Big John

Big John Fishing Charters is a well established Deep Sea Fishing and wildlife watching charter offering fun filled and exciting deep sea fishing and wildlife watching trips for people of all ages. Based in Port Elizabeth Harbour the boat leaves from the Port Elizabeth Deep Sea Angling Club.



Disabled Friendly




Team Building Facilities


Family Friendly


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  • Disabled Friendly
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  • Team Building Facilities
  • Family Friendly


Big John Fishing Charters is a well established Deep Sea Fishing and wildlife watching charter offering fun filled and exciting deep sea fishing and wildlife watching trips for people of all ages. Based in Port Elizabeth Harbour the boat leaves from the Port Elizabeth Deep Sea Angling Club. The boat you will go in is a 27ft Butt Cat (2011 model) and has 2 powerful 150 HP 4 Stroke Suzuki engines and has all the necessary safety equipment. Explore this beautiful stretch of South Africa’s coastline and take to the open seas to experience deep sea fishing at its best. A day out with Big John Fishing Charters is great fun regardless of your experience level. Whether you are a complete beginner or an expert at fishing, the team at Big John’s will be on hand to offer helpful tips and share their expert knowledge of the waters around Port Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela Bay. They will even do their best to ensure you catch that ‘big one’ you are looking for.

What to expect:

Big John’s Fishing Charters trips last up to 6 hours and as long as the sea conditions are safe you will be on your way. The waters of Algoa Bay and around this beautiful region of the Eastern Cape are abundant with marine life and when fishing with Big Johns you can hope to catch a range of exciting fish including Cob, Geelbek, Yellowtail and a variety of red fish. John is adaptable and if you discuss with him what you have in mind he will let you know what options he recommends.


If you would like to arrange to have a meal waiting for you when you return from any of the boat trips let John know when you book and he will arrange with the caterer to have it ready as you step off the jetty! You can enjoy this meal on the lawns, under the thatched lapa or in the club house overlooking the harbour. Deep Sea Fishing

Deep-sea fish are fish that live in the darkness below the sunlit surface waters that is below the epipelagic or photic zone of the sea. The lanternfish is, by far, the most common deep-sea fish. Other deep sea fishes include the flashlight fish, cookiecutter shark, bristlemouths, anglerfish, viperfish, and some species of eelpout.

Only about 2% of known marine species inhabit the pelagic environment. This means that they live in the water column as opposed to the benthic organisms that live in or on the sea floor. Deep-sea organisms generally inhabit bathypelagic (1000–4000m deep) and abyssopelagic (4000–6000m deep) zones. However, characteristics of deep-sea organisms, such as bioluminescence can be seen in the mesopelagic (200–1000m deep) zone as well. The mesopelagic zone is the disphotic zone; meaning light there is minimal but still measurable. The oxygen minimum layer exists somewhere between a depth of 700m and 1000m deep depending on the place in the ocean. This area is also where nutrients are most abundant. The bathypelagic and abyssopelagic zones are aphotic, meaning that no light penetrates this area of the ocean. These zones make up about 75% of the inhabitable ocean space.

The epipelagic zone (0–200m) is the area where light penetrates the water and photosynthesis occurs. This is also known as the photic zone. Because this typically extends only a few hundred meters below the water, the deep sea, about 90% of the ocean volume, is in darkness. The deep sea is also an extremely hostile environment, with temperatures that rarely exceed 3 °C (37.4 °F) and fall as low as −1.8 °C (28.76 °F) (with the exception of hydrothermal vent ecosystems that can exceed 350 °C, or 662 °F), low oxygen levels, and pressures between 20 and 1,000 atmospheres (between 2 and 100 megapascals).


In the deep ocean, the waters extend far below the epipelagic zone, and support very different types of pelagic fishes adapted to living in these deeper zones.

