2007 Port Vila Game Fishing Club Tusker Game Fish Classic

Action started early Saturday morning with the 13 boats that had entered putting lines in the water at 7am. Lucky Jack was the first cab off the rank with a blue marlin tagged on 24kg at 8.13am and had a further 3 strikes. Hinaura was on the board by tagging another blue on 24kg at 12.45
Charles Wheeler skippering Nevergiveup found a marlin on top of Blue Hat for his gun lady angler Gail McPhee who was fishing on15kg line. Russ Housby, the deck hand was clearing the gear when they had a second bite and another solid hook up. With the cockpit already a buzz of action Russ had to fight his fish off the bow with a thong or jandle as a gimble. This fish was also tagged but the big disappointment was that Russ was not a resisted angler.
Reel Capture tagged another blue later in the day and returned at the end of day one with 2 X mahi-mahi to weigh in.
Day two proved hard going with another 7 marlin strikes amongst the fleet however no fish tagged.
For the weekend there were 24 strikes with 5 tagged and 4 qualifying as tagged. The biggest marlin seen for the 2 days was estimated to be around 100kg

Shogun was a non starter for this comp as we were preparing for the arrival of Bruce Martin and Carl Angus in another world record attempt capturing a blue marlin on 3kg line class. The fishing for this week turned out slow with only two marlin raised and one on for the six days. On day three a little bit of luck went our way with a sail fish swimming into the teaser spread and was captured a short time later to take out a new Vanuatu record for 3kg. At the weigh in the fish tipped the scales at 35.8kg.

The fish have been back on the bite for the rest of November with V-Factor and most of the fleet returning home with good catches and marlin tag flags flying. Shogun had a good final week with a 3 marlin day followed by four Vanuatu light tackle records for a group of Aussie anglers.

Pete Phillipps

The Anglers Version of Fishing In Vanuatu

Vanuatu Action

Within 8 hours from lying in bed most kiwi anglers are able to be fishing in world class blue marlin, striped marlin, wahoo, dogtooth tuna, broadbill and bluefin tuna fisheries (to name a few). Anglers from around the world come to the South Pacific to experience what many of us take for granted.

I recently had the opportunity to fly three hours to Vanuatu to experience this world class fishery. Arriving in Port Vila I was greeted by charter skipper, long time friend, and deviant scally-wag Pete Phillipps from Wild Blue Fishing Charters. The drive from the airport is an extremely arduous affair across the whole of Port Vila and lasts at least seven minutes – luckily Pete knows a great place to clear the dust from the throat… and so began a week of incredible fishing, extremely bad jokes, Pete’s special drinks and the usual tirade of humour and he said something about my grandmothers ability to wind faster than me.

We departed the dock at a leisurely 8:30 am on Nautilus’s 34ft Blackwatch, Shogun and had the lures in the water not long after 9:00am. The best marlin grounds are straight out the front of the harbour as the depth quickly drops to well over 400m within miles of shore. While live-aboards are an option, for marlin fishing it is just as easy to step off the boat after a hard days fishing into the welcoming arms of the Waterfront Bar and Grill.

As we trolled out to one of the FADs (fish aggregating devices) we talked to another game boat V-Factor and heard they’d already seen two marlin and tagged one. Pete hates to be out-fished so the pressure was on. We were quickly snapped out of our trolling daze as the rigger popped…nothing ….nothing …. marlin behind the long corner, reel screaming as it turns out and hits the rigger again… nothing. Pete nails the Blackwatch and swings it around – smoke pours out the back as I stare at him from the deck wondering what the hell he is doing. As we swing back around the lures are all flying out of the water then he backs off a little and bang the shotgun is screaming and the gear is getting cleared…silence again as the fish falls off. We go back round again but no luck. As I climb back on the flybridge to assume my position I ask Pete about the speed technique. He grins and says “it works”.

The day continued and we decided to try for a mahi mahi for dinner so drifted strip baits on 6kg line around the FAD. I saw two men in grey coming but was too slow to shout…SHARK… bastard a double hook up on 6kg. All hell broke loose as the two fish screamed out line in opposite directions. We slowly backed up trying to decide which fish we were going to go for. I was on one rod and Ken our deckie and skipper himself was on the other. After about ten minutes my 37kg trace parted and we were down to one fish. Pete calls out for me to come and drive for him…oh yes there is a God. For those of you who have not had the experience of driving a 34ft Blackwatch on a gamefish it is awesome fun.

