New Caledonia. Just the name invokes images of distant islands with palm trees, cocktails and beautiful sunsets, but New Caledonia is so much more to the keen angler. This amazing location can rightly be regarded as an angler’s paradise where big and nasty GT climb over each other to smash your popper. It’s heaven on a stick, literally!
Only two and a half hours by plane and you arrive in the French Republic of New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific Ocean. New Caledonia is the main island nestled in the archipelago of the Loyalty islands. Lying astride the Tropic of Capricorn, the climate is tropical and its rainfall is highly seasonal, governed by the east trade winds. Temperatures are very similar to Southeast Queensland.
New Caledonia was pretty much off the angler radar until word got out about the awesome giant trevally (GT) in the area. And it didn’t take long for the fishos to catch on, as New Caledonia is now rated in the top destinations for GT fishing.
It didn’t take close friend and GT nutcase, Luke Wystra, long to convince me a trip to this paradise was one the cards. A quick call to mates Paul Taylor and Chris Turner, and the four of us were on our way.
Luke is a very experienced GT fisho (he even has a website dedicated to the sport: www.gtpopping.com.au) and he has visited New Caledonia often to chase this fish. However, Paul and Chris are both new to the GT game, so Luke and I were really looking forward to giving them the ultimate introduction.
We were booked aboard the Le Poisson Banane (LPB) mother ship run by two brothers, David and Rudy. These guys have taken their passion of GT fishing and transformed it into owning two boats and making GT fishing their lives. Their service even included picking up and dropping off at the airport – now that’s service.
We were given a choice between two fishing charter options:
The first was a 28’ centre console, which they take to nearby islands and fish from an island base camp. The base camp is set up with kitchen, tents, and shower, and includes cold drinks and a great meal ready for you.
The second option was the big boat. A 12m (40’) luxury mother ship option with tenders to fish from, a couple of bedrooms, flushing toilet, couches and heaps of shade.
We decided to go with the second option; we were there to live, breathe and sleep GT on big poppers and stickbaits!
The tackle needed is all big: Long powerful rods, big reels with solid drags and braid up to 170lb. It was like getting ready to go to war – we needed to be prepared for the big battles ahead.
LPB has a great relationship with Shimano and visitors can hire top shelf tackle to take if you don’t have your own. The guys at LPB also own and run a tackle shop in town, so if you need anything they can get it for you and have it ready to go once you board the boat.
The outfits we used were from the top end of the scale (see factbox for details). It’s expensive, but I must stress it’s absolutely necessary – and right down to the hooks you use on the poppers and stickbaits. Spend the money or suffer the consequences when the biggest GT you’ve ever seen jumps on.
New Caledonia is relatively untouched compared to other top fishing locations so you don’t have to travel too far to get into solid fish.
After careful planning and preparation, we set out to sea.
It was about a 20 minute run to a reef pass, which Rudy points out is a good current for big GT. The blood got pumping as the four of us grabbed our rods and let go with a long cast with our favourite poppers.
Once the lure is launched, get ready for it to hit the water and start popping your arms off. Timing is everything with GT; If you pop smooth, the GT will not react, if you pop erratically it gets them going.
Rudy kept plugging the boat in and out of reef passes as he looked for baitfish and current hitting the atolls. Sure enough it didn’t take long for us to hook-up.
The first day saw all four of us encounter at least one GT over 20kg, the biggest stretching the arms out at around 30kg.
Being on the mother ship had its advantages. If you wanted a rest from the sun, have a cold drink and sit on the coach it’s all there. It’s great for a quick break but when the skipper says cast, you quickly get off your backside and cast because you really do not want to miss any opportunities on these beasts.
By day’s end we were all looking for longer breaks so we sat back at anchor with a French-brewed beer and it felt like we had ran a marathon while shovelling two tons of rock, and we still had five days to go!
Day two started with a big French-style breakfast that included croissants, French biscuits and juice. All our meals were from the French menu, so if you didn’t like smoked stuff, biscuits and breads then pack some Aussie food before you leave. We were happy to try the French foods until we got given what looked like salami. The boys had a taste and then they asked what it was? The reply was flying fox or bat! I nearly wet my pants with laughter when they realised what they were eating!
As day two fishing started, I felt the need to work through my poppers to find something a little different that may just appeal to the 40kg monster GT.
