Black Bass/Snapper Papua New guinea

Sep 20, 2014
Papua New Guinea
Cameron Mundy
I was fortunate enough to be invited by the Jason and the guys at Sports Fishing Papua New Guinea to come tackle the legendary Papuan Black Bass in the Aramia river obviously these aren’t the sort of offers you turn down and I was booking flights within seconds.

PNG isn’t exactly in the public eye and the information that is available on the net often portrays it in a negative light focussing on the crime levels and sporadic violence that flairs up in the Capital Port Moresby. This seems to be a common thread on any country that isn’t in the west though, when I went to live and work in the Middle East my friends and family thought I was nuts and I have yet to meet a kinder humbler people in my travels, Sri Lanka which had a long and brutal Civil war is another country where I was only ever treated well by everyone I crossed paths with. Compared to first world countries where you are treated with indifference at best the far flung places always come out tops for me and PNG was no different.

My trip started out a little shaky due to poor planning on my part. There’s not a lot of information out there on the Visa process for those of us that need a tourist Visa to enter PNG (See this list and things tend to move slowly in PNG, a tourist visa takes on average 30 days to process and that’s if you have access to a PNG high commission in your country. I had 12 days and no consulate so I hopped a flight to Singapore and begged the Sport fishing PNG boys to help me out! Jia An was a champion chasing the guys up and getting my clearance done while I wondered around Singapore spending far too much money in the local tackle shops, if you ever pass through Singapore I highly recommend Lure Haven for a mind boggling range of light tackle lures and gear and Anglers Outfitters for your heavier tackle needs. Thanks to Jia An it worked out in the end although it was a touch and go for a bit as I collected my visa on the way to the airport for my flight to Port Moresby.

Jia An was at the airport to greet me and after a quick coffee we headed over to Tropic Air where a Twin Otter and the rest of the group where waiting. We were a bit of a mixed bag of anglers, Cassie and Wayne an Ozzy father and daughter team on their third trip with Sports Fishing PNG, Nishi from Singapore, myself, Jason and Jia An from Sport Fishing PNG. We jumped on the plane and leapfrogged our way across PNG landing at a few different landing strips to fuel up and load and offload other passengers. The flight over PNG really makes you realise how pristine and untouched the country is there’s nothing but jungle as far as the eye can see with the odd logging road breaking up the forest canopy. We arrived at the rendezvous point with K20 and had a quick chat with the outbound group of Ozzy anglers to get the skinny on the fishing, the guys where all smiles as they told us tales of big fish and bigger bust offs that was enough to shake of any travel fatigue and we hustled down to the River to board K20 and meet the rest of the SFPNG team crew.
_MG_0754 (Copy).jpg

_MG_0679 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0695 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0722 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0733 (Copy).jpg

Jason and his boys run an outstanding operation, The Mothership K20 is has everything a fisherman could ask for air conditioning, hot showers beds that a so comfortable you’re almost tempted to ignore your alarm in the morning, cold SP beer on demand and an energetic friendly crew of local boys from all over PNG. The fishing is done from tinnies and pangas on a rotational basis so all the guides get a chance to show off their skills. Some days we spent 12 hours out on the water and others we headed back to the Mothership for lunch and a nap or to escape the rain. There’s two great chefs on board who cooked up everything from Asian meals to good old home style cooking every meal was a treat and the breakfasts where legendary.

