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As I write this, I am travelling back from my second trip to Papua New Guinea fishing aboard K20. Truth be told, I had not really planned on going back there so soon after my December trip – but I had some spare time and an opportunity came up to get a last minute spot to explore the Port Lock reef system as well as revisit Eastern Fields, so it seemed it was meant to be.

This trip report will not be my normal day by day recounting of fish caught, or a description of the fishery and operation which you get access to when you book one of these trips (all of that is covered in my December report for anyone keen to learn more). Unfortunate though it may be, this report is, like many fishing stories, more about the ones that got away than those that hit the decks.

I have spent the last week contemplating how we judge what is or is not a ‘successful’ fishing trip. I think for me having a few trips under my belt now – it comes down to achieving targets you set out to achieve before the trip – rather than just to put a hook into as many fish as possible (unless of course that is the target you set out to achieve!).

For me, Papua New Guinea has always been about two things. I’ve had big doggies before – but I’ve never yet had a true monster class fish. I want one – just one – but catching one of those most frustrating of demon fish is at the top of my list of fishing ambitions. The second objective was to land a Napoleon Wrasse on surface lure.

On the second of those points I’ll spare you the suspense. One of the lads on the trip named Alvin landed two Napoleons on this trip – both on popper, and the second being a beautiful big 20-25kg bright green specimen. Anthony jigged a smaller one, being his second to date. Not even remotely jealous….. I’m still yet to see one in the flesh – and yes, many ‘consolation beers’ were drunk on the night of Alvin’s second.

Generally speaking the fishing was pretty tough. The fish were there – they were following lures – but they really didn’t want to commit. The overall number of fish was reduced further by the fact that unlike the first trip where I fished quite a bit of light tackle also – this trip was nothing but the heavy kit on casting.

To make a long story short, we averaged around 10 dogs and the same in GTs a day – plus the usual bycatch of dinosaur coral trout, jobbies, red bass etc. GTs and dogs to around the 30kg mark were landed amongst the group. Some nice size, but nothing earth shattering landed.

But the point of this story is really about my first target. The big dogs. We’d hooked some pretty big fish on the first trip to Eastern Fields, but I wasn’t really certain that we’d found the beasts that I sought and we certainly hadn’t landed anything over 35kg. This was all about to change on the second day of this trip.

There’s a small atoll that sits a distance from the main Eastern Fields reef system. In the afternoon of the second day two of the tenders (including mine) went out to look and see what we could find on some marks that produced on the last trip. First drop and I had a nice little warmup doggie on the decks. It was a decent fish, but after seeing the other lads get sharked I was fishing sunset drag on PE8 on my Saltiga LD35 with heavy spool thumbing and made sure the fish didn’t get a turn of line off me so I could get him in for a pic and release as quick as possible.

Then I dropped again…. I was using one of the Jigging Master Fallings 260gr jigs that to date has hooked me more dogs than anything else. In hindsight, I probably should have kissed it goodbye or at least wished it luck as I dropped it to meet its fate. Before my line colour showed that I’d let out the appropriate amount of string to get me to the bottom, it stopped peeling off the spool. Hit on the drop. Righto then – set the hooks, and the massive BKK Deep single in 13/0 struck home. There it was – that telltale pause where the dog sits there still and shakes his head, realises his predicament – and then that run. That incredible first run, that really is what doggie fishing is all about (other than disappointment, which I’ve learnt is a huge part of this sport!). And then he was off – but this was different. It wasn’t the usual 50m dash at incredible speed and then the relentless pressure gets the better of him and you turn his head – this was a different ballgame. I knew in the first seconds that this was it – the one I’d travelled to the other side of the world to get my shot at. He didn’t stop after 50m. He didn’t stop after 100m. In fact, he didn’t stop at all. Every kilo of drag that my LD35 could put out was being used, as was so much thumb pressure that I burnt two gloves and my thumbs beneath them – and just as I saw the last few wraps of line on my spool about to disappear I pushed down with one last bit of strength and managed to pop the PE8 mainline. It was a truly humbling experience. After winding in what remained of my slack line, I sat down and contemplated the biggest ass kicking I’d ever been handed by a fish.

