Every fisherman has a special fishing spot. It’s not necessarily a secret spot, but rather, one that has taken time and effort to discover, and can produce top-class action when you know how to fish it. Gary Kemsley shares one such place that can offer up a huge diversity of species…
I have had a few ‘special spots’ during my fishing life: Rod Holders at Spirits Bay in the Far North of the country, the area upstream from Trick Creek on the Rangitaikei River, and Caruba point on the Hauraki Gulf. These are all places that others fish but they remain special to me for their own reasons. Spirits Bay for the wonderful LBG fishing and light tackle fishing it offered back in the 1970s and 80s; Trick Creek was where I camped with clients searching for double-figure trout in the 1980s (back then deer would walk through the camp site); Caruba Point, actually Dooders Point, where, with an intrepid band of landbased game fishers, I mixed it with huge bronze whaler sharks. These spots were far from secret but they had a magic quality for me. My latest special spot is a fair distance away.
“Trevally Rocks” is located inside the lagoon at Christmas Island, Kiribati. That’s around 15 hours travel time from NZ, via Fiji. I have been fishing there regularly for several years now, taking like-minded sport fishers in small groups to taste the wonderfully diverse fishing available. My special spot looks like a thousand others inside the lagoon. It is probably the size of four football fields, maybe a bit bigger. Water depth varies from two to four metres, it is 28 degrees year-round and is crystal clear (scarily so).
The bottom is littered with coral bommies set in white sand, their tops reaching for the surface but not quite making it. The bottom around the bommies is coral sand, startlingly white, really highlighting the darker corals. These are sheltered waters, well inside the outer reef of the lagoon where the waters are seldom disturbed, and then only by high winds. This makes it a safe and easily fished area for the local longboats and outriggers used by the fishing lodges. The best fishing method is to drift with the wind (trades are always blowing to some degree), casting your lure of choice as you cover the ground. Then, just run back up and do the drift again.
The longboats, managed by accommodation provider, Ikari House.
There are hundreds of species in the lagoon and many of them are represented here. The rulers in these parts are the giant trevally. They run up to 50kg and probably bigger. They give way to no other fish and are fierce predators. Our biggest from Trevally Rocks so far is about 40kg. They smash surface poppers in spectacular fashion as well as taking other subsurface lures. You won’t catch a big one every day but if you persevere, you will succeed.
We have seen some big GTs cruising over the white sand patches too, so look for them as well. Big blooping poppers that make a lot of noise do well. Combine splash and noise with a fast retrieve and you will hook a few. Heavy gear is required to extricate these beasts. At least 15kg or 24kg popping sets with heavy leaders are the go. Be ready for a good workout – these are solid fish and are the reason I named the spot “Trevally Rocks.” It’s fitting, and those trophy-sized trevally deserve to get the credit for the joy they bring my guests and I.
But wait, there’s more. This place is infested with fish – ones that can be easily targeted with lighter gear, and put up a great fight. We have found that 6kg to 8kg spin gear is ideal. We have landed some big bluefin and island trevally on such gear as well as the hardest fighter of them all, the longnose emperor. The mix of species here is outstanding. A few things may happen that will make you question what is going on, such as trigger fish taking poppers off the surface when only a kilometre away on the sand flats they become the most infuriating fly and lure refusers you will find. This is common here, but nowhere else. Other surface strikers, particularly on the smaller poppers, are other members of the trevally clan like the bluefin, island or dusky trevally and the beautifully coloured coral trout in two or three colourations. Coronation cod, queenfish, longtoms, longnose emperors and sweetlips can also take small poppers at times. Some of these are bottom dwelling fish but the shallowness of the spot must have them keeping an eye on the surface as well. There is a real mixture of fish sizes, from minuscule wire netting cod through to a top end of 4kg to 5kg trevally, barracuda and longnose emperors. Remember that big GTs eat small poppers as well, so be prepared for anything! Top-water fishing is visually and audibly thrilling but a more effective fishing method here is to fish with jigheads and soft-plastics. Bright colours that match the colours of the small fish that are being fed on are the best bet. We like to use seven to 12g heads with seven-centimetre tails depending on the speed of the drift, which is determined by the wind effect at the time. Best results come from fishing them deep, down between the coral slabs.
Many species lie in wait for their food to turn up while they are tucked under a coral overhang. Try and fan your casts out to particular targets rather than casting randomly. Some of these fish are shy and will not venture too far from cover. And rightfully so – if they get too far out in the open they become obvious and attractive to any passing GTs. While some catches will be tiny on these lures there will be great variety. The thing they all have in common is that they are savage in their approach, have teeth, and are fiercely competitive in the environment they live in. This makes for great fishing, of course. As well as the other fish mentioned so far, this fishing technique will also allow you to catch several snapper species, a number of grouper-type fish you will never have seen before and some speedsters like queenfish and small trevally that will take the soft-plastics right beside the boat when you are all but finished your retrieve. Giant trevally get the glory but another trevally deserves special mention. The bluefin trevally are possibly the most beautiful fish on the reef. They range from 0.5kg to 10kg in these waters. They are hard to see in the water. The back and top of their tail are blue/purple, their sides are like a mirror and their pectoral and anal fins are blue. They are also covered with salt and pepper spots. A very startling fish to say the least. Their fighting ability is second only to the GT in the trevally family. They are fair fighters which makes them very desirable – they are as likely to run for open water when hooked as they are to run for cover in the coral. A couple of stories will show you how exciting fishing here can be. I was exploring the outer edge of the coral one morning and had just tied on a Swimming Minnow surface lure. My cast barely hit the water when a two-metre barracuda grabbed it and tore off through the coral heads. I expected to be broken straight off but survived the first 100m run. The boatman just started the engine as the fish headed for the channel. At the 50m or 60m mark the line caught the coral and parted. Whew!
I was fishing with Bojan Cvetcovic and had his brain filled with the possibilities of a big fish taking his lure when one did. It started in low gear then sped up as it went. The guide called it for a big longnose emperor and I agreed. Well it never stopped and after running out 300m of line it broke him at the spool. We learned a couple of lessons from that encounter! That sort of sums up “Trevally Rocks”. You never know what might happen. On my most recent trip, I saw Costa Goergiou land two big GTs (one around 40kg). I landed a four-kilo longnose emperor and others caught a variety of very satisfying fish. It’s a place for all tastes. I simply love the place. If you are visiting Christmas Island to bird watch, surf or just fly fish for bonefish, then ask your guide if he can take you to ‘Trevally Rocks’. You will love it too.
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