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(2011) ”I told you, I told you”, shouts Charlie. ”I knew I could get it to take the bait in daylight – if we just fish deep enough!”01 gibraltar 20220210 1249787495

Sweat is pouring down my face, even though it is late October – it’s a balmy 24 degrees, with the sun beating down on us from a clear blue sky. I am in the process of pumping a heavy fish up from the deep, 60 meters to be precise. Only a few minutes ago I put a live squid on the hook, and lowered it to the bottom, near a steep shelf, and now the battle is on.

Well, it takes time to wrestle a big fish 60 meters up through the water, especially when the beast is struggling to get back down; but after a while I glimpse something deep down in the clear water - a writhing lump takes form slowly, and the beast from the deep is actually the fish Charlie targeted: conger eel – and it is BIG !

The place is the Strait of Gibraltar, only a couple of hundred meters from Gibraltar itself. This narrow stretch of water separates Europe and Africa, as well as the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean Sea.

The Gibraltar peninsula is a very small overseas, self-governing territory, which has been under British rule since 1713, and has through the years been of very strategic military value to the United Kingdom. Today, I believe the military importance has turned to more monetary value, as Gibraltar is a tax free area.

Besides the obvious attraction to shoppers, Gibraltar is probably best known for its marauding and thieving gangs of Barbary apes.

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Fishing from the detached mole
I better start from the beginning, and I will get back to the conger eventually. I was invited to Gibraltar by a good British friend, named Graham, who picked me up at the cozy little airport situated in a kind of no-man’s-land between the rock itself and the Spanish border. Graham and local tackle shop owner Bernard had made a program for me, for each day of my visit, to try and get the best of what fishing they could offer.

First day was fishing from the detached mole in the harbor itself, where ships in custody are moored. This is not a place, where just anyone is allowed to fish, so besides from having two of Gibraltar’s coast fishing experts, Dario and Charlie Carreras, to help us catch something, we also had permission to fish there via them.

Early morning, we were picked up at the luxurious marina at Ocean Village. Even though the sun had not risen yet, everything was lit up like a festival from the lights of the city and the enormous cruise ships.

In the morning twilight, before the sun was visible on the horizon, we stalked the intelligent white seabream with Dario. To lure this shy, little fish we used live baby crab on a very small hook and ultra-thin line, and even then the fish were extremely wary about taking the offer. We could see the fish tucked in along the pier, and obviously they could see us, so the job was extremely difficult, and extremely exciting. We all got our seabream, and I even got a seabass, which put up a helluva a fight on the light tackle.

At the point of the mole, Charlie had set up basecamp, and with superior technique and quality baits, he showed us how to catch many different fish species, along with a few octopus. His great experience and skill in this kind of fishing has made him a well known figure at the European championships in sea/coast fishing.39b gibraltar 20220213 1394520576

The baits themselves and how they were used, was something entirely new to me; live hermit crab, knocked out of their shells with a hammer, and live venus clams, hooked in the soft meat, but with the shells still on. On these babies we caught various species of seabream, horse mackerel, wrasses and the occasional ink-spurting octopus.

The water was crystal clear, revealing thousands and thousands of fish in the surface water, mostly consisting of scad, mackerel and mullets. They have four mullet species at Gibraltar: golden grey, thicklipped grey, thinlipped grey and flathead. We tried to catch them all, but managed to get thinlipped and thicklipped on a specially designed floating crust rig with several hooks.

I worked my butt off, running around trying to catch this and that species, plus photographing all the different species from all angles – it was frantic and crazy, but I love it.

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Boatfishing in the strait
On the second day we were invited by the famous sea angler, Charlie Lara, to fish from his boat in the Gibraltar Strait. Graham and I were especially excited as we had good reports from Bernard that the strait was full of bonito, and his son had caught a 9 kg specimen the day before.

First order of the day was getting live bait. In the morning darkness, Charlie drove the boat right up to the security fence around the battleships moored in the southern end of the harbor. Here we cast with sabikis and caught many small horse mackerel, apparently the preferred food for bonito, and I even got a squid, which later proved an awesome bonus.

Speeding out in to the sunrise we scouted for bonito chasing prey in the surface. It was a divine morning with dolphins jumping in front of the warm orange and yellow colors of the sunrise, and every now and again we saw flyingfish gliding inches above the surface, and seagulls dive attacking on mackerel shoals.48b gibraltar 20220213 1488872974

It didn’t take Charlie long to locate bonitos hunting, and we quickly got our live baits out behind the boat. Few seconds passed before the baits were hit, and both Graham and I were engaged in fierce fighting with these rocket fish. Similar to sailfish fights, but a much smaller fish, the bonito gives you a damned good fight for its size.

Charlie didn’t waste time, so after we had a few 2-4 kg bonito between us, he changed position to try and get some other species near a steep slope, which drops almost vertically from 20 to 60 meters. We fished with fish bait on the bottom for anything, and we got some moray eels fairly quickly. These aggressive beasts must be a dentist’s dream; mouths full of sharp, pointy teeth, and they certainly don’t mind using them.

The current changed dramatically, and Charlie was struggling to find anchorage for about half an hour, but once the currents stabilized, he put right on the slope. Charlie believed it was time to use our secret weapon, the squid. It was still alive, very enticing, and so thought the big eel, which swallowed it only minutes later. The conger is a typical night warrior, both a hunter and a scavenger, but Charlie knew that we could get one in daytime if we just fished deep enough. What you can never know, of course, is which size fish will take the bait, and here I was very lucky; It weighed no less than 15 kg, nearly as long as me, and a devil to hold up for a reasonable photo.

We packed up after this – we had had an incredible day with lots of new, great impressions and tons of photos to go through.That night Graham prepared a bonito for dinner, which was enjoyed in his apartment along with his lovely family.

Will I be back?
You bet !!! Can’t wait !!! Next summer I will try and get some bluefin tuna together with Graham and Bernard, and possibly some of the big dentex seabream, which grow to over 15 kg.

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