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Ambergris

Kiritimati - February 2013

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(Put this together last night for another place, but thought it should be shared here as well....)



 



I've wanted to fish an "exotic" location for a few years, for better or worse drawn by the idea of big fish in shallow water. An opportunity to fish Kiritimati came along so i took it. 



Kiritimati is Christmas Island, an island in the expansive Pacific nation of Kiribati. In the nation's native Gilbertese, the "ti" is pronounced as an "s", so really it's a wash...different spelling, same deal...Christmas. In case you've seen, but not recognized it for what it is, this is the nation of Kiribati's (pronounced "Kiribaas") flag. 

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Walking by the U.N. every morning has made the meaning of a nation's flag resonate, and this one really does justice to this island nation's core.



Following are screenshots from a fair amount of video taken on the trip. The biggest thing I learned is something I suspected all along...the inshore saltwater fishing here in the Northeast is as good as anywhere in the world, or better. 



That said, my primary target in signing up for this trip were GTs in shallow water. I learned en route that this game out there has changed in the last several years. Turns out that two of the three camps on the island actively chum the GTs on certain flats on a daily basis, greatly reducing their prevalence, and willingness to eat while free swimming other random flats. Chances are if you see a big, fly caught GT from the island in the last couple years, more frequently than not it was chummed in on chunks, and possibly even caught with a chunk of milkfish on the fly. 



Our group was not there to catch trained fish, so I did not have that preconceived (to me) idyllic experience. What I did learn about, and come to be infatuated with, were Triggerfish. Wandering alone on one coral flat the afternoon of my first day I chased a dark fish tail, and later learned about this spooky, strong, difficult to feed species. To me, they are worth travelling the world to catch. Bonefish...meh...but triggers...they are interesting. More on that later.



The terra firma of the island is not pretty, it's crust and scrub, most structures are cinder block and metal. this is our lavish camp.

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Better to not to get sick in the first place...

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There is dancing...shake it Mr. Handsome.

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this is about the extent of "retail" on the island. she's rolling clove cigarettes. That is indeed Spam on a tea set, and some nice hair gel too...

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but who cares, the kids seemed happy

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young men were catching sweetlips by hand

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and the beauty and expanse of the flats are absolutely amazing

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At times it feels like a moonscape, if moons were milky white and blue. It's almost hard to appreciate while out you're there because there is no contrast, at least in the outer portion of the "lagoon".

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I put lagoon in quotes because the interior waters of the island are vast, not what you expect when you hear the word "lagoon". Heading out the first morning I thought we were going to the ocean because there was nothing on the horizon.



As for the fishing, you can catch small to mid-size bonefish all day...as many as you could ever want. There are big bones around, but I did not see any. One member of our party landed a 34+ inch fish the week after we left, and after seeing the fish he's caught around the world, I believe he caught a special fish. This was about as good as I did for bones.

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Triggerfish. I saw a video in the F3T calling them "Mayan tarpon", or something like that. I don't think that's an appropriate analogy. They aren't migratory, they eat in a vertical position because god made them weird causing a classic "tailing" position, they're very finicky, they pull much harder than their size would have you believe, they drastically change colors, and they seem to have unique personalities. A better reference for a Caribbean fish would be to call these Xmas Island permit



I would not travel two days and thousands of miles for a bonefish again, but I would do it for these fish. They are a blast to hunt, a pain in the ass to hook, tricky to land, and beautiful.



This is what you see in the distance

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After two days of stalking, plenty of opportunities, slicing up a finger on some coral, then having a big, BIG trigger follow to within 15 feet after stalking for an honest 30min, only to turn and bolt...this is how they make you feel.

P1000167_Xmas_Flats_TriggerStalking6_NIC



There are two target trigger species on Xmas, though the species in general has yet to be thought of as a target when compared to bones and GTs...but I sense that will change. Once hooked, they run hard and fast for their home in a coral head, and if they make it it's game over, unless you trust sticking your hand into a dark hole in the middle of nowhere...don't forget the hospital photo above.



There is a pink species, and another with a dark mustache that changes color from dark orange/brown to more bland colors...but never loses the mustache. The pinks tend to be less finicky, but they're all tricky as their teeth easily cut your leader. It took 2.5 days, but I finally landed one. 

PinkTrigger.jpg



Another PITA thing I learned is these fish tend to have small friends. You can land a perfect cast within two feet of the fish (with a constant 20mph "breeze" whipping your line), pull without spooking, and hook some invisible species which freaks all the fish out. 



I learned this was a valuable aquarium fish, and unusual fly catch that got me 2/3 the way to the coveted (to me) "trigger slam"...the Picasso trigger

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Of course it's not a slam until you land the tough one...the Mustache. I gave up on catching him, resigned to look for GT, until a special guide named Moano said in his soft way, "where there is a will, there is a way."

