Game fishing and turtle conservation in Mirissa, Sri Lanka

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Enthusiast Jason writes to us about his game fishing experience in Mirissa, southern Sri Lanka:

My buddies, Darren and Vince, and I like to tour the world in search of a nice spot to go Giant Trevally (GT) popping. After what felt like a hundred fishing tours, Southeast Asia felt blasé, so a colleague of Darren’s recommended Sri Lanka, whose waters off the southern coasts are brimming with big game catch thanks to barrier reefs surrounding the island.

We arranged a 3-day sports fishing tour in Mirissa on the southwest coast of the island, a spot much better known for dolphin and whale watching. Just like the dolphin tours, game fishing is a seasonal activity usually from November to mid-April, when the monsoon hits. Sri Lanka itself is not known for game fishing, and only a handful of tour providers offer it. Therefore, the relatively uncrowded atmosphere makes it ideal for folks looking for a change of scenery.

Soon as we arrived at the Katunayaka airport, we were driven straight to our guesthouse in Mirissa. It took only about 2 hours on the island’s newly-built southern expressway. The guesthouse had decent rooms and a spacious porch overlooking the ocean. When we arrived in the afternoon, the cordial staff served us Ceylon tea and local cookies for refreshments.

Speeding away from the shore on a 31ft Rampageous boat.

Speeding away from the shore on a
31ft Rampageous boat.

Our game fishing tour started 6 a.m. the following day. Our guide, Amila, loaded us onto a shiny new 31ft Rampageous boat that he said was “customized” to best navigate Sri Lankan waters. He introduced us to our neat gear— PE-13 Storm Gomoku light jigging rods, PE6 prototype rods, GT 30 & GT Boat 1015 Combo and the like. The boat steered away from the coast towards the shallow reef waters where Amila said we could find plenty of barracuda, seer, queen fish and, of course, GT. I used a Rapala CD16 Deep Diving lure and hooked a heavy Barracuda, the first catch of our trip! Vince was the first to pop a GT with a small but powerful Skagit Pump King chugger. In the shallow water, Vince pulled hard and fast, definitely not giving the GT a chance to get away. Our session went well until the wind started picking up and Amila steered the boat back towards the shore. That night the chef at our guest house grilled a GT and a Barracuda for us (rest of our catch went to the local market). Darren tried the GT with some local curry gravy, which for me was a bit too spicy.

The second day, we went farther away from shore to the deep sea where sail fish, blue and black marlin, tuna, wahoo and pretty much all the big names in sports fishing are abundant, according to Amila. We sat down with local Lion beer and tried some light jigging. That was four hours of pure fun; we were popping groupers left and right. Darren “experimented” with his tackle and speedy jigging baited us loads of Mack tuna. Amazingly, we were never without catch on Sri Lankan waters. In fact, there was too much.

On our third day, before we left, we detoured to the nearby Coast Guard Turtle Conservation Project. This admirable effort protects the endangered green, leatherback, Olive Ridley, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles that hatch in the southwestern coasts of Sri Lanka. There had numerous exhibits with fascinating information about the turtles, but we went there to see baby turtles being released back into the ocean. This is a uniquely seasonal occasion. The conservationists at the center directed us to the golden beach where hundreds of rescued turtle eggs were buried. Some of these eggs were handed over by local fishermen and other were confiscated from illegal poachers. Then, as throngs of tourists watched and snapped pictures, small baby turtles emerged from the sand, and the conservation officials helped them back into the ocean. What a great way to end a thrilling fishing trip to paradise island!

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