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Trailer Boat Fishing in Remote Vanuatu

VanuatuI recently had the pleasure of partaking in a fishing adventure in the remote area of the West Coast of Espirito Santo with Mr Bruce Tilley. Espirito Santo is a part of the archipelago that makes up the Melanesian Islands of Vanuatu and is around 350 nautical miles north of the capital Port Villa. It is one of the last frontiers in terms of heritage and natural history. The one street city of Luganville is the most bustling village of the area and provides food and local wares for the people of Santo to earn gainful employment.

Trailer Boat Fishing in Remote Vanuatu

Our journey starts on the East Coast. Bruce’s family home is set inside the protection of Aese Island and in the lee of beautiful green and luscious over-hanging trees providing a back drop only to be equaled by a Vincent Van Gogh landscape. The only thing missing in a Van Gogh landscape would be the Grady-White 209 Centre Console, with a 250 Yamaha, just metres from the water’s edge on a buoy mooring. This is Bruce’s family’s third Grady-White over 14 years, having previously owned a 209 and a 263 Centre Console.

Trailer Boat Fishing in Remote VanuatuThe trip around to the West Coast sea mount of ‘Wussi’ was around 60nm. We planned to go for 3 days and 2 nights which would be challenging with 300 litres of fuel in the tank, so we loaded up with 16 x 20L fuel drums giving us another 320L. All loaded up with fuel, food and camping equipment, we figured we had around 1000lbs of extra weight, close to the 1130lbs limit as shown on the compliance plate.

The first day was a straight run around the southern coast to the village of Tassurriki, around 40nm, where we planned to drop the fuel drums and use as a base and anchorage for a night as it is fully protected from the south-east trade winds. The weather was around 25 to 30 knots from the south-east with about 1–1.5 meters from the south and the Grady, even fully loaded, ate the swell like a piece of cake. The deep V folding each swell over like a crepe keeping its occupants completely dry. We were able to run at around 23 – 25 knots using about 30 – 35 litres an hour.

Trailer Boat Fishing in Remote VanuatuWe spoke to the Natives in Tassuriki and bartered some of our fish spoils in return for rental of their beautiful bay and a watch over our ever so precious fuel supplies. We then headed out at ship’s light and motored at 28 knots up to ‘Wussi’ for a couple of hours fishing on the spot.

As we came within 5 nm of the sea mount the wind backed out leaving us in a bathtub of milk. The water is a color here that would be hard to find in any rainbow, a clear inky blue you have to see to believe.

Trailer Boat Fishing in Remote VanuatuRunning a Shimano 80lb wide as a short corner it was armed with a Gold Mackerel Mauler which gets so deep at 7.5 knots it almost pulls line from the spool while trolling. We ran two Shimano 50lb outfits out of the riggers, one armed with a medium Meridian Pusher, pink, red and white, and the other with a Metal-head Christmas Tree. I figured we had most bases covered targeting Marlin, Sailfish, Wahoo, Yellowfin Tuna, Dogtooth Tuna, and Dolphin Fish.

Up on top of the sea mount the current flows around 3 knots from the north leaving the most shallow spot at 11 metres, completely calm like a set of rapids, then running off the bottom end into 700 meters causing short, sharp choppy stuff that’s just unpleasant to be in. The GPS accuracy here is nothing short of terrible so we spent the short time we had there that afternoon running across it and marking the sea mount on the sounder whilst catching around 20 Barracuda up to around 10 kgs. We kept a few to give to the locals as we sprinted back to the Tassuriki cove just as we lost the sunlight. We set up a tarp over the T-top and got the gas cooker out and enjoyed a beautiful fillet of Santo beef with a glass of aged French Red. Both Bruce and I were quick to set up our swags and get some shut-eye in anticipation of the days to come.Trailer Boat Fishing in Remote Vanuatu

Day 2 we were up cooking eggs getting some sustenance for the days fishing. We took some fuel with the locals help and shot off at 20 – 30 knots to the sea mount. Again, around 5 miles out, the wind backed away providing conditions you only dream of. I took the boat north of the rock off the top edge after mapping the mount the day before. We started in 50 meters of water working the edge where it drops off to 300 meters and then down further to 700 meters. We got our first proper bite on the Mackerel Mauler about 40 minutes in, which was a 40lb Wahoo. 20 minutes later we had a Wahoo around the same size jump eight foot out of the water and pile onto our right rigger causing a reel scream that all fisherman love to hear.

