Big Game Fishing on the East African Coastline

Some of the most exhilarating and challenging deep-sea fishing is available in the blue waters of Shimoni. But you have a better chance of catching a Striped Marlin from the Pemba Channel than anywhere else in the world. Traditionally when the Kaskazi (north east monsoon) blows, the billfish arrive in great numbers. There are two very definite seasons, the Yellowfin Tuna season, which runs from August through to the end of October, and the Marlin season, which runs from December to mid March.

The different types of fish and their seasons throughout the year.


The Pemba channel provides us with six species of billfish including Black, Blue and Striped Marlin, Sailfish, Broadbill Swordfish and the elusive Shortbill Spearfish, so your chances of catching a grand slam (1 each of any 3 billfish in one day) are very high and real.

Striped Marlin:

Striped Marlins are the most prolific of the Marlin and they seasonally migrate through the natural corridor that lies between Pemba Island and the mainland. The Striped Marlin is well known for its fighting ability and is renowned for its speed and acrobatic displays. It has a reputation for spending more time in the air than in the water just after it is hooked. In addition to long runs and tail walks, it will ‘greyhound’ across the surface, making a dozen or more long, graceful leaps. Compared to a Blue or a Black it is considerably more slender and is the most colourful of all Marlin. Just before striking or when the Striped Marlin is annoyed, fourteen iridescent blue lines spark up the Marlin’s body. It is one of those must see moments – a Striped Marlin lighting up to strike one of your baits.

The Striped Marlin fishing Season: – The prime Marlin season runs from mid November to end of March. In March it would seem that the fish are much larger than average.

Black Marlin:

A highly rated game fish, the Black Marlin has the power, size and persistence of which anglers dream! This Marlin has tremendous power, and is known for its long runs and tail walking. Black Marlins in Kenyan waters are generally larger than the other Marlin and have short, heavy bodies with the fins virtually locked in position. The Black Marlin is noted as a violent feeder at the top of the food chain and feeds on other game fish and small baitfish.

The Black Marlin fishing Season: – During August to the end of October, large Blacks can be found amongst the Tuna. The prime Marlin season runs from mid November to end of March.

Blue Marlin:

The Blue Marlin is the largest of the Marlin family. It is a more streamlined version of the Black Marlin. It has along slender bill extending up to a virtual point on the top of the head where the dorsal fin slants, resulting in a huge speed take off compared to other Marlin. The Blue is a powerful aggressive fighter, known for its impressive athletic abilities on the surface, clearing the water time and time again. They run hard and long, and leap high into the air in a seemingly inexhaustible display of strength, although they are prone to going deep to conserve their energy.

The Blue Marlin Fishing Season: – During August to end October large Blue Marlins can be found amongst the Tuna. Blues and Blacks follow, and gorge on, the shoals of Yellow fin Tuna at this time of the year and are usually fatter than later in the season.


Broadbill (Xiphias gladius) is known as the ‘Gladiator of the Sea’ due to its reputation of being the toughest of all the billfish with a violent mood, and is considered by many to be the toughest of all billfish to catch – the ultimate challenge in big game fishing. Characteristically, it has a smooth, very broad, flattened sword (broadbill) that is significantly longer and wider than the bill of any other billfish. It has considerable big blue eyes, and is a ferocious night feeder. They are deep-water predators and are known to go to depths of at least 550m. They are finicky, easily frightened and rarely strike blindly. The Pemba Channel is perhaps one of the premier destinations for Broadbill fishing. Broadbill fishing is conducted at night.

Broadbill Fishing Season:: – All year but best in October, November and March when the seas are very calm. December before the wind goes round to the northeast can also be an excellent time for Broadbill fishing.


The Sailfish is one of the most colourful game fish of all – its outstanding feature is the long, high first dorsal which is slate or cobalt blue with a scattering of black spots. Its body is dark blue and silver and lights up with white dots and lines of electric blue. It is a very acrobatic fish and will dive quicker than the marlin because of its size and surrounds. They are a migratory species usually traveling alone or in small groups. It’s fighting ability and spectacular aerial acrobatics endear the Sailfish to the saltwater angler, but it tires quickly and is considered a light tackle species.

Sailfish Fishing Season: – Are seen and caught throughout the fishing season but most prolific during December and January.

Shortbill Spearfish:

This elusive game fish does exist in the waters of the Pemba Channel, but is infrequently encountered and rarely seen and caught. It is a highly migratory deep-water species feeding at or near the surface on medium-sized fish, including Dorado, Flying Fish and Pilot Fish, Squid and Crustaceans. They appear to be available all year in small numbers.

Shortbill Spearfish Fishing Season: – Mid November to end of March with December being the best month.


From August we start to see large numbers of migrating Yellowfin Tuna, which are, one of the strongest fish that swim and can put up a challenging fight. They make transoceanic journeys on a regular basis. Tuna school primarily by size and 12 – 20lb outfits are ideal for schools of small Tuna that run in the season, providing really good sport for the light tackle enthusiast. August to October provides excellent sport for Tuna. Multiple hook ups are normal when the ocean can come alive with huge schools in pursuit of smaller fish creating plenty of excitement

Tuna Fishing season: – Typically from August to end October. This is an excellent time for Tuna. Blue and Black Marlins follow and gorge on the shoals of Yellowfin Tuna at this time of year and are usually fatter than later in the season.

Tiger Shark:

Born at a size of 50 – 75 centimetres long with a beautiful silvery pattern of leopard-like spots, which change to bars as they grow and fade as they mature. The head is large and blocky with big soulful eyes. Mature Tiger Sharks become very stout. They may be resident in certain areas, but in general they are wanderers. They tend to stay in deeper water by day and enter shallow waters at night.

Mako Shark:

Mako Shark are torpedo shaped and are the speed kings of the cartilaginous fish and possibly the fastest fish in the ocean – measurements as high as 100kph (60mph) have been reported. When hooked they may jump to a height of several body lengths out of the water. They are able to chase down and consume fast moving pelagic, such as Tuna and Broadbill. Their ability to reach such phenomenal speeds may be attributed to a blood vessel heat exchange system, which enables them to maintain a body temperature

All sharks are an endangered species and their tag and release is actively promoted.

Solomon Okila is the Editor and Safari Consultant at African Voyages Tours and Travel. This is a tour operator and Safari Outfitter that specializes on African Travel and holidays. The website has guided thousands of travelers to achieve their dream holiday. For more information and guidance, visit the site at

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