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Jig & Pop New Caledonia – An Epic Adventure

Dealing with a closed airport and diverted flights, not to mention the 2-day delay to arrive to New Caledonia with no luggage…

That is how I recall the nightmare we went through to make it to New Caledonia. But even while enduring such travel issues, we did not stop thinking about the potential of our trip knowing that we were going to fish a totally new spot.

We were thinking big and dreaming of new adventure.

I had John from Boston and Andy and Alex from Jersey that joined me on this trip. John flew from Boston and had a great connecting flight and ended up enjoying 2 days of relaxations in Noumea waiting for us and enjoying the sunshine.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by Captain Olivier and off we went right away to the East Coast were the boat was ready to set to sail for L’astrolabe Reef which was located around 65 nautical miles from port.

dorado fishingIn the morning we set sail, trolling for marlin and other pelagics on the way. We had a mahi mahi and a blue marlin that decided not to show her true color; therefore, yes, I could not get a shot of a jumping fish.

blue marlinJohn on the other hand was delighted to fight his first ever marlin and after a quick shot, we released it safely and continued on to L’astrolabe reef.

The excitement showed on our faces when we saw from a distance the waves crashing on the reef.  We all grabbed our rods like kids that just got off from school and are about to hit the playground.

fishing destinationsThe first couple of casts on the lower south side of the reef resulted in screaming reels and bending rods. Most of us ended up landing a doggy or 2, but the highlight was John’s dogtooth tuna that took a Siren Deep Seductress and challenged him with a great fight showing just how powerful a dogtooth tuna really is.

The first hour of the trip went by and so far, things were looking pretty good.

new caledoniaUpon surveying the terrain, I have to say that it was one of kind and very harsh. There were huge coral heads and massive drop offs that started at 5 meters and dropped down to 75 meters within a 15 meters span of reef.  It made this place an ideal spot to target dogtooth tuna and was a truly magical area.

jig and popWe were limited with time and Captain Olivier was eager to fish the entire reef to get an idea of the place. We never stayed in the same spot and explored all around the inside and outside of the reef trying to gain some knowledge of the area.

coral troutThe guys were catching all sorts of reef fish from GT’s and coral trout to the elusive shark that claimed many lures and many of our fish.

GT fishingThe highlight of the trip was Andy’s GT’s which measured 135CM and Alex’s Napoleon.
Andy was popping the deep water and got hit with good strike from down below. None of us saw the hit, but we could tell it was a big fish. While Captain Olivier turned the boat towards deeper water, the fish was still taking line heading directly to the reef. Andy put the screws to him and tightened his drag and managed to land the beast.

Therefore, again success after success from Madagascar to New Caledonia with some big fish on his lap and great memories of those unforgettable strikes.

Napoleon WrasseAlex’s napoleon wrasse came after a lunch break on the first cast. You just have to be in the right time and the right place!  It took one cast and two twitches and he was tight without knowing! There was a surprise that laid at the end of his line until Nico the mate screamed it was a napoleon!

exotic fishingThe joy and the sheer on his face was so remarkable that he turned all red, took couple of shots and released that fish safely to the water.

I had asked Alex before the trip, what is your goal and he said “I want to catch a colored napoleon”, I turned to him and said you know how lucky you are to catch a napoleon on your first GT trip to Madagascar? You want to catch another Napoleon on your second trip? That is like winning the lotto thinking deep inside it is the impossible!!

napoleon wrasseHowever, the impossible became reality and dreaming big and working hard will get you to achieve your goal, I am totally impressed with a huge congratulation my friend!!

jig fishingThe jig bite was productive but it also turned the sharks on and they were on our tail big time.
Andy ended up hooking an unstoppable fish that took off like a torpedo and headed down deep were it managed to reef him but the look at his face showed happiness and satisfaction. I felt like it really humbled him to appreciate what dogtooth tuna fishing is all about.

strange fishOn our last morning on the reef the guys started jigging while I tried to pick the followers from above knowing that those fish are travelling through the water column looking at the jigs. Sure enough a follower came in and hit the popper with no hook up. The guys ran to their popping rods but I was quicker to cast again and that doggy went 5-feet in the air with the popper in his mouth.

saltywater tackleThe fish then burned it to the deeper water where he settled in at 300 meters. It took a while, but I managed to land him and was happy to finally get a doggy on the Monster Ledge 250 rod.

Another strike came on that popper and the fish literally stripped the whole wire from the lure.

GT fishingAndy on the other hand had a nice GT on the jig. We decided to go for lunch and take a swim before heading down to fish the last 3 hours on the reef.
The guys began to get exhausted and everybody gave up so, I picked up Andy’s Race Point 250 that had a popper and headed to the front of the boat.  I was popping the 80-meter depth with huge steady explosions coming out of the lure. After 70 minutes, the payoff came in and hit my popper 5 meters from the boat. I’ve seen a lot of big fish in my career and fought many dogtooth tuna, but I had never seen a fish of that size.

Sami GhandourThe doggy hit the lure, turned sideways just like the 83kg that I landed in Chesterfield and behaved just like that big one; a shake with stop and then a sudden rush…That fish stripped three quarters of the spool in seconds while Captain Olivier was heading to the deep water where we settled in 300 meters plus. I knew what I had and my heart was beating with fear and excitement. The fear was from worrying about the leader and my worst fear happened; the leader broke off leaving me very disappointed but very happy as well…

fishing travelThe magic hour was upon us and did not disappoint and I was eager for revenge. Another solid hook up on the Siren but unfortunately the fish came unbuttoned.  This was followed by another solid hook up for John that resulted in a breakage due to a shaved leader. John was on cloud nine with that hook up and fish gave him the best it could. We couldn’t win them all, but we will keep on trying…..

fishing storiesWe headed out to the mooring spot thinking about the day and how couple of fish could blow our minds away.  As a fisherman it drives you to come back for more and adjust your approach to get better results; a learning curve that never ends.

New CaledoniaOn the last day we fished inside the lagoon and worked our way back to finish the trip in Koumac.

I must thank Captain Olivier and his first mate Nico for their service and dedication to the game. The crew was filled with joy and we left with so many great memories onboard. I know that we will all cherish those moments for the rest of our lives!  Thank you!!

fishing tackleTackle Used

  • Rod: Race Point 300, 250, 200, 100, Monster Ledge 250, Bushido, El Maestro
  • Reels: Shimano Stella, Van Staal
  • Line: Jerry Brown Hollow Line, Varivas
  • Lures: Siren, Shimano, Shell Shaping, Hammerhead, Stingo, Strategic Angler, Daiwa
  • Jigs: CB One, Shout, Hot’s, Smith
  • Hooks: BKK, Shout Kudako, Owner

Tight lines
Sami

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