Fishing

Having spent only a total of two years in Papua New Guinea and only a part of that time actually fishing, it is perhaps rather brash of me to talk of my own experiences and not on the experiences of professionals. But the fact is, the professionals in Papua New Guinea consist mostly of villagers who know only their own 'backyard' where they mostly satisfy themselves with small fry anyway. Other professionals would be the men of the Fisheries Department and they will mostly admit that they are as yet unsure of where the best fishing is. So, to return to the beginning, my own experience, be it ever so humble, is relied upon here.

Surface fish These consist primarily of mackerel, tuna, barracuda and dolphin fish. They will all strike the same type of lure, be that lure a commercially made spoon or spinner or a simple length of aluminium foil wrapped around a large hook.

Mackerel are by far the best eating although the dolphin fish tastes remarkably similar with barracuda being occasionally tasty but often very rubbery in texture. Tuna, in my opinion, are just slightly better than old boots, but it must be conceded that if they are bled properly and the flesh is then boiled to utter blandness, then it can be reasonable.

Mackerel are most common along the south coast of the Papua New Guinea mainland with the best area being along the Louisiade Acrhipelago. Fair catches will be had near Bougainville and New Britain but the further north one goes the more one finds that tuna become the most common surface fish.

The most economic lure is to use a large hook which is then carefully wrapped in aluminium foil and pinched down to look like a fish and to also resist unwrapping to the pressure of water as it is towed'along behind. Commercial spoons and spinners can be used, of course, but their loss is expensive and their advantages are few — if any.

The lure should be on the end of about twenty metres of wire trace which is attached to a braided line via a large swivel. A sinker can be added at this junction but I found no proof that a weighted line performed better or worse than one which sometimes danced along the surface.

The dinghy, if it is towed along astern, often makes an ideal landing and killing pit for the big ones. The fish here is a two metre mackeral which proved too heavy to haul aboard the mother ship.

Bottom Fish While Papua New Guinea is a wonderful ground for trail or surface fish, it is very poor for bottom fish unless the visitor has all the proper equipment.

Unless you fish at the fifty fathom mark, and beyond, you are wasting your time. In less depth than that you might fluke the odd large fish but mostly you will catch tiddlers or nothing at all. Why? I'm not sure. Perhaps it is because the villagers have taken everything of any size off all the reefs over the centuries, but more likely it is caused perhaps, by the small range of tides failing to cover and uncover a reef regularly, thus starving the surface of much nourishment. Perhaps also it's because the hot weather tends to keep the fish down. None of these reasons are really satisfactory but the facts are that good sized bottom fish are caught at least fifty fathoms down and close to the vertical face of a coral reef or rocky shore.

Although the tidal currents are very slow or non existent in many places around Papua New Guinea, the fact is, to get down to such great depths quickly and efficiently, heavy tackle is required. Use nothing less than sixty pound line and expect to put up to one pound of lead on the line to get it down. Hook size will be determined by trial and error and bait can be anything fresh such as fish, squid, prawns, shellfish and so on.

One of the easiest ways of catching bait is to hang a lantern over the side after dark and then spear the small-fry which commonly gather around its illumination. Species mostly seen are garfish, hardy heads, herring and squid. Squid and garfish are the pick and it should be remembered that a whole garfish carefully impaled and lashed to a large hook makes the finest trailing lure of all.

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