Christmas Island Kayak Fishing First Report
Being the first to kayak fish Christmas Island was an awesome expedition and an achievement in itself. Well known kayak fishing guide, David Elgas and Allen Sansano, teamed up on the first exploratory expedition to Christmas Island from February 7-14, 2012, with the first clients coming down the following week. Also known as Kiritimati, Christmas Island is part of the island nation of Kiribati. Kiribati spans 1.35 million square miles, with Christmas Island being over 2000 miles from the capital city of Tarawa. Being just north of the equator and 1337 miles south of Honolulu, speaks to the remoteness and isolation of Christmas Island. The easiest way to get to Christmas Island is on a once a week, 3 hour flight on Air Pacific from Honolulu. This flight also serves as the freight lifeline of the Island. The low frequency of this flight and another once a month freight flight from Honolulu presented quite a challenge in getting kayak fishing gear down to outfit our new guide service, http://ChristmasIslandKayakFishing.com
As we were to find out, kayak fishing gear was not available on the island. We had to procure and ship down all the gear we used. The remoteness of the location and the fact that spare parts are non-existent on the Island dictated that we outfit the guide service with the best gear available. The kayaks we selected for this trip were Ocean Kayak Trident 13’s and Diablo Paddlesports Adios kayak/SUP hybrids. We rounded this out with a Hobie Adventure kayak complete with sailing kit. We selected Kokatat Bahia Tour PFD’s complete with Kokatat Tributary Hydration systems to keep client well hydrate. Werner paddles made sure we had indestructible paddles available for clients. Equally important to us is the fishing gear we selected for this trip. The Giant Trevally are large and wreak havoc on gear. Large poppers and jigs were from Ocean Tackle International and Bay Bombers. We rounded the tackle off with smaller offering including swim baits from Big Hammer and smaller Yozuri poppers. A large box of tackle, lures, line, fishing poles, and miscellaneous fishing gear were left on Christmas Island for future kayak anglers. Not only did we get all the equipment down there that is needed for kayak fishing, we caught fish, we learned a lot, we made friends, and we accomplished all of the goals we had laid out for this journey. At the end of all this all the equipment needed for kayak fishing at the world’s largest coral atoll is in place for adventures anglers wishing to get off the beaten path.
Accommodations are with The Adventure Dive and Fishing lodge, a simple and modest lodge with AC in the rooms. Each room has a private bathroom with cool showers. The cool showers are a nice treat after a blazing hot tropical day in the sun. In addition to a large communal living area, the rooms are equipped with a table & chairs and a small closet. In the dinning area there is a water dispenser, electric water pots for hot water, and a small refrigerator for cold drinks. Fishing each day begins early and starts with a light breakfast of 2 pieces of toast, 2 pieces of bacon and 1 egg. Lunch consist of sandwiches which you prepare yourself before you leave fishing for the day. They offer cold cut meet, tuna, cheese, and peanut butter& jelly sandwiches. While extra daytime food is available at additional cost through the lodge and at various small stores on the island, it is always good to bring a good selection of personal snacks. Dinners are hearty with emphasis on carbs to reload after a long day and good selection of local food. We had lobster, sashimi, fresh fish as well as chicken and other tasty dishes for dinner. The lodge is a 5 minute walk to the main wharf and this is where the outrigger boat will meet you in the morning. The lodge centrally located within walking distance to all of the main businesses in London such as the markets, restaurants, pub, internet café and bank. A truck is provided as a standard service for kayak fishing. Wireless internet access is available for $10 dollars for 24 hours of active time, more than enough to last the week. The staff at the lodge was very friendly and took good care of us. The local guides are exceptionally knowledgeable and gave us great insight to the fishing possibilities on Christmas Island. The people may be poor by our standards, but we discovered a simple lifestyle filled with much joy and many smiles. The locals do not beg, they don’t try to sell you trinkets, and they don’t steal. They live a life free from the worries that we all have back in our normal lives. It was very easy to bond with local people and many friendships were solidified throughout the week.
