VanuWahoo! Maskelyne Islands, The Trip of Trips…
Friday, the 24th of February 2012 was like any other day, the working week finished, my boat was readied, packed and in tow for another trip to chase the currents and the Marlin that follow them.
The phone rings as I’m heading up the highway, its Dave Noble, Mr. Ocean Blue. After exchanging pleasantries, we get to the important part of the conversation, what type of trip has he got planned and when do we fly out. Dave mentions that the destination is Vanuatu and that this is a special trip in that location we’d be taken too has rarely been fished recreationally. He also notes that we need to fly out in two weeks… Tough ask.
With such a quick turn around and the Marlin season in full swing, I wondered whether I could make this work. Untouched paradise and the promise of a trip I’d never forget was enough to kick me into gear. A few phone calls and emails went out after we got off the phone and I quickly confirmed to Dave that I’d be attending. A quick call to Craig went out and invite extended. Ever since I met Craig, all he’s been harping about is his desire to catch a Dogtooth Tuna. This was his chance and he jumped aboard.
Tackle was sourced quickly!
The trip itinerary is simple, fly to Port Vila, stay overnight, get taxied to the fishing lodge, hop aboard the fishing machine that is the 32 feet Edgewater “Azzurra”, troll approximately 60 miles to the Maskelyne Islands where we would stay on the 50 feet mothership “Cooloola” for four nights and fish for five days. A 34 feet Black Watch “Ratua” would also be joining us and they would focus on the Blue Marlin and we’d be focusing on the sportfishing side of the equation. As this was an exploratory trip, we would be quite mobile and attempt to cover as much ground as possible. Luckily on Azzurra, we had no issue in doing so! When we moved, we moved fast!
Day 1 – 13 March 2012
Anticipation was high, but we managed a few hours of sleep before waking at 5:00am to meet Anthony (Ocean Blue Owner), who would taxi us to the new fishing lodge approximately 30 minutes from Port Vila (and accompany us on our trip). On arrival, I was impressed! This is an awesome facility and in its final stages of construction.
Our vessel, the 32ft Edgewater “Azzurra”
We ate an awesome breakfast, met the guys and promptly put the lures out for the troll up to the Maskelyne’s. Any wonder why we’re trolling for Blue Marlin 100 meters from shore?
The weather looked the goods for the trip up!
About an hour into our troll, we encountered some XOS Yellowfin Tuna which was busting up bait balls around us. Unfortunately they were as flighty as ever and motoring near the school put them down. It was still an awesome sight to see 60kg+ smashing bait now more than 50m away!
Due to time constraints, we couldn’t hang around for long and continued our north track. Another hour later a greedy Shortbill Spearfish at the long rigger which was an 37kg outfit and as you’d expect the fish quickly fell off. The remainder of the run up was uneventful, but we got plenty of sun and had plenty of banter amongst one another.
I was fast asleep when Captain Andrea Traverso said we were in Dogtooth Tuna country. No more than 20 seconds later, the 24kg growled violently after a swimming bait had been snuck out past the prop wash and had been consumed by something. I was up and quickly realised that I’d almost lost half a spool in the first run!
This fish knew where home was and found his seamount residence, slicing through the 300lb leader like butter.
Luckily we didn’t have to wait long when Craig’s rod shot off, and he put the brakes on a nice fish! Nailing his first Doggy personally and for the trip.
Double hook ups were the norm.
The heavens opened up and a break from the 30 degree heat beckoned. The weather change didn’t affect the fishing though! With single and double hook ups on Doggy’s to 25kg!
Craig decided he wanted a bit more variety when he hooked a nice GTl! Craig looks somewhat impressed with the capture too!
For about two hours, the fish were biting freely on every pass over the seamount. Doggies to 25kg, and GT’s were a good start and nothing short of HOT fishing. All on board were feeling somewhat buckled once we turned for home just before sunset to meet up with the mothership and the anchorage.
We were served with cold beer and gourmet food on arrival, does life get any better?
Day 2 – 14 March 2012
I could live getting up to this for the next few days…
After an awesome brekky, we again headed off to the headlands which we no more than five minutes from the anchorage, no 50km runs here! It didn’t take long for us to find the fish either, with Red Bass/Coral Trout keeping us entertained!
It’s all easy, until you hook these buggers! After all the fish we caught over the week, I remember this one clearly! Craigo did an awesome job after hooking this fish right on top of an ugly looking bommie, a great capture!
By this time, the sun was a little higher and we moved out into deeper water to see if we could tangle with some more Dogtooth Tuna. That didn’t take long either with a number of Doggies succumbing to our offering of live Rainbow Runners. It was almost too easy, ALMOST!
The fishing was tough, but rewarding!
Day 3 – 15 March 2012
We were again blessed with type of weather that you see in the brochures and set off for an early morning popping session.
We had managed a few Bass, until my popper was absolutely clobbered and the skipper made it known that what I had on, could be the fish of a lifetime. The pressure was on!
A proper 19kg of drag doesn’t feel nice on what amounts to a beach rod…
Fishing for GT’s sounded fun at the time…
15 minutes after hookup, a lot of lower back pain and we managed to get this big puppy in the boat. The boys made a conservative estimate of 50kg+. ABSOLUTELY STOKED!
After the big GT, we stopped for lunch.
The Doggies came on in a BIG way in the afternoon when we had them around the boat and crashing our poppers!
Craigo hooked the biggest Dog of the trip, at 36kg on a live Rainbow Runner. An absolute pig!
Andrea showing us how it’s done!
We also managed some other fish throughout the day as we moved from spot to spot, rarely leaving empty handed.
A nice Bluefin Trevally, between these and the Red Bass, you’re generally kept on your toes before something bigger eats your offering. I had dropped my jig down about 100m when it was absolutely punished quickly upon retrieval. Thinking I’d hooked a GT, I went as hard as I could on PE6.
About 15 minutes that, this awesome creature appeared. Close to being the fish of the trip for me personally. The pictures don’t do it justice!
These WERE new jigs…
A great days fishing!
The fishing was consistently good throughout the entire day and there were a few hectic moments in between when the switch was flicked that two or three of us were hooked up at the same time. We saw free jumping Sailfish, stacks of bait, lots of bird activity. Good fishing if you can get it!
Day 4 – 16 March 2012
The final day and last beckoning! By now we’d done everything we’d come to do, so we just focused on making the most out of the remaining fishing and enjoy ourselves on what would be the finale of the trip of trips!
The day started off in an unbelievable manner when there were literally acres of rat Yellowfin eating anything we threw at them! We got sick of catching them so we went back to hookless poppers!
Peter with a Wahoo on the pop!
This really was the trip of trips, our expectations were blown away after the first session and it just got better and better. Get onto the website and book a trip! (http://www.oceanbluefishing.com/).
Dave is the man and he’ll go that extra mile to make the trip that little bit better. This was my second trip with Ocean Blue and won’t be my last!
I can’t think of anything that could have made this trip any better than it was. It’d be nice to be able to catch all those fish and not need serious chiropractic work on the return to Aus, but we can’t have it all our own way.
Don’t think about it, just get out there and do it!
More pics from the trip:
Anthony Dimech, Vanuatu Live on Board Adventure