DESTINATIONS: FIJI Pelagics in Paradise A trip to Fiji provides you with plenty of opportunity to tangle with quality fish while your family enjoys a laidback tropical island holiday. BEN CADDAYE reports. 34 | fishingworld.com.au | March 2015 There are hundreds of estuaries like this one all over Fiji. Although they’re rarely fished by holidaying anglers, they produce GTs, mangrove jack and, in the upper reaches, jungle perch. INSET: Gerard O’Neill looks happy with his big bull mahi mahi that weighed close to 20kg. Fiji’s warm blue water means there are plenty of these spectacular gamefish on offer. F IJI’S fishing potential is obvious even before your plane kisses the tarmac at Nadi Airport. As you approach the main island from the air, the sight of countless coral bommies, shallow lagoons, secluded creeks, deep drop-offs and fingers of reef is enough to make any sportfishing enthusiast salivate. The fishing in Fiji is as good as it looks from the sky. I’ve recently returned home after a fishing holiday in Fiji to celebrate my 40th birthday. I received lots of presents in the form of some memorable inshore and bluewater fishing for everything from small trevally to speedy wahoo and massive mahi mahi. fishingworld.com.au | March 2015 | 35 DESTINATIONS: FIJI My wife and young kids tagged along as well and had a blast, proving that Fiji lives up to its billing as one of the best places to enjoy a family-friendly fishing holiday. Where to begin? A trip to Fiji is generally a laidback affair, as this obligatory “coconut palm on a beach with boat in the background” shot reveals! F ACT BOX UPRISING BEACH RESORT LOCATED a stone’s throw from Pacific Harbour, Uprising Beach Resort is the perfect spot to base yourself for a familyfriendly fishing holiday in Fiji. A 2 ½ hour bus ride from Nadi Airport, Uprising is well worth the journey as it lies beyond the popular Coral Coast resort strip and has more of a genuine, relaxed Fijian feel. Importantly, the fishing and dive charters that leave regularly from Pacific Harbour are just up the road – and you can easily make a booking from the resort. Laidback but comfortable, Uprising sits right on the beach overlooking Beqa Lagoon and boasts a great little restaurant and bar, as well as a beaut pool for the kids. It’s a great resort for families and the staff go out of their way to make guests feel welcome and relaxed. A range of activities outside the resort can be organised via the friendly reception desk staff. It’s also just across the road from the Arts Village, which contains shops, a supermarket, banks, cafes and restaurants. Visit www.uprisingbeachresort.com 36 | fishingworld.com.au | March 2015 The biggest challenge for anglers visiting Fiji is deciding where to begin. Fiji is made up of 333 islands, but the vast majority of tourists visit the main island, Viti Levu, where more than 85 per cent of the population lives. Viti Levu is a good place from which to launch a fishing holiday as it’s home to a number of charter operators who can accommodate a variety of fishing needs, from half-day reef-fishing trips to overnight adventures to the outlying islands. We based ourselves in the Pacific Harbour region, which is a 2 ½ hour bus ride from Nadi, beyond the popular Coral Coast resort strip. It’s known as the “adventure capital” of Fiji and is a great location for anyone interested in diving, snorkelling or fishing , as it sits on the doorstep of the fish-rich waters of Beqa Lagoon and is a short boat ride to the 2000m drop-offs that harbour marlin, tuna, mahi mahi and wahoo. There are also a couple of rivers in the area that, although rarely fished by visiting anglers, are pretty handy little spots to target mangrove jack and small GTs. This region’s a bit “off the beaten track” yet still boasts a range of excellent resorts (see Fact Box) plus access to shops, eateries and recreational activities. We fished with Pacific Harbour-based Freedive Fiji Charters, which has established an excellent reputation for putting traveling fishos on to big fish (see Fact Box). Over the course of two days we had the opportunity to sample most forms of fishing Fiji has to offer – estuary, inshore and bluewater. While the fishing didn’t exactly fire during our visit, we still managed some outstanding catches and learnt a great deal about fishing in the region. Bluewater The deep, cobalt-blue water off Fiji’s coast is synonymous with big game fish. Beyond Beqa Lagoon, where we fished, the water depth drops sharply from just a few metres to more than 2km – and this is where the serious predators hunt. Depending on the season, anglers can expect to tangle with marlin, sailfish, Spanish mackerel, wahoo and yellowfin tuna. Mahi mahi (or dolphin fish) are abundant in the warmer months and we experienced some great action on trolled skirts, catching big bulls to about 18kg, along with a smattering of “smaller” fish around the 12-14kg mark. Anyone who’s caught one of these fish before knows how ballistic they are, especially when they get in the boat! Even our deckie, a muscular rugby playing Fijian, had his work cut out for him tying to tackle nearly 20kg of angry bull mahi mahi as it thrashed about on the deck of our relatively small, rocking boat. It was quite a sight. The deep water