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Thursday, 7 June 2018

Copeton Dam Murray Cod - The Grind

Check the trip video >>>
Off they go - yeww!

My last trip to Copeton for the JJ's Plague Invitational Tournament was a great Murray Cod reality check.  Despite Copeton's stellar reputation as one of our best big cod impoundments, the inevitable occurred and I had a donut trip after three successful ones prior.  It's a long way to drive from Melbourne and back with no slime on your hands but hey, it's fishing and these are notoriously difficult fish at times.  That's an important thing to remember about Copeton or anywhere for that matter; Murray cod are cranky, moody and often not obliging and despite there being lots of fish in there, it doesn't mean they are going to eat your lure no matter how pretty it is or how well you fish it. (they sound a lot like a freshwater version of a mulloway come to think of it).
Trip opener for JC on Megabass Garuda
Regardless of a tough prior trip there is no way you are going to keep me away from the place for too long.   Contemplating the attraction of Copeton I have done the sums, the average length of cod I have caught there is 92.5 cm, and average 1 fish per day.  At an average of 14 hours a day on the water (how many casts is that??!!) it's still hard work, don't be fooled into thinking it's easy to go to Copeton and bang you have a couple of meteries under your belt; but for cod anglers those numbers work pretty well.  Its a grind, but we accept that.
The grind - it kicks in long after the light disappears!
This trip was with Cish - aka Christian Georgopolous (@fishwithcish on Instagram) and was pretty last minute, a bit over a weeks from decision to go to actual departure - "you wanna do a Copeton run?" is music to my ears.  Leaving Melbourne at 2.30 am on the Friday morning we rolled into Copeton after dark, the massive 16 hour trek behind us.  Anticipation was tempered on the Saturday morning as we launched in my favorite bay as I am always cautious of weekend crowds and unfortunately I was right, the lake was pretty busy and incredibly cold at that.
The Lowrance HDS9 lights up - really pleased with the Fish Reveal update.

I kinda looked at the Saturday morning as a chance to look around and suss out the lake level and find some bait hopefully, a fish would be a complete bonus.  I have not seen the lake at this level (29%) before.  It's fascinating to look at where you have pulled fish at higher levels and perhaps get a perspective of why they were there, it really is a chance to go to school on habitat and ambush points.  Every time I have gone to Copeton the lake level has been the major factor in determining where I will fish, it's never been the same each time I go.
A low lake means time to go to school
Straight up we did find bait, and fish but much deeper than I would hope to see, 12 to 20m was loaded, pretty difficult to target for how we like to cast. With fatigue from the drive a big factor it was time for the midday sleep (this is our normal pattern of two short sleeps a day).
The afternoon session was to a new area at the other end of the lake and we liked what we saw with a lot more bait in shallower (sub 8 meters) so we decided we could work with that.  At about 9 p.m. when most boats had exited the lake for the night we broke the ice so to speak, with an obese 91cm cod slamming Megabass Garuda.  Nothing quite like that first fish hitting the net is there!  Despite several hours more of grind put in that, was it for the night.  A beer, feed and probably most importantly a sleep was in order.
Cish on the board - Megabass Garuda again.
Sunday morning promised heaps but proved difficult.  Despite looking premium with bait flicking around the shallows we had only one bite, a solid single whack followed by a boil on Megabass Magdraft, but alas no hookup.  We had several hits like this on this trip, and have settled on a theory that the fish is simply killing the 'bait' and spitting it back out, perhaps then looking to eat it's prize head first second time round but our delayed strike has always pulled the lure far from it's reach, love to hear what you think happens with these bites but they are hard to convert with a sinking lure.
Cish with the oddly shaped mid 70.  Garuda on fire!
Sunday evening we were back in the zone and it was Cish's turn boating two great fish. a high 80 and a mid 70, both on Megabass Garuda.  The smaller fish was almost disfigured it was so fat, with golden perch like proportions with a small head and massive deep body.  Garuda was working well with a retrieve that incorporated a quick burn then a slower roll or pause (faster to get attention and slower to invite the bite), it worked well.  At about 11 p.m it was time to head in for some sleep again.
Not often you get to be part of a double hookup on solid cod!  Megabass Magdraft

