Destination Vanuatu

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    Posted: 22 Oct 2022 at 5:08pm
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As I recall it was around September 2021 when AlanL on this site and I exchanged posts about a fish species he knew as Poulet in Vanuatu and what I believed were the same species I knew as Ruby Snapper here in WA.  These initial posts lead to some 1700 further email exchanges between then and now covering a wide range of fishing topics pertaining to fishing in Vanuatu, NZ and Australia.  I think it would be fair to say that we are both rather passionate about our fishing even at 70 plus years each.  Alan escapes the NZ winter to fish Vanuatu waters where he has a second home located at Port Havannah on Efate Island, some 40 minutes drive from Port Vila.  Not a bad view from his front verandah looking over Havannah harbour, Moso Island on the other side.  Depth of water in between reaches an incredible 130m.

What you don't see in the above pic is the boat ramp, choice.


Alan has the very same model of boat in Vanuatu as he has in NZ plus everything else necessary to fish regularly, weather permitting.  How could I decline Alan's invitation to fish with him in Vanuatu once the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted from the respective countries?  Well I didn't and this post is about my recent fishing experience with him in Vanuatu.

Alan picked me up from the Port Vila airport on 29th September.  Of my 30kg baggage limit some 20kg consisted of tackle that I just couldn't leave behind in Oz.  Months of planning had gone into this despite Alan's advice that you don't need to bring any tackle as I have all bases covered, and he was correct.

Fishing methods we engaged in included jigging, deep slow jigging, trolling skirts / bibbed lures / strip baits / dead baits and poppers, drifting dead baits as well as numerous methods of catching live-baits to be deployed as livies.  In addition we would deep drop in mostly 250 - 400m water depths targeting poulet.  Marlin were not on our radar.  Without going into daily reports Alan put me onto some great fish and our captures included the following species:

Barracuda

Coral trout

Coronation trout

Dogtooth tuna

Flying fish

Long nose emperor

Mahi mahi

Pygmy red poulet

Queenfish

Randall's snapper

Red bass

Red snapper

Saddle-back snapper

Scad

Sharks - too many but managed a few for the village

Silver jaw red poulet (Pale snapper)

Skipjack tuna

Sottel red poulet (Ruby snapper in WA)

Yellow fin tuna and I'm sure I've missed a few others.

The majority of the boated fish was distributed among the local indigenous population, shark being their favourite.  Hard to figure but they seem to prefer shark to mahi mahi or poulet.

Every fishing trip has a hard luck story and mine was to drop a 'fish of a lifetime' wahoo according to Alan at the side of the boat just seconds before it was about to be hit with the gaff.  The first run was huge despite 15kg of drag, impressive stuff.

I was fortunate to experience a good stretch of weather and we fished 16 of the 20 fishing days available.  Lay-days only on the day after arrival, the day prior to departure and two sightseeing / shopping days.

For me the highlight of the trip would have to be the dogtooth tuna.  We had experienced bust offs after being buried in the reef by others before we finally boated a 30kg doggie a few days before my departure.  It was a huge buzz with the fish being hooked in 20m of water.  15kgs of drag on the reel again and trying to led it (perhaps bully it would be a better word) into deeper waters before it could bust you off on the reef.  Bejesus they go hard.  Two happy guys when it hit the deck I can assure you.  Job done, tick the box, we eat doggie sashimi tonight, better than YFT.

Alan was a great host and one of the most modest guys I have ever met.  His knowledge about how to change tactics and fishing methods to catch fish in a fishery that has been seriously depleted (read fkd) by the Chinese long liners and purse seiners is impressive.

Alan, thank you once again for the invitation and your hospitality.  Tusker time; cheese, red onion and tomato on crackers; sashimi, fresh pawpaw / banana and yoghurt breakfasts and especially deep fried fish in the secret batter recipe will all feature in my many memories of my journey to Vanuatu.

A few pics to finish.

Fruit and vege market in Port Vila.


Fish & chips with the secret batter recipe, very yummy.


Trolling at sunrise near Nguna Island.


Poulet and Randall's snapper.


Mahi mahi time.


And another.


Dogtooth tuna.


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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote smudge Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Oct 2022 at 5:39pm
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Wow, great post FA!
Best gurnard fisherman in my street
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Skoti Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Oct 2022 at 8:02am
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Awesome report there Thumbs Up
I have met Alan before , though he was with a dodgy mate of his ( Bazza ) Wink LOL
Nice guy Big smile
COVID is no joke !
One former patient was so brain damaged after , he thought he won an election he lost by 7 million votes .
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (1) Likes(1)   Quote Fish Addict Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Oct 2022 at 12:53am
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Originally posted by Skoti Skoti wrote:

... I have met Alan before , though he was with a dodgy mate of his ( Bazza ) Wink LOL
Nice guy Big smile

I expect that was at one of the Grunter Hunter events.  Bazza's experiences are legend on this site so I need not elaborate.  Alan did however mention something about a bloke in a nice frilly dress with big boobies but I won't go there either WinkBig smile
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (1) Likes(1)   Quote Alan L Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Oct 2022 at 2:57pm
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Had never met FA before - just corresponded by email as he mentioned. So a bit of a risk having an unknown bloke move in for a few weeks fishing. Have to say FA would be one of the easiest to get along with blokes you could ever meet.
The time went fast and we had a lot of fun trying to catch fish that did not want to be caught.
Alan
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote GregS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Oct 2022 at 1:23am
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Hey FA I just read your post in the thread titled Fishing, I read this report with interest but was too lazy to thank you. That was a lifetime of fishing in that one trip, I was quite blown away by the variety of species and some serious size amongst them. Its very cool to see a couple of guys in there 70s out there doing it, I'm in my early 60s so reassured I've got plenty of time to clock up fishing experiences. Alan sure has a good set up there, please keep posting report, could be something in the covid vaccine making us Kiwis a bit apathetic, cheers Greg
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Fish Addict Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Oct 2022 at 6:05pm
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Thanks Greg, it's nice to get some feedback.  Whilst my post is no more meritorious than one about catching gurnard on the big muddy or pulling pannies from the Rangi channel, I had hoped it would generate some interest.  Once again AlanL was a great host and I can't thank him enough.  A few more pics.

