Before we begin, let me explain: I am a terrible fisherman. I have fished the canals of Britain and I know, for a fact, that if there’s an old boot or a supermarket trolley lurking down there, I’ll hook it. Venturing away from canals proves no better: I’ve nearly died of exposure on the Dover coast, almost drowned in a Cornish river and once, on a marlin expedition to Mauritius, inadvertently dragged a hammerhead shark onboard (much to the surprise of the skipper, who scrambled up onto the roof with a mild shriek and stayed there until the poor thing expired).
However, my best pal Peter has no such qualms. ‘Let’s go fishing,’ he says, quite suddenly, one afternoon over a cup of tea, and a few calls is all it takes to secure us a boat (you can fish from the shore in Dubai, but you need a licence, and the inevitable paperwork that goes with it). We choose a terrific vessel boasting nothing but the absolute necessities: seats, rods, a coolbox full of soft drinks and two of the biggest outboard engines I’ve ever seen (250hp each, making a whopping 500 horses strapped to the back: as I remember, the Lamborghini Countach only had 420). Oh, and of course a skipper, the awesome seadog Captain Rama, who looks as though he was born with a rod in his hand (‘actually, I’ve only been doing this for three years,’ he explains when we ask. I won’t lie – it’s a disappointment).
Capt’n, as we soon start to call him, shows us around the boat before firing up the engines, guiding us gently out of the Marina and blasting up along the Palm, then taking a hard left at Atlantis out towards the dark blue horizon. About 10 miles out, he cuts the gas and we bob gently on the ocean. Away from the continual noise of the city it’s a beautiful moment, immediately ruined by Peter, who has something on his mind. ‘Do you have sea snakes in Dubai?’ he asks suddenly. ‘No,’ I say, confidently. ‘Then what’s that?’ he demands, pointing at a huge sea snake swimming alongside our boat. Luckily, the creature soon gets bored of staring at us and, as the sun sets, we get down to the real business of fishing.
It soon becomes apparent that catching fish in Dubai is all too easy. As anyone who has ever owned a fish tank will attest, fish are basically stupid creatures with a penchant for miniature pirate ships and bubble-making machines. You don’t need much skill to bag them; put some food on a hook (two hooks to a rod, with squid the chosen bait of the day), drop it over the edge, wait until the rod bends over double, strike back, pull up a fish. Then Capt’n removes the hook, identifies it, re-baits the gear and the whole process is repeated.
In four hours we catch 30 fish, including barracuda (OK, it was small, but you should have seen its teeth!), sherry, hammour, and something that, no matter how many times we ask Capt’n to repeat himself, sounds exactly like ‘Papa Smurf’s Beard’ (later identified as Sultan Ibrahim). But it’s of little relevance; four hours rolling with the gentle tide alongside the glittering Dubai coastline is such an experience that the fish, frankly, take a remarkable second place. Which is just as well, because I’m sure I saw the dark outline of a hammerhead down there somewhere…
Xclusive Yachts runs all types of fishing trips on 37ft to 86ft vessels. Four-hour deep-sea fishing trips start from Dhs2,400. Call 04 432 723304 432 7233 or see www.xclusiveyachts.com.
Cooking your catch
What you’ll hook and how to cook it.
Sherry (Emperor fish): Bake with a dash of masala to disguise the catch’s distinct flavour.
Hammour (grouper): Grill this meaty fish with a spot of lemon juice and garlic.
Sultan Ibrahim (red mullet): Fry or barbecue this bad boy with cumin, salt, paprika and lemon juice.
Kingfish: Coat in flour, season and fry.
Cobia: Sauté with chilli, cinnamon, garlic and ginger.
Barracuda: Some say flush this boney specimen down the toilet, others say cut the dark bits off to avoid the fishy taste, then soak in milk and grill with teriyaki sauce.