Fiji Fishing Resort|
By: Fiji Gowater
To anyone who has traveled the world in search of fine fishing locations, an un-deniable fact we keep contending with at so many of these destinations is .. Paradise Lost.. Paradise Lost… Paradise Lost. For we have all been to places we dreamed could never exist, and once there, had the most insane adventure, vying to return as soon as humanly possible. But when we did make that much anticipated pilgrimage back to paradise.. It was indeed .. Lost. Typically due to over development, to people who for one reason or another just don’t seem to belong there. You know the scenario, we fishy type people in our shorts, and industry related T-shirts, keep getting replaced by the dreaded “suit and tie on the beach” look. Or worse yet, the bald guy clad in Bermuda shorts, with white sox, black polished wing tips, and a big obnoxious woven hat with MEXICO sewed across the front of it. Tell tale signs that your “secret spot” is a little less a secret, and more likely the hottest new time share condo destination.
Well, I just returned from a filming expedition of a new travel / fishing series called IGFA Angler’s Digest TV on the remote Fijian island of Kadavu. From the moment my Top Siders touched the ground, I knew I had found a special place. A place sooooo different from any other I had ever been. One which gave me the immediate imminent feeling that I will soon be truly experiencing… Paradise Found…!!! The 40 minute skiff ride from the small air strip that services Kadavu was an adventure unto itself. Passing thru stunningly clear waters where the pristine virgin coral reefs pass just a few feet under the flat bottomed hull.
Going thru reef passages where the current is flowing. Giving me visions of giant trevally, and bluefin trevally lining up to brutally beat down any un-suspecting baitfish, un-lucky enough to find itself within eye shot of these fantastic predators. As my mind wonders, my focus suddenly becomes the verdant green rain forested slopes that cover the North side of Kadavu, where large colorful parrots are seen transecting the coconut trees. Secluded white sand beaches pass by that look right out of a Hawaiian Tropic Tan ad. The only thing missing are the bikini clad women waving at me as if from a float in the Rose Parade on New Years morning.
The only signs of human life are a few small villages where native Fijians reside in communities no larger than a few hundred people. Amazingly friendly, hospitable people I might add with exponential emphasis.
People so removed from our uptight materialistic worlds that they have no need for petty jealousy of “keeping up with the Jones’s”. Their continuous laughter, and the perpetual smiles plastered to their faces will make you wonder what planet they are from, or better yet, which one we all need to visit for a reality check.
THE MATAVA RESORT
The remote Matava Resort is located in a scenic little bay where several stilted, thatched roof bures (rooms), cling to the hillside.
Each with inspirational ocean views and the distant sound of waves ending their oceanic journey on the Astrolabe Barrier Reef. The hospitable staff kicks the whole experience up several notches and from the time you arrive, you get the sudden sensation that you never want to leave.
FISHING IN PARADISE
Little was known of what type of fishing to expect other than a smattering of yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dolphin, sails, and perhaps a marlin of various colors and stripes. But since we never really hear much about Fiji offshore, we assume it is not a place to spend much time, money, or effort in pursuit of the ultimate blue water experience. Boy was I WRONG..!!! From the first glance at the British Nav Charts presented to me by IGFA Captain Adrian “MEGA” Watts, I knew we were in fishy territory. The Astrolabe Reef runs over 125 miles around the Northern edge of Kadavu Island. Plenty of openings, channels, and inlets are geologically placed to allow a good mixing of inshore reef forage species to venture out and beyond the outer reef drop off. Placing them in the beady eyes of all the above mentioned predators who hang on those walls like wolves waiting for Little Red Riding Hood. The beautiful thing about the geography of the reef and the surrounding islands, is that a lee can always be found where fishing can commence in relatively quiet seas.
