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Pacific Islands Travel Forum Tell us about your holiday in Fiji, adventures in Tonga, the beaches of Hawaii, trips to Guam & Saipan, the night life of Papua New Guinea, restaurants on Easter Island or French Polynesia, this is the forum to post your pictures & videos about the Pacific Islands.

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Old 18-10-2016, 01:27 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Fishing in Fiji

I grew up in Fiji, from age 8 to 15, then another few years from age 17 to 21.
I can't find a dedicated fishing sub-forum, so here seems a reasonable place to post some fishing stories, framed as Pacific Islands experience.

A bit of background first. At 15, I was sent to NZ to live with my grandparents and go to school, because the boarding school I was at was horrendous (that's a whole other series of stories). I had to go to boarding school because my parent's copra plantation was too isolated to be able to commute each day. (Google Maps -16.724473, 179.910500). Taveuni (where the school was) was approximately 7 miles across open water.
My story starts early 80's. After I finished 7th form in Auckland, I went home for the holidays. Fully intending to go to varsity, this was just a 6 week holiday. It was then announced that Mum had breast cancer, and so she had to go to NZ for treatment. As a consequence, Dad would have to go also to get a job to pay for everything. We, as copra plantation owners, were merely subsistence farmers.
This meant abandoning the farm. My parents planned just to lock everything up and go. All stock was free range, so they would be ok.
I volunteered to stay and keep the farm going, but my parents wouldn't have a bar of it. It's far too isolated a place for a 17 year old boy to stay alone. No telephone, no road. They had a point.
When the next door labourer boy swung by in his boat inviting me to a wedding at the Tuvaluan village on Kioa Island (where he was from), I went.
Long story short, I got myself married (seriously engaged actually, but such a strong commitment that it was tantamount to thinking as married) that weekend, and returned to tell Mum and Dad that there's no more worries as I wouldn't be living alone. Arguments, tears, discussions, tempers.... They had no choice but to leave me to my destiny.
So.....I took over the farm with my Polynesian princess bride, also 17.


The Tuvaluans bought the island in 1945 (circa), organised by a guy named Kennedy. Long story short: Kennedy had ideals of forming his own little kingdom and got a group of 12 Vaitupu families to invest in buying Kioa. I happen to know the price, because my grandad had first option to buy and turned it down; 5000 pounds. Kennedy was finally kicked off when they saw through him.
Anyway, that's another story....
The Tuvaluans were seamen. Excellent fishermen. They fished from one-man dug-out outrigger canoes (paopao). My FIL cut down a wirirwiri tree (on the plantation) and made me a very nice, largish, canoe.
Then he taught me what fishing was about.

I'll start small.
Of course I knew how to fish. I had started fishing as a youngster off the jetty at Careel Bay, Avalon, Sydney. I had spent thousands of hours fishing the reef around home, and further afield. My dad had a commercial fishing venture and would do two week tours out to Na Qelelevu and surrounds. I went a couple of times during school holidays. Untouched bountiful sea. Fisherman's paradise, but it was just a job.

I knew how to fish, and loved it.
When FIL started to teach me how to fish, I knew I knew nothing about fishing.

The first thing he showed me was that when making lures, the colour and shape of the feather was paramount.
Neck feather of a white hen. Just one, tied with black cotton to a #4 size hook (I can't remember the size, but I do know the hooks we got in Fiji started at #1 being the biggest, whereas in NZ #1 is the smallest. Here I'm using NZ sizes as it's the easiest to google).

Light line. Maybe 10 kg. Here I should point out that all fishing was with a handline.
Off we go in our respective canoes, a couple of lures each.
Full moon, high tide over the home reef (about 1.5 metres deep). Let your lure over the side, about 5 m of line let out. Hold the line with one hand, and paddle slowly with the other. Slowly. Quietly and gently draw the paddle, with a slight twist at the end to compensate direction.

Strike! A small, (let me call it a red schnapper, but I don't think it is) about 15 cm long. A keeper. Go again...3 or 4 one-armed strokes, strike! Again, strike within seconds. And again. Several species caught, all edible and food.

