Monday, February 8, 2016

L'archipel des Chesterfield, Nouvelle Cal├ędonie Jan 2016

Chesterfield Islands located in the Coral sea half way between New Caledonia and Australia,
roughly about 360 Nautical miles from Koumac in the Northern part of New Caledonia. This place is known to hold some monster Dogtooth tuna. The terrain with its high wind and sea condition gave that magical group of islands and reefs a natural shelter against human being.
I heard about Chesterfield Islands in a couple of occasion. It was too hard just to think about the logistic and the commitment to make such a trip which I can say for sure is The trip to the end of the world. This is the trip that differentiate fisherman from anglers.
I approached Captain Olivier when I visited New Caledonia in late 2014 and we set up the dates and the plan knowing deep inside that our chances to make it would be just 50% due to all condition above.
Wahib, Nick and Nicholas signed up for that exploratory trip and they flew all the way from Lebanon.
Upon my arrival I got informed of a possible Cyclone heading our way. Ultimately, we prepared for plan B. Upon their arrival we headed to Koumac and we checked the weather again to see if that Cyclone is actually heading toward the south; so we made the call to hit Chesterfield Islands!
Underway I decided to troll as I wanted to take pictures of jumping Marlin, I was rewarded within 15 minutes with a beauty that was estimated about 500lb. After my satisfaction with the pictures I jumped in to the fight and got a taste of it. I must say that I never had a chance to fight a Blue Marlin and I admit that the fight was brutal, I ended up on the belt and I finished the fight with a successful release and high five from the crew - great start!
We cruised through the night and made it early in the morning to Rereus reef to give it a shot before continuing to Chesterfield. Since not every detail is on the map Captain Olivier decided to stand still in 500 meter and to wait for the day light to hit the reef.
At 6:00 AM we started to look around and found the reef and the shallow water. We got rewarded right away and while Nick was casting his lure and retrieving he saw a dark shadow inhaling his lure. We all thought it was a shark and he was not fighting it trying to stand still hoping that he could get off the hook as we were all using barbless hook. With no success he fought and brought it to boat side to realize it was a massive Doggy! He landed as estimated 55kg Doggy on the first hour of the trip; we took couple of pictures and tried to revived to no vail.
We then decided to jig and got hammered with Doggies and sharks mixed in the pack. As soon as you hit a doggy thing goes wild under and the doggy becomes the main meal. So after 3 hours of unsuccessful landing we decided to head to our main destination. After an additional 110 nautical miles and close to 40 hours of navigation we got to Chesterfield and we began seeing vegetation, we headed to our anchor taking shelter in the atoll itself.
Anxiously waiting for the morning to head to the drop off, we got rewarded by screaming reels at all times some with Doggies that turned to Shark and some with line breakage and a big smile.
It was a none stop chaos till we ran out of wire assist hooks, we gave it a shot to the reef and start casting while trailing a school of shark behind us. The key was to beat the shark to land the fish as soon as possible before they get a hold of our fish.
There was a lot of fun and teasing on that first day with good humor and spirit around, lucky I was surrounded by good friends that I can call brothers to me!
We had an absolute fun day and we danced the whole night, we would have awakened the resident of the atoll if they were ever excited in the archipelago of Chesterfield.
On our second day we headed north and we reached an area that was rich in bait. Birds where all over the place chasing bait. We started casting and we got hits after hits till I heard Wahib and Olivier screaming from the back. I ran to the back to see Wahib’s tight and mumbling to me, it was a big doggy over 100kg, ask Olivier he saw the whole things when the fish took my lure.
Unfortunately, the line departed when the fish hit the reef leaving Wahib with a big disappointment on his face but we got the idea by now that there are big boys roaming the reef looking for topwater action.
We kept on casting and I switched to sinking lure (Siren Deep Seductress). After few attempts I saw a big shadow coming in from under the boat and from the deeper edge inhaling my Siren 5 feet away from boat. The image got frozen in my mind - big teeth with rushing water and all of a sudden the lure disappeared while my legs trembling, Olivier at the bridge and Wahib looking at my side.
