February 2002, Pop Till you Drop at Maldives
by Alfred Yong [email@example.com]
“On-ah On-Ah” keeps reverberating in my head even after a week that I last heard it. It was what our guide,
Ibrahim would be shouting whenever someone on our boat hooked on to a fish. We arrived at the Northern Atoll
of Lhaviyani after a 10 hours boat ride. By most yard-stick a 10 hours boat ride would be considered long but it certainly
didn’t felt that way. We would slow down, pop for a while and then continue the journey while trolling.
By the time we arrived at the atoll it was evening but we managed to squeeze in some popping before sunset. Everyone
was getting lots of action. I hooked onto a big one but unfortunately I set too much drag on my reel and my 40lb FINS
braided line could not take the pressure and snapped. Just as the sun disappears over the horizon, we did some bottom jigging.
Our metal jigs did not produce but then I took out the trusty Ikan-Ikan (Magic PVC) lure of Spratly’s fame.
|Hibaru- our floating home |
Almost immediately I caught a Red Bass. By nightfall, we anchored into the marina at the island of Kurendhoo. We walked around exploring the island. The houses are
small but very cosy. Interestingly, many of the houses were built with corals rocks. Sensibly the Maldives’s government
made it illegal to remove any corals from the sea. So all new houses are now built using cement.
|"Fred with a GT" |
Being a native of the island our fishing guide Ibrahim showed us around and took us to his cosy home where he treat us to his
garden grown small but sweat coconut.
Everything Imported from Malaysia
Being an archipelago of small islands with little natural resources, almost everything is imported. One would expect things
to be imported from nearby India but that is not the case. Much to our surprise and delight most of the things are imported
from Malaysia. Instant coffee, Milk Powder, Detergent and such have the words “Buatan Malaysia” printed on it. Even
our boat was built with Meranti wood imported from Sarawak, Malaysia.
|Red Bass on is also pretty common |
|More GTs |
Trolling not so good
The next day, we started off early and that is definitely the most productive time for popping. Lots of Giant Trevallys in range
of 5 -10 Kgs were caught, landed and released. Having heard ““On-ah On-Ah” being shouted by our guide constantly that
whole day, my mind started to block out those words but only to be interrupted suddenly by the crew shouting
“Muddy, Muddy”. “Muddy, Muddy” in the Maldivian Dhivehi language means Manta Ray. It was then I saw what the
commotion was about, a humongous Manta Ray was swimming majestically alongside our boat. We began joking about what
if the Manta Ray takes our popper. Being the joker he is, Eco George quickly cast his Yozuri Surface Bull Popper at the
Manta Ray as a joke. Unexpectedly, the Manta Ray surfaced just at the right moment and the popper snagged onto the skin
of the huge ray.
Eco George rod almost flew off his hands. The ray peeled off the 50lb line from Eco George Shimano Reel
effortlessly. There was nothing stunned Eco-George could do except to hold on. Being desperate and having only a few wraps
of lines left on his reel, he tightened the drag and it paid off. The hook came off the skin of ray and Eco George got back his
expensive braided line and popper. From then on, whenever one of us hooked onto a big Trevally, we would all be shouting
“Muddy, Muddy” just to tease Eco George.
A fish every other cast
We moved on further north to Noonu atoll and of course we trolled along the way. Trolling was not as good as we hoped
but we still managed to catch a Yellowfin Tuna, Rainbow Runners and lots of Bonito with my Killer Flies of course.
That evening we settled behind a reef in calm water and did some night fishing. I was ready to test my brand new custom-made
Snyderglass jigging rod with a high speed Daiwa SL30 Reel. But first we need to catch some bait. I quickly rigged my rod
with small Apollo jigs to catch bait. There were hardly any takers so I spiced up my jig with tiny chunks of Bonito meat and
let the line down. Before my bait hit bottom, there was a strong jerk and I strike hard and quick. The line ripped off my reel
for what felt like eternity. I started shouting “On-Ah, On-Ah” and at the same time was worried the tiny lines of the Apollo jig
would not be able to take it. Luckily I have preset the drag on the reel lightly otherwise the line would have snapped. After an
excruciating 15 minutes with what felt like eternity, I landed the 3Kg Red Bass on the tiny Apollo jig. That unfortunately was
the highlight for that night.
|Calvin with his huge 34Kg GT |
By daybreak, we were off popping at drop-offs. The fish were biting like it was the day before but only better and with
regularity of a well run factory line. At one time we had four hook-ups simultaneously and landed all four fish. Calvin was
having an exceptionally lucky day. He was getting a fish every other cast. Much to our envy, he was also catching bigger ones.
Later we trolled on the way towards the island of Miladhoo.
The result of trolling that day was not impressive with only one Wahoo. On our arrival at Miladhoo, the tuna fishermen just
arrived and the beach was littered with tons and tons of Skipjack tuna. They way the tuna fishermen catch their fish is
rather interesting. They would locate the tuna, spray the surface with a water pump to attract the tuna and the use their
bamboo pole on a short lease of heavy mono to catch the fish. As bait, they would use weighted flies with a barbless hook.
The fishermen told me that an experienced fisherman would be able to catch 60-80 tuna a minute.
|Double strike is common |
|Ah Yu with his Wahoo caught on a Rapala |
The Big One
Popping the next day was getting pretty routine, everybody was getting their share of GTs. Well, it was routine until we
reached a reef that, Ibrahim shouted “Here very good, Big Ones, Big Ones”. Kevin’s lucky streak continues to roll, he
hooked onto something big on his third cast.
He has the drag on his Ryobi Safari reel set extra high. His custom made
US Graphite popping rod was bending like an inverted U. With his line zipping off his reel under high drag, he was having
a hard time maintaining his balance. The quick thinking crew grabbed him from behind and helps him maintain balance while
he fights the fish. Everyone of us stop to watch him play the big one. When he finally had the fish gaffed, it weighs in at 34Kg.
|Big GT |
|Great tasting Bluefin Trevally |
I never thought I would see the day that I would be bored fishing. We continue to catch lots of Giant Trevally the next day.
Popping and landing Giant Trevallys was indeed becoming routine. By the last day fishing, I was actually feeling a little bored.
Eco-George was worst, he packed his rods and took it easy. However, not everybody had enough, Ah Yu and his wife, the
charming fishing couple from Singapore could not get enough and pop as ever. He even caught a Dorado besides the usual
GT and Red Bass.
|Dorado taken on a popper |
Fishing in the Maldives , especially popping is highly recommended. It is fun, involve and active form of fishing.
However, it is very important that a charter with knowledgeable and experience crew is selected.
|The humungous sting ray that broke the rod ||
|Red Bass at night |