But there’d be time to have nightmares about that moment later. The tide had changed, and the fish were on the chew.

We kept jigging that spot for a while and no result. So it was time to move to another mark near a small reef outcrop. First drop and I couldn’t believe it. The exact same sequence of events that had taken me years of attending such trips to experience – occurred again. Gargantuan dog strike – blistering run – burnt fingers – except this time something was different. My freshly serviced Saltiga decided it didn’t have what it took to stand up to this punishment. As the drag completely failed mid-run and my line disappeared into the sunset, I realised that I had brought a feather duster to a gunfight.

Now I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t just sit back in the midst of the greatest big doggie bite I’d ever witnessed. But on the other hand, my heavy jigging combo was completely out of action. So what else to do but cast?

I grabbed the heaviest casting combo I had with me. Carpenter Monster Hunter 80H, Stella 18k, PE10 Jerry Brown solid braid. Strapped on the heaviest stickbait I had with me (FCL Labo HJ200 rigged with the enormous BKK Lone Diablo 13/0 inline singles) and had a cast. These FCL sticks were fast sinkers and as I knew the dogs were striking my jigs about 30m under the boat I cast out a medium length cast and counted down 45 seconds or so before beginning a long sweeping retrieve. You can imagine my surprise when after about 4 sweeps of the lure I came tight! After some frenzied hook setting I managed to get the rod butt into the gimbal and felt the rod load up – but it wasn’t the blistering run I had hoped for. Nope – it was that heavy plodding feeling that can only come from a filthy whaler of some description having grabbed your lure. Sharks were an ever present issue on this trip – much moreso than in December – but we found that whenever the sharks were in big numbers, the dogs were there also. So you just had to persist.

Thankfully the ***** of a shark bit me off pretty quickly and I was able to tie on my last HJ200 and try again. First cast, 4 or 5 sweeps, on again! But another f#cking shark! This one was smaller and had bitten only on the lure so I was able to haul him up in short order, tell him what I thought of him, and throw my now battle scarred lure back for another attempt.

But what happened next is one of those fishing moments that will stay with me until the end of my days. There seemed to be a never-ending supply of sharks just sub-surface so I decided to count down about 90 seconds with my stickbait and then work it up more quickly than I had before. First drop – no result. Second drop, and I felt something swipe at my lure but not connect, kept working it flat out and then bang, fish on, and this was no filthy whaler. I set the hooks and felt the pause, headshakes, and then the run. The run I’ll never forget.

It’s one thing to hook a big dog on jigging gear. It’s another thing entirely on an 8 foot rod. I knew already from my consecutive ass kickings that these fish were no joke so I had set the drag almost to max before casting (the second shark didn’t manage to take a single click of line). But as soon as I managed to get the rod butt into the deep socket on the MC Works Gimbal I screwed down that last half turn of drag on the Stella 18k and leaned back as hard as I could. The big Stellas can pump out a hell of a lot of drag, and I’m not the biggest guy getting around. To be honest if it hadn’t been for Stephen seeing my predicament and running over to grab the back of my belt, I probably would have gone straight overboard. That run seemed to happen both incredibly quickly and incredibly slowly at the same time. I watched the spool rapidly begin to empty and started to use my glove to add even more pressure to the spool. Everything now felt totally on the limit. Hooks, knots, line, reel and most of all, angler! I have never before (even in pics online) seen such a bend in an MH80H which was bent over like a PE5 tuna noodle rod and I just waited for something to pop (with my back being the most likely candidate).

