New Cal GTs – The last laugh

Having fished New Caledonia last year with a few mates, Marinos and I backed up again last week with newbie Mitch. We took advantage of the Ocean Blue Fishing Adventures ANSA offer and strapped in for the ride of our lives.

We fished south of Noumea last year, this year we were fishing the shallow, coral studded lagoons up north of Noumea. La Foa and Bourail were our base camps this time around and David Noble from Ocean Blue Fishing Adventures assured us that this was to be an unforgettable experience.

Mitch suffers from mal de mer like no one else I’ve ever seen – he’d get sick in the bathtub – so we chose this place because it offered all the fishing inside the lagoon, only wind chop to contend with. Problem was it was shallow, dangerous country, white knuckle and bare fisted brawls with GTs on short leashes, we had seen previous footage and went in with eyes wide open……

Poppers were purchased at a frenetic rate, cost was not a factor when buying the bright and shiny baubles, new rods purchased as well. Mitch backed up with a new Fisherman GT Game RS to fish 130lb braid. I opted for a new Patriot Design World Combat Black Mafia 77 as a back up to my 130lb rod which was a twin of Mitch’s rod. The only difference is that the Mafia was rated to PE12, or 170lb breaking strain. This was a brute of a rod to handle and fish with, no one wanted to have a go with it, but it cast 250gram poppers out of sight. The excess kilos surrounding my girth were ballast when ever I hooked up. My plan was to fish this rod only when I got busted up on 130lb…

First stop after our guide Etienne Piquette picked us up from the airport was Quano Surf Camp, about 100km north of Noumea. There we settled into our bungalow and the plan was to stay and fish for three days before heading further north…

Quano Surf Camp was a great base, all meals provided and some great local and French
hospitality and the best of all cold beers. The beef tongue was a local delicacy that we all readily devoured.

We fished on Etienne’s 7m centre console, a great boat for running around on the reef.
First day out we found fish, 15 – 30kg GTs, that ambushed our poppers on a regular basis. We all ended up with fish between 20 and 31 kgs, with Marinos topping the count with his PB 31kg fish. What blew our minds was we were fishing in 2–3m of water all day and were all wondering what would happen if we found the big ones…

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Marinos with his 31kg GT on day 1 in some tight country

Day two we found out the answer as we lost fish after fish in tight country; not even Frankie our intrepid deckie can retrieve snagged lures or track our braid through coral and we lost some monster GTs that tracked and smashed our poppers in plain sight – 130lb is not enough.

We landed more GTs over the next 2 days, but couldn’t crack the 40 “keggers” we were seeing and losing. Lure losses were adding up, but all we did was smile, hold our backs and massage aching arms.

We stopped taking pictures of most fish landed as the less time we handled them the better for them. Etienne and a few locals tag these fish with help from the New Cal Fisheries, so it will be interesting to see if any of our returns show up in the future. We measured and weighed them in a sling before tag and release. No fish was laid on a bare deck as we had padded mats and wet towels ready for each fish. A lot of emphasis is placed on respecting the fish we caught,. We looked after them and returned them to the water as quick as possible. Barbless hooks were mandatory.
Mitch finished up with a PB GT of 36kg and set a new benchmark.

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Mitch and Frankie with a 36kg fish, check the water and coral country out!

Next stop was just west of Bourail, a place called La Roche Percee. We stayed at Nekweta Surf Camp with our hosts Manu and Stephanie. We lost no time fishing or travelling 70km to the camp as we did it after fishing, arriving just after dark.

Nekweta Surf Camp is an amazing, private and at the same time inviting camp. We stayed in the traditional Melanesian hut and fished in Manu’s boat for two days – a 7.5m banana boat with a new 175hp Suzuki 4 stroke on the back.

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We fished new grounds, heading north into more remote country and landed fish – 20, 25,
28kg, and a mile of 16–20kg fish – but couldn’t stop the big ones. Marinos lost a GT of around 40kg when his 200lb leader broke well into the fight. I lost a 40kg fish when my knots pulled on the 200lb leader, we get snagged by big fish, have double hookups and four to five GTs ambushing lures at once… Our eyes hang out of our heads and our lure losses total $1000. Then Mitch snaps his $1400 rod, Marinos breaks the tip of a $1000 rod and its shaping up as a bad first day.

The GTs love the shallow, bommie studded areas. If you can get one away from the bommies, he’s usually yours. Marinos and I hooked up together in rough country, me fishing 170lb on the Mafia and Mitch on my borrowed Fisherman. I cringed whenever he hooked up; my orange monster is a collector’s item and I wanted it back; 170lb hurts.

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Popper retrieval – deckies earn their money in New Caledonia.

Marinos had a 40 kegger on going one way, I had a bigger fish pulling 170lb off my reel heading the other. The poor skipper didn’t know what to do. We lost both.

To give you an idea of the power of 170lb and the wicked rod, a 25kg GT pulls no line off the Stella, I just crank them to the boat! When they take line we know they are big fish.

We then started losing coral trout as well as fish over 15kg and in excess of 25kg started hitting our poppers.

We broke for lunch, and then went back to war. The boys were stirring me as they had joined the 30kg plus club and my 10 fish didn’t count. I texted my voodoo man in Australia and he weaved his magic. Out from behind a bommie a small emperor appeared to look at my popper chugging past, a GT exploded onto the emperor and my popper at the same time! Half an emperor floated past as 170lb braid sang and we started the chase. I was using 300lb leader so was in with a chance…
The rest is history, 40–41kg on the scales, tagged and returned. A great effort by all, and I think I  have the last laugh and finally have those GTs wired. Use 170lb main line 300lb leaders, 120kg of ballast and a rod that doesn’t bend!
The lure is destined to go on the wall, “Gold finger” a 250gram red/gold Hammerhead from Japan, rare as hens teeth, however next fish is bigger and takes Gold finger home………..they have the last laugh!

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Stan, his 40-41kg GT and the last shot of successful popper “Goldfinger” ever taken…

(Ed: The remainder of these crazy GT accounts were cut due to space limitations and plain old jealousy…)  

After this mindblowing trip we’ve already booked into go back in November. We’re basing ourselves at another beach camp Manu owns. I’m currently looking for a 250lb rod and hoping for a new back.

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