«Blue Water & Blue
Fins in Blue Beirut»
it all Started
Blue Water & Blue Fins in Blue Beirut
Dive Hard with a vengeance!
Roger Y. Yazbeck
Thursday, November 18th., 1999
Makram calls in the
morning. Again, he wants the
two of us to spend the day together, hunting blue fins.
Since his short pneumatic gun with tiny double floppers, 15 meters of
rope and a boat fender, looked a bit inadequate to me, we decided Makram
would just drive the boat and spot the tuna.
Not that my one band Picasso Carbono 120cm speargun was the ultimate
weapon for such a quest, but it was the longest gun I had.
I also brought 2 threaded 6.5 mm. spears with one detachable head.
All I needed now was to get close enough for a solid shot. Later in the story, I'll describe all the equipment I used
that day and how it was rigged.
and I met at the Halat-Sur-Mer Marina around 11 am, loaded our gear on the
boat, and off we went.
sea was flat, calm, and deep blue. The sun showered it with a billion
diamonds and its surface barely wrinkled when a slight, north breeze blew.
It was just another perfect Lebanese day allowing us to see miles and miles
ahead. October and November are
my favourite months and autumn in Beirut is a season to write love songs.
had been heading out for less than 10 minutes, at 25 knots, when suddenly,
out of nowhere, the "happening"!!!! In a spectacle that would have
easily left Disneyland and Sea Worlds most elaborate water shows behind,
schools of small, friendly dolphins exploded all around us, in a 1000 ft
circle. Tailing, leading, and
escorting us, with 5 or 6 bunches of 4 to 5 dolphins each, pirouetting and
sometimes jumping 15 ft in the air... a dolphin fireworks show at its best.
We idled the engine so that we could stand and fully admire the
occurrence, as it lasted for over 20 minutes!
They just wouldn't leave us. We
were whistling at them and Makram would uncontrollably burst into joy.
I tried to stay "professionally" calm, but it was truly the
best dolphin show I had ever seen and I had the chills ... and to think,
only 10-minute boat-ride from Beirut!
species of waterfowl, mostly ducks and geese as well as skylarks by the
hundreds, were migrating, some flying at water level. Makram and I knew the
day was blessed. Something incredibly special was in the air.
We felt nothing could go wrong.
"Falcon Eyes", saw the birds first; dozens of seagulls in feeding
craze. The water was foaming
and white about a mile away. We
drove at maximum speed towards the boiling area and ... there they were.
At first, I thought it was dolphin until I saw
huge, black backs rolling over and one of them jumped 2 feet in the air!
A blue fin tuna! I still had the vision of the Pacific Blue and Yellow fins
zooming restlessly in the tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This was it!
The bait was all around us and we parked right in the middle.
Imagine, tuna rolling and jumping all around us.
I went in the water and Makram started releasing my orange float line
as I swam towards one of the feeding schools.
We were four miles off shore, and the depth was anywhere between 1200
and 5000 ft. The water was clear, but with plankton in suspension, the
visibility was no more than 50 ft. Thousands
of tiny scales and debris were all that was left of entire schools of
sardines. Large stingrays beat
their wings towards the surface from the deep, relishing the smell of lunch,
or possibly just out of curiosity.
From the size of the bait we saw, I knew
the tuna could not be really huge, since they were feeding on baby mackerel
and sardines no longer than 2 inches. I
didnt see any larger sardines or mackerel in the near vicinity.
dove down about 10 ft and looked straight ahead, towards a small, fleeing
school of sardines. Thats
when I saw the tunas zooming in on them from below
up they went... jumping after them repeatedly, and then rocketing
back down. There was no way I
could get any closer than the edge of visibility.
They would immediately flee downwards if they spied me.
tried sprinting down to 30 ft after them ... but it was an impossible task.
feeding frenzy was over. We
then followed seagulls to another spot.
Same vision. But this
time, I tried to stay calm and look for a bait ball that I could wait under,
but the bait wouldn't ball. It
was the classical fleeing and swimming fast, non-stop in various shapes.
They would sometimes form a sphere, a football, a giant carpet and
even a perpendicular column moving forward as fast as they could go.
Most of the time, they broke down into smaller numbers in tiny
schools, left at the mercy of hungry tuna.
heart was beating rapidly as I swam left and right, up and down, looking and
searching... then I would relax and dive down for an apnea of a minute to a
minute 10 sec., under whatever baits school I happened to cross.
Nothing. Time and time
again, I would go down to 30 ft and see yellowish, metallic blue, torpedo
away in a blaze; incredible and fascinating.
was exhausted, it seemed as if I was competing in an underwater hockey game.
that I decided to follow a new technique.