Our trip was made in July, considered the Fijian winter. The Fijian island group consists of 310 islands, and is located in the Southern Hemisphere. To be exact, 19 degrees south of the equator. Though not considered the rainy season, it is a season where North Westerly trade winds can blow for several days at a time, making the act of fishing the front side of the Astrolabe a bumpy affair. We had some of those winds, but all were less that 20 knots and seas were less that 4’. Hell, whose kidding who.. That is an awesome day off the Texas coast, the North East canyons, and the Caribbean in general..!!!
No worries for us as we were under the skillful guidance of Capt. Adrian, aboard the BITE ME, a solid 31’ twin diesel, Aussie built DEEP V sportfisher. A sister ship to the popular Black Watch platform. Adrian’s knowledge of the reef is legendary and the boat currently holds 19 Fijian line class records. His soulful mate, Joe Tuku also shares “god like status” and is great in the pit.
In the act of filming a show, quantity can often over ride quality, when fishing an area. People watching these shows want to be entertained with fish being caught. In Adrian’s case, quality is always his mindset. This time of year, the waters cool to a range of 74 – 76, and the wahoo and sailfish are most active. They were our target species. The heaviest outfit we fished were 30’s but most were 16 – 20’s, with a great day spent fishing the 8, and that will have it’s own happy ending later in the story.
The run to the drop off is less than 20 minutes and in route, many amazing tropical islands, virgin reefs and quality surf breaks are within a stones throw. In fact, retired Kiwi surf pro, Ian Thompson calls Kadavu his home and does surf and dive charters from his beautiful sailboat and bayside homestead. Once outside the reef, yet still within ear shot of the breakers, the lines are set and the pattern established for a combination of a sailfish / wahoo encounter. Adrian constantly monitors the meter, and every time a bait ball is seen, we in the pit are alerted. Within seconds… ZING.. POW.. Two leaping wahoo are seen no less than 12 feet in the air, and come crashing down on our skipping garfish (ballyhoo) baits. Line is peeling from two reels there is no mistaking, these are 40 + lb. “scissor heads”. These speedsters are part of a “wolf pack”, and Adrian smiles with the confidence of a field general as he mutters “we found the enemy”. For the next two hours we are covered up with skying wahoo. Giving us an aerial show, the likes of which I have never witnessed in my life. Our topside cameraman, Dolores Peralta captured some absolutely SICK footage of this phenomenon, and I had to get my still cameras in the game as well. It got to the point where we wished we had brought out our crash helmets..!!
The smallest wahoo we caught was 25 lbs., the largest hooked, well over 80+. My guest angler for the show was world renowned Cam Sigler Jr. A fly fishing guru who felt compelled to fish light tippet class IGFA records. After seeing this aerial attack in progress, he knew he had his hands full. He was successful in landing wahoo on the 20 lb. tippet, but the speedy strikes and toothy scissors proved tough going for the 6 lb. attempts.
Sailfish are a perennial resident of the Astrolabe reef but prefer the cooler waters of the Fijian winters. As the tide came off high, Adrian had a sneaky suspicion that sails would come up for us. We worked a few bait marks on the meter and just like clock work..Up they came. “Long left.. Long left.. Sailfish on the skip bait”. I grabbed the rod as the sail pumped its tail to get on the bait. Knowing we had double “J” hook rigs for the wahoo action, I was prepared to immediately set upon the bite. A second after the grab I came tight and so did the line. The sailfish took off for a back flip or two, and I stepped back in the pit to keep it all tight. Just at that second, the other line on the left side came snapping from its Black’s release clip and I did what any other “rod hog” would do in that situation. I grabbed that stick with my left arm and set up hard on it too. “Yahoo.. We got two” was the blood curdling scream as both sails are now criss crossing the horizon and getting with the program. It wasn’t rocket science to now realize I can’t even turn a handle with two rods lit up in my hands, and mate Joe wasted no time coming to my rescue. His became a Palm Beach release, and mine was tagged and released for the show. We saw three more sails that day.