Monday morning promised much with many campers exiting the dam and no doubt heading back to go to work, good news if you like a quiet waterway which I do.  The prime time came and went with Cish and I both having a 'kill' bite without hookup.  Bait was absolutely everywhere and it was hard to believe we had potentially missed when it looked so perfect.  With the sun now up the morning bite window was closing but that was the cue for Cish to hook up tight on what was the best fish of the trip, a 97 (not quite the meter!) that destroyed his DRT swimbait.  Having netted the fish, my attention was drawn to a large swirl next to an exposed rock in the middle of the bay we were in, leaving Cish to deal with his fish I was up casting right at the rock while Cish secured the net in the water to do the same but I beat him to it, hooking up on Magdraft on the third cast, got him!
Set the hook like he owes you money!  Megabass Destroyer TS 'Baccarat' in action
With now two fish to deal with, we headed to shore to measure and photograph which is a bit of a handful but having two nets onboard made the job much more manageable to look after the fish and keep them wet.  At 91 and 97cm's respectively, it was clear these fish were both working the bait in close proximity to each other, is it possible they were working in tandem?  Realising we had a bit of a unique situation on our hands I put up the drone to capture the release which is some pretty cool footage (keep an eye on the Ebb Tide Tackle YouTube account).  With the fish released to grow and fight another day and with man hugs complete we were done!  Breakfast beer, bacon and eggs in order!
First part of the magic double!  97cms on DRT Clone
The afternoon session was with a bit of a Copeton / New England legend, the very modest Adam Townsend who I met on my very first trip to Copeton.  Happily handing the Motor Guide remote to him, it was great to catch up and talk sh%t while Adam showed us around different parts of the lake some of which I have not explored at all to this point.   Zoning in on area the size of a couple footy fields, we had four bites in 45 minutes for one fish.  The 'kill and spit out' theory was alive and suited the big lures we were using.  The one fish boated by Cish was a beautiful high 80's.  We pushed this session until after midnight, I must admit the last hour so on autopilot, hungry, cold, weary and not really concentrating properly this is the 'grind' of cod fishing alright.  Back at the accommodation for a three hour sleep... haha the things we do; the grind alright.
The boys... Adam and Cish

The final morning was agreed would be a short one as we had to make tracks for home.  Luckily for me the third cast of the morning produced a mid 80's cod on Magdraft, happy days and promising much more that morning that did not eventuate, we were to finish with 7 fish between us from 12 bites.  Not too shabby from 3.5 days fishing, great time and great memories, time for the 1500km drive home.
Final fish for the trip, bonus on the 3rd cast - Megabass Magdraft.

What we thought worked well;
Pushing well into the evening (most bites were after dark)
Fishing sub surface swimbaits as slow as possible - mixed with short fast burns to attract attention.

I don't usually whine but I reckon a few things are warranting a mention on Copeton as the lake has become more popular over the last few years;

I never understand boats buzzing around at dawn (anywhere), surely we all know that this is probably THE best bite window and yet boats are still launching or moving from spot to spot?  I'd sooner persist at dawn even if I think i've made the wrong decision.
Spotlights! seriously once you have seen a boat there is no need to constantly illuminate it!
All lake users have equal rights to fish the lake how they like, but what is the etiquette with trolling while most others are casting?  To me, if someone is casting a bank, if you are trolling the same bank you should go around and 'give way' to the casters (or bait fishers for that matter), not cut inside them and running over the very water they were targeting - what's your views?

If you want to purchase the Megabass lures mentioned in this blog, please visit the Ebb Tide Tackle online store << here >>

Saturday, 12 May 2018

GT Popping Superbowl - Reef Raiders 2018

If you have followed the Ebb Tide blog for any length of time you will know that we love fishing in Southern Oman for monster GT's.   Having the call up for the Reef Raiders trip (last group of the season) is a big thrill and as always the highlight of the fishing calendar, it is arguably the hottest ticket in GT popping, my idea of the Superbowl of GT fishing, with the reefs being the 5 yard line, the GT's the opposition, whoops, yes, perhaps I'm being overly theatrical.  But my imagination aside, there is nowhere that consistently offers chances at trophy GT's like Southern Oman, except perhaps Socotra in Yemen (which is currently off limits anyway due to long standing civil war).
The Reef raiders crew - ready to take no prisoners!