When the onshore terrain looks like this you just know deep water is not far away.


There are some shallower places though.



This vessel whilst impounded by the Vanuatu Gov. broke it's mooring in Havannah Harbour during cyclone Pam 2015, wind gusts 280kph.



The sharks took their toll.



And occasionally we took revenge.



And lastly, I just had to take a pic of this.


 
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Alan L Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Oct 2022 at 7:13pm
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That shallow water pic was taken in a passage between two islands. Has about 1m of water at high tide. First time I took Alan thru it was at daybreak and near low tide. Told him we may need to get out and push. And we did. He never complained and was always up for the next adventure next day - even after a 10 hr day.
Marlin could have been on the menu, but the sharks made bait fishing very difficult. I don't have enough fuel for much trolling with 45 l in the boat and a 2 S Merc. And some days we did big distances (80k round trip - with an extra 20 l fuel thrown in).
But I find bait fishing more interesting and more productive anyway.
Treble of mahi yday. Each one caught a different way. Skirt, bait, fly.
Alan
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Tonto2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Oct 2022 at 7:38pm
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Been to Vanuatu once but we had the misfortune to arrive just in time for a 7. Something earthquake, we did 3 day charters but the fishing was nowhere near as good as what you had. Bit disappointed but hey still loved the trip and racked up a sizeable tab🥃🥃. Great report, enjoyed it
slowly going where everyone else has already been
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Alan L Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Oct 2022 at 7:41pm
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Earthquakes put the fish down for several days. That was bad luck. We do get a few. Some quite big.
Alan
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote lawabidingpoacher Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Oct 2022 at 7:50pm
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Wow , what a list of species caught or nearly caught . Photos are awsome , that market looks to have such a relaxed atmosphere. Would like the one i go to to be so chilled instead of everyone zig zaggin about looking for the best deals. Thanks for the report
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I'm very jealous as I was going to have at least one day out with Alan pre Covid too as son WAS going to get married over there. Travel and Island venue all booked etc. Chatting to Alan the fish stocks are well depleted and he has to do the hours and distances to have any success. Testament to him to catch what he does. Great dedicated fisherman alright and great guy that I too are yet to meet. 
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (1) Likes(1)   Quote Alan L Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Oct 2022 at 8:14pm
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 Yes - it is hard yards. No easy fish - as I kept telling Alan. You have to work for them all - a challenge. But that is what is enjoy. If it was simple.....
But it is very sad to see the fishery decline the way it has. YF near extinct now and took me months to catch a mahi last yr.
The U tune clips don't show all the hard stuff.
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (1) Likes(1)   Quote Alan L Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Oct 2022 at 9:40pm
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I caught the three fish yday using different methods and switching within a few minutes of them turning off what caught them last.
A mate who lives here went to same spot, same time of day with my intel from yday and caught nil.
Thats what it is like.
Not like U tube clips.
Alan
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (1) Likes(1)   Quote Fish Addict Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Oct 2022 at 11:28pm
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So many memories.  One day we had a pilot whale swimming around the boat doing laps.  We were trolling as I recall and it seemed to follow us for 20mins or so, very cool.
And another day there was a WTF was that experience.  The deep drop baits AlanL generally uses in Vanuatu are much smaller than what I would use in WA.  Having said that the target species is different, and Alan uses larger baits in NZ as I would targeting puka and the like.  We had exchanged a number of emails prior me arriving in Vanuatu about my plan to drop a few larger baits and 350-500g slow jigs on his Poulet spots to see if they would attract larger Poulet.  I filleted a small poulet retaining its tail and then halved the fillet along the spine.  Bait now 200-250mm long including half a tail.  Paternoster rig, two circle hooks, down she goes, 280m.  Hit bottom at 350m on the electric reel and after a short wait I'm on.  I engage the electric reel and initially thought I was gaining line before I realize this fish has just gone for a long run and I'm now at 480m.  Now starts the pain.  The fish was doing nothing, dead weight.  After 10 mins of pumping and winding manually and using the electric retrieve I was gaining line very slowly, but I was rooted.  No harness lugs on my Beastmaster 9000.  After cranking up the drag I wedged myself into the skipper's seat and held on (ali bent butt, no rod bucket / gimbal, perhaps not the smartest move) engaging electric retrieve at a very slow rate.  It was working, metre by metre I had the fish at 150m after perhaps 30-45mins?  Then gone, fk.  Hooks pulled, no scuffing whatsoever on the line.  Subsequent discussions with one of Alan's mates, a charter skipper suggests it may have been a six-gill shark.  My initial thoughts were big 8 bar cod due to the lack of line scuffing but there was no diving for the bottom typical of cod like species so I'm happy to run with the six-gill.  Whatever it was there was no way we could have lifted it in the boat, it would have been a tow job.
Would I do it again, hell yes!!!          
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