December 19th, 1995 I was standing in line at Houston Intercontinental Airport waiting to board a flight to London, England. From there I would catch another flight to Lagos, Nigeria in Africa. I was anxious get this trip underway so that I could visit my parents who live in Lagos and also experience some of the offshore fishing that my dad had been telling me about.
My luggage was checked in and the only thing left was a ten hour flight to London, a six hour layover there, and finally a seven hour flight across the Sahara Desert to Lagos located on the Ivory Coast. Speaking of luggage, I had two suit cases full of items that my parents have a hard time getting. Everything from Velveeta cheese to stick spray-n-wash to flour and corn tortillas. Also, I hand carried a couple boxes of offshore fishing tackle that my dad had requested. This was a special delivery that I planned to guard with my life because tackle is hard to come by there also.
Well twenty six long hours later I was standing in the living room of their high rise flat. Their flat was about a mile from the coast and I could easily see the Gulf of Guinea/ Atlantic Ocean from the balcony. Looking out I also took in the surrounding homes, people, and their culture. Certainly looking around quickly gave me a new look on life.
I visited with my parents and sisters a while and then was knocked out by jet lag. It has been three years since I have traveled this far and I had long since forgotten my routine when flying these great distances that would keep me from having jet lag so bad once off the plane. My parents used to live in Sumatra, Indonesia which was actually a ways further than Lagos. Nevertheless, this was my first time to Lagos and it felt like my first time on a long trip and I slept way into the next day.
A couple of days later I had finally gotten adjusted to the time change and was ready to fish. My dad and I fished or hunted together every weekend when I was growing up. The only thing that kept us from making a trip on the weekend was one of my little league games. However, with his overseas assignments and me growing up we have not had the opportunities that we once had to spend time together outdoors. So nowadays any trip we make is special and we were both looking forward to a few days of offshore fishing.
We left early on the 27th to go down to the boat. Lucky, the Nigerian captain, was waiting for us with the twin 250 horsepower Yamahas warming up on the back of a 28 foot Boston Whaler CC. My dad had told me the boat was awesome and was he ever right. Edwin, the security guard, also accompanied us and helped us get our gear on board.
We left out of Lagos at about 7:30 am and headed for a GPS coordinate where they had previously caught some barracuda, wahoo, dorado, and an occasional marlin. Off of the Ivory Coast there is a shelf that they call the drop. The water from the mainland gradually drops for about twenty miles to six hundred feet deep then drops according to a topography map to seven to nine thousand feet. On this break or drop is where big marlin and sailfish roam and various other fish congregate on the trashline which is usually, under normal conditions, in the same vicinity. The GPS coordinate we had were a certain draw in the drop called the Hole.
We headed out of the harbor, down the ship channel, and through the jetties. The place was similar to Freeport in a way if you have ever gone offsore from there. As soon as we had gotten passed the jetties Dad and I started rigging rods and setting up, we had about an hour before we arrived. The seas were calm, three to four foot rollers maybe twenty five to thirty yards apart.
As we neared the drop we came upon the trash line first. Lucky slowed and paralleled the trashline as Dad and I let out the baits to troll. Way out back we had a bait called a Bird that trailed a big marlin plug. Also at about the same distance we had two other big blunt headed marlin baits. The marlin baits were trolled on heavy tuna sticks with Penn 50’s spooled with eighty pound test. Closer to the boat we had three one ounce feather jigs trolled on seven foot spinning rods spooled with twenty five pound test.
It wasn’t long before we Dad and I had a double hook up on two of the spinning rods.
We both had our hands full for three or four minutes until we got each of our fish to the boat. We had double on blue fin tuna that weighed six or seven pounds each and really put up a powerful fight. Lucky got us back up to trolling speed and we went back at it eagerly awaiting another hookup. It was not long and I had a hookup on my spinning rod, this fish was stronger than the tuna and it ran out about fifty yards of line before I could ever turn it. The water was sky blue and when the fish neared the boat we could see it probably thirty or forty feet deep. It looked like a barracuda or kingfish but when I finally got it close enough we could easily tell that it was about a twelve to fifteen pound wahoo.
We fished the trashline and drop area until around noon catching tuna, wahoo, and dorado. Lucky, with his eagle eyes spotted a ship that was anchored just on the horizon and suggested that we go and troll by it. Dad and I reeled in the baits and Lucky hammered down toward the ship barely visible in the horizon. About fifteen minutes later we approached the ship and let the baits out to troll by it. It was a tanker from South America waiting to head into the harbor and unload. We trolled right by the ship and one of the big rods had a strike and the drag screamed as line was stripping from the reel. I moved toward the rod fastening my fighting belt and hooked the clips to the reel and positioned the rod in the holster on my belt. Lucky had turned the boat to my side as the fish had run way out on the port side. Dad reeled in all of the other rods and I went to work. The fish did not take much more line after the initial run on the strike but was easily holding his ground somewhere about a hundred yards away. I pumped the rod and reeled over and over until my arms were burning. About ten minutes later we could see a silvery looking fish below the boat. I worked the fish up to the boat and Dad and Lucky gaffed the fish and boated it. It was a thirty pound barracuda. I was exhausted from the quick battle and wondered how I would fare if I ever hooked a marlin that might fight for a couple of hours.
We made several more passes by the ship and caught some tuna and Dad caught a big dorado that weighed about twenty five pounds or so. We fished until four pm and headed back for Lagos. In the coolers we had tuna, wahoo, dorado, and the barracuda. We had an action packed day of offshore fishing that was the first of several days that we would be able to fish while I was there. Lucky proved to be a savvy offshore captain and I am sure my Dad will continue to rely on his knowledge of the waters there.
On another day we were out we actually had a marlin hookup. Lucky estimated the fish to be around two hundred and fifty pounds. The fish hit and got airborne and then ripped line for about forty five seconds and then just came off, but that’s just fishing.
Overall I had a very enjoyable trip and hope to go back this summer or sometime next Fall. It is always interesting to visit another country and see how the people live and what they do each day. Going some place far off and having the opportunity to fish with my dad for some kind of fish is always a real adventure.
Bill Cannan Professional Fishing Guide
– Texas Saltwater Fishing Guide