Fishing is outstanding at Christmas Island, and in the first week we barely scratched the surface of the possibilities for kayak fishing in the time that we spent on the atoll. In addition to kayak fishing, there are endless options to whip from shore, troll for big game offshore with the outrigger boats, or wade the flats while tossing flies for bonefish. At 124 square miles of land, the island is the largest coral atoll in the world. The lagoon is covers almost as much area as the land. It is so vast that you can not see from one side of the lagoon to back side of the lagoon. Since it is an atoll, there really is not a leeward side protected by a large land mass. The highest point on the island is only 43’ high and does little to block trade winds. The lagoon itself can get windy because there is such a long fetch of water for the wind to blow across. We did find a good leeward coast outside of the atoll that is very near to the lodge. This offshore area offers great Damashi and Jigging on the reef for bottom fish like snappers and groupers as well as huge goat fish. All these bottom fish are excellent eating. There is also tuna koa’s just off shore of this same area which holds good size tuna. While fishing this lee coast we saw a few of the local canoe angler’s tie up to their koa’s. These buoys are anchored from any where between 100 to 300 feet deep water, with the depths plunging to well over 1000’ just a few yards beyond that. A chain and ball anchored to the bottom is used for mooring the local canoes while they fish. The local fishermen are also building reef and structure on the bottom from years of dropping stone for tuna in the ancient way. The chains and balls have been anchored for a while and have lots of growth on them, acting as FADs and giving bait balls a place to school. With constant chumming and the building of the koa’s we know there are big tuna here. There must be about 15 koa’s in a short area just two hundred yards offshore and a short distance from the lodge. We saw two yellow fin tuna in the 70 pound range caught by the local canoe fisherman in a few short sessions that we explored the area. And while kayak trolling a diving minnow in this area, we saw two 50 pound yellow fin tuna that surfaced in about 60 feet of water. We also learned that there may be mackerel scad here that can be caught and used for live bait. We did mark large bait balls on his fish finder in this area but we never did get a visual on the mackerel caught by the locals at night from the pier however. We think they are indeed mackerel scad from the guide’s description of this fish. This information holds promise for good live bait sessions.
Using the large outrigger canoe as a mother ship, we explored another offshore kayak fishing area known Ono Alley. The locals tell us that this is the area they catch the islands biggest ono and tuna as well as large bill fish. There is a large underwater ridge here that extends into the ocean and the currents push up on it from either side. It took us about an hour and half to get there by boat but we top water popped for GT all along the way. Ono Alley felt like a very fishy area and we confirmed this by jumping into to the ocean to take a look underwater. We were amazed at the steep drops cascading into the deep blue from the shallow reefs. Once we had the kayaks in the water at Ono Alley, we got quickly connected but lost what was thought to be a good ono strike and we also lost something huge while jigging off the bottom that just came unhooked. We caught various snappers and grouper while jigging here. This section of coast holds a lot of promise and definitely has big fish feeling. While Ono Alley is in the slight lee from the constant trade winds, it is also a long way from town. It is definitely the place to hit for pelagic fishing when the conditions are right.
Inside of the lagoon is a maze of flats and ponds. The lagoon is a large bait factory filled with milkfish, bone fish, mullet, moi, crabs, shrimp, octopus, and worms. There are so many milk fish here that the government has sectioned off salt ponds in the back of the lagoon for sustainable milkfish farming. Milkfish seem to be the primary bait at Christmas Island, even offshore where the milk fish go when they get full grown. We saw large schools of big milkfish cruising on the surface in the off shore waters. These big milkfish look like great ono, tuna, and marlin baits. In fact, the local canoe fishermen use milkfish when they drop stone for tuna. The Giant Trevally love the milkfish and will go far into the back of the lagoon to look for them. Milkfish is a very shiny fish with large scales and a large eye. Shiny silver with scales is a good lure pattern. There are a number of options for fishing the lagoon. The simplest is to launch the kayak from the main wharf area near the lodge. Other options include getting all the way to the back of the lagoon either via a long bumpy truck ride or taking a faster outrigger boat ride. We are able to take kayaks with us for both these options. Inside the lagoon is a vast network of endless flats. You could possibly spend a lifetime exploring the flats in the lagoon. In fact one of the local guides got lost (for a short time!) in the back of the lagoon on a boat while we were on this last trip. The lagoon offers excellent fly fishing on the flats for bone fish and trevally. Endless schools of bonefish thrive here, pushing up on the flats with the tide. Often trevally will be hunting on the flats too and it is not uncommon to see big GT turned sideways and thrashing on the flats in very shallow water. You could easily kayak paddle from flat to flat, use a stake to anchor up the yak, and get out of the yak to fish various flats. We found the trevally fishing to be the best around the edges of the flats with casting small spoons and poppers or by trolling diving lures in the channels. However, for fly fishing and sight fishing the flats, it’s a dream come true if you know what you’re doing on the fly or with very light jigs. This type of fishing is compared to stalking and hunting.
