It is safe to say, that my trip to Eastern Fields in Papua New Guinea was one of the trips I’d most anticipated of all. The main drawcard of this trip along with any trip of an exploratory nature, was the opportunity to cast lures into waters that had never before seen a cast – to fish that had never seen a lure. Added to this was the fact that I knew I’d be fishing with a group of good lads, aboard the luxury mothership K2O, so it was only ever going to be good times! We were fishing 2 guys to a tender so won’t reflect the action the other guys had, but I’m sure there will be other reports floating around from their stories and you can get the flavour of it from the catch leaderboard photo included below.
We arrived into Port Moresby (a first for me) and were picked up by Jia An, our ever-helpful rep from Sportfishing PNG. Myself, Dave and Alex had arrived first, and so were treated to a tour of the marina, breakfast at the yacht club and a visit to the nature park. After spending the day with Jia An listening to tales of fishing endeavours, it’s safe to say that by the time we boarded K20 we were all champing at the bit to get into some fish.
Eastern Fields is an overnight steam out from Port Moresby. It’s a huge reef system, which has seen next to no pressure from jig/pop anglers and is a place that I’ve been dying to get to for quite some time.
When we boarded K20 it was clear that this boat lived up to and exceeded all expectations. The cabins were spacious and well appointed. There was a living room with surround sound and LCD TV, and the kitchen was equipped with (amongst other things) an espresso machine. We certainly wouldn’t be roughing it!
In the leadup to the trip, the forecast looked to be glorious. That was a huge relief for me – because as many people who know me can attest, I’ve been cursed with rubbish weather on nearly every trip I booked as of late. Unfortunately….. that forecast proved to be rubbish. On the first night out the wind had whipped up, and we were in for a pretty rocky ride. Thankfully the very adept K20 (or perhaps the dozen beers at the yacht club over dinner) made the ride seem smoother than it was, and we all got a good sleep ready for the action ahead.
We woke to the first of many cooked breakfasts, and caught site of the reef we’d been dreaming about for months. Finally it was here. As we approached the reef system we saw some bommies / outcrops that were just screaming for a cast, and given that K20 Had slowed its pace, a few of us ran to the front of the vessel with our light casting kit and had some flicks towards the reef whilst the boat still steamed. I’d grabbed my Yamaga Blanks Blue Sniper 77/3 and was flicking a light Lamble lure on PE3. I wasn’t really expecting much but it was a good excuse to warm up the casting arm for what lay ahead. First cast was a bit rusty and fell short, but second cast was a plum – and was immediately rewarded! Line was peeling off my Stella 5000 but thankfully the fish was not too big (given the boat was still moving) and I managed to winch in the fish. You can imagine my surprise when only 2 casts into the trip, I’d achieved one of my ‘trip goals’ in landing a topwater dogtooth tuna, something that has eluded me all these years. Ok, it was a rat, but it went onto the leader board in the galley and I was certainly counting it!
I followed up with a nice queenie caught in the same fashion a few casts later, and then the bommies had passed and we continued on to our first anchorage. As the weather had slowed our progress, we didn’t get out until quite late in the first day. I was sharing a tender with my mate Tim who I’ve done a few trips with now. He had tied on a popper and I had a stickbait on. Given that this was an exploratory trip it wasn’t as though we had proven marks to fish. We just approached the reef, looked for likely current points, and started casting. Tim can’t have had more than 2 or 3 casts when I started to hear the drag from his Stella 10k sing. Fish on! It was a really nice coral trout which unfortunately was lost at the leader, but Tim remarked that he’d never had a casting trip where a few casts into the trip it was already action.
We looked a little further along the reef to where a couple of the other lads had decided to drop jigs. They’d only just stopped so it must have been like first drop and they had a double hookup! That ended up resulting in a GT and a nice doggie but we steamed over to get into the action. Tim and I both dropped and instantly, double hookup. We landed two doggies there around the 15-18kg mark and then decided to move on. In retrospect we should have stayed for a few more, but the lure of the unknown was overpowering.