I screamed to them if they did you see how big it was! My legs were shaking and all what I could think of was the depth, the shark and the reef, all the odds were against me in 15 meters of depth.
I ran to the back while Olivier headed toward the deeper water. After good 10 minutes and under a heavy drag we saw the fish shinning from under, I could not believe the size and the achievement but I guess it meant to be. The fish hit the scale of 83kg and measured at 72 inch, I could hardly have it on my lap and there was no way to lift it, I tried but I could not.
My mission and my dream was accomplished and I was very happy and satisfied now I can lay back a bit.
Nicholas on the other hand kept on casting and switched to a Siren Deep Seductress, the shadow came out of the water shacking its head, I screamed it was sailfish.
Nick casted and got a taker right away but failed to keep it on the hook, you should see the joy on Nicholas face with that Saily. We took some quick pictures and released it safely.
It was none stop action till we felt that we could not take it anymore.
We called the day off to be greeted with a great dinner that night, Captain Olivier prepared grilled meat and Jobfish as Sashimi, the food on-board was top notch!
On the third day we headed to place between 2 islands and we stayed on that spot the whole day. I could not describe the action in any possible way, it was like somebody that opened up the gate and unleashed the fish; you name it from doggies to GT’s we saw GT close to the 60kg mark that came in to the lure and from the size and the colors the guys though it was a shark.
Nick casted his popper with all that magical chaos and saw a massive doggies coming inhaling his lures,
he gave it all what he got with no mercy and landed a beautiful 73kg on topwater followed by another 55kg, insane would be an understatement!
Nicholas on the other hand was in rage, so many hits and hook ups with no success to land and the day was approaching an end.
 I stopped him, pulled a sinking plug from my bag, get the Gopro and I asked to cast and work his lure.
Half way from the boat the fish exploded on his lure dragging him left and right while Wahib (his father) sitting in the corner with no expression at all boiling from inside hoping for him to land that fish.
The shark where on his tail but the encouragement made him to put all what he had and he succeeded on landing his first decent Dogtooth tuna on topwater, you could see the glory on his face!
We were so tired but eager to see what the jig would be able to produce for us. We attempted couple of times with no luck to land with some massive takes on Wahib’s jig followed by mine and surprisingly it was a Yellowfin tuna that made it to the dinner table that night. We rewinded the whole day at the dinner table and all what I could say - what a great memory!
On the 4th and the last day we decided to give it a shot from inside the Atoll hoping to get some GT’s inside and running away from the sharks a bit. On the way we saw a big boil of bait surrounded by sharks busting inside it, we looked at each other’s and said who would be about to donate a lure, we turned to each other’s and pass to that offer.
We got into a passage and Olivier said that it is a good place to set anchor at night. Nick was with him at the bridge when they saw from a distance a huge black GT charging from a distance and heading toward the boat Things were so quick that we didn’t have a chance to grab a rod but most of us saw the fish coming over, there were some fusilier up north and we fished the passage to the atoll hoping for GT’s.
I raised one followed by a massive taker for Wahib that he got the chance to land. A beautiful GT estimated between 38kg to 40kg, took a quick pictures and released it safely, Captain Olivier called the last drift and Nicholas ended up with a nice Doggy on the El Maestro to seal the trip to Chesterfield for us.

Headed home on the 5th day with aim to troll a bit and got rewarded with Mahi Mahi, Yellowfin tuna, Marlin to a point that we had to pull out the line from the water.
I want to thank Captain Olivier and his first mate Nico for an outstanding service and hospitality, a trip to be remembered with such a great crew all around, happy and delighted to have Wahib, Nick and Nicholas on board with me to share that expedition, until next time!

Tackle used:

Rod: Race Point 250, 200,150, 100, El Maestro 74XH, 82M Prototype, Carpenter Monster Hunter 80H, OBX-500, OBX-400, Indo 62 (Dogtooth tuna special)
Reels: Shimano Stella, studio Ocean Mark
Lures: Carpenter, Siren, Moutoukenmaru, Hot’s Keiko, Shell Shaping, Orion, Amberjack Lures, Ulpen, Hammerhead, Craft Bait, Shell Shaping, Ulua.
Line: Power Pro Hollow, Jerry Brown Hollow, Varivas, Sunline, Unitika
Leader: Saltywater Tackle System Leader
Hooks: BKK, Owner, Shout
  Tight lines