Keys: Hen neck feathers. Small hook. Full moon. High tide. Slow. Quiet.

The serenity of this style of fishing, with the moon glistening off calm water, and the only sound is the drips off your paddle, made this a warm and fuzzy way to fish for food, and I did it as much as weather allowed and if not much fish was forthcoming from other fishing excursions. Never catch anything to write home about, just small fish for the table. But enjoyable fishing.

Last edited by Maanaam : 18-10-2016 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 18-10-2016, 01:44 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I intend to build up to what was probably the climax of my fishing experiences and learning: Catching a marlin on a handline from my canoe.
A bit lazy now to continue writing, but to be continued.....
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Old 18-10-2016, 01:45 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Wheres the piccies?
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Old 18-10-2016, 01:50 PM   #4 (permalink)
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THANKS,
A wonderful upbringing, Pacific Isles and Ive visited a few are magical and a lot warmer than the cold spray off the old head of Kinsale where I had the privilege to see the Dolphins at dawn .

Are there Dolphins off Fiji?
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Old 18-10-2016, 01:58 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Where's the pics ? ,
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Old 18-10-2016, 01:58 PM   #6 (permalink)
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^^ Heh, we didn't have a camera in those days. Besides, I don't know how to post piccies.
^ Yes, dolphin and porpoise. When they bow-wave dance, you clap and whistle to encourage them.
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Old 18-10-2016, 02:08 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Been to Treasure Island and spent a morning at its sister Beachcomer.
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Old 18-10-2016, 02:23 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I didn't think regulars would visit this tiny subforum!

On full moon fishing: Generally considered hopeless. Too much bioluminesence and the fish are skittish.
But!!!! As portrayed above, it can be good. Uncle Willy, my wife's mum's brother showed me another full moon fishing technique.
Willy was amazing. Pronounced dead from tuberculosis at age 3, he was heard crying from his coffin at his funeral. He grew up to be an avatar, a Greek God. 186 cms, straight posture and perfect physique, not body-builder OTT, just fine 6-pack and obviously muscular. Real Greek statue stuff. Never exercised for exercise, just worked. Never dieted for diet's sake, just ate home food.
Anyway, Willy was staying with us to build his new canoe from a wirirwiri tree in my forest. Full moon, calm night, and he took me out fishing in my canoe. Over the edge of the reef where it drops off a few metres. About 10 meters from the edge. Anchor (a large stone) from each end of the canoe.
We're using 60 lb line. No sinker and a #8 hook. Big slab of fresh fish bait or a giant hermit crab abdomen.
Quiet. Maintain silence. No shuffling of feet in the bottom of the canoe, place the bait knife down gently. Avoid all knocks and sounds.
Gently toss your baited hook out, away from the reef, then throw out a few more metres of line. Let it slowly sink.
Strike! A decent red fish....I may look it up.....about 40 cms long. Strike! Willy has one also. And so the night wears on, sitting upright in the canoe, pulling in a variety of very decent fish. Quite tiring, but very satisfying. Another fave fishing style.
An odd thing, though, was all fish caught this way would go off by morning (something to do with the bioluminescent bacteria?), so when had enough, going home always meant cleaning all the catch and starting the slow-smoker. Makes for an exhausting night.

Still, this remains another fave fishing method. Serenity. You almost wish the fish would stop biting.
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Old 18-10-2016, 02:49 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maanaam
we didn't have a camera in those days
Read Old Man and the Sea. Nary a single picture. Still not bad.
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Old 18-10-2016, 04:32 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dillinger View Post
Wheres the piccies?
My question exactly.
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Old 18-10-2016, 06:11 PM   #11 (permalink)
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1982 rural Fiji...we didn't have a Samsung Galaxy S7 in reach.
Sorry guys. I have no photographic evidence.
I hesitated to start posting these stories as some of them will be viewed with skepticism. Neither story so far should attract doubt, as they're not amazing or exceptional, yet already there's requests for pics from 1982!
I've had this dilemma ever since those times: Retell the stories and be thought of as a liar, or keep my experiences to myself.