But remarkably everything held. However no matter how much I tried to slow down this demon fish – it just wasn’t enough. By the time this fish had originally grabbed the lure I probably only had 40 or 50m of line out. But now, the supply of PE10 left on the spool was looking dangerously thin. As I saw the shiny spool begin to appear through the line below without even having slowed this thing down let alone stop it, I knew I was stuffed. I lowered the rod angle, grabbed the spool as hard as I could and hoped something would pop before the rod got yanked overboard. Thankfully it did, as the mainline parted and I sat there staring at the water for a few minutes. I didn’t even have that feeling you sometimes get when you lose a fish where you feel the need to yell and scream in frustration. It was more a case of ‘well played mate, well played’. He’d earned his freedom. I’d learnt a lesson.

If you ask me what I landed that day, it doesn’t sound that impressive. Bit of by catch and one small to medium sized dog. But I came back to K2O that night and told people honestly that that day of fishing was one of the three all time best fishing days of my life. It’s the kind of day that reminds me why we spend the cash to travel to these out of the way spots to do battle with these beasts, even though we know that we won’t always win.

As I said this won’t be normal report. I could describe the rest of the days’ fishing, but in truth the writeup would be not dissimilar to the above. Personally I had two more sessions where I hooked multiple of these stupid sized fish that had eluded us on the first trip. These subsequent sessions were in much deeper water (120m+) and our odds of getting them up were even lower, and we just couldn’t land them.

We tried going easier on them. We tried using the heaviest jigging gear we could find (Anth was using PE13!) and towing them away from the pinnacles, but the pricks were just unstoppable. And so the trip came to an end, with us having had at least 20 chances amongst us at fish the size of which dreams are made of – a strike number which I really don’t think you could claim anywhere else in the world. We had blown reels, spooled reels, broken rods, popped mainline of every calibre, bent hooks, opened split rings and totally emptied jig bags. But not one of us landed a dog over 30kg. I guess that’s big doggie fishing, and that’s partly why I love it.

I have another big doggie trip coming up later in the year and I honestly don’t know what to do differently (other than replace my reel!) but I can’t wait to get out there and have another go at landing these demon fish.

More info on all kit used can be found at www.adventureangler.net

If you'd like to go and get some big dog action yourself, we are now taking bookings for the 2017 season so please drop me a message to secure prime dates.

 

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Awesome report Dan. It's interesting your observation about what makes a good trip. The fish I catch are nowhere near the class of fish you chase but although this year I had to make a lot more casts / drops per fish and the average fish was poorer than last year, the fact I caught a handful of fish that were much better than I have before means I remember this year as the best ever. I also think the fights with lost fish make trips more memorable than those where you just get more of the same.

If I get away next year I am determined to be disciplined and focus on technique and quality and dump the 'tourist drop shotting' I think!
 

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Ahh mate... more relentless dogging than a motorway services in Milton Keynes!

I've got to say all this has given me some pause for thought about our Ashmore trip. As you know Jon and I had serious problems with our dogs on jig in Tanzania, but the issue was much more to do with sharks: even on the seriously big ones we managed to curb the run (with some help from the boat). But I think the conditions are just a bit different on Latham. I was pretty set on the advice J&M gave me about not going overboard with the drag, but since you tried that too I dunno what to think. My Expo 8000H can supply 73lb drag, but I don't think I can match that as an angler.
 

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It's the reef/obstruction factor that's the real killer. Imagine if any of the other big tunas lived near reef and you had to stop them within even 100 yards!

(I can't help but think aloud at this point - losing gear like that would absolutely drive me up the wall - even without taking into account that "freedom" for the fish in the aftermath of the big bustoff in reality means an almost inevitable death sentence, the sheer pain caused to my wallet alone would make me stop.)

Having crossed paths with a few anglers who were intense about their "targets" to the point I felt it was actually taking away from their enjoyment of their fishing, I'm now extremely reluctant to say there are targets I want to achieve before going fishing (the ancient Hawaiian tradition of never even talking about going fishing has a lot to recommend it). But of course there always are aims and expectations. A week is such a short time to experience an area, especially a new area: I'm normally happy if the fishery I'm visiting shows me something of what it's all about during my trip, and if we have gone about fishing the area properly in terms of strategy, tactics etc. If both of these can happen, the actual angling results normally won't be too bad. Of course some trips have higher (or simply different) expectations than others, and with increasing experience of any area (return trips) you know better what to expect, what you want to achieve, and how to go about doing it. Ultimately I think the success of a fishing trip is largely about how you feel at the end of it and that's something that comes more from the heart than from the head.
 