In deep water, marine snow is a continuous shower of mostly organic detritus falling from the upper layers of the water column. Its origin lies in activities within the productive photic zone. Marine snow includes dead or dying plankton, protists (diatoms), fecal matter, sand, soot and other inorganic dust. The “”snowflakes”” grow over time and may reach several centimetres in diameter, travelling for weeks before reaching the ocean floor. However, most organic components of marine snow are consumed by microbes, zooplankton and other filter-feeding animals within the first 1,000 metres of their journey, that is, within the epipelagic zone. In this way marine snow may be considered the foundation of deep-sea mesopelagic and benthic ecosystems: As sunlight cannot reach them, deep-sea organisms rely heavily on marine snow as an energy source.

Some deep-sea pelagic groups, such as the lanternfish, ridgehead, marine hatchet fish, and light fish families are sometimes termed pseudoceanic because, rather than having an even distribution in open water, they occur in significantly higher abundances around structural oases, notably seamounts and over continental slopes. The phenomenon is explained by the likewise abundance of prey species which are also attracted to the structures.

Hydrostatic pressure increases by 1 atmosphere for every 10m in depth. Deep-sea organisms have the same pressure within their bodies as is exerted on them from the outside, so they are not crushed by the extreme pressure. Their high internal pressure, however, results in the reduced fluidity of their membranes because molecules are squeezed together. Fluidity in cell membranes increases efficiency of biological functions, most importantly the production of proteins, so organisms have adapted to this circumstance by increasing the proportion of unsaturated fatty acids in the lipids of the cell membranes. In addition to differences in internal pressure, these organisms have developed a different balance between their metabolic reactions from those organisms that live in the epipelagic zone. David Wharton, author of Life at the Limits: Organisms in Extreme Environments, notes “”Biochemical reactions are accompanied by changes in volume. If a reaction results in an increase in volume, it will be inhibited by pressure, whereas, if it is associated with a decrease in volume, it will be enhanced””. This means that their metabolic processes must ultimately decrease the volume of the organism to some degree.

Most fish that have evolved in this harsh environment are not capable of surviving in laboratory conditions, and attempts to keep them in captivity have led to their deaths. Deep-sea organisms contain gas-filled spaces (vacuoles). Gas is compressed under high pressure and expands under low pressure. Because of this, these organisms have been known to blow up if they come to the surface


The fish of the deep-sea are among the strangest and most elusive creatures on Earth. In this deep dark unknown lie many unusual creatures that have yet to be studied. Since many of these fish live in regions where there is no natural illumination, they cannot rely solely on their eyesight for locating prey and mates and avoiding predators; deep-sea fish have evolved appropriately to the extreme sub-photic region in which they live. Many of these organisms are blind and rely on their other senses, such as sensitivities to changes in local pressure and smell, to catch their food and avoid being caught. Those that aren’t blind have large and sensitive eyes that can use bioluminescent light. These eyes can be as much as 100 times more sensitive to light than human eyes. Also, to avoid predation, many species are dark to blend in with their environment.

Many deep-sea fish are bioluminescent, with extremely large eyes adapted to the dark. Bioluminescent organisms are capable of producing light biologically through the agitation of molecules of luciferin, which then produce light. This process must be done in the presence of oxygen. These organisms are common in the mesopelagic region and below (200m and below). More than 50% of deep-sea fish as well as some species of shrimp and squid are capable of bioluminescence. About 80% of these organisms have photophores – light producing glandular cells that contain luminous bacteria bordered by dark colourings. Some of these photophores contain lenses, much like those in the eyes of humans, which can intensify or lessen the emanation of light. The ability to produce light only requires 1% of the organism’s energy and has many purposes: It is used to search for food and attract prey, like the anglerfish; claim territory through patrol; communicate and find a mate; and distract or temporarily blind predators to escape. Also, in the mesopelagic where some light still penetrates, some organisms camouflage themselves from predators below them by illuminating their bellies to match the colour and intensity of light from above so that no shadow is cast. This tactic is known as counter illumination.

