This region is home to a spectacular array of sea life, including marlin, sailfish, bonito, yellowfin tuna and dorado, all of which you can catch for lunch. So we head to Fujairah with Soolyman Sportfishing to see if we can do just that.
Boarding the “Yellowfin” (a 38-foot ocean boat) at the Fujairah International Marine Club as the sun rises, we’re met by Kyle Carey, our captain for the day. Carey hails from South Africa and has been working the waters of the UAE for two years. In his opinion, Fujairah has some of the best fishing spots in the country, depending on the time of year you choose to go.
“The water is a lot deeper in Fujairah because it sits on the coast of the Gulf of Oman, and there are fewer nets and traps here,” he says, as we speed away from the marina. The best time for fishing in the emirate is from mid-May. Dubai, however, is better now, as the weather is cool and the water more shallow and just starting to warm up.
Out at sea, we encounter the reality of the UAE’s oil industry, as our boat sails past scores of enormous tankers, some of which our skipper says have been stationed offshore for months. While they may be an eyesore, they do provide shade and a breeding ground for many marine species. Fishing requires patience and know-how, so thankfully, we have Carey’s expertise as he guides us between the tankers and buoys. We move from spot to spot, casting out into the deep, indigo-hued sea and wait with anticipation for the line to dip.
Our first catch is without a doubt the most exciting and gets the adrenaline pumping. Reeling in the fish is hard work. Carey advises us to pull up the rod and then, when lowering it, begin to turn the reel.
After a bit of a tussle, we’re off the mark and bring home a beautiful electric blue female dorado, which Carey says is the “chicken of the sea” due to its tender meat and very few bones.
The feeling of the wind on our cheeks is exhilerating and the thrill of spending the day on the open water from the crack of dawn, with Fujairah’s mountains as the backdrop, is well worth it – even if we don’t catch anything.
In the UAE, the sport requires a permit, and each emirate has a different process for obtaining one. Dubai Municipality offers these free of charge (fishing without one can lead to fines), but tour operators will sort these out on your behalf.
Sadly, though, it’s not all fun and games. Issues in the sport arise from the overfishing of some species, such as the grouper and kingfish, which are under threat of extinction. Soolyman Sportfishing supports sustainable and responsible practices by tagging and releasing those that are endangered.
As our experience draws to a close, we return to the marina with a haul of six dorados and two rainbow runners – ample for a tasty grilled dinner on the beach.
With a box of fish ready to be filleted, we head up to RJJ’s – the German Peruvian restaurant at the top of Fujairah International Marine Club – where the chef cleans, seasons and cooks up our spoils, which are served with a generous portion of salad, rice and, of course, chips.
Trust us when we say that the fish will taste much sweeter when you know you’ve caught it yourself. And also when we tell you that after an experience on the open water, you’ll fall for fishing hook line and sinker.
From Dhs2,000 for five hours on a four-person boat. Fujairah International Marine Club, www.soolymansportfishing.com (050 886 6227050 886 6227).
Fsh to look out for
Commonly found in the UAE on coral reefs and offshore wrecks, this bright species feeds on smaller fish and crustaceans. Stocks of snapper in the UAE are plenty and larger ones can reach up to a metre long.
Two Bar Sea bream
A small, attractive fish with a distinctive two black stripes across its face and bright yellow fins, this species of bream is populous in the waters of the UAE. Its wide shape makes for good eating, too.
The UAE’s most popular fish is also one of the most endangered. Grouper is fished at more than seven times the sustainable level, with many young fish being pulled out too soon, so think twice before catching this species and reconsider ordering it at restaurants.