_MG_0754 (Copy).jpg
_MG_1008-2 (Copy).jpg
_MG_1010 (Copy).jpg

The fishing was tough by PNG standards although I thought it was great if the guys hadn’t said anything I would have thought things where just fine as everybody got onto good fish each day we were out on the water. The Bass are pretty crazy I’m used to strong dirty fish as I have a few GT’s and Doggies under the belt but the Bass are mental, my first introduction lasted about 3 seconds as the PE 5 Jigging rods I was using bent in half with 80lb line peeling off the locked drag off the big Okuma bait caster as the fish dove straight back into the snag I had tempted him from. Jason who was fishing beside me found the whole episode highly amusing I was just a bit dumbfounded, what the hell kind of snapper does this? I was really keen to take the bass on top water and fly but heavy rain had caused the river to swell with the water level about two metres higher than usual so we mostly stuck to trolling the edges and bumping the lures into and over the snags that line the banks. There’s a fair bit of technique need to get this right as you literally have to bump and bang into the snag with the lure to get a bite without fouling up, to achieve this you need to have the rod in your hand the whole time and be ready to shake and bounce the lure through the gnarly terrain below the water’s surface. Over the first two days I must have caught every tree in the river before getting the technique right. The bass hit like a freight train and immediately try to run back into the snag so as you get the hit you have to start pumping and winding as the guide takes the boat to deeper water just like dragging GTs off the reef. The fish are hefty my biggest for the trip weighed in at 26lbs but that’s considered a baby, the benchmark is 40lbs and the best the boys have done is over 50 and they reckon there’s far bigger out there it’s just getting them on the deck that’s problematic. There’s also some monster barramundi lurking in the rivers of PNG I’d never caught one before either so I was stoked with my first fish that measured 94cm and put on a great show for me jumping clear of the water a couple of times and fighting hard all the way to the boat. It was great to see how well the guides handled the fish, they only use Silicone landing nets and always make sure their hands and the surfaces they lay the fish on are wet, there are IGFA rated Boga grips and brag mats on every boat for record claims if that’s your thing and each fish is carefully released to fight another day.
_MG_0781 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0799 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0808 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0823 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0867 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0876 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0893 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0907 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0921 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0934 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0943 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0954 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0958 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0963 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0973 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0993 (Copy).jpg
_MG_0995 (Copy).jpg

The biggest character in the story has to be the environment that you find yourself in, I’ve been lucky enough to fish and live in the some very remote areas but you’ll always find a tell-tale sign that the rest of the world is not as far as you think there’s always that bit of litter on the pristine beach, a cell phone tower on a hill or a plastic bag stuck in the branches of a tree. Out in the PNG back country there was nothing but wilderness, anglers often torment themselves with the question “what would the fishing have been like here a hundred years ago?” you’ll find the answer to that question in PNG. There’s not a scrap of litter hell there’s no shops to act as a source for litter for a few thousand kilometres, the rivers are pristine the only outboards where the ones we used as the locals still paddle their dugout canoes to get around. The jungle is teeming with life of all shapes and sizes and of course Satan Snapper lurk in the river snags.

We interacted with the local people daily to varying degrees as we passed by hunting camps and people making their way up and down the river with canoes, some will run and hide as they aren’t sure what the hell these strange white people are but most offer a friendly greeting and a big smile. The kids where great, cycling through fear, bravado and often some great dance moves as you passed by.
_MG_0853 (Copy).jpg
_MG_1049 (Copy).jpg
_MG_1081 (Copy).jpg
_MG_1234 (Copy).jpg
_MG_1242 (Copy).jpg
DJI_0313 (Copy).jpg
DJI_0365 (Copy).jpg
DJI_0367 (Copy).jpg
DJI_0376 (Copy).jpg

Sports fishing PNG works closely with all the tribes they come into contact with as you need their permission to fish in their territory so K20 is packed to the hilt with supplies ranging educational goods for schools to food, medicine and treats for the kids. They also act as post office and means of communications for the remote tribes to contact the government back in Port Moresby. We were treated to a “Sing Sing” by a local village with two local war canoes loaded with 40 to 50 warriors apiece visiting the ship chanting war cries and paddling up and down the river at impressive speeds these guys should be in the Olympics , I was invited aboard and did a few laps which was just an incredible experience I’ve got a pretty good set of sea legs on me so I somehow managed to stay standing the whole time as the canoe surged up and down the river with 50 ripped jungle boys and a tubby white dude chanting and paddling like madmen whiles standing in a skinny canoe with about six inches of freeboard.

PNG as a whole is firmly entrenched in my heart I’ll definitely be going back I still need that top water Bass as well as one on fly and a saltwater trip with the Sports Fishing PNG boys also needs to happen, a big thank you to Jason Yip the ringleader and Jai An for letting join them and all the cast and crew of K20 for an unforgettable trip. IMG_1228 (Copy).jpg