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G.J. Santhosh reels in the day’s catch.  Photo: Sudha Pillai
G.J. Santhosh reels in the day’s catch. Photo: Sudha Pillai

A date with king mac

Discovering deep-sea sport fishing off the coast of Chennai

I suffer from seasickness but I couldn’t resist a deep-sea sport fishing experience off the coast of Chennai. The journey began at the port where the 117-year-old Madras Royal Yacht Club, the ratifying authority for deep-sea fishing jaunts, is located.

Sport fishing is different from regular fishing. In the fathomless waters, you are angling for big game fish—tuna, swordfish, even sharks. The fish are jousters and sea-smart, so tackling a challenger needs not just strong arms but also strategy and patience. The ideal time for fishing in the open seas is early morning—since it’s cooler, fish are closer to the surface.

G.J. Santosh, founder of Blue Waters Deep Sea Sport Fishing and a former national-level swimmer, offers 2-, 4- and 8-hour fishing packages, even for novices. But he, for one, doesn’t just get enthusiasts looking for a weekend breaks; serious anglers from Finland, the UK and Europe are regular customers.

I boarded the 24ft-long Sea Rocket, a powerboat, early on a Saturday morning. There were five of us, including the boatmaster. Along with fishing gear, we had packed sandwiches, beer, juice and the all-important trash bag—littering the ocean is strictly prohibited.

Five nautical miles from the coast —a two-and-a-half-hour ride—lies a natural reef where the ocean depth increases from 70ft to 250ft. The reefs are populated with small fish which are food for the big fish, so they are a good place to trawl. Two lines were dropped, one for the fish way down and the other for those swimming shallow. The boat moved ahead, the lines trailing behind.

The 7kg king mackerel that was caught. Photo: Sudha Pillai
The 7kg king mackerel that was caught. Photo: Sudha Pillai

When it comes to deep-sea fishing, the sound of the sea can be conversation enough. Silence is embraced, contemplation is the norm, and napping is habitual. It can take hours before you feel a tug on the line. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long.

A king mackerel had taken the red and white fish-shaped bait (we weren’t using live fish) and it was no pushover. These fishes typically weigh 5-14kg, but can exceed 40kg. This one tried to get under the boat to boost its chances of escape, since this would make it more difficult to reel in the line. The boatmaster trawled skilfully, and the fish was reeled in. It was more than a foot long and weighed 7kg.

Unlike hunting, where “sport" would translate into killing an animal, in the ocean it means letting go of the catch. A fish remains alive for less than 3 minutes out of water but you can revive it by holding it under water before letting go. The hooks embedded in the fish’s mouth dissolve.

Being in the middle of the ocean can be both calming and transcendental. Until the tango begins in the pit of the stomach.

Other deep-sea sport fishing hot spots in India

■ Explore deep-sea fishing in Goa with Goayacht.com

■ Head to Kochi for fishing adventures with Hobbydrome.com

■ Try island hopping and deep- sea fishing in the Andaman islands with Andamanseagamefishing.com

■ You can also try your hand at fishing off the coast of Mumbai with Kraigjarvisfishingclub.com

Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros.

Sudha Pillai tweets at @Sudhapillai.

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