In fact, we raised sails everyday. Sometimes just one, other times multiples. Nice fish, 80 to 100 lb. fish, with more vigor than displayed by the typical Central American variety. More like a Floridian sailfish, but of more size. They were chewing the lures too. We had a black, purple, and silver Star Lure that was getting crushed all week. Our biggest fear was loosing it to the tooth filled gums of the wahoo, barracuda, and huge barred Spanish mackerel in the vicinity.
Adrian was quick to inform us that we were off peak marlin season that runs from March to August and the most prolific species found off Matava Resort are blues. This is when tonnage of schoolie size yellowfin make their annual appearance in these waters and it is no secret they are the “flavor-ite” snack of offshore blue marlin. The blues can run 150 – 600 on average. Most are fished within 10 miles of the reef at the 1,000 fathom curve. There is a very fishy bank about 35 miles from Matava Resort which holds great numbers of pelagics at times too, but Adrian explained that the fishing is so good off the usual local spots that a 35 mile run is often not warranted.
Black marlin are found here from July thru November, and the occasional striped marlin are seen from June to August. While both of these species are occasionally caught, most are not of the sizes found in say New Zealand and Australia.
OTHER FISH, OTHER GAMES
As previously mentioned, yellowfin do frequent these waters year round with the majority of their run appearing in April thru August. The average size yellowfin are the schoolie 15 to 30 lb. class fish, but the resort’s “bragging board” had several recent photos of yellowfin over the “Ben Franklin Line”, 100 pounds plus. Another brute scombrid species found in Fiji are the dog tooth tuna. These are insane fighters, and sport a set of chompers that would make a Doberman pincher proud. They come into Kadavu from June thru October, but we caught none. Adrian simply said, “You’ll just have to come back”. They too can reach the BFL.
Large dolphin are also a year round resident, and can reach 60 + pounds in these waters. A fish that can be a pest almost anywhere in the world it is found, but must be respected, is the great barracuda. No un-suspecting lure in the pattern is ever safe from these devious critters, and our trip was no exception. We caught several that went to 50 lbs.
Another fish with a dental enriched mouth is the barred Spanish mackerel. Not any resemblance of a Spanish mackerel we might find in U.S. waters, these “mackies” look more similar to our kingfish, with their steely blue coloration, but these fish have more pronounced vertical banding prevalent along their sides. They can reach upwards of 50 + pounds and their teeth make a wahoo’s look like flat gums..!!! They are a highly prized food fish and few, if any are ever released.
While these pelagics can keep you busy for an entire vacation. Don’t cut yourself short of the inshore experience of surface plugging for bluefin trevally and giant trevally (GTs). We did this for less than an hour one day, and caught two respectable 30 lb.GTs. We had a 70 lb. GT take the plug and follow it to the exhaust ports on the BITE ME..!! In hind site, I am glad we didn’t hook it as it would have no doubt found the coral below and been stuck with a treble hooked hood ornament on it face for awhile. You could however come prepared with tackle to handle this fishery, and spent countless hours pursuing these reef warriors. Adrian informed us that the Oct. thru March time slot is when the weather calms on the front side of the reef, thus allowing the Bite Me to fish in tighter to the reef patrol zone.
SOME RECORDS DO FALL
On the last day, we had honed this wahoo fishery down to the point that some light tackle world record fishing was in order. Adrian found the wolf pack, and farther off the reef than on previous days. That would be an advantage. We rigged up the 8 lb. stick to IGFA specs and went into the fight. Looking for a 57 pound wahoo to break the current IGFA line class record would not be hard to find, catching it will be another story. Not 30 minutes into our quest, I got a nice 25 lb. hoo as a warm up. Then it hit. A wahoo as thick as a log came up on the short bait, and Richard Chudy, the pit placed cameraman caught it all on tape. Easily a 60+ lb. fish, we knew this was the one. An hour and twenty minutes into the fight, and it finally started working up. It had made well over a dozen sizzling runs that put the 8 lb. string, and my will to the test, but this could finally signal “game over”. From the depths, it got to the point where my spool was filled and the fish was no more than 50 feet from leader, nearing “deep color”. Then it happened. A violent head shake was felt and then slack line. My heart stopped.. My words un-repeatable.. It had again found its freedom. It had merely come un-buttoned. The line, knots, or tackle never failed. What failed was the large sharp hooks never fully penetrated the hard metal head of this fish on 2 – 3 lbs. of drag. Not to be stopped, we put lines out once again as the sun was finding the horizon, and immediately hooked up another sizable wahoo. A world record it was not, but a Fiji record it was to become. Thirty five minutes later a 38.25 lb. wahoo came to the gaff and Captain Adrian Watts had his 19th Fijian record and I had my victory as well.
