Black Musselcraker Tag and Release

This species is under severe threat and anglers are encouraged to release them whenever possible. Please limit your catch as against catching your limit so that our children’s children can also catch these fish one day.

For as long as I can remember the Black Musselcracker or Poenskop has been at the top of my species bucket list whilst fishing from my jetski. Having caught these incredible fish from the boat I knew that this wasn’t going to be the easiest task.

Black musselcracker / Poenskop (Cymatoceps nasutus) are endemic, slow growing, long-lived fish making them extremely vulnerable to fishing pressure. Although recent analyses seem to indicate that the stock is optimally exploited, considerable uncertainty remains. Black musselcracker are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They are found along the South African coast from Western Cape to KwaZulu-Natal. After consulting with local experts, we decided to do a tag and release mission deep into the Transkei (For the sake of preserving this magnificent species I will not disclose the exact location).

Prepping for the trip was done 2 months in advance to make sure we had all the best tackle available to target these giants. When fishing off the Kwazulu-Natal coastline we usually target the Poensies at depths between 40m and 80m but in the Eastern Cape they can be found from as shallow as 10m. Due to the rocky structure that these fish inhabit we decided to take out the big guns. We rigged up the Shimano Stella 20000 with 100lb braid and 120lb Sportex Big Game leader. This leader is the best on the market which is why most commercial line fisherman use it as their leader of choice. For the sake of safely releasing the fish we rigged up with BKK circle hooks.

We packed up the Yamaha 2021 Waverunners and excitedly headed for our destination. On arrival we quickly unpacked and got ready to launch. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t playing the game and we had to wait for the second day before launching. On the second day we were up at sunrise and managed to get through the gnarly Transkei surf with relative ease. Once on the backline we proceeded to catch some live bait and then headed off to our first spot. We were supposed to be fishing alongside a local boat angler, but he was unable to launch due to engine troubles. This meant that we didn’t have any reef coordinates at our disposal. After trying for an hour or two we decided to blindly ride into the deep and use our trusty Lowrance sounders to find some suitable reef structure. After a couple of hours of searching we finally found some promising structure.

I excitedly dropped my bait to the bottom and within minutes I had that tell tail hard bump on my line and then I was suddenly “tight”!! My reel screamed off and the rod was bouncing with every head shake of the fish. Then all of a sudden as quickly as I was tight the line went limp and I reeled up an empty hook. I was devastated but quickly got another bait down on the mark. Whilst trying to temp another fish my mate landed a small one in the region of 10kg. After a quick pic the fish was tagged, revived and safely released to fight another day. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got another bite. This time the fish was much bigger, and it manhandled me despite the heavy tackle we were using. This fish nodded and peeled line like it didn’t even know it was hooked. After an adrenalin-filled few minutes I was able to get this beauty to the surface. This was however where the trouble started. Jetskis are not the most spacious of watercraft so getting a giant fish on board requires some serious skills. Due to the nature of our trip I could not use the gaff, so I had to handline this beast on to the back of the ski. Once on board I unhooked it and placed it into my Tubby so that I could insert the tag and safely release it. Well this fish had other ideas and when I tried to lift it, it gave a couple of strong kicks and managed to free itself by wriggling out my hands and landing back in the water. As disappointed as I was, I was happy to see it swimming off safely. That wrapped up our first day on the water and gave us hope that we would be able to get some PB fish during our stay.

Over the next few days, we were able to land, tag and then safely release 5 of these beautiful creatures. Unfortunately, none of them were the giants we were after but if you have ever caught a black musselcracker you will know how strong they are regardless of size.

This species is under severe threat and anglers are encouraged to release them whenever possible. Please limit your catch as against catching your limit so that our children’s children can also catch these fish one day.

Share this article

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Related Articles