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Well what can we say - Heartbreak probably doesn't sum it up and just to think some of the 'little' fish landed would have been fish of a lifetime for some guys!!

Still next time round someone might smile on you

Mike
 

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Ahh mate... more relentless dogging than a motorway services in Milton Keynes!

I've got to say all this has given me some pause for thought about our Ashmore trip. As you know Jon and I had serious problems with our dogs on jig in Tanzania, but the issue was much more to do with sharks: even on the seriously big ones we managed to curb the run (with some help from the boat). But I think the conditions are just a bit different on Latham. I was pretty set on the advice J&M gave me about not going overboard with the drag, but since you tried that too I dunno what to think. My Expo 8000H can supply 73lb drag, but I don't think I can match that as an angler.
I think its summed up in one word Tim - 'luck' - you always need it in fishing, but the amount of guys - really experienced anglers who can't stop big doggies just shows its a matter of just that - luck. Where it is hooked in the water column, sharks, underwater 'topography' etc..

Interesting though - I know a Swedish chap who got a nice doggie (in TZ with J&M) on jig - 70 kg fish - he then went across the year after to Three Kings - he said a 30 kilo kingie fought twice as hard...food for thought..!
 

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I think its summed up in one word Tim - 'luck' - you always need it in fishing, but the amount of guys - really experienced anglers who can't stop big doggies just shows its a matter of just that - luck. Where it is hooked in the water column, sharks, underwater 'topography' etc..

Interesting though - I know a Swedish chap who got a nice doggie (in TZ with J&M) on jig - 70 kg fish - he then went across the year after to Three Kings - he said a 30 kilo kingie fought twice as hard...food for thought..!
If there were 100kg kingies....
 

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Great report dan , you are fishing on the edge bud , more line must be the answer? Stella 30,000 or the dog fight 8000 loaded up with pe8'. They gotta run out of steam at some point , I can see myself booking up , as I really want to catch a big doggie,
Regards martin godfrey
 

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I think its summed up in one word Tim - 'luck' - you always need it in fishing, but the amount of guys - really experienced anglers who can't stop big doggies just shows its a matter of just that - luck. Where it is hooked in the water column, sharks, underwater 'topography' etc..

Interesting though - I know a Swedish chap who got a nice doggie (in TZ with J&M) on jig - 70 kg fish - he then went across the year after to Three Kings - he said a 30 kilo kingie fought twice as hard...food for thought..!
Sharks and snaggy ground fall into the category of hazards that can and should be taken into account, rather than "luck". Luck is when the angler next to you, doing exactly the same thing, hooks up instead of you. Moreover, relying purely on luck in a situation where the gear used has proved manifestly inadequate to land the fish hooked seems at best more like gambling than angling, and a waste of premier game fish at worst. If a billfish or tuna angler was repeatedly broken off, leaving gear in fish after fish due to too light tackle s/he would be crucified, and rightly so, yet big bustoffs in other forms of sportfishing almost seem to be celebrated.

It'd be interesting to know from those who have caught both how say a 200 lb dogtooth would compare to the other major tunas of similar size if hooked in open water where it couldn't reef you.
 

