Discovering "Barclays Bank"
By Michael Andersen.
First of all I would like to apologize for this long report!
It is simply not possible to give an accurate account (good as well as bad)
of this destination in fewer words, but I hope you will find the following interesting!
On 15th of February 2006 we had the pleasure of welcoming back
two old friends onboard "Gecko" in Port Blair (Andaman Islands) -
UK expat Simon Coe and his girlfriend Apple both living on Koh Samui, Thailand.
Before leaving Port Blair, it was decided to head for Narcondam Island,
with a stop over at the beautiful North Button Island
for some light tackle fishing from our dinghy.
On the way to North Button Island we had a nice Wahoo that we decided to keep
for dinner and two billfish knock-outs near the island that didnít result in strikes.
After arriving at the island, "Gecko" anchored up on the sheltered southern side
and launched the dinghy. Simon and I set off in the dinghy for what was supposed to be
a quick run around the island before dinner. The rougher seas on the northern side of the island
made popper casting from the dinghy difficult, but with the waters looking so promising,
Simon and I decided to try the not quite so sporting "popper trolling technique".
The first strike came within a minute of fishing, and I headed the dinghy out in deeper water
while Simon put pressure on the fish. This technique left the fish with no options
and after a short battle a Giant Trevally of around 6 Kg was landed.
Back in the shallow water the next strike followed very shortly after.
Same technique was used, and a Bluefin Trevally around 5 Kg was released after a short fight.
Third strike was from something "different" according to Simon, and I therefore
didnít head out in the deeper water. Simon was absolutely right Ė because this time
a beautiful Mangrove Jack over 5 Kg was landed. As the Mangrove Jack was in the dinghy
for a quick photo, I threw Simonís popper lure back in the water, just to avoid a possible drama
with two big triple hooks in the bottom of the dinghy. The lure surely wasnít more then
1,5 Ė 2 meters behind the spinning propeller of the dinghy, when we almost lost the rod and reel!
Mangrove Jack back in the water, Simon on the rod and me heading the dinghy
into deeper water did the trick, and another Giant Trevally around 7 Kg was released.
It was now just a matter of getting back to "Gecko" before darkness,
but that was easier said then done, and yet another GT was landed
before it was decided not to put out the popper lure again!
Eventually back onboard "Gecko" we had dinner and a bit of bottom fishing
in only 15 meters of water before it was time to sleep.
The bottom fishing produced 1 small GT, a Mangrove Jack and a load of smaller Barracudas.
Next day we trolled the rest of the way to Narcondam Island via the drop off.
Apart from the sighting of several big sea turtles the action was slow,
with only 2 billfish strikes and a lost Dorado. We arrived at Narcondam at 20:30
and Simon asked if we could anchor up in calm water so Apple and he
could get a good nights sleep before some serious action the next day.
We did actually anchor up in just about 20 meters of water,
but the fishing was far from slow!!!
We planned to use 4 rods for fishing after dinner, but never managed to get more
then two of the baits in the water! The final result at 1:30 when everybody went to bed
was 1 small Giant Trevally, 7 Mangrove Jack, 2 Barracuda, 1 unidentified species,
1 Red Snapper, 1 Sweetlip Emperor, and 6 Sharks. On top of that,
it should be mentioned that we lost another 4 Sharks!!!
On the 17th the serious fishing really started! Just after breakfast
we headed for a very promising looking reef on the other side of the island.
The action was great on the downrigger, and the reef produced a nice Dogtooth Tuna,
a Wahoo and 3 Yellowfin Tuna. Next area to check out was an underwater mount
a fair distance from the island. On the way to this seamount we were followed
by 100 Ė 150 Bottlenose Dolphins.
At the seamounts we landed another 3 nice Wahoo, and had another 4 strikes
from something with teeth! During a short jigging session Simon landed a fine
Yellowfin Tuna that we decided to keep for our dinner.
Impressed with the fight of Dogtooth Tuna, Apple and Simon was longing for the reef
near the island again, and we headed back just after lunch. As we got close to the island this time,
we managed to catch a Skipjack Tuna and a small Kawa Kawa Tuna. Normally these species
donít cause so many happy faces onboard, but we all knew that we couldnít get enough bait
for the bottom fishing at night. Back at the reef we didnít get the best start
when we lost a Wahoo on the downrigger! To make things even worse, we shortly after
had another Wahoo jumping out of the water like a Polaris missile!!!
The fish was at lease 3 meters clear of the water right behind the boat,
and we could see the skirts on our lure being cut cleanly of in mid air!
Immediately after this, Apple and Simon both hooked up Yellowfin Tuna.
Unfortunately their lines crossed, and Apple had all the luck Simon didnít have.