Big inshore mahi on Amegari for Ed
The Reef Raiders trip this year saw faces old and new from around the world all of them extremely accomplished GT anglers and more importantly great guys who know how to have fun.  The 2018 crew comprised: Eric LeGuyader - France (Orion Lures), Stewart Newnham - England, Eno Kun - Japan, Daiki Hiraiwa - Japan, Nick Milford - Australia (East Coast Angling), Nate Tsao - Hawaii, USA, Tomislav Jukic - Slovenia, Ed Nicholas - Oman (No Boundaries Oman), John Cahill - Australia (Ebb Tide Tackle)
Day 1 46 kilo fish for Japanese angler Daiki - he's a legend!

To me the objectives of the end of season Reef Raiders are simple; have fun, experience adventure, network, catch big GT's and do your best to not forget the world class light tackle that exists.  The first few point are guaranteed, the GT's highly likely and the last point all too often forgotten, this year we made a decision we would not make that error and the gear comprised a good mix of PE10, PE3, PE1 and lighter silly string.  The late season groups before us had absolutely killed it with some impressive numbers and sizes of fish being reported; 2017/2018 season had been nothing short of amazing, so understandably anticipation ran high with the crew. The morning of day one saw the typical allocation of boats, skippers and what locations we were to be fished.  We all know too well that if there is a hot zone you have to take turns and over fishing will create pressure and quickly ruin it for everyone.  This is factor is something that inexperienced anglers often forget or don't understand.  Departing from the harbor for the first morning I was crewed up with one of NB's new skippers South African Alli King, Tomi and Nick.
Ocean speedster for Tomi - sensational fun on the light gear
We steamed out to our allocated area at speed in seas that were a little too flat for our liking (experience has shown that GT's so often stay deep or at least lose interest in feeding when it's flat).  Despite the presence of ample bait, the first few hours were devoid of any opportunity in an almost glassed out ocean.  These conditions resulted in much sweat, toil and a need to try something else for a while, we were absolutely sweltering with no breeze to cool us down.  A brief jigging and light casting session resulted in some bonito, spangled emperor and a magnificent big rainbow runner for Tommi, we even stopped for a much needed swim to help recharge the batteries.  It's amazing what a cool down can do for the spirits when you have been in intense heat.
JC's best from the trip at 43 kilos, fit and fat (the fish, not JC) T.Jukic image
Returning to the GT drifts we were met with more graft, sweat and no fish and idea's were being thrown around about leaving the islands and heading inshore for a light tackle session to help save the day.  At about that time the wind started to pick up, nothing serious but enough to generate some small swell and waves; potentially perfect and it at least provided relief from the heat. 

