Night Fishing in the Desert

There are few things you’ll experience only once in your lifetime, and there are those that you suffer through willingly with some sacrifices each year. Going out in the middle of the night, suffering temperatures of 40 °C or higher and lugging around liters of water only to come out short after a grueling walk of several kilometers and coming back empty handed most nights. 

This is not everyone’s idea of “having fun”; especially if you’re targeting two of the most frustrating fish you can find inshore in the Middle East. That is what we go through in a typical summer night of chasing after these two kinds of sea bream. 

There are two sea bream we actively target year-round, most especially in the summer:

Acanthopagrus Randalli - the Middle East Black Sea Bream, or the Arabian Pikey as we call it, has very little data. It was officially recognized in 2009 and I can tell you this - even if you find them, they are not as easy to catch as their Australian cousins.

To date, I have only caught 12 in the 15 years I have been in the Middle East, and seven of those were caught by chance over the span of 12 years, and five in the last three years of actively chasing after them in the summer evenings.

Acantopagrus Arabicus, - The Arabian Yellowfin Sea Bream is another fish that we have very little data of – listed only in 2013- Has been more forgiving to us and we have found a bit more success with them than any other bream species we have in the Middle East. In fact, we have been quite successful with them that our catch ratio has been going up – still not an easy fish to catch by any measure, but we are certainly enjoying them more than the Arabian Pikey. 

Firstly, if you haven’t fished in temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius or higher, there are things you need to keep in mind – pack light, and when you think you have it, divide that by two. The bulk of what you carry with weight should be and will always be – water.

One or at the most two combos only; a few lures and some leader material, which would most likely be 4 lb (0.15 mm/ 2.0 kg) fluoro carbon – in my case, Sufix Invisiline®. A landing net with a long handle is mandatory. If you’re fishing with someone else, this could be shared between both of you; A headlamp helps a lot, a pair of good long nosed fishing pliers and lastly, a small backpack or hip bag to keep things organized. 

We are fishing in very difficult temperatures so you have to keep in mind that you can’t take lures that just sit in your box – if you take it, it has to be something you will use.

This is what I take with me:

-    7x 4 cm Rapala Ultra Light Rippin’ Raps®
-    3x 3cm Rapala Ultra Light Rippin’ Raps®
-    5x Rapala Ultra Light Cranks
-    (And if I still have space – three extra lures to experiment with when the bites are slow) 

The first thing that might come to mind is – why so many Ultra Light Rippin’ Raps? Because of the heat - you want to change your lures rather than fix them – these sea bream specialize in cracking the shells of crabs and clams – the hooks bend or break after two fish on average. Rather than wasting time in the heat trying to fix a bent or broken hook or worse, replace the hooks. I swap to fresh lures, which only takes me a few seconds to cut the line and tie a fresh knot. I don’t recommend using clips at the end of the leader because these fish have very keen eyesight and to catch them consistently – stealth is of the utmost importance. 

Long leaders are essential and long casts are needed to get to them especially when fishing long sand banks where you need to cover a lot of ground. I use 4 lb Sufix 832 for the abrasion resistance and Sufix Invisiline® for my leaders – both have not failed me over the years. 

The Ultra Light Rippin’ Raps are used mainly when the water is moving swiftly, fishing in the current is normal and they mostly feed when its going towards the low tide. We time our trips to this change in tide, usually arriving when the tide is rising. 

If you keep your eyes peeled while walking around likely spots, you can see them gathering in staging areas before they move into the banks – these are usually deeper depressions in and around a sandbank. The water around these areas are shallow when the tide is rising. This is usually the times when you can target them with the smaller 3cm Ultra Light Rippin’ Rap. 

The Rapala Ultra Light Crank is used in areas where there is a sudden drop close to these staging areas – they usually use these areas to travel from one staging area to the next. If you work this little crank bait parallel on the shallower side of the drop you will get some bone jarring strikes.

I often use a separate combo for this – although the rod might be similar to the rod I use for the Ultra Light Rippin’ Raps, the reel is what makes it different – it is a slow speed reel – instead of simulating some sort of baitfish, I think of working the Rapala Ultra Light Crank as a crab – so green, black and red are top in my color selection for this particular use.

The most successful evening we’ve had so far is 10 fish in one evening, five each per angler. Most evenings are a success when you have more than one fish or a fish each for everyone – which doesn't usually happen. When it does, the first drink of cold water when you get back to the car is nothing but bliss.

This is not everyone’s idea of “having fun”; most especially if you’re targeting two of the most frustrating fish you can find inshore in the Middle East. But knowing you have the lures that work best for these fish make you want to do it over and over again - suffering through the heat, the travel and the heckling from your friends when you lost all your fish because you forgot your landing net.