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Ryan Keith

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Aitutaki - January 2018
January 08, 2018, 07:24:57 PM
Hi folks,

Time for another report! I’ll depart from my normal narrative format and keep this one relatively short. Hope it’s a worthwhile read for you.

If you’ve come across my previous posts, you might have noticed that my family holidays tend to happen in GT fishing destinations. I’m pleased to report that this one was no different. Aitutaki in the Cook Islands is famous for its bonefishing, but also holds good numbers of GTs. I had the pleasure of spending six days and nights there over the New Year.

Aitutaki is a volcanic island surrounded by a big, beautiful, 50-square-kilometre lagoon. Within the lagoon sit a number of smaller islands. The surrounding sand flats are stacked with bonefish, which I ignored on this trip (next time!). I did, however, get a chance to paddle a kayak around the reefier sections, catching bluefin trevally, milkfish, yellowlip & yellowtail emperors, peacock & hexagon groupers, flametail snapper, cornetfish, picasso triggerfish, multibarred goatfish... needless to say, my marine biology degree got a workout! It’s worth noting that if you intend to fish within the lagoon, you’ll need to purchase a fishing licence ($50 per week). Whilst getting towed around on the kayak was immense fun, I headed outside the lagoon to target GTs.

OUTFITS
  • Carpenter CV79/40 / Shimano Stella 14k / 100 lb Tasline solid
  • Carpenter MH80H / Shimano Stella 18k / 100 lb Tasline solid
LURES
  • FCL CSP EXT170F
  • FCL CSP S180S
  • Fisherman Long Pen 100
  • Fisherman Big Pen 90
  • Maria Loaded 180 Floating
  • Melon-ya TWZ200F
For this trip, I fished with Black Pearl Charters, operated by Mike Tekotia and his wife Mere as well as local guide Leo. These folks came highly recommended, and I would not hesitate to double down on that recommendation. We tend to bandy about terms like “above and beyond”, but Mike is the very embodiment of that phrase. Not only did he consistently put me onto the hotspots - and keep us in the strike zone - but Mike also ensured my whole family was well looked after on the island. The guy gets up at 3:30 am every day and doesn’t stop working til there’s a smile on your face (actually, he keeps working long after that).

At one point, Mike took us snorkelling with a pack of GTs to ~50 kg, not to mention a massive Napoleon wrasse! Leo guided my family through some sacred areas of the island that not even Mike had visited. These kind of experiences make for a truly unforgettable holiday, and I encourage you to contact Black Pearl Charters if you find yourself on Aitutaki. Everything is done with great humour and professionalism... and I might add that you will not go hungry aboard the Black Pearl! A lagoon/island tour is an essential addition to your fishing itinerary, but best to book everything well in advance: during my visit, charters were booked-out most days.

Aitutaki’s barrier reef is unlike any GT destination I have previously fished. Firstly, it is shaped like a massive triangle, meaning you can usually find favourable fishing conditions on one edge or another, regardless of the wind/swell direction. Secondly, and most prominently, Aitutaki GTs inhabit some of the gnarliest terrain I have ever seen. They live right up in the whitewash beside the “dry” (low-tide-exposed) reef. In other words, fishing for GTs in Aitutaki is akin to fishing for drummer in the washes, except you need to cast 15-20 cm stickbaits 50-100 m into drains between razor-sharp rocks. If you are not confident in the length and accuracy of your casts, Aitutaki will prove a difficult nut to crack - if you’re outside the strike zone (marked in a photo below), you won’t get a strike!

Of course, if you do get hit, there’s the not-insignificant matter of pulling a rampaging GT over the reef and into deep water. As you might imagine, when every cast is a “suicide cast”, you’re going to get reefed occasionally, particularly if you’re working a stickbait with a belly in your line. I normally lose 0-2 lures per trip; on Aitutaki, I lost two per day. Fortunately, Mike tells me that many end up washed ashore on the islands; particularly those with the barbless single hooks I prefer.

If you’re going to extract an Aitutaki GT from its lair, you can’t give it an inch. When it comes to braid, anything under 100lb needs to stay at home: I fished with an all-but-locked drag, so you need a heavy mainline/leader for its shock loading capabilities if nothing else. Those first few seconds are absolutely brutal, and Mike can attest that I was nearly pulled out of the boat by one fish! Once you’ve towed a Cook Islands GT out of its hidey-hole, don’t forget to loosen the drag - I witnessed a fellow punter on another boat break a rod when the fight was straight up-and-down.

All this being said, I managed to boat 32 GTs over the course of three full and two half-days’ fishing... although none tipped the scales at more than 15 kg! I had my ass handed to me by a proper monster-class fish hooked in one of the main lagoon drains. It sipped my little floating stickbait off the surface and tore off 30 m of line before I even thought about palming the spool. I never did get that chance. SNAP. And just like that, the biggest GT I’ve ever hooked earnt its freedom. Oh well... it’s fish like these that keep us coming back, and methinks I’ll be coming back to Aitutaki.

Hope you like the photos!
Last Edit: January 08, 2018, 07:29:47 PM by Ryan Keith
If it ain't topwater... quite frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Peter Olesen

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Re: Aitutaki - January 2018
January 09, 2018, 06:43:36 AM
Thanks for sharing, Ryan.

Osprey and now this! I do not envy you AT ALL :)

Last Edit: January 09, 2018, 07:06:44 PM by Peter Olesen
"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." Mark Twain

Brandon Khoo

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Re: Aitutaki - January 2018
January 09, 2018, 05:20:50 PM
Great report, Ryan!
If it swims; I want to catch it!

Ahmed Bassuny

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Re: Aitutaki - January 2018
January 24, 2018, 04:52:41 PM
Good report and you seem to have had plenty of fun ... tight lines!

Doug Terry

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Re: Aitutaki - January 2018
February 17, 2018, 05:28:18 PM
Thanks for the report Ryan out with Mike in September hope I'm as successful as you were.


Cameron Mundy

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Re: Aitutaki - January 2018
February 19, 2018, 11:52:07 PM
Good to read a solid report great job bud

Ryan Keith

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Re: Aitutaki - January 2018
April 07, 2018, 04:25:15 PM
Thanks gents. It was a lot of fun!

out with Mike in September hope I'm as successful as you were.
Me too, Doug. Best of luck!
If it ain't topwater... quite frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Ming Choi

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Re: Aitutaki - January 2018
April 09, 2018, 12:20:06 PM
Nice Ryan, I am bound there later this year, what did you think the fish liked most? Poppers or sticks?

Byron Ford

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Re: Aitutaki - January 2018
April 09, 2018, 05:18:20 PM
Great report mate,I’m half cook islander and  I’ve build a house over there. Top fishing

Ryan Keith

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Re: Aitutaki - January 2018
August 13, 2018, 11:06:41 AM
Nice Ryan, I am bound there later this year, what did you think the fish liked most? Poppers or sticks?

Hi Ming, because you’re fishing through the waves, I imagine poppers would be difficult to work. Mike thinks the same. You could work some of the really deep areas with big poppers but not many people have tried. Small to medium stickbaits are the go!

I’m jealous, Byron! Hope you get to visit often.
If it ain't topwater... quite frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.