She landed a nice 66lb fish. Going over the reef again Simon had a massive strike
on the biggest Yo-zuri Bonita money can buy. The fight only lasted a few seconds,
but the damage on the lure clearly showed that this had been an XXL Dogtooth Tuna!
Desperate to hook up with another monster, we circled the reef again but this time
we hooked up a Sailfish! Simon fought the fish perfectly
and it was released unharmed after a quick photo.
After this we headed back to our anchor point on the lee side of the island,
and had yet another Yellowfin Tuna on the way. We had barbequed Yellowfin Tuna for dinner,
and decided to give a try with the bottom fishing, even though we were all very tired.
Two Silvertip Sharks, 1 Mangrove Jack, 1 Coronation Trout, 1 Barracuda and half a Coral Trout
was all Simon and Apple managed before we all went to bed at 20:30.
After breakfast on the 18th we decided to follow the same plan as the day before.
Over the reef near the island we started the day with a small Barracuda followed by
another double hook up of Dogtooth Tuna. One of them was landed and weighed in at 69lb.
Shortly after another Dogtooth Tuna of 30lb followed.
At the seamount that was now named "Barclays Bank" (Simonís middle name)
we ran into a school of big Yellowfin Tuna and managed to hook up one of them on a 50lb outfit.
This equipment surely wasnít big enough to fight these monsters, and Simon came out the looser!
A smaller Yellowfin Tuna around 30 lb was no match, and was boated in a few minutes
while a Black Marlin was jumping around in the same area. After the Tuna was landed
we didnít see more of the Marlin and after an hour or so, we decided that the water
would be too rough to do any jigging and headed into the island again.
There is a saying amongst Big Game skippers and deckies that big fish like big waves.
This surely seemed to be the case this day! One of the 80lb rods bent double
as the huge Yo-zuri Bonita lure was taken on the downrigger by a big fish.
Simon fought it bravely, but to no luck. After 5 minutes of hard fighting
the fish won its freedom again, and we had a lure less in our arsenal!
Within Ĺ an hour that was changed to being 2 lures!!!
Then eventually our luck changed for the better and Simon landed a 50lb Wahoo
just before Apple got another 50lb Yellowfin Tuna.
In the evening we were all very tired and didnít really feel like bait fishing.
It was clear for everybody by now that this would be too hard work. Instead Simon had a bit of fun
with 3 small Barracudas and a Bigeye Trevally on a jig before going to bed at 20:30!
On the 19th we decided to stay near the island all day, as the sea was still a bit rough.
Right after breakfast Apple and Simon had a double hook up of Wahoo,
one small one, and one of 62lb. Shortly after this, Simon landed another Wahoo of medium size.
At 10:00 it was time for popper casting and Simon quickly landed 3 Giant Trevally of decent size.
During this session we found another deep reef on Geckoís sounder and quickly changed
the popper rods with jigging rods. This reef proved to hold a good selection of species,
as we landed 3 more Giant Trevally, a Barracuda, a Coral Trout, a small Blacktip Reef Shark
and also managed to be broken off 4 times during our 1 Ĺ hour session. These break offs
could easily have been of Sharks, and we saw several of then circling the boat
when fish was brought to the surface.
After lunch we trolled to the other side of the island to give the popper casting a chance there,
and underway had another medium size Wahoo. At the popper casting spot Jonas and I decided
to stay on Geckoís flybridge as look outs while Simon was casting from the bow, as this area
was new to us all and we therefore didnít know exactly where to find the best action.
As it turned out, it was much more exiting to be on the flybridge then on the bow!
First we saw a nice Giant Trevally following Simonís popper lure but missing it on the strike.
A little while later a monster Giant Trevally charged the lure twice,
but somehow missed it both times!
Then two Manta Rays appeared, playing in the water only a few meters under the boat,
and while we were all more busy watching those, a Mangrove Jack came out of nowhere
and charged the big popper lure, but this fish also missed on the strike!
A bit later we saw a sea turtle swimming past the boat on the outside, and while watching that,
we spotted quit a few Yellowfin Tuna jumping in the distance. Enough of popper casting,
and time to chase Tuna! This produced a 35lb and a 62lb fish before the Yellowfin Tuna
disappeared for good. Luckily enough there was still a few other species around, and Apple
and Simon landed a Wahoo each before Apple connected with something much stronger.
She fought this fish to perfection but was very tired when,
after a long fight, she landed a beautiful 71lb Dogtooth Tuna.
(Too tired in fact to even pose with the fish, so Simon had to take over!)
It was now time to head for the island to have dinner and relax the sore muscles.
After dinner we had a 2 hour bottom fishing session where we landed 2 smaller sharks
around 50 Ė 60 Kg, 3 Barracudas and a very nice Emperor before going to bed at 22:00.