Stu releasing a beast - the NBO's way
With the presence of the breeze Alli decreed that the G's might just switch on now, lets hold off on the move for now... heading back over the previous drifts with the situation looking much more promising than in the morning we felt a bit renewed, it now looked much more fishy.  Action took half an hour to emerge but it surely did - my Blaze Saththa popper smashed from the wash zone and we were instantly relieved!  A hectic battle had our first fish on the deck with all pumped up and revitalized.  Not an Oman monster, but at all black and 38kgs it was a fantastic start and a lovely thick fish.
Trip opener for JC, Blaze Saththa hammered - T.Jukic image
Nate brings 808 style to Oman - Mahalos bro!
Within an hour later we raised more geets, a pack of smaller fish all jet black and seemingly aggressive but not willing to bite properly really kept us entertained, frustrating though, as they appeared more happy to buzz and boil on our lures and not eat cleanly.  It wasn't until we discovered through trial and error trying to get a bite that an erratic, faster and much more aggressive skipping / fast swimming style was to their liking with all of us hooking up at one point or another sometimes all at once once we realized what would switch them on.  I was lucky to boat two of these more modest geets (modest for SO, awesome anywhere else!) while we all had fish fall off in the fight or missed hookups a plenty.  The session turned from bleak to pretty damn good fast!  The day started to get quieter mid afternoon with some time between bites.
Eno with the fish of the trip - 55kgs of muscle and aggression
Just when you might think it was over for the day I had the bite of the trip (for me).  Casting a prototype stickbait into very choppy water I was met with a fully airborne GT on the second sweep, this was not just a bit out of the water, but at least 2 foot clear with the lure in it's mouth!  The hookup less than orthodox also with me ending up on my ass while setting the hook.  A torrid fight to get the fish out of shallow water was memorable and hectic and resulted in a deep bodied 43 kilo GT hitting the deck, nicely rounding out our day tally to 5 fish, an excellent start to Reef Raiders. Back at the lodges it was great news that all boats had seen action.  The highlight being that Ed, Eno and Daiki had hit pay dirt with 45, 49 and 55 kilo monsters and Ed had dumped half a spool on a monster that unfortunately did not stay connected, while Stu, Nate and Eric had seen solid action as well, spirits ran high!
Stu bet it all in Oman and came up on black - yeww!
GT Master class from Eric the Great - T'Jukic image
Day 2 and 3 were designated camping days where we would sleep in the boats and do some after dark popping (the adventure part of the trip).  Teamed up again with captain Alli I had the pleasure of fishing with the Japanese duo - Eno and Daiki.  Our day session was unremarkable with many casts and only a couple of flappy fish raised that had no interest in eating.  We even ventured onto the island to try and do our best to recapture some of last years land based magic, this time with no joy.  After sunset we were back on the boat and Eno was able to salvage our day with our one bite he managed while deep dredging which he converted into a modest GT that was not weighed.  This was much better than the zero we were looking at.  Despite several more drifts over that patch we did not raise another fish.  Done for the day, we anchored up, ate and established our blow up beds on the deck.  The anchorage was well protected from the wind but small waves wrapped around the point making things uncomfortable and difficult to sleep.  I found that I was rocking all over the deck and the only way I could stop that was to engage my core but this is not terribly conducive to sleep!  This was nothing compared to the incredible cold we all felt as we settled for the night and our sweat failed to dry in the sea mist that rolled in, a long uncomfortable night followed; the small price you pay for adventure!
Legend of a guy! Nick Milford first Omani geet, cracker!
In the predawn we rose and prepared for the morning session ahead.  I have a soft spot for fishing dawn more than any other time and we were about to hit my favorite Southern Oman reef at sun rise, what was not to like about that prospect!  Despite the personal hype I generated, ample bait and perfect conditions we did not raise or see a single GT, such is life, they do not always read the script!  Back on land soon after lunch we were keen to see how the other boats had fared from the overnight mission; Ed, Nate and Stu skippered by Henk had enjoyed an epic session on dusk with from memory about 10 fish between them, what a hectic action!  The other boat comprising Tomi, Eric and Nick (with skipper Mo) had also got among some solid fish.
Daiki's 49 - mean fish, tough weigh in!
Day 4 saw me fishing with Alli as skipper again, Ed and Nick.  Fishing was relatively slow for us until we raised a pack of large big eye trevally - accompanied by an equally large pack of GT's right up there ass!  The fish were all over our lures and eager to eat and unfortunately a big eye beat the intended target to mine - nooooooooooo!  What I witnessed next was spectacular as a bus sized GT, possibly the biggest I have ever seen tried to actually eat the big eye (check the video)!  Quickly skull dragging it in and flipping it off (thank goodness for barbless hooks), my cast was back out in moments but it was too late, the pack had gone and they did not reappear despite several more drifts over the patch, devastated!  Somehow we had converted none from a situation where we might have all hooked up, that's GT fishing!
Bus emperor for Nick - how hard do they go!
All trip a real frustration was the constant attacks from the long toms on our lines - the pests tend to attack the braid with their needle teeth as it zips through the water and manage to do enough damage to compromise it and under the strike shock load of a good GT, boom it will let go.  I had to change to spare spools of braid twice that afternoon, expensive and frustrating to say the least, but ignore it and you will lose fish when you do inevitably hook up.