We cast along the reef edge with the heavy tackle for a while but nothing much was happening, but the place just looked so fishy. There had to be something there! So we broke out the light casting gear and the action kicked off immediately. For the next while it was a fish every other cast of jobfish, bluespot trevally, coral trout and other assorted reefies. Seriously good fun on the light kit and you risked a bricking on every fish. We were fishing what I’d termed ‘no mercy’ drag on the PE3 gear which meant quite a bit of pointing the rod at the fish, but the power on these PE3 sticks is really surprising. I was again on my Yamaga 77/3, but Tim was on the even more ballsy 79/3 which proved to be great.
Both being from Perth, Tim and I are pretty adept at the light jigging. Before stumps on the first day we decided to drop a few light jigs and I was very glad that we did! We started out with a few smaller fish but before too long, I set the hooks into something much more significant. We were in around 90m of water and I was jigging like kit (Temple Reef Mytho rod, PE3 line, Jigging Master Fallings 135gr jig). Probably undergunned for the terrain in fairness…. This fish put up one hell of a fight. From the initial hookset I felt like I had about half a second to get this reefy under control before it buried me in its cave, so it was time for straight stick, thumb on spool and haul him out! I was stoked when after a long fight, up popped my PB coral trout. A real dinosaur, and the biggest I’d seen. For someone who loves his light jigging the trip was already made for me, so was seriously pumped to land that fish.
We decided to try one more spot on the light jigs on the way to the boat and man was I glad that we did. My jig had barely moved off the bottom when it got annihilated again. I was running the same combo but the runs this fish was taking were more serious so I decided to get even more aggressive on the spool thumbing. About mid way through the fight I got a reminder that I was fishing PE3 not PE5 when the rod blew up mid stick, but I still managed to land an awesome rosy jobfish so it was worthwhile.
Day 2 – hard graft
We awoke the second morning to significantly worsened weather conditions. Whitecaps all around and a howling breeze, which unfortunately was to stay almost to the end of our trip. Early on we were off to a promising start. I’d brought quite a few casting combos on this trip, but time and time again found myself going back to the lighter of my ‘heavy’ outfits which was a Temple Reef Ronin 83-8 and PE8 line. The thing really brought sticks to life and gave me a far greater casting reach than with the heavier casting outfits I was working so it got by far the most use.
A couple of casts in while working a Yambal GT Harrier I had a strike, which ended up in a very nice red bass. There was then a window of nice action – plenty of follows and I could see a number of the other tenders hooking up, but then things shut down.
We put in a great deal of casts, but the weather system seemed to have shut the fish down. So we decided to try and jig. It was hard going but in time we found a doggie, and then a while later another. We’d all but given up on the day so started to follow the mothership and have a quick session on the light tackle. Turned out to be an awesome session! We had myself, Dave and Tim on the boat and it was one fish after another. Most of the fish were small to medium coral trout, bass and jobbies but there was the odd dinosaur bass in there that would invariably snatch your lure and bury you in the reef. For the second time in 2 days I had to free dive down to retrieve my favourite stick from the reefy lair of a bass!
After a while we decided to carry on to find some new ground. We found an extremely fishy looking channel, and I jumped up the front to lob a bigfoot into it. The first cast was a strike and a miss, but second trout was fish on. We knew from the off that it wasn’t a big fish, but it was a GT and the terrain was gnarly so we towed it away from the reef before bringing it up for a quick pic and release.
Day 3 I was fishing with Alex from Garage Industries. We started off with some jigging and the bite was hot from the off. The ground was carpeted with jobfish you could barely get a jig past them to catch anything else (they were hitting on the drop) but we managed to winkle out a decent doggie each.
Then it was time to do some casting, and straight away the action was different to the preceding 2 days. We were popping the back edge of the reef and had follows on a number of casts. Pink Orion was a winner for me, and a couple of casts in I had a nice hookup but dropped it.