During the first week of the expedition we had a media team with us covering two separate feature stories. We were doing a kayak fishing story as well as a kite board story, so we had to split the time between the two sports during the first week. We were able to successfully apply what we learned in the first week to the second week of the trip to Christmas Island in which we had three clients come down to fish. On the 2nd day of the trip, these clients got addicted to a fishing place we called Ulua Pancake. This is a small round coral flat in the middle of the lagoon. The day starts out with the guides netting milkfish for chum. The captain then anchors the mother ship to the Ulua Pancake. Huge GT’s will swarm the flat like packs of hungry dogs looking for the chum. Once it gets going it is a crazy feeding frenzy of huge GT’s ranging from 30 pounds all the way up to 100 pound. It is quite a spectacle to see these huge fish thrashing around you in waste deep water. It is a catch and release fishery inside of the lagoon, ensuring great fishing for the future. We must have caught over 70 GT’s on this trip and released them all except for two fish that did not survive. Ulua Pancake is an amazing fishing spectacle. The guides can create this fishing frenzy all day long. You can catch big ulua on the kayak solo or have the mother ship follow you through the lagoon until you land your fish. We often had 3-4 hook ups at once during the feeding frenzy madness. In the end the clients fell in love with Ulua Pancake. The clients wanted to go here every day and we caught a lot of fish from the Ulua Pancake. Two of these clients caught GT’s pushing the magical 100 pound mark.
Ulua fight very hard and getting hooked up to one is the easy part. Landing these big brutes is all part of the epic battle and the hard part. Break offs were common and we lost a lot of gear on Ulua Pancake. Many brand new lures completely destroyed by just one fish but most lures usually managed to land 1 or 2 fish before they were crushed and mangled. It’s a good idea to replace all the split rings and treble hooks on lures with stronger high quality stainless steel ones when going to Christmas Island. To reduce break offs, we found that a 60 foot section of 60 pound test mono top shot to be very effective. 80 pound mono leaders were used for bite leaders. At the end of each fishing day we usually had to replace all of our mono top shot and leaders. Not only do the GT’s damage the leaders with there sharp tail flukes but the coral scratches and nicks large portions of the top shot too. The lagoon is shallow so the GT’s cant dive down deep, instead they go on 300 yard plus blistering runs and are so much fun to fight. Reels need to be able to hold some line capable of heavy drag. Gloves and a fighting belt is an excellent idea. We all had bruises in tender areas from fighting big fish.
During the second week of the trip we had a lot work to do organizing the new kayak fishing business. We got busy installing all the cool mounting hardware from YakAttack. 58 holes were drilled to be exact. Every yak has multiple mounting options now for maximum video and photo coverage. We also spent some time working with and training lodge the staff, as kayak fishing was completely new to them. Together we established a trust fund for community development at the local bank with lodge owner Ereti Tekabaia. Hopefully we can do some positive things for the population here soon. We also delivered donated school supplies to the local school master who was so happy and excited to receive our box because they were desperately low on materials. We encourage our clients to bring similar donation. The school master was awaiting a delivery for government school provisions which had been badly delayed so our timing with these donated school supplies was perfect and like a miracle. That was a really special moment for us as we new that there is the possibility to make a positive difference within this community. So in the whole 2 weeks on Christmas Island, we were able to successfully accomplish all of our goals with the project and everything is set for future kayak anglers wishing to explore the epic fishery on Christmas Island. We learned a lot on this first trip but there is still so much to discover with kayak fishing at Christmas Island. We are looking forward to going back and tapping into more fish and we hope you will join us at Christmas Island Kayak Fishing. Written by David Elgas and Allen Sansano www.christmasislandkayakfishing.com