Thursday, January 14, 2010

What's Happening Under the Boat?!

We spend a lot of time out on our boat fishing with clients or fishing by ourselves. We've noticed a lot of our clients have little or no idea about what happens right under the boat. Very few people actually swim, ask or even bother about the waters they fish. We think it's very important to know what's going on. As part of our exploratory trips we set out to see if we could actually 'see' the fish we were fishing for. After a couple of hours of swimming/snorkeling on some of our favorite reefs we began to see the fish we were after! Some, where we caught them often on popper and some fish were in places we were totally overlooking. We cast poppers where we saw fish earlier while snorkeling and we were soon into more GT!

Above a school of Yellow-back Fusilier gracefully swim along the reef in search of zooplankton they feed on. These schools of bait can be seen from a long way off and appear as a yellow patch in the water or look like a bit of shallow reef in the middle of nowhere. Most often schools of Yellow-back Fusilier have some big GT lurking under them!

A picture of what a bait school looks like to a cruising GT! This was a large school of Blue-streak or Blue-dash Fusilier (Pterocaesio tile). Both schools of Fusilier make up a large part of the GT's diet along with other small fish like sardines, anchovies and small mackerel that thrive in the Andaman Islands.

Very often the GT and bait congregate in the same areas around structue. Here pictured is a GT of about 15kilos with a smaller GT swimming just behind it. These GT along with the Fusilier were holding close to an exposed rock and the photograph was taken in about 3 meters of water. The Fusilier were totally relaxed and swimming within a foot of the GT, showing the GT weren't feeding at the time. We've seen and caught GT on stick-bait in water as shallow as 2 meters while targeting Coral Trout and Grouper or have caught the at over 80 meters deep on jig. This goes to show the wide range of GT in the Andaman Islands.

The final moments of a fight with a GT before it was put in the boat, photographed and released. This GT weighed around the 20 kilo mark. Note the thickness of the 'wrist' of the tail of the fish in the first picture. On some of our bigger 40+ kilo GT one can't get their hand around the wrist of the tail. A good way of judging how big a fish is.

Another couple of pictures of a school of GT. This picture taken at Sisters Island, another hot spot for GT, shows the number of free swimming fish. This school appeared out of the blue in about 20 meters of water. They swam under the boat for a while before disappearing. The school had the bigger fish lurking at the bottom of the school and a bit more weary of us on the surface. A pity they were a bit too deep to photograph with a mask and snorkel.

A GT reluctantly swims to the boat. This fish could not resist a Halco Haymaker.

A free swimming GT and a loner as we saw no other GT with this chap. This fish was very weary of us and kept at a safe distance only once letting us get close enough to get a quick couple of photographs. A GT, behavior wise that was definitely not looking for anything, we popped the area we saw this fish but got no strikes. I'd have been really happy if I'd managed to see a GT, get back in the boat, cast to it and catch it! Not so lucky this time around. As the season carries on we'll be taking more pictures underwater of the fish we love and catch with a hope of better understanding their behavior.

Darran & Akshay.

Early January Jigging and Popping with Leo.

Early January 2010 saw us fishing with Leo from Spain, who was on his first trip to the Andaman Islands. Leo was keen on jigging and popping for fish and saw plenty of action during his trip, but not much sun :-)

Above, the end of a hard fought and won battle by Leo. A nice 25+ kilo GT coming to the boat. This fish was taken on the Cubera 150 popper that did really well during this trip.

Leo and the boys with their prize catch before it was released.

Shark on jig! Quite difficult to land and often result in lost jigs. Not our favourite fish to catch, but every now and again one makes it to the boat.

Leo with a nice small GT that fought really hard. It was one of those fish that just had to be photographed and not a fish that'll soon be forgotten.

Another nice GT!

The pictures above are of some of the fish caught on jig. We fished a new set of deep reefs that had a wide array of fish that take jig. We were quite surprised by the species caught and the number of fish that came up on light jigs.

Another favourite on jig is the coronation trout that are found on reefs here. Apart from being nasty scrappers they taste great! More to come on trips in the future.

Darran & Akshay.