The lifecycle of deep-sea fish can be exclusively deep water although some species are born in shallower water and sink upon maturation. Regardless of the depth where eggs and larvae reside, they are typically pelagic. This planktonic — drifting — lifestyle requires neutral buoyancy. In order to maintain this, the eggs and larvae often contain oil droplets in their plasma. When these organisms are in their fully matured state they need other adaptations to maintain their positions in the water column. In general, water’s density causes up thrust — the aspect of buoyancy that makes organisms float. To counteract this, the density of an organism must be greater than that of the surrounding water. Most animal tissues are denser than water, so they must find equilibrium to make them float. Many organisms develop swim bladders (gas cavities) to stay afloat, but because of the high pressure of their environment, deep-sea fishes usually do not have this organ. Instead they exhibit structures similar to hydrofoils in order to provide hydrodynamic lift. It has also been found that the deeper a fish lives, the more jelly-like its flesh and the more minimal its bone structure. They reduce their tissue density through high fat content, reduction of skeletal weight — accomplished through reductions of size, thickness and mineral content — and water accumulation makes them slower and less agile than surface fish.

Due to the poor level of photosynthetic light reaching deep-sea environments, most fish need to rely on organic matter sinking from higher levels, or, in rare cases, hydrothermal vents for nutrients. This makes the deep-sea much poorer in productivity than shallower regions. Also, animals in the pelagic environment are sparse and food doesn’t come along frequently. Because of this, organisms need adaptations that allow them to survive. Some have long feelers to help them locate prey or attract mates in the pitch black of the deep ocean. The deep-sea angler fish in particular has a long fishing-rod-like adaptation protruding from its face, on the end of which is a bioluminescent piece of skin that wriggles like a worm to lure its prey. Some must consume other fish that are the same size or larger than them and they need adaptations to help digest them efficiently. Great sharp teeth, hinged jaws, disproportionately large mouths, and expandable bodies are a few of the characteristics that deep-sea fishes have for this purpose. The gulper eel is one example of an organism that displays these characteristics.

Fish in the different pelagic and deep water benthic zones are physically structured, and behave in ways, that differ markedly from each other. Groups of coexisting species within each zone all seem to operate in similar ways, such as the small mesopelagic vertically migrating plankton-feeders, the bathypelagic anglerfishes, and the deep water benthic rattails.”

Ray finned species, with spiny fins, are rare among deep sea fishes, which suggests that deep sea fish are ancient and so well adapted to their environment that invasions by more modern fishes have been unsuccessful. The few ray fins that do exist are mainly in the Beryciformes and Lampriformes, which are also ancient forms. Most deep sea pelagic fishes belong to their own orders, suggesting a long evolution in deep sea environments. In contrast, deep water benthic species are in orders that include many related shallow water fishes.


The following are price guides and should be confirmed when booking. Bottom Fishing Trip – The length of this trip is approximately 6 hours and you will leave at first light. There are stunning sunrise views so make sure you take your camera. All tackle, bait and fuel is included and there should be a minimum of 5 people (maximum 8 people.) The cost is R750 per person (John has fishing permits aboard.) If you are not part of a group phone John a few days ahead of time and he will try to make up the extra numbers required for each trip. Anglers to provide their own food and refreshments.

You will have the choice of keeping your catch or using the ‘catch and release’ option. For a memorable treat ask John to arrange for the chef at the Boat Club to prepare and cook your fish for you on your return. This needs to be arranged ahead of time and be prepared for a mouth watering treat!

Sunset Cruises – a 2 ½ hours evening cruise is available. This magnificent cruise will give you the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely trip while enjoying the sites of Port Elizabeth as the evening draws in. You will be able to see the Cape Recife Light House, magnificent birdlife and the endearing Cape fur Seals. Guests are invited to bring their own favourite drinks or champagne to enjoy during the cruise. The cost for this cruise is R3000 for the boat hire and John will take a maximum of 8 passengers.

Whale Watching Cruises – speak to John about his whale watching cruises which take approximately 4 hours. The chance of seeing whales cannot be guaranteed and depends on the season but John will be able to let you know if your chances of seeing them will be good. The cost for the hire of the boat is R3500 (maximum of 8 passengers) If whales are not in the area you will be taken out past St Croix Island where there are penguins to be seen.”

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