We just got back from 3 days of fishing at the Sabine Shoals, an extremely remote location, about 42 miles west of the Vanuatu island of Espirtu Santos. The sea floor rises dramatically from 2000 meters to high spot of 2.3 meter. Because the location is so remote, it’s not easily reached by the local fishing boats, and is essentially virgin fishing grounds.
We had been there once before, about a month ago, and while we didn’t see any Marlin, the Wahoo fishing was still pretty insane. We were hoping for more of the same. Jonas and Garry had just completed the new smoke house on our property and we were anxious to try it out and smoke some fish.
Jonas invited a couple of his new friends, Anna and Manuel, to join us for the trip. Anna is German, and Manuel is French and they have been crewing aboard another boat. Manuel and Jonas had been boar-hunting the week before and had brought us home a nice roast.
The 5 of us set off early Thursday morning for the Shoals from our Aore Island base. Garry had just re-rigged his lures, repositioning the hooks closer to the lure heads in an effort to improve our less than stellar hookup rates. Within the first 2 hours, we had a hit, and a miss, and soon after, I caught and released an estimated 150 kg Blue Marlin, with Jonas managing the wire.
Less than 2 hours later Jonas hooked onto a nice blue, estimated at about 110 kg. It was fairly short fight and we expected the fish to be quite green at the boat, but she behaved nicely for me on the wire. It took a bit of a struggle to release the hook, and when we finally set the fish free, she didn’t swim straight away as we expected. Clearly, she was more exhausted than we had anticipated. As the boat drifted away, she floated just below the surface, not moving. Concerned that we hadn’t revived the fish properly, Garry reversed engines, backing up toward her, and as we approached, she finally woke up and moved away slowly. Jonas quickly donned a mask and snorkel and jumped in to the water, to make sure the fish wasn’t dying on us. Fortunately, she came good and swam away with a strong finish.
We reached to Sabine Shoals around 3 pm, and had a short play with the divers and rapalas, catching a nice yellow fin, and one really large wahoo, est. 40 kg. We were thrilled to see multiple sailfish free jumping all around us, and had a hit on one of the lures.
As the sun went down, we anchored on the shoal in 10 meters of water. After filleting the two fish, we used the frames to attract the resident sharks, the crew having a play with hooking and releasing sharks. Normally, sharks are wary, and it is a couple of hours of circling before they became brave enough to approach the boat and the carcasses hanging off the back. These sharks appeared agitated and attached the carcass within minutes, swimming quite fast and aggressively taking our baits. We would play them out, on the 15 kg gear before cutting the hooks loose.
After a big spaghetti dinner, with chocolate pudding cake for dessert, we settled into our bunks for the night. The current and the wind, which had been playing nice all day, got into a really pissing match with each other, each going their own separate way and leaving us with a rocky-rolly-sleepless night.
The next morning, the sailfish bite was on early, and we caught two within the first couple of hours on green lumo lures, which we hauled aboard for quick photo ops before releasing them.
After the sailfish bite fell off, we switched to targeting other species and were basically pack attacked by Wahoo. They were taking lures as soon as we put them back in the water, and doing acrobatics to reach the trolling lures at speed. Jonas spent a fair bit of time towing a popper lure, and had quite a bit of success hooking up. Landing them was a different story, as he had to stay ahead of the circling sharks.
We lost 5 lures that day, and all our skirts are now sporting butch haircuts. Total haul for the day, 2 very large Wahoo, 2 average size wahoo, 1/2 of a wahoo (the other half to the tax man, Mr. Shark), and a couple of more yellow fin tuna. We calculated a 4:1 lure loss to wahoo capture ration, not good. We also released a couple of several of the stinky barracuda, which nobody aboard wanted to touch, as well as some tuna, as the freezer is now full.
The next day, day two, Garry was now running low on lures he was willing to lose to Wahoo, so he re-rigged the gear with wire leaders. This really helped our hook-up rate, as we were no longer getting chopped off. However, now the sharks had their turn, and it became a race to see who would get the fish first.
Dinner was wahoo and rice, sautéed in coconut milk, prepared by Manuel who took a turn in the kitchen. The wind and the current were still at odds, so another rocky night was in store.
Day three was more of the same, (read day two paragraph again if you missed it)…. We left the shoals at 3:30 pm and headed to Tasariki bay for the night, arriving in the dark around 8 p.m. Normally, the villagers show up in dugout canoes asking for fish, but we must have been past their bedtime. Too bad, we had plenty of fish to give away. Dinner was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, chuck wagon corn, cole slaw and gingerbread. We finally slept like babies will full tummies in the perfectly calm anchorage.
We’d really like to bring Dad’s Army with us to the Sabine Shoals, when they arrive in Vanuatu this October. Hopefully “30 Knot Tony” leaves his weather with him in New Zealand.