Big-Fish Battles on Gabon’s Breathtaking Beaches

Target exotic nearshore game fish such as giant African threadfin, tarpon, African cubera and more — while elephants watch you do it

July 7, 2016

If anyone were to compile a list of the world’s most exciting surf-fishing spots, there can be little doubt that the west African country of Gabon would be at or near the top. In recent years, its reputation among globe-trotting surf enthusiasts has been growing, and as these dramatic, brilliant images taken by Mark Murray of Tourette Fishing reveal, with good reason. Adjacent to Ndogo Lagoon at the southern boundary of Loango National Park are “some of the longest stretches of untouched coastline left on the African continent,” according to the outfitter. For more information on fishing here, visit Tourette Fishing (which is based in Africa but organizes trips for anglers from all over).

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - map
The dot on the map shows the location of Gabon’s Loango National Park. Courtesy Google Earth

A Brace of Giant African Threadfin

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - giant African threadfin
“When the rains arrive in Gabon,” says Mark Murray, “the giant African threadfin come out to play.” Murray says these exotic game fish hunt in big shoals “right behind the shore dump, and are arguably one of the strongest-fighting fish one can encounter in the surf” that love eat to lures, spoons or jigs. They grow to over 100 pounds. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Giant Jacks Put the Hurt on Anglers

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - double hookup
When longfin and crevalle jacks move into the surf, double and triple hookups are constant. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Releasing a Huge Tarpon in the Gabon Surf

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - releasing a huge tarpon
A lure fished slowly along the bottom — often intended for threadfin — is a sure tarpon producer. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Cubera Snapper Surprise

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - an African cubera snapper
Like tarpon, cubera snapper will nail jigs and other lures fished slowly in the surf. “That’s one of the reasons fishing Gabon is so exciting,” says Murray. “You can be targeting a certain species — such as threadfin, as this angler was doing — but you’ll run into surprise catches like this.” Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Gabon’s Longfin Jack, Crevalle Cousin

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - a big longfin jack
Fishing inside the lower Ndogo Lagoon estuary offers great action in addition to the beaches. The IGFA all-tackle world-record longfin jack (Caranx fischeri) of 36+ pounds was caught here. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Fishing With the Elephants

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - fishing with elephants
In few places can an angler tussle with big fish under the watchful eyes of elephants. The area is known as Africa’s Eden; says Murray: “Anglers can often end up sharing the beaches of Gabon with forest elephants, hippos, sitatunga (elegant, swamp-loving antelopes) or lowland gorillas. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

The Underrated, Exciting Guitarfish

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - the exciting guitarfish
This is not a game fish on the bucket list of most guests who fish Gabon with Tourette Fishing. Their bad, says Murray. “The guitarfish is hands down one of the most underrated species one can target here.” These very strong fish that share characteristics of both sharks and rays seldom touch lures, “but a well-placed bait on the edge of a sandbar will get you hooked up with one of these beasts almost every time!” Murray says. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Gigantic Seatrout

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - a big kob
While this isn’t actually a huge seatrout or weakfish, the resemblance is unmistakable. It’s a Senegalese kob, in fact a very close cousin of those species. Kobs are a prized group of the drum/croaker family found from South Africa north into the Mediterranean. Slow-fished bucktails jigs or soft plastics are hard to beat. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Feeding Frenzy Off the Beach

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - feeding frenzy off the beach
An angler tossing a lure into the chaos of game fish tearing up the bait along these beaches is guaranteed an instant hookup. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Double on Fly in the Estuary

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - two fish on fly tackle
Even smaller longfin jacks made superb targets in the estuary for fly-rodders. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing


Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - a barracuda in a lagoon
Some species of barracuda grow much larger than this handsome specimen caught from a skiff. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Giant Threadfin: Active After a Storm

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - a giant African threadfin
One of the best times to fish for the fabulous threadfin is following a big storm (note the clouds heading away, on the horizon). Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Lure Maintenance — Full-Time Job in Gabon

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - lure maintenance
Re-rigging lures occupies time daily. “The size and power of fish off Gabon beaches and in the estuaries mean they’re really hard on tackle,” says Murray. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Sunrise Over Loango National Park

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - sunrise over Loango National Park
It’s typical for a boat to have an entire lagoon to itself. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Dawn Action in the Surf

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - catching fish at dawn
The first hour of the day is always a good time for action on Gabon beaches. The light tackle this angler uses makes even smaller jacks a blast to catch. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

As Night Falls, Big Cubera Snapper Move In

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - angler with monster cubera snapper
While they may be caught during daylight hours, big cubera snapper become most active in the darkness. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

The Bite is On!

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - a hot bite in the surf
When the bite is hot, the action comes hot and heavy. Here, one longfin is beached and three anglers are battling fish — likely jacks but, says Murray, very possibly other species such as tarpon or cubera snapper. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Lures Fish Fast and Hard

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - lures for jacks
Elongate, shallow-running minnow lures are particularly effective for longfin jacks in the estuary when fished fast with hard twitches. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Gabon Beach Tarpon

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - a big tarpon caught from the beach
Catching big tarpon in the surf is what Murray terms “an exceptional experience.” While this is a big fish, by Gabon standards it’s typical, since tarpon exceeding 250 pounds have been hooked off these beaches. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Anglers Share the Beaches with Elephants

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - Where anglers share beaches with elephants
Crashing surf on one side and a line of elephants ambling past on the other remind anglers that they’re nowhere near Kansas anymore. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Giant African Threadfin Promise Prime Sport

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - a giant African threadfin
The biggest threadfin in the world are found here, a fish that Murrays says is unique to West Africa. The aggressive predators are available in large numbers along Gabon beaches. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Hard-Fighting Guitarfish

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - a guitarfish
Guitarfish this size never give up easily. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Circle Hooks Rule for Fishing Gabon Beaches

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - a carefully prepared mullet bait
As popular as throwing lures may be among Gabon anglers, bait accounts for some great catches. Murray says circle hooks help ensure quick release. Tourette guides often invert a chunk of mullet, sewing it up to keep its shape in the surf. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Trophy Longfin Jack on a Live Mullet

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - a trophy longfin jack
If anglers tire of casting, they can toss out a live mullet on a circle hook. This huge longfin was caught that way, in the estuary. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

Casting at Sunrise on a Gabon Beach, Far From the Real World

Fishing Gabon's Breathtaking Beaches - a quiet sanctuary from the real world
Real-world woes fall away for anglers casting on Gabon’s remote, peaceful beaches. Mark Murray / Tourette Fishing

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