We then decided to try some live bait rigs to catch some rainbow runners, I was thinking about live-baiting the top edge for the elusive Dogtooth Tuna. After 10 minutes the right rigger snapped out with a scream causing the 15lb gear to smoke. Looking out the back we realised that the madly jumping 80kg sailfish was attached to our bait lure, he didn’t stop jumping for around five minutes until he won his freedom. We decided to go back to our all-rounder spread as we didn’t want that to happen again.

Trailer Boat Fishing in Remote VanuatuWe fished a little longer when I marked a huge bait ball. We got a bite on the 80lb which came straight to the surface. After watching a mass of white water carve up the ocean we fought something for 30 minutes until we realised our worst fears. Whatever we had hooked had turned into an Oceanic White Tip at around 350lb. He came up smiling with my favourite dorado coloured Bibles Minnow firmly wedged in his jaws. After ten minutes of trying to get our lure back and having a couple of near misses of losing a hand in his snapping jaws we looked around and decided it wasn’t the place to be messing with an animal of this calibre so we cut him loose and called it a day.

Wahoo was on the menu. I have perfected the art of cooking this fish, making it golden brown and crispy on the outside and keeping it moist and tender on the inside. We set up a salad bar and poured a glass of red, kept cooking and eating into the night whilst talking about the days fishing.

On Day 3 we went around the south western most point of Santo and hardcore marlin-fished. The weather had backed down with only 10 kt and .5 of a metre from the south east, the lures were smoking beautifully. Two hours in we were in 1300 metres and had 27 degree water, the right rigger gave way and the 50lb stand up screamed off once again. This time out to the port side a 300lb Blue Marlin danced its way heading straight out with no sign of stopping. We turned and chased after getting low on the spool and finally caught up to him and gained back some line. He went deep giving us time to retrieve the other lines and get Bruce harnessed up.

Trailer Boat Fishing in Remote VanuatuThe Black Magic gimbal belt and kidney harness is a beautiful thing. He dogged down deep and made Bruce and I really work together for our prize. We got him to the surface after 45 minutes and Jason grabbed a wrap. We pulled him up the side of the Grady-White and backed the drag off, put the rod in a holder and grabbed a gaff. Bruce gaffed him in the tail and pulled it out of the water whilst I grabbed his bill and with the adrenalin still rushing through our veins we heaved him over the side and into the boat. It then occurred to me that we had achieved what we had come here to do – I could tick catching a Blue Marlin from a trailer boat off my bucket list.

Trailer Boat Fishing in Remote VanuatuWe decided to head back to the house after battling this monster, we wanted to hang it up and get some memories on film. We also knew that the local people would love this treat and waste no time going to work on it with a bush knife.

We had another day up our sleeve before we had to head back to Australia so we decided to hit another sea mount, this time on the East Coast around 20 miles north of Bruce’s house, at Barrier Beach. The wind had come up to around 25 – 30kt from the SE and the swell was up to around 1.5 – 2 metres. We ran with the wind at 25kt again proving the Grady-White 209 unstoppable, I’m glad we weren’t too bruised from the night before’s festivities.

Trailer Boat Fishing in Remote VanuatuWe came to the southern end of the sea mount this time coming out of 400 metres to 25 metres on top. I let the right rigger line out, our favourite Meridien Pusher, and before I could get it up and set, it screamed off. After a fight somewhat resembling a bar fight in an old western movie, we had a 35lb Yellowfin Tuna at the side of the boat. We gaffed him and fumbled him to the fish box in excitement of what we had coming. We fished for a further two hours catching three more Yellowfin around the same size and two Dogtooth Tuna around the 30lb mark.

Trailer Boat Fishing in Remote VanuatuAll together over three days fishing we had caught 20 Barracuda, 2 Wahoo, 1x 350lb Oceanic White Tip, jumped off a Sail Fish, caught our Blue Marlin, 3 Yellowfin Tuna, 2 Dogtooth Tuna, and a small Mahi Mahi. The trip for me was a complete success.

The Grady-White stood up to the test proving itself as a heavy-weight of its class time and time again. Being able to maintain such high cruise speed in all conditions was truly amazing. My only thoughts now are as to how and when I will get back to fish the amazing sea mounts of Santo, Vanuatu.

By Captain Jason McCloy