I'm surprised people expected pics from a poor copra farmer in 1982.
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Old 18-10-2016, 06:15 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norton View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maanaam
we didn't have a camera in those days
Read Old Man and the Sea. Nary a single picture. Still not bad.
Old Man and the Sea was when I got my marlin.
Not quite, he had a long struggle. I had a relatively easy time...secrets of the Tuvaluans.
That story is yet to come.
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Old 18-10-2016, 07:10 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Great thread Maanaam, keep it going.
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Old 18-10-2016, 07:28 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Is Maanaam the failed business man George Speight?
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Old 18-10-2016, 07:53 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Lol...No, I was in NZ when Speight made his coup. I think he's in Brisbane now. Not sure, I never liked him. Nor Rabuka, nor Frankie.
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Old 18-10-2016, 07:59 PM   #16 (permalink)
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A better story teaser before returning to the low-level stuff.

One night, fishing from the canoe, I got a bite but was too slow to jerk and hook it.
I was snagged straight away, and guessed it was a rock cod that had swiped my bait and retreated to his cave.
A still night, and very reticent to lose a sinker (I used sheet lead as sinkers. A strip wound around the line), I realised that I could lure him out again with another bait.
I baited another line and dropped it over the side, still holding the snagged line in my other hand.
I didn't have long to wait. A nibble, a jerk of the line, and I hauled in the cod, with both hooks in his mouth.
Sinker and hook saved.
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Old 19-10-2016, 06:55 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I was an 11 year old when we first moved to the property. My brother and I would go out in a pram dinghy and fish just off the reef. I took to wearing a diving mask and dipping my head into the water to watch the fish as they approached my bait. It was great fun and very educational. I learnt how the various fish would act towards a bait, what their nibble or gulp felt like. Seeing it actually happen was enlightening.
To know what the fish are doing, the tilt of their body, their cautious or brazen approach, the nibble or the gulp was fascinating. Each species had it's own way. Later on, when I'd given up fish-watching, it was a matter of pride to name the fish before it surfaced. We did that in NZ too, but that was easy: The head shake of a snapper, the running of a trevally, the extra heavy running of a ray etc...there were not a lot of species to choose from and it was all based on how it ran, not how it nibbled. In Fiji, there were many more species that a strike could be, and unless the fish was unusual, I could pick the species when it first bit, and often confirm in the way it fought.
Just a bit of now-useless information.


Another Tuvalu style: Tie about 3 metres of light line to a long slender bamboo pole. Small hook (about a #2). Bait it with a small kasikasi (hermit crab) abdomen and trail the bait in the water at high tide. Then walk slowly along the beach, trolling the bait. This moving bait was much more effective than just leaving the bait sit. My theory is that a with a moving bait, the prey don't have time to consider what it is and just lunge at it.
This was for catching bait, although the villagers would also eat the fish. A tad small for my liking.

Speaking of hermit crabs (kasikasi in Fijian, uga (oonga) in Tuvaluan). Most excellent bait. Uga are always found in their hundreds scrounging in the debris just above high water mark. Fijians would collect them then sit down with a rock and break the shells open. I preferred the Tuvalu way which was to gather as many as you wanted and take them, shell and all, out with you. Whenever you needed a new bait, pick up a shell and gently whistle at it, blowing onto the closed claws which were blocking the entrance to the retreated crab inside. Was it curiosity at the sound, or the person's breath? I don't know, but the little hermit would always open up and come out for a look, whereupon you would grab his thorax and ease his abdomen out of the shell.
You could bait your hook with the whole crab, or pinch off the abdomen and just use that. I preferred the abdomen alone, because I would collect all the heads/thoraxes and crush them for burly.

Actually my first ever fish caught was when I was about 5 and we visited Fiji and my grandad's plantation. There was a coconut tree growing out over the water and I sat on it with a small hand reel. I put a whole uga on the hook and watched all these black and white striped fish milling around it. Guess what? The still alive uga grabbed one in it's claws! It was small to me, even then, so I guess the fish was about 1 cm long, lol.