About as big as I've seen an emperor - Amegari again
Switching over to some light tackle casting in an area where it's seldom done and enjoyed the most epic spangled emperor session I've ever been involved in.  Lure cost was high as every other cast one of us was buried in the reef  by these bulldozers and they were good fish.  I am a big advocate that if you don't weigh it, don't say it so I will keep my size guesses to myself but they were big and thick!  This was an epic PE3 afternoon.  The wind had really picked up over the last day or two and the run back to the lodges was long and wet. The other boats reported a slow day mostly.
Massive bream on Amegari Urpekari - T.Jukic image
Day 5 I was keen for a short break from the pounding of endless GT casting and the big seas, as well I had promised myself I would do more light tackle this trip so today would be that day.  Heading along the cliffs with Mo as our skipper, Ed and Tomi it was a matter of where to start.  The beauty of being guided is Ed and Mo knew precisely where the fish would be and as it turned out, in numbers.  From the very first cast it was hectic action.  If one of us was not hooked up it was because there was a double or triple and this lasted close to two hours!  Casting close we had beastly bream hitting poppers, under them were thousands of black tip trevally, casting the other side of the boat on the bait balls were mahi mahi, massive queenfish, grouper, bonito and sundry other species totally almost 20! (mostly thanks to Tomi).
Mega queenfish for Tomi on top
It was not uncommon to have someone getting their spool emptied by a pelagic while someone else was putting brakes on a rock dwelling dozer while someone else was unhooking a fish, mayhem.  After the initial madness, the rest of the day the bite got a lot harder or more accurate to say, 'normal'.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable day but it left us with a nagging feeling that this might have been the day the GT's really lit up and we had perhaps made a bad decision, on return we learnt that a couple of fish had been caught by each boat with uncle Stu getting his black beast, happy days for all, we were more than satisfied with the crazy light tackle we had enjoyed, still can't help but think, 'what if' though.
Bluefish on Jack Fin Pelagus 90S
Want an emperor? tie on a Megabass Konosiris
In what was to turn out to be our final day of ocean fishing, day 6 was spent chasing GT's with skipper Alli, Ed and the master angler Eric.  The sea's were BIG, and building.  It was actually difficult to stay on your feet while casting and working a lure but we manged for the most part.  For half a days toil we raised fish once in a small pack attack where Eric hooked up as did I, but mine was a sad story; ZZZZZZ - CRACK as my braid snapped loud as a gun shot.  An inspection revealed a section of the line had been chewed by the long toms and I had missed it in the rough water and waves, little I could have done about it other than strip off bulk line as I was on my last spool of the four I had brought with me on the trip.  That was the one that got away for me and I am still a little sulky about it.  Eric managed to boat his in a brilliant display of angling in horrid conditions.  Despite the feeling we might be on the edge of a bite, Ed made the right call soon after lunch that the seas had become unsafe and we went in, it was a long wet run in building conditions, the monsoon was knocking on the door.  The other crews returned mixed results with Nick getting a couple of solid black fish.
Freshwater cuda?  Seen it all now.
With a poor forecast and clearly an angry ocean, day 7 was not going to be chasing GT's.  A plan was hatched to head to the freshwater wadi nearby which is a popular swimming hole.  Amazingly we found that the wadi was alive with fish with multiple mangrove jack and barracuda a highlight, great fun had on light tackle, a BBQ in the shade of palm tree's and a semi refreshing swim (the water being as warm as the air). It all made for a great day and a bit of a wind down.
BIG Rankin Cod that ate a popper - wicked work Nate
As quick as Reef raiders had started it was over.  A layover day back in Salalah enjoying the comforts of the pool and bar was just the ticket before the monstrous trip home that this year included an extended 16 hour layover in Doha with Eno and Daiki.  This years numbers were a little more modest than last years record breaker but in reality at almost 30 GT's for the crew it was still world class when you consider the average size encountered is actually big. It was always going to be impossible to stand up to last years epicness!  As always monster opportunities existed, converting them up to you, and luck.  That is what I maintain about SO, persist and you will get a chance at a once in a life time fish, hooking and landing it always another matter altogether!
Jacks in Oman, who knew - Tomi found out!
As always the No Boundaries operation impresses and there have been some changes over the last year most noticeably with lodge and operational staff, the addition of Janine Bronkhorst, Henk Ferreira and Alli a definite boost to the professionalism on and off the water to the long established legends Mo, Saiful and Mamun.  I can't wait to be back for trip number 6.
ASWB Elsie on emperor extraction detail
Gear rundown - These trips for me also serve as product testing opportunities, here's what went down:
New product - ASWB Elsie rods.  Nick Milford and I both used the PE3 model and loved it, perfect for Oman light tackle and capable against any angry emperor.
ASWB IPGT10/8 rods - Whilst not new, in their second season now these rods have continued to perform and frankly look near new still.  I have punished them over their limits without issue.
Blaze Garage Saththa - this popper has racked up some impressive Oman numbers in Oman this season.
Orion Oman Pop - all you need for beastly bream.
Amegari Kaxu - just trust me and own at least one.
Megabass Konosirus - if you need a strong saltwater vibe look no further.
Jack Fin Pelagus 90S - an awesome small all rounder for PE3 work. 

