Fishing off Sakatia Island Madagascar

A wonderful piece of heaven on earth.

As our borders opened I had the opportunity to travel to Sakatia Island Madagascar for 2 months. Plane tickets booked, Covid-19 test done and I was off on my adventure. Arriving at Nose Be airport another Covid-19 test awaited me, as if we haven’t have had enough interruption in our lives.

I took a week to setup my local 9m outrigger boat for fishing. A 20hp Suzuki 4 stroke was fitted and everything checked.

Setting out on the first day brought back the joy of fishing in tropical waters under the African sun. The water was 29 degrees and crystal clear blue. We were 3 on board – 2 Malagasy crew Dadda and Donna and myself. Dadda and Donna are from the South West of the island and are from the Vezo tribe – known to be the best sailors and boating people on the main Island.

As we hit the 1000m drop off about 9 miles off Sakatia we set out our trolling lures. I used a 2 Lip lure deep divers and 2 surface stick baits. After we had just finished our setup our 2 reels began screaming, I grabbed a rod and Dadda the other rod. The fish peeled off the line and when I started gaining thats when all of a sudden, my hook slipped. I pulled and grabbed my spinning rod and casted in the direction where we hooked the fish in, while Dadda was still fighting his fish. After 3 turns and I was in again and then a 10min fight ensued and we managed to land 2 big King Mackerel.

We trolled for another hour in the deep with no success then we decided to return to the shallow part of the reef at about 15 m depth. The reef runs from 15 m to 1000 m in about 500 m. As we got to the shallows, we saw some fusiliers on the surface, we cast at these as kingfish love swimming under them. Dadda casted first but nothing followed his lure, as he picked his lure out of the water I saw a big black shape race in from the left – It was a nice size Wahoo. It raced past the boat and I immediately casted in the direction it swam and it was on within seconds. The line not only peeled off the reel but went sideways to the left at an incredible speed, as the Wahoo is one of the fastest fish in the ocean. After 20 min I landed another nice size Wahoo I’m incredibly lucky not to be bitten off. For our first day of fishing it was a big success with a few other species also landed. 

On our next few outings, we concentrated on slow jigging, this can be really rewarding as you catch other species from depths of 50 m to 200 m. In the hot sun it is hard work but Dadda had a way of catching all the fish and I could not work out if it was his action in retrieving the lure or the way he set the lure up. After many hours off hard work I changed my hook setup and immediately started getting fish. There is nothing like dropping you’re jig to 150 m and as you start retrieving all stops and your reel starts losing line. One off my best catches thats day was a Rosy Job fish of about 10kg and Dadda landed a nice brindle bass with a 2 fish on one jig. 

While jigging we always look at the ocean around us for activity. On one occasion Donna shouted Kimburie (Malagasy name for sailfish). A sailfish had moved in and was swimming on the surface looking for baitfish. I took my spinning rod and casted a stick bait towards him, he immediately followed the lure right to the boat. As he swam off I casted next to him and twitched the stick bait, he could not resist the temptation and went for my lure. The fish took off at such speed and on his first jump he bit through the lure as it is difficult to set the hook in their hard bills. During my stay I had 3 Sailfish hook-ups like this on one my nylon trace rubbed through on its course bill. 

Every day we set out I watched the local fisherman sailing or paddling out with their canoes. I am always fascinated by their skill, from building the boat to sailing it and on to catching fish. So after 3 weeks off fishing on my boat I decided to build myself a Lakana (Malagasy name for a outrigger canoe). I bought the special wood they use for boat building and some glue from the shops in Nose Be. We worked for 3 weeks to complete our 8m Sailing canoe. After a few tests in the bay it was time to head out to sea to follow the local fisherman. Setting out the morning we sailed out towards the drop-off completely reliant on the wind as we had no motor. No noise, no motor, no fuel, no worries. 

As we sailed over a reef my one rod goes off. I grab the rod as Donna dropped the sail. After a long fight I can see a brown shape under the boat, I pull hard to eventually see a 2,5 m shark that went for my lure. We were lucky to set the shark free and get our lure back. 

The wind was dropping before it starts turning so, we jigged a bit on a drop off. While jigging I see this big silver flash in the water. I take my spinning rod and cast in the direction thinking it could be a sailfish. As I retrieve, I see this big black body racing after my lure. Thinking it is a sailfish I slowed the stick bait down. A big mouth opens and grabbed the lure – It is a massive Wahoo. Unfortunately for me in slowing the lure down he bit past the lure and parted my nylon leader, It would have been my biggest Wahoo. 

We sailed back in the afternoon as the wind changed to push us back, what a wonderful experience, I would fish like this again soon. It is so much more part of nature than on a power boat. I realized that the local fisherman must look at all the big noisy fuel wasting boats and shake their heads. We got back to land safely and feeling content. Life can be simply enjoyed in a world where everything for some is a rush. 

Every time we caught a different species, we would cook it and try it as every specie has a different taste and way to prepare. Most food in Madagascar is prepared over a fire and so we did most of our fish like this. Food in Madagascar is probably some off the best in the world, they do not call it the spice Island for nothing. Fruit abounds with different tastes and you could spend your  time here just discovering and trying new food, flavours and tastes that are very different to South Africa. 

Sakatia is a wonderful Island to visit, it is definitely a holiday destination for the whole family. Out at sea you will see dolphins and whales, big manta rays swimming and lots of turtles. I even dived with a Whale Shark while he was feeding between bonito.  Snorkelling off the beach you can see all the colourful reef fish that make diving here so special. On the Island itself you can walk up into the hills and have unbelievable views of the sea and the beaches. A wonderful piece of heaven on earth.

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