Whenever we spotted a feeding school, we would wait and note their
direction. Then we'd go in a large half circle, position the boat directly
opposite their probable path, and turn the engine off.
I would jump in the water only when I could see them surfaceand speed
right towards me. I would take
a deep breath and calmly swim down diagonally to 30 ft. I figured this would
be their natural move once they'd sensed my presence (as I had seen them
doing several times before).
thats what I did on my 3rd dive. Before
I saw bait or anything move in the water, I took a couple of deep breaths
and swam down. I had been hanging
there for about 15 seconds, when I saw the tuna coming straight at me.
Reaching my level, they took off. I
swam slowly towards the one that seemed to be closest, swung my gun up,
bringing it right underneath my body, and then shaking my right leg to make
sure the float line was far to my right and away from my body.
right hand tightly gripped the handle and the float line attached to the
shooting mono, in order to prevent its accidental release from the line
holder. I fought hard against
the urge to extend my arm and pull the trigger.
I just didn't want to fall in the "visual" error of
kept swimming towards them and realized that for the first time, I was
gaining distance. The fish were
probably curious. When I
dreamed of tuna before, I probably must have figured they would appear to me
as they appeared in one of those tuna posters or catalogue covers: crystal
clear water, with hundreds
of tuna suspended in the blue void, right in front of the camera!
Wrong picture here! It
was night blue, darkish water, terrible visibility, and one single tuna
finally in range.
I realized I wouldn't get any closer and my lungs were about to start
screaming for air, I extended my right arm, aimed
at the tunas head and fired.
didn't see the spear flying, nor did I see the hit. All I can remember is the orange nylon float line bowing and
disappearing into the night blue below.
swam up and barely had time to catch the float. It pulled, and I knew I had it!
the boat, Makram was jubilating as the line ripped out of his hands and he
threw in the float. As I
started fighting the fish, I raised my thumb in victory and he exploded.
"This is the best day of my life, the moment I've been dreaming
of for so long", he confessed to me shortly after landing the fish.
I was in awe at the force this 50 lb. tuna deployed!
It had twice the power and the endurance of a jack crevalle, the
strongest fighting fish I had ever shot before.
I knew what to expect though, since I had speared 8 lb. albacores and
bonitos in the past, and an 8 lb. albacore or bonito would fight stronger
than a 15 lb. amberjack.
my strategy worked. After a
short rest, contemplating my first blue fin, I prepared for yet another
same day, I pulled the trigger of my Picasso a total 4 times and landed 4
blue fins. Two weighed 47.5lb
each, one 50 lb., and one 52 lb. The last one zoomed down so fast, that I
was still hanging at 30 ft. when I saw my float pass by me and disappear in
seconds! I climbed back on the boat and we waited interminably long minutes.
Suddenly, we saw it popped straight out of the water like a scuba
float! The foam injected, large, plastic buoy was all battered, as if
hammered then run over. Another lesson learned; even when hunting small
2 or 3 foam injected buoys are a must, unless youre using a
his cell phone, Makram called his friends, and then I called mine.
By the time we arrived back at the marina, all of our friends were
there to greet us and get a glimpse of the tuna.
We were able to take some great pictures.
was quite an event in Lebanon. All
the professional fishermen who saw the fish admitted to me it was the first
time theyd ever seen anything quite like it.
These were men who had never heard of blue water hunting before.
Equipment used and
the way I set it up:
A single band Picasso Carbono 120 cm speargun (Jose Amengual's Black
Line) equipped with a 6.5 mm. threaded spear and a detachable head, made by
a local manufacturer in Los Angeles.
A 200 lb. test Picasso mono for the shooting line. I made it to shoot
exactly as a blue water gun; instead of the regular 5 lengths, I added an
extra 6th length, which went all the way back to the handle and crimped it
as a 2" Ų loop which I could easily clip on and off the float line. I
then I triple hooked an elastic string in order to attach the end of that
line to the line release holding pin, and the two side "crocodile
mouth" holders. It was a
solid and reliable setup, as it never slipped-off in spite of the tension.
the float line was the cheapest nylon for every day use in
construction. I bought the 165
ft at $1.30 per lb. It came to $5.50.
the float is the large "Baywatch" style orange buoy,
injected with anti-compression foam. Luckily,
I have 3 of these now, of which only 2 are injected. But on my next trip to
Lebanon, you can be sure I'll use all three!
(a) Wetsuit: 3 MM. Hombra Termic
(b) long blade fins Picasso BT-II Carbonium (c) Picasso «Sombra»
tinted glass mask