Check out the GT video - (light tackle still to come)   >>>>>

Friday, 4 May 2018

So he gave up heavy topwater...

The face of pain... and a lovely rod
A 3 man lift... not sure how much use Mark is however

So he gave up heavy topwater...
By Mark Harris

(Editors note - Mark Harris needs no introduction as a heavy tackle topwater GT angler.  Sadly due to the recurrence of a serious shoulder injury, Mark was forced to give up heavy casting early in 2018.  What was still in scope to a point was an ability to jig in moderate to heavy tackle as a new focus)

The pictures and video of this fish have been widely shared already but I really wanted to get the full story recorded… so here we go.
This was my third trip to Eastern Fields with Sportfishing PNG, having first visited this amazing reef system as part of their initial exploratory there back in late 2014. So there is no doubt that Eastern Fields has a special place in my heart.
This time I went along as part of a group trip organised by my great friend Nick Lee – how nice it was to have someone else doing the organisation for a change!  And Nick did a fine job. The group comprised of five anglers I knew well – Nick himself, Jason Tan, Eric Lee, Hong Qixian and Nick Wykeham Martin (all from Singapore), plus Dan Milton who traveled all the way from Canada, and two late “replacements” Rob Powell and Jay Kim from Sydney.  An excellent group who bonded well and shared a lot of laughs as well as some fine fish.
This was something of personal watershed trip for myself. Serious GT fishing had been off the cards for some time due to a serious shoulder injury and this was the first big trip I had done where this was the case. Well there had been a trip to Oman some two months previous, but that was specifically a light tackle trip. Before hand, I gave a great deal of thought as to how I would fish at Eastern Fields, and especially as to how I would tackle jigging for dogtooth, protect the dodgy shoulder etc.   I never imagined that all of that thought and planning would be tested so incredibly violently on this trip.
The first 5 days of the trip provided some very mixed fishing results really. GT fishing was tough for the guys (being unable to cast GT sized lures, I only did some half-hearted PE5 fishing for GTs myself) and although a couple of nice fish were caught, it was mostly small stuff and not in huge numbers compared to what this site normally offers up.  A few small doggies were caught and inevitably some big ones lost, and Napoleon wrasse were their usual difficult selves at this reef system.  Light jigging for reefies was off-the-charts good especially at night from the mothership, and the yellowfin tuna fishing very good indeed. We were also hampered by some truly foul weather on days 2 and 3 especially.
Impressive proportions
So day 6 dawned as our final chance to catch something notable before the long steam back to Port Moresby that evening. As on day 5, I was fishing with Hong who is always excellent company, and we were together on one of the small Panga tenders with captain Fikai.  Both Hong and I thought that we should give Napoleon jigging a real go and we spent much of the morning bouncing jigs along various reef walls in about 30 to 50 metres of water. Lots of the usual suspects caught but not a Napoleon in sight. Around mid-day a huge group of terns of noddies drew our attention to a large bust up in deeper water, and yep, it was not just rainbow runners and bonito, there were some solid yellowfin in there also. Complete mayhem ensued as it turned out there were probably as many sharks as yellowfin. Hong did manage to get one lovely yellowfin to the boat. In the meantime I had lost 5 lures in as many minutes to sharkings. It was lots of fun but rather expensive fun.
So back to the reef walls it was and after a few drops lunch seemed in order.  That helped in providing one final burst of energy, and while Hong was content to continued slow bouncing for a Napoleon, I decided to give it a final blast for a doggie as we drifted away from the reef wall into about 80 metres of channel. 
81kgs of prime dog tooth
With a 250 gram Fisherman Andaman jig on I decided to give it a fast rip from the belt, and on my second drop had a shuddering super heavy take.   This was clearly something big and for a few seconds it just sat still as very heavy weight prompting my exclamation that I had hooked a “f**king big shark*.  Then it just went. And boy did it go. The fastest run I have ever felt. I was fishing about 12-13 kgs initial drag on a Stella 20000 and my line just flew off. Obviously a big doggie.  Line just disappeared from the spool so fast it was hard to think. With only about 40 metres left on the spool I tightened drag for the final quarter turn that was left. Line continued to peel and I said to Hong not make sure he had the spool on video as a spooling would make for fun footage (!) ….. it seemed inevitable. Then the fish just stopped. There was less than 10 metres of line left and backing was showing. Quite remarkable really. Another second or two on the run and it was a spooling. Instead I had a fish that not only stopped but also gave me its head for a minute or so, and it was almost straightforward getting about 40-50 metres of line back.  It did not stay that way for long and it was a real battle with periods of a truly massive dead weight feeling on the set up combined with bursts of intense pulling.
Management of my shoulder injury was critical if I was to have any chance of getting this fish to the boat.  Whenever I tried a classical straight-arm position during the fight it felt as if the shoulder could blowout at any time. Instead, I had to use an awkward and physically draining technique of bent arms that put most of the strain onto forearms, elbows and biceps and lessened pressure on the shoulder. This is highly not recommended unless you have to!  But by thinking it through in that way, the battle was won.
It was a mental battle as much as anything else. Physically I was done after the first half of the fight really and there were clear signs of redlining with my left hand side shaking significantly and key muscles turning to jelly. But no way was I ever going to accept offers of help. I have never handed over a rod in my life and was not about to start! I just kept telling myself that it could not hurt any more than it already was.
That is a LOT of line out!
The fish arrived at the surface some 15 minutes after the initial take and immediately popped from barotrauma.  My elation was somewhat tempered by the fact that this magnificent alpha predator had killed itself in the fight.  This is almost unavoidable with big dogtooth and a key reason why I stopped fishing for them for many years.  These days I limit myself to one per trip – do the responsible thing.
It was far from easy getting the fish onto the boat but Hong and Fikai eventually managed after tail roping it. I was completely useless – little more than a quivering mass of jelly. Once onboard the tape measure gave us a lip to fork of 178 cm.  I was fearful of any weight estimate, especially as I knew we could weigh the fish on a crane back the mothership. Fikai did mutter both 80 and 90 kgs.  News of a 178 cm fish went out on the radio and the airways were soon full of loud chatter. Head guide Cameron was quickly to the scene and soon taking photos.
Defeated, but victorious
Within about 2 hours of capture the fish was back at the mothership and being hauled on board by a crane. The needle on the scale was swinging violently but we decided that given the extent of those swings plus the HUGE amount of (vile yellow!) fluid the fish lost when raised, that 81 kg seemed about right.  Within 30 minutes the fish was fully filleted by chef Alex with the meat plastic wrapped and into the freezer for later distribution to PNG villagers.

