St Lucia is known for its Ragged Tooth Sharks in the December months and a couple of my friends and I booked a trip down to the coast with only one goal in mind – to catch raggies! Due to unfortunate events only Heinrich van Heerden and myself went through alone for the first 3days with my fiancé Karen, Arista Bothma and Maartin Smit to follow later in the week.
Like always – our first stop in St. Lucia is at the tackle shop with a bunch of questions…
Sea conditions? What’s the fishing like? Any sharks? Are the shads biting? How are the charter boats doing and also what the weather was like the last week – All to give us a clearer picture of what to expect. Unfortunately there was not a lot of shad currently and there were also no one targeting sharks, so we didn’t have much of a reference and had to go and do the dirty work ourselves… Not that we mind at all!
After our 6hour drive from Pretoria, we just dropped our bags, grab our rods and made our way to the beach to see what goes bump in the night. With a freezer full of 1kg yellowtails for bait, we only took 2 baits down to test the waters. Within 10min the one rod started screaming for attention. Heinrich was up first as he is new in this epic game and has never caught a shark before.
I find it much easier to tail grab the shark in the first wave when we put a sliding glow stick on the line after the hook up to see where exactly the shark is in the pitch dark. But this time things went a bit south when i grabbed the leader with both hands and the leader knot broke…#¥%€!!! Trying to land the tired raggie with only the leader line to hold on took just about a miracle. I shouted at Heinrich to put down the rod and come and help me to take over the leader line so that I could get to the tail before the raggie realizes that if it only takes 3 more meter it would be free.
Holding on for dear life and almost drowning myself in the first wave, we managed to land Heinrich’s first raggies just under the hour mark with an estimated weight of 173kg(according to ORI precaudal length)
The next day we casted our arms off during the day trying to catch shad on lures but with no success. Not even the fishermen using bait didn’t have any luck with the shad with only 1 or 2 under size shads that came out with the odd wave garrick. Normally if the shad are thick and plentiful the sharks are too but not the case this time. Our second night on the beach turned out successful yet again as I landed my first raggie of the trip of 193kg causing Heinrich to be in a bit of a struggle grabbing the tail for the first time. With 2 more pick-ups within the next hour – the sharks got the better of us with one burning the line off and the other managed to grind through the 150lbs trace even though we were using massive circle hooks.
The next night started off with a bang as I was still sliding in the yellowtail head as the smallest raggie of the trip decided to come and fetch the bait in the second wave.
He didn’t make it much easier as the other sharks as he made Heinrich struggle yet again as he galloped like a pony in the first wave trying to stay away from the sharp side and grab the raggie by its tail.
This one measured to an estimated weight of 168kg – not a baby but not the 200kg+ monster that I was hoping for again. The night ended with 3 more fish that were lost with one not getting a proper hook up and the other 2 grinded through the 150lbs trace. Lesson learned…and bought 200lbs trace that very next morning. But the problem was that with the circle hooks – the fish needs to swallow the bait and swim away from the you so that you can slowly tighten the drag to set the hook in the corner of the mouth.
But most of the raggies didn’t swim away after the pick-up but rather stay in one spot and swallow the bait and start grinding through the trace. As soon as you see or feel any activity you just lightly jig with the rod and that normally would send the raggie storming off to set the hook.
We were finally joined with my fiancé Karen and our other friends for the remaining part of the trip.
With raggies on the bite we didn’t waste any time to get lines in the water to get Maartin hooked up and sweating. It didn’t take long, within 30min he was on with his first ever raggie. After a long hard fight the raggie was finally on the beach and tipped the estimated scale to an impressive 187kg. With all the guys having caught there first raggies, it was the girls turn the next night to be at the end of a screaming reel.
Karen was up first and was hooked up to probably the biggest fish that kept her busy for more than an hour running up and down the beach fighting it like a pro. But unfortunately after an exhausting fight the line broke with the fish right in the first wave just before i could get to the leader. We were still walking back to the starting point of the fight with disappointment when the other rod were almost pulled flat – this time it was Arista’s turn for a workout.
Maartin assisted where he could and gave advice throughout the well fought fight. With everything holding up and working together Arista also landed her first raggie of 173kg.
Just to finish the trip off in style – we all went on the fishing charter “Advantage” to target dorado that have been fairly abundant the last few weeks and managed to catch 10 of these acrobatic beauties. The girls did extremely well there first time out to sea in the rough conditions and each caught their own dorado. The perfect ending to a perfect trip with amazing friends and memorable moments that will last forever!
Ps. Couples that fish together…stay together!