It was kayaking that brought this group of Singapore anglers together and Merv decided to bring his friends to the Andamans for a lifetime experience. Being a dealer of Hobie kayaks from Australia, he has a large group of like-minded friends who explore the seas in their kayaks and fish from them as well. This trip was going to be a learning curve for the three newbies at popping and they had chosen their location wisely. A quick inspection of their tackle revealed a defect in the new leader they had selected. After changing leaders and a one-on-one knot-tying session, the gang was all set for their first day out. The task was very simple: for the anglers to keep going and for us to put them onto fish. Now here is another thing with popping for the first time – you get new aches and pains from muscles you didn’t know exist in your body. It normally takes you just a couple of days to get used to. Day one was a teaser, with decent-sized GTs getting the better of the anglers (they pick the newbies every time!!), but the consolation fish were ever ready to oblige, with lots of smaller fish and species including jobfish, a nice grouper and a feisty red bass just under 10 kilos. On days like this, one realizes how important converting what one knows in theory to reality is. What seems simple and taken for granted has to be reinforced time and again. The anglers were fast learning about the bony jaws of GT and their immense power when they hit your lure, so the evening back at Kokari was spent tweaking tackle for the next session and going over the technique to-do’s again.
The was a bit more chop the second day, with winds coming in from the north, that made casting a bit more difficult than the first day. The GT love this and were eager to grab poppers that they could spot, and we enjoyed the fish activity. With the size increasing gradually with the number of geets landed, this trip seemed to be getting better. The biggest fish was still a little under twenty kilos and the anglers were impatient to land that monster GT and break someone’s back in the process. There was a dogtooth tuna and bonito to add to the species kitty and keep our friends happy.
The following day saw the wind die down and prompted a change in plan, to increase the chance of a big fish onboard. The decision was greeted with anticipation and given the fact that each day of the trip was progressing, Merv and his buddies were all smiles. The kayakers had landed close to thirty fish by the end of day three, lost more than half that number and learnt a lot of lessons in the process.
We set out early, as the weather got better, to a more distant spot. Along the way we chatted about everything under the sun, from Benett taking part in a marathon to Raislind flying a 747, and from Hakim creating management solutions to Bernard working on giant-size ship pistons. All the chatter seemed to make Hakim’s sea sickness disappear and little did he know that today was to be his lucky day. By now all five anglers had got the casting and rotating drill right and were covering fair distances with their poppers and stick-baits as well. The results were dramatic. Everyone started to feel the excitement, with bait schools producing decent size GTs one after the other. Benett opened the account for the day when a GT slammed the popper and put up a proper fight. It was then Hakim’s turn to hook another small GT, on a red and white Kokari popper. We spotted a bait school and Hakim’s popper found its mark bang in the middle of it. On the second or third pop the water erupted with a take from a big fish and after setting the hook Hakim was holding on for dear life, with an arched rod and a screaming drag. A few minutes into the fight and with his back not holding up, he was forced to hand over the fight to Benett who experienced the same fate. Hakim had just enough time to recuperate and take the rod back to end the fight and have a beautiful fish onboard. The fishing got even better after this and everyone had their chance landing decent GT. With multiple hook ups and different species like grouper, snapper and bluefin trevally adding to the frenzy, everyone aboard was getting the action they had dreamed about for long. Raislind got a nice double hook up and Bernard, Bennet and Merv got their share of photo ops with nice GT. The multiple hook up sessions were pure jubilation, but the day still belonged to Hakim for managing to put the biggest fish on deck.
After a much-needed good night’s sleep, we were back on the boat early in the morning to the welcome sight of calmer water and clear blue skies. We started our fishing session at the inshore reefs and were onto fish right away. The morning session was proving to be a session for snapper and bluefin trevally. We didn’t expect a yellowfin tuna so close to shore, in barely six meters of water, but Raislind was a lucky man. A little farther out from shore we were met by a frenzy of feeding GT and were in for one more multiple hook-up sessions. With all five anglers on board hooked into fish, Bernard’s was the only one that managed to get away, but on the same retrieve a huge dogtooth lunged for his popper just next to the boat but missed the hooks. The fish was estimated between 35 and 40 kilos. Meanwhile, in the front of the boat everyone else landed their fish and among them was Merv’’s yellowfin tuna. Bernard wasn’t feeling left out for too long and soon he had a stunning sailfish on the end of his line putting on an amazing tail walk display. Another welcome sight for us! Merv brought in a really large rainbow runner, a size that we hadn’t seen in a long time. There were more GTs that followed and a few more snapper and then it was Raislind’s turn to hook into his largest GT. He had prepared himself for the fight, after watching Hakim and Bennet battle it out with their fish. He managed to stay on top of the fight and landed his fish without too much difficulty. The action continued through the day with everyone busy landing fish and getting their pictures taken. The day ended with a total of twenty-eight fish landed.
After two days of calm seas, the wind was beginning to pick up on the final day of the trip. Benett seemed to make it a habit of opening the account for the day. The rest then joined in with putting fish on deck, mainly GTs. Merv got himself a nice big barracuda and Hakim decided to rest a bit till the fishing improved. We all wondered about this and came to the conclusion that he has an inbuilt -finder in his system that told him when to fish! The moment he decided to cast, he had a decent-size GT whack his lure and strengthen our belief in his inbuilt fish-finder. A cue for any of Hakim’s friends: cast when he casts! Merv and Raislind seemed to have hooked into identical twin GTs. Bernard was busy landing fish from the back of the boat and Benett pulled in some nice bluefin trevally as well. Before long it was time to head back home and our friends’ trip had come to an end, with fond memories and an urge to come back and break their personal GT records. The ride back was a bit bumpy, but we were lucky to witness an amazing sunset as we got back to Port Blair, a parting gift to our kayaking friends.
Until next time,
Popping Rods: Carpenter, Temple Reef, Hots, Carpenter KLL (stickbait)
Jigging Rods: Yamaga and Custom rods
Reels: Shimano Stella 8000 to 18000, Shimano Ocea Jigger 2000 and 4000
Lures: Kokari poppers and stickbaits 130g and 160g, Shimano Monster Drive, Hammerhead and Amegari
Species Landed: Giant Trevally, Bluefin Trevally, Big-Eye Trevally, Dogtooth Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, Sailfish, Grouper, Red Bass, Green Jobfish, Barracuda, Rainbow Runner