November 2009

Early November saw us fishing with JP, a repeat client and good friend of ours who fished with us the previous season. JP had a great trip and returned for some more action here in the Andaman Islands. The first couple days of JP's trip saw the wind pick up and we had to frustratingly wait for the winds to die down. Once we were out again and conditions more favourable, we were soon into some good fish. It took a couple of days for the fish to wake up :-) but once they did the trip just kept getting better!

Above, JP fighting a fish off a shallow reef section we fish North of Port Blair. This network of reefs gives us countless fishing opportunities and holds an equal number of GT.

A feisty medium sized GT coming to the boat along the surface after a short and violent fight.

JP with a GT before it was released back to the sea.

Kantha with a nice GT taken on popper. This fish was a beautiful specimen and much lighter. Often specimens caught in shallower and coloured water tend to be lighter than their counterparts caught in deeper water.

JP fighting another GT and being supported so he could put more muscle into the fight. Another often overlooked part of one's kit is a decent fighting belt. Very often big fish are lost because an angler isn't comfortable with his fighting belt. Key points to note are a belt with sufficient padding, one that sits low enough to comfortably fight a fish and a belt that has a big enough slot to easily fit a rod butt on the first go. Often anglers strike and then fumble with their rod trying to get it into the belt, this loss of concentration leads to slack in line and we've seen many a big GT get away Scot free!

Another GT that could not resist a Orion Lures Cono Cono (150 gms). We like fishing this lure with a single large treble.

JP with his GT just before it was released.

Kantha again hooked into a very decent GT that headed straight down for the reef in deep water. We were quite impressed with the Shimano Kaibutsu Deep Monster which did very well for an off the shelf rod.

Again a thick GT just before release and one last photograph.

Early in the season the fringes of deeper reefs are often patrolled by gangs of Wahoo. Traditionally they're quite difficult to hook on surface lure as they're notorious when it comes to cutting leaders. But every now and again we get one that's hell bent on hammering a popper and stays hooked!

Since the fishing was so good we couldn't resist chucking a few poppers ourselves and we were quickly rewarded for our not so hard work! We had some truly spectacular fishing towards the end of the trip as the sea conditions got better and tides improved. As the trip came to it's end it was hard to stop fishing. JP left the Andaman Islands promising to return and we know we'll see him soon, but before he returns we're lucky enough to stay!

The latter half of November and early December saw us going out on exploratory trips with the sole aim of finding more potential GT spots. We've also had some great jigging for Doggies and discovered a long set of deep reefs that produce a wide variety of jig eating critters! More to come soon on our jigging ventures.

Darran & Akshay

Updates October, November, December 2009

We spent most of the months of October and November doing our annual boat maintenance, both Halcyon and Halcyon II were completely serviced and we put on new anti-foul paint, the electronics have been upgraded on both both boats.
This year the weather in November was unpredictable as compared to last year and most of the month was flat calm save the first few days when we had near gale force Easterly winds and had to cancel a few days of fishing.
We also did a bit of exploratory fishing and looked for new areas to pop and jig. I was very keen to try a new popping connection using Jerry Brown line one hollow spectra and put it to the test with a nice GT below:

We found some new jigging spots as well and this below is a doggie I pulled, actually Akshay had one the same size attack his popper a meter from the boat but the hook pulled, unfortunately.

A friend of ours Vidur Chandy made a quick trip over along with his 2 young sons, if was good fun to get them started on some small GT's around Havelock Island and some Yellowfin tuna trolling, they had a blast. Its the best way to get the younger generation interested in the sport.

We had 2 days to convert Lt.Gen. D.S Chauhan, his son Hamir and Col. Mahendra Singh into popper fisherman and this we did!! We changed them from anglers who had never fished with popper in Saltwater to fisherman who landed over 35 GT's in 2 days of fishing. I think that this is one of the more rewarding aspects of guiding is to convert more people to the sport and conservation as well as to introduce children to angling.

Gt's apleanty, a double hook up from the same school

Look out for more updates on our trips, reports and action in the Andaman Islands on these pages. May tight lines and screaming drags be the flavour of the new year.

Darran & Akshay