We kept casting and I landed a small GT and then some blue spot trevally before taking a quick break to return some ‘non-release candidates’ (aka lunch) to the boat. After a few more casts I had something that felt heavy but wasn’t giving much of a fight – and sure enough, I saw that filthy grey suit coming up through the water. Whaler shark had nailed my stickbait. We tried to get it back but the thing bent the gaff and was getting very agitated, so we were all pretty relieved when the leader popped after about 10 mins of stuffing around boatside (albeit that he took my last pink Orion).
We then went inshore and popped inside for a while around a blue hole and series of bommies. Looked very fishy but nothing happening except a jobfish that nailed my lure literally at the boat as I was lifting the lure out of the water. So we went back outside and it was firing. Loads of GTs and pack attacks. Including a double hookup of a 20kg and a ~30kg for Alex and I. This fish fought like a bloody demon and was I think the limit of PE8 kit when fishing in that reefy conditions. It fought harder than 45kg specimens that I’d had in Oman and I thought I’d hooked a true trophy – but turned out that it was just foul hooked. As with Oman though where my best GT of the last trip was on a BFP Swimbait Mafia 180 – that very same lure had caught me my biggest GT for this trip also. Definitely a standout lure for me this trip.
If yesterday was rough and windy, today was even worse! We tried to get outside the reef through a passage but it was just too wild out there and it wasn’t worth the risk. We were a long way from home afterall… We ended up fishing inside the lagoon that day and it was very very hard going. Almost nothing doing aside from one fish on light jig that almost spooled me before popping the mainline. This all changed though around an hour before the change of tide. The fish just turned on like a light switch. Tim and I were getting almost a fish a throw on the light tackle surface lures. Trout, bass, trevally and jobfish (the usual suspects) at almost a fish a throw in water that ranged from 2-5m. Great fun fishing and many lures sacrificed and I thought we were going to be in for one of the ‘all time’ light tackle sessions, but sadly after about 45 minutes it turned off as quickly as it had turned on and the fish shut down.
It was a very tough day of fishing with no Geets or dogs landed on any of the boats but we were consoled by plenty of drinks and one of the best seafood cookups I can remember with mud crabs, huge banana prawns, deep fried coral trout and loads more. Really a feast of kings!
We steamed out this morning in hope of a better day on the big stuff and sure enough, we got what we’d hoped for. On literally the first cast for the day on my BFP I hooked and landed a GT and things were looking very promising – but we soon discovered that this was because we were just at the right point on the rising tide (which for the first 5 days was really the only time fish fired) and things slowed after that.
After a while we switched to the heavy jigs and after we tried a few spots with just some bycatch I had a doggie on PE6, but things were pretty slow until we found a likely looking edge… Tim and I dropped down 2 jigs which resulted in an instant double hookup of BIG dogs. I had sunset drag and heaps of thumb on the spool and couldn’t even get 1 crank of line back on this fish. The thing just burnt off 100m of line and bricked me, and it really was one of those ‘what the hell demon fish have I just hooked’ kind of moments. Tim had hooked another monster and whilst I was getting taught a lesson in humility, his doggie got sharked.
We motored off to re-rig and came back expecting another immediate double hookup, but the fish had moved. We worked hard and got some more bycatch species and then I had another moderate doggie that fought well above its size.
We moved off to another area and had a good session on assorted reefies, but the size wasn’t there so I dropped down to PE3 and had awesome fun on light jigs catching all kinds of species including emperors, trout, jobbies etc. Lots of jigs lost. Then I hooked up on the light gear and instantly knew I was in trouble – big doggie on PE3! I was pointing the rod at the fish with max drag and lots of thumb but the fish just kept doing run after run of 50m+ at a time. I’ve never felt so powerless against a fish. In the end the mainline snapped. I still had around 150m of line on the reel so there’s a chance I may have had him and this would have been by far fish of the trip for me, but maybe it was just aswell so I didn’t get spooled. Feeling a little demoralised we persisted and Tim managed a nice dog on a sevenseas hooker before he joined me on the light stuff. We had a really awesome session. Unfortunately the sharks soon discovered our game and we started losing fish and jigs including a rosy jobfish which judging by the head I brought back was even bigger than the one I got a couple days prior.
