THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME! – CRUSOE FISHING ADVENTURES, PORT VILLA, ON THE ISLAND OF EFATE, VANUATU, SEPTEMBER 2013 By Alex Morton
A great many golfers, some tour professionals in particular, like to go fishing to relax away from the golf course and I am no exception. So this article is to whet the appetite should you ever venture to this wonderful part of the world.
Whilst living and working in Brisbane, an ambition of mine was to visit some of the Islands in the South East Pacific. Before finally departing from Australia back to the UK, my partner and I decided we would holiday in Vanuatu after hearing so many great things about the country.
I was particularly impressed by the stories I heard of the great fishing in and around the many islands of Vanuatu. So I decided to do some research about fishing charters from where we were staying in Port Villa on the island of Efate. I had been in contact with one charter provider in the weeks leading up to our trip and a booking was made. The excitement began to build!
With the weather looking good on arrival at Port Villa, I was all set to fish. On arrival at the charter company I was informed that the trip was to be cancelled as another person booked on the charter had had an accident and would not be able to sail. As the third member of the charter also pulled out this left me on my own. As much as I wanted to go fishing there was no possibility that I would have single-handedly been able to afford paying for the chartering of a boat. So it was back to the drawing board.
To my relief, I managed to book a place with Crusoe Fishing Charters instead!
The weather had been great all week and the sea relatively calm, a 1.5 -1.8m swell with a low period, this should be easy! Thursday morning came and we met up with the three other guys on the charter at 7:00am sharp ready for an action packed day.
Originally I had wanted to fish for Giant Trevally’s and Dogtooth Tuna in Vanuatu, but I realised that this was only really likely in the waters around Santo Island in the North. The waters are too deep off Port Vila for supporting large reef communities; so as a result, billfish were the order of the day, specifically Blue Marlin.
We set off from the harbour and within 20 minutes were in the bait grounds and began trolling for some Skipjack Tuna, when all of suddenly this eagerly awaited fishing trip looked doomed to fail! The Starboard engine blew an oil return hose and christened the engine bay with a full reservoir of oil! We had to creep back to port on one engine at what seemed like an eternity. I was hoping and praying it was only a hose that had gone wrong and they had spares so we could get back out to the action.
Within an hour of reaching port the problem was fixed and we were back at sea, THANK GOODNESS! We steamed straight out and immediately got six squid lures trolling behind the boat, so no more messing around for baitfish! This hopefully was the start of “take two”.
It was a fairly quiet affair to begin with, each of us being allocated 15 minutes strike rotations and I opted to go last, so my window of opportunity was the last 15 minutes of each hour. 5 minutes into my allocation and the Shotgun (furthest away) lure went off, the two deckhands Sam & George running round like headless chickens getting the remaining five rods and lures in while I began my fight with the fish. It was all systems go and it was soon clear with some decent head shakes and a couple of jumps breaking the water’s surface, that I was hooked onto a Mahi-Mahi (or Dolphin fish or Dorado depending on what part of the globe you come from).
I must commend the deckhands (Sam and George) on their work, tirelessly adjusting and altering the rods and rigs the whole time, trying to improve any chances of catching something incredible. For two young local Vanuatuans, they sure know their stuff!
It’s safe to say that the Tiagra 50 and 80 reels were overkill for anything other than a big bill fish over 50kg, but better to be safe than sorry. After about 10 minutes I’d pulled in my personal best catch, a Mahi-Mahi, a female of just over 115cm and around 16kg. I was beaming to say the least, first fish of the day and one of my favourites. There is something truly magical when you see these fish in the water; they have an ethereal glow about them, ranging from dark green on the top of their flanks down to a fluorescent yellow on the belly, covered with electric blue spots and electric blue fins, truly a magical looking fish.
Their domed foreheads are designed to help them cut through the water, males have the more prominent forehead and their split fins allow for maximum speed and stream lining.
They also go through an incredible colour change once they have been caught and bled for the pan, from the almost luminous citrus colours to a chrome/silver accented with the ever-present electric blue accents.
About 15 minutes after my strike, Neville one of the other three guys on the boat, on first rotation, heard the sound we were all waiting to hear. “MARLIN, MARLIN, MARLIN!!!” screamed George and Sam and it was show time. A great tail walk at least 100m out from the boat was the main indicator of the start of the commotion; easily a 200kg+ specimen and you could feel the adrenaline pulsing around the deck.
All hell broke loose on the boat; I’ve never seen two guys fly around the deck of a boat so surefooted in unsettling conditions. Within minutes the other lures were in and the war of attrition started. On the first run, the Marlin took out close to 200-250m of line that disappeared in a flash from the reel, and it was clear this was going to be a long fight.
A 20-minute tug of war ensued with Neville only gaining back a small about of line, this fish was putting up a superb, strong fight. The skipper ‘Dicky’ kept the boat well positioned to give Neville his best chance at gaining ground, backing up slowly where necessary to try and gain an advantage over the Marlin. Sam and George were constantly manoeuvring the chair and making sure everything was just so, in trying to tag and release this stunning fish.
There were some small gains and we were all getting excited to see exactly what was hooked up, when all of a sudden, everything went light and slack on the line and then the realisation it was all over. The fish had won. Everyone was really deflated, but hey that’s fishing! The wire leader connecting the main and second hook on the squid lure had failed, more than likely rubbing on the hard and tough side of the mouth of Mr B Marlin. Marlins have no teeth; instead they have a raspy mouth that allows them to grip their prey when in pursuit.
For the next hour or so it was pretty quiet until Bill, the third guy on rotation got into what we suspected was a nice Yellow Fin because of the way it took the line. But we were all surprised to find a nice Wahoo over a metre in length instead on the line come time to gaff. I had also hoped to catch one of these fish, but I think you experience a much better fight on lighter gear, if we had been targeting just the ‘smaller’ pelagics that would have made a difference. But when chasing Marlin it is difficult to use anything but the heaviest gear as you have to be assured that the gear will stand up to the challenge of a monster Marlin!
After around another hour of trolling and moving to a new spot, Dave landed a second Mahi-Mahi, this time a male with a larger domed head and a similar size fish to the one I caught.
So initially what seemed to be heading for a disaster of a day turned out to be a really great day, almost a perfect one, minus missing out on landing a big Blue Marlin of course!
Huge thanks must go to Michelle and Charles from Crusoe Fishing who did everything in their power to make the day so successful and enjoyable for everyone on board after the unforeseen breakdown. Even my Fiancé, who came along for the experience and took most of the photos on board, enjoyed the day too!
So if you ever go to Vanuatu and you’re staying in Port Vila and fancy going out on great days fishing, look these guys up! You won’t be disappointed!
Below: Crusoe Fishing crew and happy fishermen after a days good sport!