Uga are probably the best bait there is. The abdomen is soft and once pinched off the body, leaks an oily goo into the water. Yet the skin is tough enough to keep it on the hook, and tasty too since even after the goo has washed out, it's still an attractive morsel for the fish. If using uga as bait and you don't get a bite within a minute, move as there's no fish to be had where you are.
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Old 19-10-2016, 07:02 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Damn me, brilliant stories. Keep them up bro
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Old 19-10-2016, 07:04 AM   #19 (permalink)
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I've fished in PNG, New Ireland, Nauru and Kiribati but nothing bets that taled of moonlight fishing in a canoe with a handline over a reef.
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Old 19-10-2016, 07:13 AM   #20 (permalink)
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While we're on about fishing from the beach, another teaser for the big fish stories to come:
I would use a #3 or 4 hook (fiji sizes, so the bigger end of the scale, #1 being the biggest) on a 500 lb line, no sinker. Big slab of bait or a whole small (6 inch) fish.
Just throw it out as far as you could, tie the line to a tree and forget about it.
This was a non-exciting but prolific way of getting big fish. Anything less than ametre would be considered small for this method. Often you may have to leave the line out overnight, but it would almost always get results. Not always good results: Sharks were a common catch, and so were a fish called bati. Bati got big, but were often poisonous. Another big fish sometimes caught was dokonivudi, edible at certain times of the year, but poisonous at other times, so I would never trust these catches.
A very boring way of catching fish.
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Old 19-10-2016, 07:27 AM   #21 (permalink)
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^ Thanks Willy.
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Old 19-10-2016, 08:09 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Excellent posts Maanaam.

I was in Fiji for three months in 1980 and also did some reef fishing, though from a much larger boat. Hundreds of shark and a massive grey colored fish name forgotten, would circle the boat all night. No way would you want to fall overboard. The locals used to catch a long thin fish which swam in shoals by throwing a heavy three pronged hook and a small float over the top of them then pulling it in very quickly, no bait.
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Old 19-10-2016, 08:31 AM   #23 (permalink)
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I'm not a fisherman, no patience. I have however been out once with my ex-FIL in the Solomans. The guys from the island took him/us out fishing for what they called I believe King fish.
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Old 19-10-2016, 08:32 AM   #24 (permalink)
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When a king tide occurs, the low tide is very very low, exposing the reef completely. Out near the edge there are numerous holes going down into the coral caves below. Within those caves lurk a most delicious fish, in Fijian "corocoro".
Tie about a metre of light line to a thin bamboo pole about 1.5 m long. about a (NZ) #4 hook. No sinker. The purpose of the pole is so that you don't cast a shadow over the hole you have chosen. Corocoro are skittish. Fish as you would, by letting the bait sink into the hole. If there are corocoro there, and you've been careful about your shadow, you will hook up immediately. Corocoro seem to live in small colonies so you can usually get 3 or 4 before moving to the next hole.
These fish are delicious but have a razor sharp knife-like spur on their gills, and very very tough scales. You can't grab them off your hook like other fish as the spur will slice your hand, instead you have to grab it by squeezing your index finger and thumb into it's eye sockets.

You can treat them as any other fish when cooking, but they're a bugger to scale, so the best method is, once gutted, light a fire and heat up some rocks, and bbq them on the rocks. Once cooked to perfection, the scales rub off, then comes the fun and amusing bit: pull out the dorsal and pectoral fins. They will slide out easily, then, just like Sylvester the cat, slurp all the meat off the bones, leaving an entire skeleton with head and tail. They really can be eaten like that and are a fish-lovers dream in taste and texture, soft and creamy, and effectively boneless as the skeleton remains intact.
A decent sized corocoro will be 8 or 9 inches long.
here's a pic when I googled red reef fish . Coral reef fish
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Old 19-10-2016, 08:34 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Begbie
massive grey colored fish name forgotten, would circle the boat all night.
Possibly a saqa (GT) or ogo (giant barracuda). Even walu (spanish mackeral).
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