DON'T JUST STAY ABOVE THE WATER
The worst thing you can do for yourself in visiting Matava Resort is NOT to go scuba, or at the very least, snorkeling. Just adjacent to the resort are stunningly beautiful coral reefs teeming with tropical fish, jacks, sea anemones covered with the ever popular “NEMO” clown fish.
The resort has an excellent dive center with all the gear you need to have comfortable dives, with a competent dive staff, and clean air service. Being one who can’t stay dry for to long, I abused their services with delight, and the diving was nothing short of world class. Coral more teeming than that found even on the Great Barrier Reef, and a quantity of tropical fish that rivaled anywhere in the world. Large mantas frequent the reefs, and the coral is home turf to lionfish, triggerfish, clownfish, snappers, and even spawning aggregations of 50 lb. groupers, which greeted us all week. The visibility was rarely less than 100’ and at times over 200’. Bring your underwater cameras, or you will only have yourself to blame for your stupidity.
You know, as an American, every time I return from our treasured Alaska. I feel so good knowing we still have a place that remote and pristine within America’s borders. When I got back on the Pacific Airways 747, and lifted off from Nadi airport in Fiji on my flight back to Los Angeles. I could only smile from ear to ear, and thank god that we as inhabitants of this world, still have a place like Kadavu… on this planet. Go there, and you will thank me for putting you in Paradise found.
Daily flights from Los Angeles to Nadi, Fiji are available on Air New Zealand, Qantas Airways, and Pacific Airways. Flights typically leave from LAX in the late PM and this allows for plenty of time for connections within the U.S. The ten hour flight to Fiji is direct, and land in the early morning in Nadi. Inter island connections are available via Pacific Sun or Fiji air, and both run daily flights to Kadavu. Once on Kadavu, the Matava Resort will have a truck ready to pick you up at the airport, and take you to a calm beach where a skiff will be waiting to take you to paradise.
The Matava Resort is an all inclusive resort where breakfast, lunch, and dinners, are included in the vacation package. Several package options are available, starting as low as $450 U.S. for a 5 night, non diver package, up to a 7 night, 5 days diving with 2 tank dives / day for $900 U.S.
Fishing charters packages can vary as to the total number of days fishing and if you want the 31’ Bite Me offshore boat, or the smaller skiff for fishing poppers inshore. A combo of these boat trips is also available upon request. Just go to www.matava.com for more information. They can handle the booking of al your flights from the U.S. as well as the Fiji inter island transfers.
Although billfish have seasons, the waters around Kadavu Island are so oceanic that billfish, especially blue marlin, are caught year round. There are two Yellowfin tuna runs. One in June and one in December. This means that Yellowfin are around for most of the year.
A strong trade wind can limit the small game boat to Kadavu has a typical tropical climate with the winter months being May to September and the summer being October to April.
Summertime is usually characterized by calm settled weather with blue skies during the early part of the day, cloud bubbling up over the island in the afternoon and the occasional evening shower. The air temperature generally reaches a peak of about 32 degrees in February / March with the water temperature reaching 30.
In winter time, Fiji experiences the SE trade winds. These trades vary in strength from a light breeze to a 20kt blow and usually last about 5 days fishing inside the barrier reef however the big game boat simply fishes the sheltered side of the island. The air temperature generally reaches a low of about 20 degrees in August / September with the water temperature about 24 degrees at its lowest.
For more information, please see Fiji Fishing Resort