On Sunday Lisa and I joined five others for on-the-water training with the Shell boats in preparation for our boating privileges. We met at the Shell jetty on N’Dogo Lagoon at 8am. After going over checklists of equipment and procedures, we were on our way to Sette Cama in two boats, motoring into a beautiful day of soft sun, high clouds and calm waters. There were several fishing rods stowed, in the likelihood that there might be some extra time to try out our fishing luck.
The normal 2-hour trip to Sette Cama took longer as we stopped to note landmarks and buoys marking the route. Stopping to register with National Park headquarters, we paid the required 3000cfa to enter the waters of Loango National Park. After a brief (self-prepared) lunch on the grounds of Masala Lodge, a lodge beautifully situated on a narrow strip of sand between the sea to the west and lagoon on the east, we were back on the water near the breakthrough, where the freshwater lagoon flows out to sea. This mix of fresh and salt-water attracts many species of fish, and I volunteered to try my hand at fishing while trolling slowly past the breakthrough. The mid-afternoon fishing action was slow and lazy and after tiring of a yellow artificial lure, we opted for a blue rapala, about six inches long, attached to a long steel leader. Rather than leave the rod setting passively in the hole near the transom, I held on and played the lure in the water with a tug now and then, when suddenly the drag on the reel started squealing, the line cutting through the water from one side of the boat to the other. I had hooked a barracuda. We cut the motor and pulled in the other lure, and after a several minutes of struggle, had the barracuda alongside the boat. Flashing a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth, the fish presented a challenge to lift into the boat, but, specially designed tools are made for this task, and we soon had a firm grip on the lower jaw and hoisted the pike-like fish into the boat. A gloved hand and needle-nose pliers pried the lure from the mouth and I had a 5-kilo barracuda to bring back. It made for a very tasty fish curry later that evening.
The return trip took us further out into the main body of N’Dogo lagoon, an alternate route to consider when the weather cooperates. Though by late afternoon the winds had come in and we were served up choppy, diagonal seas for several kilometres, resulting in a rough ride as we bounced from wave crest to wave crest. The lagoon is approximately 450 square kilometres (170-plus square miles) in area and can have a variety of weather conditions simultaneously. The winds subsided as we approached the shelter of Shell jetty and we arrived in late afternoon without incident. Lisa and I received approval from our boating instructor and now advance to arranging two supervised trips out on the lagoon before obtaining certification to charter the boats for our own use.
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