Next morning Simon had given up the idea of actually landing a whole Coral Trout
or going snorkeling at Narcondam Island due to the amount of Sharks in the area,
and we headed for Barren Island. The fishing on the way was very slow,
but as we were followed by a big school of Bottlenose Dolphins for several miles
we did at least have something to take our minds off the fishing. Closer to Barren Island
we saw a few Whales that we couldnít identify, and then the volcano on Barren
came into sight. This volcano was active during our stay, and certainly gave
us all another great memory of the Andaman Islands.
As soon as we arrived at the island we gave the popper casting a shot, and Simon
landed a small Giant Trevally and lost another 6 fish. Meanwhile Apple was jigging
off the cockpit of Gecko, and had a small Dogtooth Tuna. We found a location
that looked promising for our night time anchoring and dropped the anchor at 16:30.
It only took Apple and Simon 4 hours (including time for our dinner) to wear me out totally,
and I had to go to bed at 20:30 with what turned out to be one broken and one bent rib!
During these four hours we anyhow managed to land quite a lot of fish,
and my private notes read the following:
3 x Whitetip Shark (35 Ė 50 Kg), 4 x Barracuda,
2 x Giant Trevally, 3 x Rainbow Runner, 1 Silvertip Shark (100 Kg),
1 x Green Jobfish, 2 x Dogtooth Tuna, 1 x Sweetlip Emperor, 1 x Red Snapper,
1 x Whitetip Reef Shark, 1 x Whitetip Shark (80 Kg), 5 x Cut off on good fish.
The last Whitetip Shark around 80 Kg turned out to be very bad tempered,
and found the energy for one final run in the opposite direction as I was wiring it
at the swim platform. Simon thought that the shark had surrendered,
and took his hands off the rod and reel still in the gimbal on the fighting chair.
To try and save the rod and reel I didnít just let go of the leader,
but was instead pulled sideways - knocked over and landed on our swim ladder!
I now know how difficult it is to give instructions when all your air
has been knocked out of you, but hats off for Simon who quickly realized
what was happening and got back to fighting the shark
that was landed the second time around.
Next morning Simon told me "It went mental" after I went to bed.
He had started jigging but most of the time the jigs simply came back bent
or with bite marks and pieces missing! One time he was into something
for more than 30 minutes before being cut off. After this he had simply changed
the jigging outfit with a 50lb Stand Up trolling outfit and had landed 3 more Giant Trevally,
a Dogtooth Tuna and a smaller Shark before he also had to call it a day.
On the 21st the wind had picked up quite a bit and popper casting from the dinghy
near the island was very difficult and didnít produce any Giant Trevally.
We all spent most of the day relaxing, but Simon did manage to snag
a Blacktip Reef Shark in the tail with a jig! It was naturally released unharmed.
Due to the weather we started bottom fishing earlier, but as we were all pretty worn out
we cut down the number of rods used. Simon was fighting a Dogtooth Tuna on his jig,
only to see a Shark insist on sharing his catch as it got close to the boat.
As the Shark took a large chunk out of the Tuna it ended up being hooked up itself!
The jigging equipment Simon was using is not really designed to fight Sharks of this size,
and Simon therefore came out the looser after a great battle of more then 15 minutes.
After that Apple and Simon had more luck and landed a Mangrove Jack, a Grey Reef Shark,
3 Barracuda, a Silvertip Shark and a Giant Trevally, as well as loosing two powerful fish
we all believed to be Sharks. Then it all looked like a re-play for Simon!!!
Another Shark ate the fish he was fighting and once again the Shark got hooked on his jig.
This time Simon was even more "powered up" to try to get even,
and fought the Shark perfectly over a very long and hard fight.
The Shark eventually had to surrender and Simon landed a Silvertip Shark
between 80 and 100 Kg on a jigging rod! Great job.
With long arms, Simon now only wanted to target the small Barracuda we could see
and hear jumping in the light from the boat. Targeting those was more difficult
then we had expected, but Simon did land one small Barracuda
before another Shark took his bait. This time it was a small Whitetip Shark
and also this fish was fought perfectly by Simon who landed it in a matter of minutes.
"Thatís it, no more sharks!" Simon announced after the release
and went to bed, just to make sure he wouldnít hook another one.
On the 22nd we set off for Port Blair right after breakfast and only put out
BIG lures in our spread. This didnít produce a Marlin or two on the way back,
which would have been a perfect finish to the trip, but the funny thing was
that we managed to catch a small Yellowfin Tuna, a nice Barracuda and a 25lb Wahoo
on our teaser lure that had rubber tubing over the hook to avoid hook-ups.
I will never forget how it looks when a 25lb Wahoo tries to stop a 40 foot boat!
To Apple and Simon - Thanks for a great trip and glad to see
you already a few months ago booked a new trip with us
to these fantastic fishing grounds.
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