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WOW i was on the edge of my seat the whole way thro this report. Its a shame you didnt get that monster you were after. But i guess that will keep you goin back for more, always in search of the BIG one that got away.
I hope one day i can make it out with you. PNG is a dream location for me, not even just for the fishing. Something about that place just seems magical.

if your still goin in a few years then i il have to sell some shares and max out the credit card ;-) it would be well worth it

j
 

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Sharks and snaggy ground fall into the category of hazards that can and should be taken into account, rather than "luck". Luck is when the angler next to you, doing exactly the same thing, hooks up instead of you. Moreover, relying purely on luck in a situation where the gear used has proved manifestly inadequate to land the fish hooked seems at best more like gambling than angling, and a waste of premier game fish at worst. If a billfish or tuna angler was repeatedly broken off, leaving gear in fish after fish due to too light tackle s/he would be crucified, and rightly so, yet big bustoffs in other forms of sportfishing almost seem to be celebrated.

It'd be interesting to know from those who have caught both how say a 200 lb dogtooth would compare to the other major tunas of similar size if hooked in open water where it couldn't reef you.
Hey Dustin,

I still believe its 'luck' - you find yourself 'lucky' if you don't have those hazards to contend with..that to me is lucky...lol..! Especially as the aforementioned hazards are beyond 'angler control' for the most part so not something that the angler can directly influence - hence its luck...I think what you refer to is a mixture of luck and chance...lol..!

Also - gear performs differently in different circumstances I guess - whilst Dan refers to his Saltiga as inadequate it served me fine for my big doggie, and big marlin etc to boot....yellowtail kingies in NZ next on the list..! But, the same gear may land the fish in one instance and be pitifully inadequate the next - its tough to say the angler is fishing 'inadequately' or too light..

Many guys fish light for billfish - you know the drill - boat backing up and so on - Gary Carter in fact called me from Costa Rica of all places a few months ago - and he is a master of that 'game' as you may know - sporting it is not in my mind, but I cant see the comparison as being a fair one..

doggie fights - as a mate likened it to after that 'head shake' Dan refers to - its like you are standing on the top of a 'x story' building, you line attached to a fridge, and that fridge get pushed over the side on that building...that's the rush..! mind you, after that its pretty tame compared to YFT...not caught bigeye and cant compare against BFT as vastly different gear...but I would say lb for lb a YFT stronger than a doggie overall...
 

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Ahh mate... more relentless dogging than a motorway services in Milton Keynes!

I've got to say all this has given me some pause for thought about our Ashmore trip. As you know Jon and I had serious problems with our dogs on jig in Tanzania, but the issue was much more to do with sharks: even on the seriously big ones we managed to curb the run (with some help from the boat). But I think the conditions are just a bit different on Latham. I was pretty set on the advice J&M gave me about not going overboard with the drag, but since you tried that too I dunno what to think. My Expo 8000H can supply 73lb drag, but I don't think I can match that as an angler.
Trust me, Milton Keynes doesn't get that exciting :):)
 

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Great report Dan, for me it's the fish you don't catch that keep you going back.

However getting that amount of hookups sounds incredible, and one day everything will come together, we need bad days to have good days.

Although I can totally understand how those bad days can be some of the best days!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Cheers for the kind words guys.

Dustin I agree - it's not ideal to rely on luck. The gear I am using has landed me dogs to 50kg+ and I've been fine using it on other trips, but you never know when you might run into those bigger fish. I'd been chasing them for years, just didn't expect to find so many of them all at once!

But when you are already fishing PE8/10 and as much drag as you can hang on to, I don't really know what other options there are other than hope that one of them goes the 'right' way away from the reef. Or stopping fishing for them of course, which to be fair is what I intend to do (immediately after I land one of these monsters)!
 

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Cheers for the kind words guys.

Dustin I agree - it's not ideal to rely on luck. The gear I am using has landed me dogs to 50kg+ and I've been fine using it on other trips, but you never know when you might run into those bigger fish. I'd been chasing them for years, just didn't expect to find so many of them all at once!

But when you are already fishing PE8/10 and as much drag as you can hang on to, I don't really know what other options there are other than hope that one of them goes the 'right' way away from the reef. Or stopping fishing for them of course, which to be fair is what I intend to do (immediately after I land one of these monsters)!
Well if you will insist on using your "LRF" gear...
 
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