Fishing & Diving in Rarotonga
The fishing in Rarotonga is typical of the tropical Pacific and a range of reef and pelagic species are on offer for anglers. A number of FADs (fish aggregation devices) around the island are a frequent destination for the local charter fleet, and they attract a full range of species from tiny baitfish through to larger pelagics like yellowfin tuna, wahoo and marlin. Different species are more prevalent at different times of the year (see below for seasonal information).
The FADs are anchored in depths of a few hundred metres to 1500m and at distances ranging from about 1km to 3km from shore. The local charter fleet caters well for anyone who wants a day or two on the water. The size of Rarotonga means that relatively sheltered fishing is possible in most winds provided the charter boats can leave the harbor safely at Avarua.
The Cook Islands Game Fishing club at Tupapa, east from Avarua, is a top spot to catch up with a few local fishermen and enjoy a cold ale or two.
Best times and species
The marlin in Rarotonga are mainly smaller blues averaging slightly under 100kg. If you’re lucky you may encounter the occasional stripey over the winter. The main marlin season is November to March/April.
While mahimahi are caught all year round, they are more common in the August to February period. They are generally smaller in winter (8 -12kg), however in summer, mahimahi up to 15 kg are common. Their spectacular aerials and jumps make for some exciting fishing and they’re great to target on light tackle. Mahimahi are schooling fish and as they travel in packs, if you hook one, there’ll be others with it so multiple strikes are common. They tend to bite better when there’s a bit of wind and surface chop.
The wahoo season is June to October/November. They get big in Rarotonga and have been caught up to 50kg however the average is probably a lot closer to 15-20kg. Wahoo are among the speedsters of our oceans and a good one will pull some serious string in moments. Like mahimahi, they’re school fish and multiple strikes are common. A popular way to target them in Rarotonga is a chin-weighted dead flying fish rigged as a swimbait or without a chin weight rigged as a skipbait and this technique works a treat. The main wahoo season is June through to October which is also the same period the humpback whales are close to the island – seeing the whales at play is an added bonus when you’re out trolling for a day.
Small yellowfin are often found at the FAD’s right throughout the year with larger specimens being more prevalent from May/June through to September.
Sailfish can be caught all year round, however they’re not a frequent visitor to the weighstation.
They tend to be found out wide in the summer season and as much of the fishing is in close to the island, that likely has an influence on the low catch rate.
The reef area right round the island provides some reasonable GT fishing options. Check your charter boat actually provides the gear to target them with poppers and stickbaits and generally you’ll need to take your own gear. Watch the new baggage rules on Air NZ if you’re taking a rod tube as it’s an extra bag and cheaper if you pre-book.
Dogtooth tuna can be targeted in close to the drop offs and for the area, while a trophy would be up around the 50-60kg mark, the average is in the 10-15kg range.
Where to go
While it’s quite possible to flick some small poppers or softbaits around the coast or maybe go for a reef-walk at low tide (only with a local guide however as the reefs can be dangerous if you are not experienced), take a local charter to get the best of the fishing in the region.
What gear to take
The local charter fleet are well equipped with good quality gamefishing gear so, if you’re booking a charter, it’s generally not necessary to take any gear. Check with your charter operator before you go.
Popping and Surface fishing:
Not a technique that’s commonly used in Rarotonga and few if any operators provide surface fishing gear or tackle.
You’ll likely encounter small tuna (yellowfin, albacore and skipjack), mahimahi and in the winter months, wahoo which arrive with the humpback whales usually sometime in July.
A good option at the FAD’s and on any of the drop-offs.
There are a number of charter operators in Rarotonga. The main operators are:
Marlin Queen Fishing Charters Ph: +682 55202 or 00682 20683 E:
Akura Fishing Charters Ph: +682 54355 E: email@example.com
Captain Moko’s Ph: +682 73083 or 20385 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Raro Sports Fishing; Ph: 0011 682 50812 E: Robbie@rarosportsfishing.com
Reel Time: Ph: +682 55239 E: email@example.com
Seafari: Ph: +682 25099 or +682 55096 E: Kevin@seafari.co.ck
As is common in many Pacific Island destinations, the boat generally will take a share of catch and that helps subsidise the operation. Just check with the charter when you book so you know what the arrangements are.
Diving in Rarotonga is excellent. Visibility is typical of the tropical Pacific and 25+ metres is considered to be average when conditions are reasonable. At the edge of the coral reef, the depth increases gradually for up to a hundred metres or so before dropping off into anything from 1000m or more.
Rarotonga has very few large rivers or streams which helps the excellent visibility. There’s a wide range of fish and coral and also a number of wrecks and caves. Diving for all levels of experience is well catered for and The Dive Centre provides an opportunity for complete beginners to safely sample the joys of scuba in the Aroa marine reserve. You’ll dive between 1-3 meters in the fish-filled sheltered marine reserve for approximately 40-50 minutes and it’s a great way to see if scuba diving is your thing in a very safe environment.
If you’re thinking about doing a dive course, Rarotonga is a great place to learn and you’ll get an internationally recognised (PADI) qualification. At the other end of the scale there’s plenty to amuse the adrenaline seekers and experienced divers.
Depending on where you’re diving, sea life you may encounter in your dive include turtles, blue and giant trevally, stonefish, lionfish, moray eels, a range of sharks, various species of tuna, and even humpback whales in the winter months.
The Dive Centre Ph: +682 20238 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cook Island Divers Ph: +682 22483 E: email@example.com
Dive Rarotonga, Ph: +682 21873 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pacific Divers Ph: +682 22450 E: email@example.com