Ken started to get line as he wound under the shower of abuse he was receiving. After about thirty minutes of chasing the line around the ocean we saw colour and started to get close. Now the fun began as the 34ft hot rod roared around the ocean as we tried to get a shot. Three close calls then the fish s tagged, the leader is grabbed and the fish breaks off. At around 65kg the shark was a great battle on 6kg and awesome fun behind the controls.

After our unsuccessful dinner gathering attempt we put the marlin gear back out and started off. Within thirty minutes I see a marlin up in the gear then disappears again. Hold onto your hats the Blackwatch surges as Pete does his signature speed technique, as I stand on the deck still unconvinced the boat eases and the long rigger ratchet screams as the marlin comes crashing through the gear and monsters the lure. Within ten seconds all the gear is cleared, I am locked into the stand up gear and we are in for a hell of a show.

The marlin went airborne out the back of the shotgun a couple of times and we chased it backwards. I had forgotten how much this hurts as we backed down on the fish. As we got close the fish erupted from the surface about thirty meters behind the boat and porpoises about seven times then down. Next minute he is crashing out of the water and tail walking along his side as we continue to chase. As we get close again he is up again this time surging forward and nose diving back into the water. As he settles again we are all over him like a fat boy on a smartie. Ken makes the call that he is taking the shot and next moment the tag is in, the leader gets wrapped and the fish goes berserk. The hook pulls and a very lively 80 kilo blue marlin swims away. Pete comes down from the fly bridge with a huge grin on his face and says “welcome back”. It was great to be back – awesome teamwork resulted in a tag and released marlin in under 8 minutes on the first day out.

Just as we were setting up V-Factor calls up and they have tagged another blue. We decide to troll for home and make it a big day the next day. It was great to see first hand that Vanuatu still has an amazing blue marlin fishery. On average the game boats targeting marlin are seeing two marlin a day and tagging one. Obviously this is made up of some quiet days as well as days where six to eight marlin are being sighted. While I was there another game boat saw seven in one day. On this trip we had two days where we saw none despite catching a heap of wahoo and yellowfin. The marlins vary in size from 60-70kg to the average of around 160– 70kg with some monsters being seen and tagged. The most amazing thing is that the best marlin fishing starts within six miles of where the game boats are tied up. As the boats leave the harbour entrance the depth falls to over 350m almost instantly and quickly drops to well over 800m The marlin are around all year with the best time of year supposed to be November to May. Luckily no-one has told the marlin this as the fishing can be awesome anytime of the year.

A Sneaky trip to the Sea Mounts

It is weather dependent but when it fires this trip will burn your forearms and ruin you for game fishing for the rest of your life.

Despite being surrounded by very productive fishing grounds Port Vila often has a shortage of fish for the markets. The charter boats can purchase licences to allow them to sell fish commercially. Pete, from Wild Blue Fishing Charters had had a number of calls over the last week from restaurants asking for fish. As the weather was great he suggested we make a trip south to the Erromango sea mounts which start 40 nautical miles from Port Vila.

The fishing at the sea mounts can be awesome when it is on. I have been pack attacked by wahoo big enough to ride. Every lure in the water has been taken then the other wahoo hit the swivels or even the place where the line is moving through the water. At other times it can be very quiet and the day is very long. Needless to say I was excited at the prospect of a day of action.

We left Vila at 4am with coffees in hand and the effects of Pete’s special drinks at the front of my skull. Two and a half hours later the throttles are eased back and the lures are in the water. While this was sport fishing the pressure was on to catch a heap of fish for the restaurants. Twenty minutes trolling and the hint of doubt starts to set in – where are the fish? Ten minutes later the rigger pops and the ratchet goes off, I grab the rod and get the fish quickly to the boat – a great looking 6kg yellowfin tuna. Lures are set and we start to see birds patrolling the area. The riggers go again and we have a double on and Ken and I quickly deal to two nice yellowfin. The next hour slowly rolled over with a couple more fish being caught.