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Side note, Moano literally drew the map of Christmas Island flats, by hand. On the island he is an elder, to a small group of fisherman, he is a legend. For me it was a special day to fish with this quiet man. I felt we shared a similar feeling for why we chase these fish, what it feels like to be close to them for a moment, and how lucky we are to have that chance at all.



Moano was right...we tried a bit longer when the tide was right and after about 20min of casting to this fish, we got lucky. In all its mediocrity in terms of size, this fish made my trip, and has since been in my dreams

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continued...


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(part 2)



 



There are two parts to the island's lagoon, the outside and the inside. The outside is where the chumming takes place, it's where the legendary Paris flat has the spawning of the bones, but it's the inside where bigger, less pressured fish can roam.



To get to the inside part of the lagoon, you need to cross the 9mile flat, which is possible with big tides that coincide with the right time of year. timing is key to get across in the morning and have the high sun to fish. the trip was planned around this specific moon tide.



Despite the high water, you still have to get out and push:

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Once on the inside, there was some contrast between the crusty scrub and pristine water

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Inside there were GTs. They are...interesting. Smart in that they are top level predators that take advantage of opportunistic feeding environments. After crossing 9mile, we could get to a less pressured group of fish that were still spoiled, but in a more natural way. Essentially there is a place where there are a lot of milkfish, and they get pushed into a confined space on the outgoing tide. Every once in a while one will get pulled through a gap. The GTs have keyed in on this, and camp out waiting for it to happen. 



Here are a couple shots of these aggressive fish chasing their favorite food.

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there were 30 to 100lb fish, each chasing milkfish in the exact same way. they burst to catch the milkfish, almost planing out of water, then use their high profile to help slash into the prey. the result is pretty dramatic, turning a pristine place into a loud death scene.

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this one survived

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run milkfish RUN!!

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this one did not

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I hooked one, but lost it due to a bad initial hookset. That was my only shot.



I'll be putting together a video shortly which essentially puts these images in motion. There's not much more that I captured than what's here, but seeing these fish move is pretty special. 



I'm not sure if I'll ever make it back to Kiritimati, definitely not just to chase bonefish. I would go for triggers, but would need at least two weeks to really get into it.



There is an interesting offshore scene with tuna, wahoo, I think sailfish, and big GTs. It was good enough that three of our party landed seven yellowfin, losing 3 others, on Day 1. Unfortunately, that scene is also feeling the effects of human influence and getting raped by massive Spanish fishing boats, fully supported by Kirbati who takes a % cut of the $ from the catch. I was told there is no other regulation on the size of the catch these ships take and they were easily the largest fishing vessels I've ever seen. After these boats showed on on Day 3, the tuna bite disappeared.

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Last but not least...they have funny signs

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flour?...really? if you say so.



Video will follow in a few weeks.


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very cool peter and great pics, just got back from the pacific myself (fiji). Had one shot at a GT but failed to get it to bite! its on my to do list. I only had a ten weight and am pretty sure i would have gotten smoked if I hooked it. Were you using a 12 weight? I got the tropical saltwater bug now and am trying to figure out time for my next trip! brutal flights out the south pacific though....got back sunday and i'm still worn out and readjusting to time difference. -Long

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Hey Long!! Sorry you're trip is over...and yeah, that "one shot" will haunt you for a long time. I'd love to hear more about it...so beers soon.



 



We actually used 10wts as our GT rods down there from the flats with 400+ of backing, and that was the norm. Were there any trigger out there?



 



My dream now is to somehow spend a few months sailing there and find some really fun spots where big planes don't land biggrin.gif.  I just have to learn how to sail, and convince the wife it's a really good idea. I figure the education my girls will get living on a boat on the Pacific will be sooo much better than anything NYC has to offer, and it's a hell of a lot cheaper.



 



File under "dream".

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Enjoyed the picks and your adventure , looking forward to the vid as always.

" Chances are if you see a big, fly caught GT from the island in the last couple years, more frequently than not it was chummed in on chunks, and possibly even caught with a chunk of milkfish on the fly."

interesting! this was one on my bucket list just for the GT's but now I'm having second thoughts looks more like seychelles will be 1st on the list if they don't put milk fish chunks on my fly... either way those trigger's are absolutely beautiful especially the picaso trigger.

thx for sharing.

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Great job Ambergris. Thank you for posting the pics and the narrative. My friend went to Christmas island. Had a single shot at a GT. Can't remember if he hooked up or not. Said it was like a pig roiling around on the flat and I think that's a good description of your photos of the GT attacking the milkies.