The other guys had a red hot session on smaller to medium size dogs in the arvo with two of the lads on 1 tender landing 5 each which brought our total to 17 for the day.
Today was make it or break it. Our last day. You know there’s something to be said about that old fisherman’s adage of a ‘lucky last cast’, but I’ve had a number of trips that came together on the last day and this one proved to be no different! We were hitting a totally new outcrop of the reef which none of the crew had hit before – but the key difference was the weather. The squall had passed and thing cleared right off. For whatever reason, the fish had come to life. Finally, we got the action that we’d all hoped for in what turned out to be a bloody manic day of fishing for everyone on board.
Before I even set foot on the tender we started throwing some lures off the mothership. Four guys casting. Fish on, fish on, fish on! Literally right off the bat we had a four way hookup. Mostly GTs, but some bycatch species also. This continued into a very hot session for around an hour where we landed a great number of fish including doggies on topwater, GTs, dirty sharks as well as the usual bycatch.
After this Tim and I headed out on our tender to get closer to the action. The GT bite had slowed down a bit where we were (not where the other tender was, we learnt later) but we saw some birds busting up in the distance. We steamed over to find a HUGE school of Yellowfin going absolutely mental. We lobbed in our lures, and BAM double hookup. Ok the fish were not huge, the best went maybe 20kg, but Tim and I had around 15 fish in that YFT session and it was really awesome fun.
This is the only trip I’ve ever done where I fished a single hook manufacturer for the entire trip as I’d been sent a load of BKK Hooks to try out including some prototype inline singles. I wanted to see if these singles were a viable alternative to the Shout Kudakos that I normally run for my European tuna trips. I’d been given singles all the way up to 13/0 in size, but decided to see what these hooks were made of so I rigged my lures with a GT Rex 5/0 treble on the belly and a 5/0 inline single on the tail. Every fish I caught that day was on this configuration including all the tuna and the topwater dog (more on that soon). I was very impressed and will be using these more in the future.
After the tuna died down we kept casting along the reefs. Plenty of nice fish landed, primarily ‘bycatch’ style fish though. Then Tim tied on a Temple Reef Lambo stick and was casting along the reef edge. A huge fish started chasing it which he thought was a shark so he ripped away the lure – but the thing was a monster bloody doggie! We cast a little longer and then another doggie got airborne to grab my stick. The fight was great, until the bloody thing got sharked.
We went and tried some more jigging. I had dropped down to the lighter gear but Tim had persisted on the heavy stuff. He was soon rewarded with a monster hookup on a doggie that schooled him, but things then went quiet. Sadly, the trip was at its end. It was time to head back to the mothership to begin the gear washdown and long voyage home.
These trips to PNG are a bit of an unknown quantity. It’s in a very remote part of the world, and it’s hard to know what you are getting yourself in for. Looking back on it though – I would (and I have) immediately book to come back. The fishing can be world class. We got skunked with the weather a bit, but when the bite switched on it was wide open and you just know there are some world record size fish lurking there.
What made it all the more enjoyable for us though was the crew and the boat K20. We fished bloody hard in the days, but then when we all went back to the mothership at night there was hot showers, awesome food, comfortable beds, air conditioning and even small extras like a laundry service every few days including on the last night so you didn’t have to voyage home with a bag full of reeking fish clothes. A big plus!
With so many reefs (many unfished) being explored by K20, the only question for me is – “which one next”.
If you are interested in getting involved in your own PNG adventure, please drop me a message or email at [email protected] and I can provide you with the upcoming tour calendar.
Temple Reef Ronin 83-8
Carpenter Monster Hunter 80H and Coral Viper 79/40
Yamaga Blanks Blue Sniper 77/3
Synit Razar 350 and Mantis X35
Temple Reef Mytho LJ510B and Mytho Plus 60B
BFP Swimbait Mafia One
Jigging Master Fallings jigs
Temple Reef Lambo 150 and Ballista Bull 140