As the morning seeps by a torpedo shape launches itself four feet behind the long corner and lands on the lure – wahoooooooo… next second every ratchet is screaming as we are pack attacked by these speedsters. Two deckies and myself are all fighting fish and we still have two more fish on in the rod holders. One quickly drops off and I try and switch between keeping pressure on my fish and winding the rod in the holder. Ken’ fish is in first so he manages to leader it, gaff it and get it onboard by himself. He then grabs the other rod and we are all in business. Wahoo on 15 and 24kg game gear usually have two to three blistering runs then can be wound into the boat. These guys on light gear are unbelievable. We often fight them on 6kg and this involves a lot of chasing in the boat to avoid getting spooled or popped off by water pressure.

We all managed to get our fish in and then the day really got going. For two hours we were not able to get all the gear in the water and set up before we were hooked up again. After a year of not game fishing a few muscles began to feel the pressure.
The fish tended to come in waves throughout the day. When wahoo are on the bite it can be spectacular. We had numerous fish attack the lures from above and many skirts shredded by their razor sharp teeth. The most spectacular sight was a 17kg wahoo erupt from the wake and launch itself to the height of the flybridge and land on the lure on the short corner. I had time to yell out Wahoo and Pete from the fly bridge to turn around and see the wahoo at eye height on its way down.

At 2pm another frenzy started as fish after fish were hooking up. If you are slightly squeamish this is not the trip for you. At times the deck is awash with blood and fish as we try to clean and gut the fish in between hook ups and get them in the ice slurry ready to be served over the next couple of days at the local restaurants. By 3 by pm we had worked our way to the northern most point of the seamounts and it was time to head home. It is always hard to leave the fishing when the bite is on but we had over 400kgs of onboard and a long way home. The end tally was 17 wahoo, 16 yellowfin, three mahmahi, three rainbow runners, a very disinterested marlin up in the gear, two exhausted deckies one knackered kiwi and an aussie skipper ready to do it all again the next day. To put this in perspective this was a spectacular day. It is often too rough to make the trip to the seamounts and occasionally they don’t fire…but this day they did.

It was great to see that the Vanuatu fishery is still spectacular. Like everywhere there are quiet days but the odds are stacked for some amazing fish. If marlin fishing is your passion then Vanuatu can feed this addiction. For light tackle the mahi-imahi, wahoo and yellowfin can make your reels scream or you can go head to head with marlin. The locals are awesomely friendly and the restaurants are great. There are a number of top rate charter operators in Vila with great boats, a heap of experience and the finest gear.

Doing a Doggy in the Dark

It has been another fantastic couple of week fishing here in Vanuatu.

The Port Vila Game Fishing Club hosted the annual “Doing a Doggy in the Dark”. This is tournament aimed at targeting dogtooth tuna and fishing commences late afternoon into the night. The winner was Johnny Ware the full time deck hand on V-Factor with a 45.4kg doggy. Johnny and skipper Andrew Hibgame have now won this tournament for the last 2 years so well done guys.

Gary Townley and his mates Justin and Hayden made their 6th annual trip to fish with yours truly on Shogun and took the Epi Trip option. Despite overcast weather and a couple of slightly rough days we got amongst some amazing fishing. The boys got cleaned up on quite a few dogtooth tuna that weren’t stoppable on light tackle however once the heavier gear was deployed we caught some good doggies and G.T’s on the sea mound that dot the areas amongst the picturesque island system. On return back to Port Vila 5 days later there were flags from the top of the outrigger to the bottom. The only species not caught was a sail fish, black and striped marlin. On departing the boat they proceeded to my booking office and booked 2 trips for next year.

John Duncan also returned with his mates Mark and Mike for their annual trip with us. These guys would have to receive the hard luck award; in 4 days fishing we had 6 marlin bits and only one capture. The fish were not feeding aggressively and were either not hooking up or falling of after 10 to 15 min. To further add insult we had a sail fall off after 10 minutes on the rod. The boys saw some good wahoo action.
On one of Johns lay days I took out a charter for John Robinson and his friends. It was a special occasion beings Johns birthday so the boys were pumped. During the boat brief before leaving the dock I asked John what he would like to catch and his reply was that he was keen to catch a sail fish. Within 10 minutes of lures in the water just off Pango Point 20min from the dock we had a 40kg sail hooked up and tagged in a further 12 minutes. Well done John and happy birthday.