Day two conditions were calm, which brought out other species like red bass. These 10-15kg were just a pain, a sad but true fact when you’re geared up for big GT. You work so hard popping and popping and when they hit you see that it’s a red bass and you just wind them in disappointed. We also encountered, mackerel, coral trout, tuna and even sharks showed up so there was always something chasing the lure while hunting GT.
At the end of the day, whilst relaxing we saw a few fish on the sounder. We got out the light rods and had a ball on sweetlip, small trevally and red bass. I am sure if you went over with little 10kg spin sticks you could have a ball all day every day.
Not only do LPB do GT popping trips they also specialise in game fishing for marlin, fly fishing and deep water jigging. We swapped our poppers for some knife jigs, dropped them down 80m and went jigging mad and nailed some yellowfin tuna and other deep-water creatures. It was a fun diversion.
Each day we moved further south never fishing the same water. There is just so much territory that looks ideal.
We all got some GT and a lot of red bass to keep us amused. It wasn’t until late in the day when Luke locked up on a fish and we all saw Rudy’s excitement that clearly told us this fish was BIG!
Luke is a small fella so I wasn’t sure who was in control, but with some skill and great rod work from Luke it was soon on the back of the boat ready for some pictures. This fish was to be the trip’s biggest and was called for 42kg: a dream fish. A few pictures were taken and this amazing fish swam away. A fish like that can get you even more pumped to ignore the body pains and just keep throwing as far as you can.
We were a long way south fishing the best spots they have. Day four was a dream day with numerous GT from 20-30kg. We found fusiliers (baitfish) so we hung around and had a blast, watching our poppers getting hit and smashed off the surface. For a few hours it didn’t matter what we threw it got hit. This was a great day.
When the GT are on you don’t seem to catch too many other species and we must have caught 20 or more seriously large GT over 20kg.
Our last full day was upon us.
We got a few GT and a couple of good mackerel, but the highlight was the coral trout. When they hit the lures they light up so you know it’s not a trevally. We finished up with six or so with the biggest close to 20kg. It’s amazing to see a meter long coral trout – Amazing colour and big dog teeth!
The day glassed out when we saw baitfish flicking on the surface and a massive mahi mahi came up. Luke grabbed a light rod, flicked a small stickbait at it and the fish headed for the bottom. After an hour Luke claimed his prize, a fantastic fish full of colours and after a few pictures it swam away. The end to a great day.
Back to New Caledonia.
We fished our way back picking up some more GT around 20kg, more red bass and we reflected on what we had seen. They say go fishing to relax. If you want to relax don’t chase GT and don’t go to New Caledonia because it’s an adrenaline rush to the extreme. Just mind blowing.
When we got back to port we packed up said our good byes and were dropped off at the airport. Three hours later we were in Brisbane looking forward to getting some rest.
The trip took 10 minutes to plan, under three hours to arrive in New Caledonia and within 20 minutes of setting foot on the boat we had our first GT. LPB do everything, David and Rudy have an amazing business and pride themselves on catching you big fish, or rather putting you in a spot to cast to them – You have to do all the work! And work it is, so get fit, do weights, go to New Caledonia and go GT hunting!
Le Poisson Banane Extreme GT popping is run by David and Rudy Boue-Mandil you can reach them through their website at www.lepoissonbanane.com , go and have a look and you will see and read what you’re in for.
Shimano Stella 18 and 20,000
Daiwa Saltiga Dogfight 6500
Daiwa Saltiga Extreme 6500
Patriot Design Black Mafia 76
Patriot Design Diamond 77
Smith Tokara and Komodo Dragon
Fisherman GT Game TRSH
Fisherman GT Monster 77 R10
Varivas GT max power 130lb and 170lb
Jerry Brown Hollow Braid 130lb
Sunline Game 200 – 400lb
Trilene Big game 200 – 400lb
Decoy Cutlas Jigging single 10/0
Decoy GT Special 10/0
Decoy 11H-300lb split rings
Patriot Mastered Bombs
Hammerheads I, E and G -Cups
Fisherman Big Mouth
CraftBaits GT2 and GT3
Jai Bighead 130
Full Scale Kong
Halco Rooster Popper
Buff face wear
In between fighting awe-inspiring GT, the boys managed a plethora of other species, such as mackerel and mahi mahi.