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Christmas Island Liveaboard Angling Report 04-01-2008

This report comes to us via
The Angling Report. Our client Lee Kernen took this trip in early April of 2008. Lee sent this report in and we thought our readers might be interested in it.

I am responding to The Angling Report's request for reports on the new Christmas Island mothership, Tuaraoi Liveaboard. Seems I was with a party of four Americans who booked the Tuaroi for a week of fishing this past April 1-8. Here is how things went....

We were met at the island airport by our host, Chuck Corbett, who offered us a choice between going fishing for bonefish immediately or heading to the boat to settle in. Since we are all old (mid-60's) and experienced, we opted to skip fishing that afternoon, and we were transported to a jetty just north of the Christmas Island Lagoon, a mile or so west of London.

On arriving at the 60-foot, steel-hulled sailing vessel, we were immediately bothered by the crowded conditions and clutter on the boat. Two of us took the forward cabin and two took the aft. Also on the vessel were Corbett's wife, two of her sisters and a first mate by the name of Jeremy.

The first morning we were served a nice breakfast and then put into two small boats to go to the bonefish flats in the lagoon. To our amazement, the guides who acted as boat operator did not even know how to start the outboards, much less steer a course. As it turned out, they were good guides who could spot fish, but they had never been put in a position to run a boat. Frankly, without our guidance and advice, it could have been a disaster. When I queried the captain about this, he said he had hoped the men would pick up the necessary boat skills quickly. It took them a week, but they did indeed improve while we were there.

We fished in the same general area as the clients from the various lodges on the island. That first morning on a falling tide I landed six bones, the largest weighing about six pounds. Most came on a Christmas Island Special fly that had either a fluorescent orange head or eyes.

Dinners were served on deck, and the food was very good, with just enough local or native touch to intrigue our tastes. Corbett's wife and the girls did a good job. That first night we fished off the boat in the darkness with spinning rods and caught a dozen or more one- to two-pound trevally and some scad. All fish were kept and later given to the guides to eat.

All of us guests had a little trouble sleeping that first night. The bunk mattresses were thin, and it was quite warm. The boat didn't rock too much, even though we were anchored about a quarter mile offshore in the open ocean. The next morning we chased bonefish again, saw a fair number of fish, but had many refusals. Seems our timing was bad. We were always out on the flats at low tide, and we had to fish the margins to find numbers of bonefish.

On Wednesday, Corbett was chatting with us (he is a cordial, cooperative host), and he asked if we were interested in fishing for giant trevally with a surface plug in the open ocean. Upon further questioning, I learned he literally guaranteed action at dawn. An avid musky angler, I quickly agreed.

The next morning found my partner and me floating in eerie light on quiet, undulating swells about a half mile offshore in 30 feet of gin-clear water. In just six casts, I experienced a strike like nothing I had ever had before, even from a peacock bass on the Rio Negro. A 30-pound-plus trevally hit the surface lure like a freight train and scared the hell out of me momentarily, then simply pulled the split ring apart and escaped with the treble in his mouth.

I lost three huge fish that morning before breakfast, and my partner, Steve Voss, landed a 32- and a 35-pound trevally. As we returned to the boat, we noticed that the other anglers from the lodges on the island were just leaving the docks at London for daily adventures, and we had already had a blast. That is one huge advantage on being aboard a mother- ship. From then on, some of us went out each morning from dawn to eight o'clock to fish for giant trevally. The biggest we landed weighed 65 pounds. I am a fly angler. But I have to tell you, getting those hits on a surface lure was one of the fishing highlights of my life. On top of that, one morning we experienced a 75-pound yellowfin tuna leaping out of the water. Corbett said this was not unusual. We lost it quickly, and I doubt we could have landed it, but the vision of that creature will remain with me forever.

One afternoon we decided to go trolling in deep water in "wahoo alley," as Corbett called it; and, within an hour, I landed a 38-pound 'hoo. Later in the week, we tried the hotspot again, and the anglers had a triple hook-up and lost all the fish.

Meals were preceded by cocktail hours, which always featured either fresh sashimi or a ceviche-style dish. Fresh-catch-of-the-day was served for five days, with one break for chicken and one for grilled steak. After dinner, we were often serenaded by the Kiribati woman who sang for us in their native tongue. The four of us exchanged knowing glances during these moments, recognizing these were special times that not everyone gets to experience.

We all agreed that none of our wives would have enjoyed the week. The boat was too crowded, the heads too small and privacy was hard to come by. Still, if you have an adventurous mate, it could work....

The four of us looked at this like a guy's trip, and once we settled in, it was just fine. But the accommodations are not fancy, and anyone considering this trip should be aware of that. I should add that this was openly stated in the trip description literature mailed to us beforehand by Angling Destinations.

Corbett really knows this area of the Pacific. Were I to return, I would charter him to take me to one of the outer islands, such as Fanning Island, which lies 150 miles away from Christmas Island. He claims he can find even better fishing for giant trevally in the hinterland, and I believe him.

This was more than a fishing trip for my friends and me: It was an adventure. And that is the way I like it. If all you want to do is fly fish for bones from dawn to dark, then other accommodations may be more suited to your needs. I believe we were only the fourth group to be hosted on this liveaboard, so you can expect all the crew to become more experienced with their roles as time goes on. I would not hesitate to recommend the trip to my friends, providing they are forewarned that the boat is not a 5 star facility. That surface-lure fishing at dawn is going to ruin me for musky fishing.... And I live in Wisconsin!
Written by Lee Kernen.

Angling Destinations' Todd Sabine was asked by
The Angling Report to respond to Lee's report. Here is Todd's letter:

Thanks for sending us the trip report on the Tuaraoi program. These reports offer useful feed back for us to assist Chuck in refining his unique, new live-aboard program at Christmas Island. Mr. Kernen's trip represents only our fourth group of intrepid anglers this spring to participate in Chuck's new program. This is not your typical mainstream lodge based fishing experience. It is very much an out of the box adventure, offering hardcore fisherman access to the fringe fisheries that exist at Christmas Island.

Through reports such as this, Chuck's program will continue to develop and improve. I do feel that we have past the guinea pig stage here, but what's described in this report is fairly typical of a new program as it comes on line. Mr. Kernen's report, I'm happy to say, was SPOT ON! As we state in our information, both on our web site and in our pre-trip materials... "This program is not for everyone and favors rough and tumble fish-a-holics who don't mind doing a little crossover fishing with conventional gear." The conversations I had with this group, prior to their trip, assured me they would be good candidates for this program.

The narrow confines of this sailboat differ significantly from our other live-aboard programs. Sailboats are typically tight quartered vessels and can sometimes be a bit cluttered. The comments that this is a "guys trip" are also pretty accurate. However... Anna Riggs, a woman in a group prior to these guys, had a blast on her trip, diving and snorkeling off the back of the boat in between her fishing sessions. About the guides operating the boats: I'm sure it must have been unsettling to observe, given most folks experiences with Bahamian bonefishing guides. This is new for the guides at Christmas Island who historically do not drive the boats. They normally use a second boatmen, who's specific mission is to drive the large Polynesian style outrigger boats that ferry anglers around in the lagoon. Chuck's two new 16' center console runabout skiffs are new to the Christmas Island fishing scene. I'm sure, as Chuck mentioned, these competent guides will have the operation of these new boats sorted out in short order. Rest assured, these guides have intimate knowledge of the habitat and nuances of navigating the lagoon. As an issue of safety though, we will speak with Chuck directly regarding this matter and monitor the boat driving situation going forward very closely.

We thank your subscriber for his comments.
Todd Sabine
Angling Destinations Inc.







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