Some fairly random observations:
·        I have always said that you do not need wire for dogtooth fishing. Those things snipping your leader or slicing your assist are not dogtooth. A quick examination of the teeth of this fish confirmed this to everyone who looked.
Fisherman Andaman
·      MC Works 556 MS is just the best heavy jigging rod ever. The rod helped me so much during the fight.  It’s parabolic enough to not brutalise the angler but still has immense mid-section strength to deal with lifting a fish of this magnitude. Also the relatively soft tip injects life into 200-300 grams jigs which so many heavy jigging rods cannot do.
·       There is a very spooky moment which is captured at 40 seconds into the video when the spool is almost empty. I had no recollection of saying this until listening very carefully to the audio some 4 days after the event. After explaining to Hong why I could not move the fish (LOL) I said “it is like an 80 kg fish”. A real WTF moment!
·         I have never ever felt power or speed like this in a fish before.  The moments when the fish was pulling very hard but just not hard enough to take any line were absolutely body breaking.
·         Mentally it is a very tough moment when you realise a huge fish has dumped 300 metres of line, and you have to get it all back.
·         It’s a corny old adage but I will say it anyway – never give up when fishing. This fish was landed with just 4 hours of fishing left of a 6 day trip.
So many thanks are due. To Sportfishing PNG for making remote reef systems like Eastern Fields not only fishable, but fishable in great comfort on board the magnificent K20. To all of the crew – Cameron, Jed, Mia, Billy, Alex, John, Jia An (who really should have been there but wasn’t), and especially Fikai who once again proved he really is Captain Big Fish. And of course to my friends Nick x 2, Jason, Eric, Hong, Dan, Rob and Jay – fantastic company throughout.  Extra special thanks are due to Hong for not only helping me through the fight with constant encouragement, but also managing to record the event so expertly.

One of the best dog tooth jig / hook combinations

Tackle used:
Rod: MC Works 556 MS
Reel: Stella '08 20000 loaded with YGK Jigman PE8
Leader: FG Knot to YGK 130 lb fluorocarbon, 3 turn uni to NT 2/0swivel
Hook: De-barbed Shout Kudako 9/0, self-tied assist with Varivas kevlar to JM figure 8 ring and Carpenter 350 lb split ring.

Please feel free to take a look at the video - watch in HD