a boathouse on the Marina side (no entrance fee necessary), with four-hour fishing excursions at Dhs420 per person. Call Jean Marc on 050 487 6813050 487 6813.
Sport and big game fishing is still hugely popular right across the coastal areas of Abu Dhabi down to Jebel Dhanna. Fishermen usually head around 20 miles off the coast of the city and claim catches of boisterous kingfish, queenfish, trevally and cobia.
We like Arabian Divers and Sportfishing Charters, offer eight-hour charter trips for five people at Dhs4,700, focused on careful, sustainable fishing and a strict catch-and-release policy.
Over the border
Muscat’s teeming waters have not gone unnoticed. The Sinbad Classic is one of the region’s most celebrated fishing competitions, drawing sports fisherman from around the world in search of sailfish, dorado and Oman’s famous yellow-fin tuna.
With its tagline ‘sustainability through sport’, the event aims to raise local awareness of how big game and commercial fishing can work together without pillaging the seas. Strict catch-and-release policies,
a careful tagging system and dialogue with local fishing communities has pushed towards these goals in recent years. Last year, Sinbad organisers turned their sights on Fujairah to bring the three-day fishing fest to the east coast in 2009.
Keep an eye on the below websites to find out the dates for the 2010 installment of the competition.
For further details about the Muscat event, check out www.sinbadclassic.com. Also check out www.fujairahclassic.com for updates.