also produced a nice wahoo and school-sized yellowfin, both of which proved tasty on the plate later that night. Peak wahoo season is late winter and early spring, with multiple hook-ups on these lightning-fast pelagics very common when conditions are right. Late summer is when yellowfin tuna fishing is at its hottest and recent seasons have been some of the best Freedive’s Jaga Crossingham has experienced since coming to Fiji 11 years ago. The fish can range from jellybeans to monsters and turn up in huge numbers. The billfish, sadly, eluded us but I saw enough photos of big beakies to get an idea of the calibre of marlin and sailfish this area produces. Reef The reef fishing in Fiji was a real highlight. We fished the reef edges and coral bommies of Beqa Lagoon in just a few metres of water for an array of trevally and bottom-dwelling fish. In a memorable early morning session on the rising tide, large Halco Roosta Poppers flung into the wash produced a trio of GTs that dragged the anglers in question from one end of the boat to the other. While this was happening I happily flicked metal slices into the shallows and connected to some smaller trevally, including a stunning bluefin trevally, which gave me a great workout on relatively light gear. The fringes of the reef also regularly produce coral trout, rosy jobfish, red bass and other mean, nasty predators. A move into deeper water (between 100 and 200m) is a great way to snare a tasty feed of what locals call puka puka – a pinky/orange reef fish that looks like a cross between a nannygai and a jobfish. The best way to fish with these is with multiple fish-flesh baits and a big lump of lead. We didn’t get around to trying this approach but I’m keen to do so next time. Estuary The estuary fishing in Fiji is an unknown quantity. There are literally thousands of creeks and rivers flowing through Fiji, but hardly any visiting anglers fish them. I guess they’re too pre-occupied with catching trophy fish out to sea. Nevertheless, most of these waterways harbour mangrove jack, small GTs and, in the upper reaches, there are some jungle perch. We had a couple of D epending on the season, anglers can expect to tangle with marlin, sailfish, Spanish mackerel, wahoo and yellowfin tuna.” F ACT BOX FIJIAN SPECIES GUIDE Marlin: Year-round, although best from November to February Spanish mackerel: Year-round, although best from May to September Wahoo: July-September Mahi mahi: October – January Giant trevally: Year-round Yellowfin tuna: November – February CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: The business end of 110cm of angry ‘cuda, taken on light spin tackle and, as you can see, a “free” promotional X-Rap lure given away with Fisho’s 40th anniversary edition; Reef edges, islands and drop-offs make Fiji a very fishy location; The author working a coral-studded reef with light spin tackle in search of bluefin trevally, red bass and coral trout. fishingworld.com.au | March 2015 | 37 DESTINATIONS: FIJI F ACT BOX FREEDIVE FIJI RUN by ex-pat Aussie Jaga Crossingham and his wife, Heather, Freedive Fiji is the premier fishing and diving charter operator in Fiji. Jaga hails from the mid-north coast of NSW and is a fishing and freedive spearfishing nut. He came to Fiji 11 years ago and now calls it home with his young family. Regardless of your fishing tastes and budget, Freedive has a charter to suit you. Jaga specialises in trolling the deep canyons for marlin and other gamefish or poppering the coral bommies and reef edges for big GTs and other large, mean customers. Freedive can also organise lengthier live-aboard trips to the outer islands where clients can chase huge dogtooth tuna. Freedive provides quality fishing gear as well as snacks, drinks, lunch and sunscreen. Visit www.freedivefiji.com or email [email protected] 38 | fishingworld.com.au | March 2015 Mark from Bathurst and deckie Ratu display a solid GT taken on a popper over a shallow reef. brief but enjoyable sessions on the small, picturesque Qaranaqio River, which spills into the sea at Pacific Harbour. It’s a typical Fijian estuary – shallow, mangrove-lined and very fishy-looking. A selection of small trevors showed an interest in our trolled lures, but the highlight was hooking a big barracuda on light estuary gear. The big ’cuda, caught by my mate John, took a free Fishing World Rapala X-Rap lure that was given away with copies of the 40th anniversary issue in 2009. Apparently these lures are a bit of a collectors’ item so John has decided to put it safely back in his tackle box and has vowed to keep it away from large barracuda in the future! Bring the family The best thing about a fishing holiday in Fiji is you can bring the whole family and they’ll enjoy it just as much as you – even if they don’t wet a line. Fiji is a family-friendly destination and there’s always something going on to keep wives, partners, girlfriends and kids busy while you fish – and that’s very reassuring to know when you’re out on the water. My recent visit to Fiji certainly lived up to expectations and it was a great way to mark a milestone birthday. Now, where should I go for my 50th? Ben Caddaye fished Fiji courtesy of Tourism Fiji. Visit www.fiji.travel.
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