ASCENSION ISLAND – Fishing report (part 1)
JULY / AUGUST 2015
This is the first of a three-part fishing report from a great trip I enjoyed with some good friends a few months ago to Ascension Island.
It is a rather late report, but as they say – better late than never!!!!
Hope you Enjoy…
It´s pretty obvious; when one looks at a map and discerns that small dot in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, or when you spend has much flying time has we did to get there…but it still took a few days to actually feel how insanely remote we were!
Situated at 7´56 S and 14´22 W and a startling 1 600 km from Africa and 2 250 km from South America, Ascension Island is literally in the middle of nowhere and getting to it is an adventure in itself. The only way is via Brize Norton RAF base, where two weekly military flights serve Ascension & the Falklands. Lucky for us about 10 to 15 civilians are allowed per flight and after a swift flight from Johannesburg to Heathrow, a very pleasant day spent in Oxford, we finally boarded the 9 hour Ascension bound flight on the evening of the 13th July.
It had all started when Capt. Matthias Hennigsen, who I fished with in CV last year and runs Atlantic Fishing Charter (who have boats based in Ascension, Cape Verde and the Canaries) asked if I would like to run their Ascension vessel, the 36 ft Rampage `Harmattan` for a few months. Due to other commitments and the arrival of our youngest son Dario, reluctantly, I had to decline. But, I did put him in touch with my good mate Morgan O´Kennedy who jumped at the opportunity. Morgan flew to Ascension in May to meet up with Divan Coetzee who had been running the vessel for the last 4 months or so.
Over the next couple of months I kept drooling at the photographs they posted.
To most anglers, Ascension is primarily a dream destination for mammoth Blue Marlin, and they have caught some truly giant fish there over the years. But this was not the peak time for them and Marlin fishing conditions during our trip left a lot to be desired. It was the quantity and quality of the Yellowfin tuna they were catching on poppers that was getting me itchy. Carl Jankowitz and Lowtjie Nel were suffering from the same syndrome and thus, after a lot of planning we arrived at the Rock on the morning of the 14th July.
After meeting up with Morgan and Divan and settling in at the Obdisian Hotel (the only available on the Island) we started fishing that afternoon. It was an auspicious start with a few Yellowfin tuna up to 30 kg´s released, most falling to the Black and silver Bobara XL stickbait Carl was using. It´s no wonder they like darker lures here seeing the few big YFT we boated over the next couple of weeks had their stomachs full of Black triggerfish.
Later that day, Divan explained to me that the daily drill to find the YFT is to sound around certain specific area´s in depths ranging between 35 to 140 meters. Not only to mark fish, but see how the zillions of triggerfish show on the sounder. Obviously once he marked good fish or saw the triggers stacked up vertically (or both) we would start to work the poppers. Both, Divan and Morgan told us how difficult it had been to catch the tuna on the troll, but we soon felt we were spending too much down time moving around from area to area. So, we fined tuned a spread of Yo-zuri plugs and some Pulsator and Marlin Magic bullet & jet heads on light leaders, and from then on, we were very successful getting them on the troll as we searched around.
But, truth be told, our first 3 and a half days were rather bleak. Don´t get me wrong, the fishing was pretty decent, but way below our expectations. We released a good number of yellowfin up to 40 kilos and had some absolutely incredible jigging sessions. One specific two hour session was outstanding with all that was required was a few pumps on the 350 grs jigs we were using once they reached the bottom between 80 to 140 meters to hook up to a Almaco Amberjack – shot for shot! Most of the Almaco´s were smallish fish in the 4 to 7 kilo range with Lowtjie getting the biggest around 16 kg. These first few days were very windy and the 26c water had a tint of green to it. The spear fishermen, who told us that the visibility was down to about 20 meters – from the more normal 50 to 60 meters, confirmed this!
An oddity here and we were obviously getting worried!
But, on the fourth day that all changed, dramatically – we now had other (much better) reasons to be concerned…
We found them and we found them good!
The best of it was that from then on there were very few lesser (if you can call a 30 kg tuna small) fish to deal with. You already ludicrously stretch your arms throwing and working those poppers all day long – the last thing you want while waiting for that beast to show up is to have to fight 20 to 40 kg tuna´s in between!
They were all good and we had no less than 8 between 70kg to 120 kg or more that day. We also caught two really good size wahoo. A definite turning point of the trip!
We lost all but one fish that we hooked on popper that day. One that we lost, in particular, will remain etched in my memory forever. This beast of a YFT which we had close to the boat but still deep and thus difficult to judge could have been anything from 100 to 140 kg or more and fought extraordinarily well – when it broke free I heard a faint, but distinctive sight of relief all around me. I for one almost felt good about it, this particular fish had deserved it´s freedom more than any other I can remember and it kicked our Ass one love in the process.
After an hour of insane pressure this thing broke the first rod (and we talking custom made stuff here)! We backed up, created some slack and quickly cut and tied the #100 braid into another Stella 20000, this time on to a solid jigging rod. Another hour and a half into it and it simply ripped the eyes of that second rod. We were running out of plans now and started pulling this thing by hand (not a clever or easy thing to do with braid) when it eventually, I can´t remember the exact time on the clock, it popped!
We returned to port and weighted the big fish we boated, the first nice one on popper, which if I remember correctly weighted in at 82 kg! Morgan and Carl fought that one (something we learned later was how most fish that were caught the previous months on popper were going round style) so no one claimed it – but that day taught us a lot of valuable lessons. We had come up with a few tricks and were now ready for an even bigger one…ideally, as Divan put it – a ONE MAN FISH!