 

My friend and his party really weren't that happy with the crappy accomodations. Also, one guy got food-poisoning and was basically stuck in the prison cell of his room for two days, which was a nightmare of titanic proportions.

 

Nice work disucssing some of the changing elements of the fishery.

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Good stuff. Beers soon. BTW, if you're serious about the cruising thing I've got a great book that tells you how to prep for it and do it on the relative cheap.

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Quote:

Originally Posted by rplace View Post

Good stuff. Beers soon. BTW, if you're serious about the cruising thing I've got a great book that tells you how to prep for it and do it on the relative cheap.



 



Welcome back! Yes, maybe Wednesday?



 



Quote:

Originally Posted by thaistick View Post

Enjoyed the picks and your adventure , looking forward to the vid as always.

" Chances are if you see a big, fly caught GT from the island in the last couple years, more frequently than not it was chummed in on chunks, and possibly even caught with a chunk of milkfish on the fly."

interesting! this was one on my bucket list just for the GT's but now I'm having second thoughts looks more like seychelles will be 1st on the list if they don't put milk fish chunks on my fly... either way those trigger's are absolutely beautiful especially the picaso trigger.

thx for sharing.



Two things about the Seychelles, 1) I was told it's better, but not all that different in terms of how the fish are treated, 2) pirates...maybe it's getting better, but heard they were a problem in the last 2 years.



 



Quote:

Originally Posted by numbnuts View Post

Thanks for posting this, Christmas Island is on my list for a combo surfing-fish trip. Did you happen to notice how the surf was while you were there?



There was a group of surfers on the island, and unfortunately it wasn't great for them. Was told it can be great, but when planning in advance you are at the whims of the waves. These guys were from Hawaii and California, so for them to head out there means to me it can be very good, and obviously empty.



Quote:

Originally Posted by okisutch View Post

Great job Ambergris. Thank you for posting the pics and the narrative. My friend went to Christmas island. Had a single shot at a GT. Can't remember if he hooked up or not. Said it was like a pig roiling around on the flat and I think that's a good description of your photos of the GT attacking the milkies.

My friend and his party really weren't that happy with the crappy accomodations. Also, one guy got food-poisoning and was basically stuck in the prison cell of his room for two days, which was a nightmare of titanic proportions.

Nice work disucssing some of the changing elements of the fishery.



I didn't expect much from the accommodations, but where we were wasn't bad. We had AC in the rooms, a ceiling fan and decent meals. Can't speak for the other camps, but Ikari House was ok, and the people were excellent, absolutely excellent.



 



Quote:

Originally Posted by JrzFlyGuy View Post

Ambergris, how did you like casting the H2? I just bought the 10 wt and I'd like to hear your opinions on it.



Loved it. I didn't get to test how the 10wt was fish handling, but the 8wt was just great.

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Seafarer View Post

HI There, what a great report.

Which lodges are chumming the GT? Or more to the point, which ones are not?



 



We were at Ikari House, and there was no fish feeding on the flats going on. I believe there are two other lodges, Shark Camp and Capt. Cook, and it was Shark Camp that was doing it most days, but this is coming from what the guides were saying, not my speaking with people at each camp.



 



The guides however will fish with different operations from time to time, depending on who's fishing the island at the time.



 



We did see a few big Golden Trevally which eat more like bonefish, but were the size of small adult GTs (+-20lbs) . Hooking one of those on an 8wt would have been a handful. Between the triggers, opportunities for a golden, maybe a GT, some decent bonefish, and the offshore action, I could see going back if I could spend two weeks.


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HI There, what a great report.

 

Which lodges are chumming the GT? Or more to the point, which ones are not?

 

Okay the Villages do not chum. "Too easy" said the head guide. This is what the surf looks like from the Korean Wreck (actual wreck long ago salvaged). Waves are breaking on the outer fringe of coral reef that pretty much surrounds the Island. Interesting fish to be had there, or where ever you can get access to the back side of the fringing coral reef.

 

1000

 

Reaux

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Reaux View Post


Quote:

Originally Posted by Seafarer View Post

HI There, what a great report.

Which lodges are chumming the GT? Or more to the point, which ones are not?


Okay the Villages do not chum. "Too easy" said the head guide. This is what the surf looks like from the Korean Wreck (actual wreck long ago salvaged). Waves are breaking on the outer fringe of coral reef that pretty much surrounds the Island. Interesting fish to be had there, or where ever you can get access to the back side of the fringing coral reef.

1000

Reaux



 



Thanks for chiming in here. Your post about Xmas was excellent, I looked through it several times waiting to go. Who were your guides out there? Did you happen to meet either Simon or Moano?



 



We never made it to the areas of the wreck, I guess the tides were too low.


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