Wednesday September 30, 2009

Will Wragg, one of Tokoriki’s resident Dive Instructors is a mad keen fisherman. His absolute love in the South Pacific is Popper Fishing for the mighty GT. In all of September, due to being very busy with diving, Will made exactly two casts, but nevertheless has an interesting tale to tell.

“I was desperate to try out the new 100 Cuberas, but couldn’t find the opportunity. I had a night dive booked, and rather than hang around at home until dark, I took Black Jack out to Lua by myself, which is the next reef out to the west of Tokoriki.

I didn’t put the boat quite where I wanted it, but could just reach the drop off.

Second cast, I could already tell that the poppers were going to work. A quite subdued strike, and I expected a Bluefin. But when whatever it was swam off the shallows over the edge, it bolted vertically down, and I couldn’t do a thing.
I knew within seconds that I was reefed.

I was really annoyed. First trip out in ages – brand new, expensive, lure, and a big fish potentially with a mouthful of hooks.

By now, the boat had drifted on top of the reef, and was lying over a patch of sand. The wind was very light, so I dropped the anchor and opened the bail arm. Once the anchor was holding, I put on snorkelling gear (I had BCDs and Regs – all ready in the boat for the night dive, but hadn’t yet loaded the tanks). I followed the braid across the reef and over the edge. Free diving down, I could see the trace leading in to a cave in about 9 metres. I gently pulled on the trace, and there was a huge tugging and vast puffs of silt from the cave mouth.

There was no way I could safely do any more on snorkel gear, but obviously the fish was well and truly hooked. I swam back to the boat, cut off the braid and tied it to a fender. I then took Black Jack back to Tokoriki flat out, picked up Fabi the Boat Captain for the Night dive, and some tanks, and went out to Lua again.

Dropping down on scuba, I could see that the trace was no longer in sight, but the yellow braid disappeared in to the cave. I wedged myself inside, pulling on the braid, but couldn’t feel any movement. As far as I could see, the fish had gone right inside and wedged itself way beyond my reach. It seemed hopeless, but I could also see a bit of light getting into the cave from another small hole in the reef. I swam round to it, and there was the braid, coming out of the hole and leading upwards. I followed it up onto the reef top, across about 10 yards of flats, and into the centre of a big bommie. I wormed my way into the bommie, but couldn’t see where the line was heading. I reversed out with difficulty, and circled the coral head. There was the braid again – leading from a different hole, across to another chunk of coral about five yards away. This time I could see the double disappearing into a cleft. As I grasped the trace, it was ripped out of my hand by a ferocious tug. Peering inside the coral, I was confronted by a huge green head, with massive teeth and a mouthful of popper! I pulled gently, and with a bit of manoeuvring and a lot of thrashing managed to extract a four foot long Napoleon Wrasse!”

For the record Napoleon Wrasse are an endangered species of fish growing to a colossal 229cm. They are certainly not a target species of fish for a fisherman and if caught should be released. Anyway on with the story…

“I started to swim with the Napoleon Wrasse in tow up to the surface, but the excitement wasn’t over. The braid, which was stretching way back through the bommie and down into the cave, got snagged, and I was stuck about a metre below the surface. The fish was going crazy about a foot from my face, and the trebles got caught in the mesh of my glove. The barbs were flattened, but not quite enough, and I couldn’t unthread the hook. So there I was tethered to the bottom and to 40lbs of very angry Napoleon Wrasse!

I had had the foresight to take down a pair of braid scissors, as I am very scared of getting hung up in 100lb braid, but they wouldn’t cut double 80lb mono. Eventually, I had to take out my regulator, and bite through both strands. As I was doing this, the fish kept surging away, so I ended up with a chipped tooth! Finally, I got through the line and up to the surface. Fabi passed down a pair of pliers, I unhooked the Napoleon Wrasse and off she went!

It was one of the craziest moments of all my fishing experiences, and I just couldn’t stop grinning for ages, albeit with a chipped tooth.”



Illustration of Red tooth triggerfish