We head into the next week with a mini tournament with 3 boats for a group out of Australia then I’m off to Epi again.
Until next time “Good Luck at the Weigh In”

How To Catch a 515Kg Blue Marlin

VANUATU FISHING REPORT. – (22 August 2007)

The hot news about the place at the moment and I’m sure it is old news to some of you is that a grander has captured and weighed in the waters of Vanuatu.

Late last month world famous saltwater fly fishing guide Dean Butler teamed with legendary deck hand Russ Housby arrived in Port Vila on a 15M Pleysier called Blue Dog to set up operations to fish the waters of Vanuatu. After several days of clean up and preparation they left on an 18 day trip with the owner and world record holding marlin fly fisherman Tom Evans.

We all knew these guys would prove to be a force to recon with on light tackle and salt water fly fishing as some of their previous conquests have been achieved in these waters.

On day 3 of the trip fishing just off the south west corner of Malekula, Russ noticed movement in behind the lumo sprocket teaser and called to Dean who had just completed rigging a yellow fin with a Roddy Hays 9.0 hook attached to a 500lb leader. The fish ate on its second bite swallowing the bait well.

As the fish peeled off it jumped once and the team realized they had a monster hooked up. Amazingly in all his world record capture’s Tom had never used a game chair or chair rod. Once Tom had the rod and himself settled in the chair he turned up the heat with 60lb of drag on the Tiagra130. The fish was subdued and gaffed in 30min. The next task was getting it aboard in the rough conditions and ultimately required a block and tackle to get the fish in with its bill in the saloon and tail against the transom. The monster fish was weighed ashore at South West Bay and weighed in at 1142lb or 515kg. The fish was eventually distributed amongst the local villages and enjoyed by all.

Speaking of world records New Zealand’s during early August gun angler Carl Angus and Bay of Islands skipper Bruce Martin aided by deck hand Terry Graham teamed with yours truly to fish from Shogun our 34ft Blackwatch for 8 days this month chasing a blue marlin on 3kg tackle.
The fishing was just a bit slower than expected and sloppy conditions on a couple of days slightly restricted our fishing area. The outcome of it all was 6 fish raised with 2 solid hookups. The closest was a 160kg est. blue fought for 45min and so close to the boat on a number of occasions. It was discovering that it had become partly tail-wrapped in one of its numerous jumps making it impossible to wire the fish. Close but no cigar!

Epic Fishing Adventures Epi Trip

Hi Everyone,
Just back from Epi an island 60Nm north of Port Vila here in Vanuatu.
We have had a group on New Zealand anglers on board headed up by fishing guide and charter operator Carl Muir from Epic Fishing Adventures in Tiarua in New Zealand. Dispite some roughish conditions the fishing was great. For the trip of 5 days we saw 4 marlin, losing a large black du to a pulled hook after a 30 min fight another followed the gear however didn’t hook up.
On day 2 we managed a pack attack of wahoo close to the still active volcano at Lapevi Island. We had 4 strikes and managed to capture 3 with the biggest being 26kg. On the return back to Lamen Bay we managed to tag and released a nice blue marlin at around 160Kg.
Day 3 we headed to DeChaliac sea mounds for another few wahoo and a nice 20kg yellow fin. I spite of spending a fair amount of time jigging we didn’t turn up and dogtooth tuna. We returned to the sea mound at Lamen Island for a couple hours of reef fishing and caught a variety of reef fish which most we released and a few taken to the village people for dinner.
Day 4 we traveled to the Maskalin Islands and back to DeChaliac for no result.
Day 5 we returned home to Vila from Epi and tagged another marlin 25nm from Epi. This was a blue at about 110kg. Several other small tuna were caught on the way home to round the trip out. All in all a good trip if just a little slow on the fish front.
Whilst fishing in these water we stay at the spectacular Lamen Bay Paradise Sunset Guest House with Chief Tasso and his family.