The Shelly Beach Ski-Boat Festival is one of the country’s premier winter gamefish competitions in terms of total prize value and this year’s event which was hosted at Shelly Beach Ski-Boat Club last week was well supported by the angling community.
During this competition, which took place from Wednesday to Saturday, the fleet consisted of 46 boats and 151 anglers. The main prize was a pair of brand new Mercury 150Hp four stroke outboard motors worth R400,000, set aside for the heaviest overall gamefish by the competition’s loyal sponsor Mercury Marine.
The past few years have seen a battle between a big yellowfin tuna, king mackerel or amberjack for heaviest species and this year was no exception with these species being the common target species.
Several generous contributions from the long list of sponsors certainly made the week’s fishing worthwhile, and combined with the independent “Calcutta” or “Skins” system giving an added incentive to boats for a daily cash prize of R11,000 for the heaviest gamefish per day.
The week’s weather was magnificent for the full duration of the competition with safe launching conditions at all of the launch sites from Port Edward through to Durban.
The first day’s fishing proved to be quieter than expected despite all of the sardine activity around and this was reflected at the scales at the close of the day with numerous mid-sized yellowfin being weighed.
Towards the close of the weigh-in the team from last year’s winning boat “Bliksem” brought in a good haul of tuna with the largest being Margate drifter Brendan Puren’s 22.7kg specimen, which held on as Day One’s heaviest fish.
Another remarkable catch for Day One was Natal Under-16 Junior angler Dylan Westoby, who brought in a very respectable yellowfin tuna of 20.7kg, which set the bar high for other juniors to beat.
Day Two promised better results as the teams dialled in on the conditions and reports came in of better fishing than the previous day and there was hope for more species at the weigh-in.
The boats who ran deep in search of big yellowfin were having a slow time and the only reports of catches were inshore on Protea Banks and north at Hibberdene.
At scales, it was another batch of yellowfin tuna that again dominated the fish weighed. Notable fish for Day Two were Trevor Mosley’s 22kg yellowfin tuna caught on “Hooker” and Gert Krugell’s 22.5kg tuna caught on “Pokerface” that came out ahead of the pack.
Young Pietie Bodenstein on “Bliksem” caught a lovely 14.8kg dorado that added some variety at the scales, also an impressive fish for a junior of nine years old.
However, the stand out catch of Day Two was the massive 37.8kg amberjack caught by 13-year-old Greg Botha on his dad’s boat “Watt4” which jumped him into top spot overall. This was an outstanding catch that had many teams rethinking their game plans to try and chase down this trophy fish.
Day Three dawned with flat seas and again the teams launched to find the prolific yellowfin shoals that were providing non-stop action in the deep off Shelly Beach.
Many boats caught mid-sized tuna for the day and no stand-out fish were weighed. There was a noticeable lack of fish from outlying areas such as Aliwal Shoal and Port Edward which is unusual for this time of year.
The best fish of the day went to Sean Hewitt on Carl Gutzeit’s boat “Sea-Fishient” with his 22.5kg tuna amongst an excellent bag of fish for the day. Again, the boats that persevered in the deep looking for large yellowfin tuna came home empty handed.
The weather for the last day was very favourable, and a shorter day – with scales closing at 4pm – meant that teams had less time to find the winning fish.
By this stage of the competition, most of the anglers had settled for the fact that their best chance of being in the top 10 prizes was to chase yellowfin tuna where a fish over 23kg would almost certainly be in the top five.
A few teams went after large amberjack in the hope of beating Botha’s 37.8kg specimen. By mid-morning there was talk over the radios of a massive yellowfin tuna out in the deep and shortly before mid-day a picture started to do the rounds on WhatsApp and got everyone talking.
There was a BIG tuna on the boat “Must Byt 5” who had been working beyond the 2000m contour more than 35km out to sea. It looked to be a massive specimen and estimates were that it would weigh in excess of 70kg, more than enough to take top spot.
Many boats pushed till the last minute to try and find big fish to round out the top 10 and by the time scales opened, there was a buzz in the tent in anticipation of the arrival of the monster tuna.
Several teams weighed their fish and many better sized yellowfin were brought in, with six of these fish making it into the overall top 10 placings. The biggest of these six was caught on the boat “Haraka” by Mark Arnold and weighed in at 23.6kg.
In the race for the junior anglers, 10-year-old Conrad Viljoen, son of last year’s winner Lourens Viljoen, weighed a solid 22.6kg yellowfin tuna, which was matched by the current leader Botha on “Watt4”.
As the time ticked away, the crowd grew in anticipation of the arrival of the big tuna and at 15.55, everyone got what they had waited for – a huge yellowfin tuna, caught by Pieter Aslett on Mike Schneider’s “Must Byt 5” in the deep.
This is a phenomenal specimen for these waters and the four days of effort put in to target this one fish paid off handsomely as this fish pulled the scales to 79.2kg.
At the prize-giving on Saturday evening, a good sized crowd gathered to appreciate the top placed anglers. Prize-giving went very well with overall placings going to Botha’s 37.8kg amberjack (second overall), Arnold’s 23.6kg tuna (third overall), Viljoen (Top Junior) and Chloe Kidd (Top Lady).
Emerging as overall winners, the team on “Must Byt 5” celebrated Aslett’s superb tuna of 79.2kg, one of the biggest in the history of the competition, which earned them the pair of Mercury 150Hp outboard motors as the top team for 2018.
Photos by Justin Klusener Photography