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David Johnson

Guiding in the NW and Alaska for 19 years, Degree in Fisheries, long time ifish guide

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March 16, 2016

My Christmas Island Adventure

by David Johnson

Three weeks ago I returned from an amazing bucket-list trip to Christmas Island. And almost every night since I've been back on the island in my dreams. It won't let go of me.

We were fishing for GT. GT stands for Giant Trevally, but you could also say that when you hooked into one it was like being hooked onto the back end of a Mustang GT in a street race. And the one thing about me and bucket lists trips is usually I go to them more than once. I can't wait for the next trip because with every time we go we get more and more dialed in on rigging, lures and locating fish.

There are two Christmas Islands in the World, one is in the Indian Ocean and you may have seen it on TV, it's the one with the millions of land crabs that take over the island.

The Christmas Island we went to, also known as Kiribati (pronounced Kiri-bass), is part of The Line Islands in Micronesia and sits within 200 miles of the equator south of Hawaii. It is one of the poorest countries in the word and absolutely in the middle of nowhere with virtually no phones, internet, TV or electricity. But some of the nicest, friendliest people. It is a fishing destination and nothing else. In other words, paradise.

The accommodations were simple and had air conditioning. The foods were a mix of western and island. I ate at least some raw fish every single day, some as sashimi appetizers before dinner and some fish was just sun dried on the roof of the boat while we were fishing.

The island's waters team with countless bonefish, trevally, tuna, trigger fish, wahoo and reef fish. Most people go for fly fishing. Our mission was to figure out and promote gear fishing for these salt water species.

As I mentioned, catching GT was high on my bucket list and that was achieved! We caught smaller, 5 to 20 pound GT on GLoomis steelhead gear and we caught trophy fish from 30 to 100 pounds on big game gear. Shimano Ocea Plugger rods and Twin Power Reels proved perfect for landing these top predators in a timely manner.

Guide Johnny and me with my first GT

Julia caught the biggest GT of the trip. Our guides estimated it at 100 pounds

We used Maxima Fluorocarbon and Braid 8 and let me tell you how impressed we all were with these lines. There is NOTHING in the northwest that can compare with how much abuse these toothy, high octane fish and the coral environment they live in dishes out. If you tied one of these fish tail to tail with a salmon or steelhead they would turn them inside out. The only defense these fish have against predators is to swim fast, and swim fast is what they do!

For small game we had our reels spooled with 20# Braid 8 and used a top shot/leader of either 20 or 30 pound Maxim fluorocarbon. On our GT and off-shore reels we used 80# Braid 8 and added a top-shot of 100# Ultra Green. We were so blown away with how these fish would run across the reef and the line would come back with hardly a scratch. It was WOW.

The smaller Orca plugs by Shimano got the most action

These little rubber shrimp worked for reef fish and triggers and if you added a bonefish fly on a dropper above them you could also catch bonefish.

The guides are awesome people. They spoke English and were invaluable for spotting fish. They would say, "Bonefish, 10 o'clock, cast 30 feet! Strip, strip, strip, stop, strip, FISH ON!"

The sunsets were spectacular every night on our private beach.

Water temperatures were in the upper 70's and the air temps in the 80's. Because of the intense equatorial sun reflecting of the water we kept all our skin covered.

There are several fishing options available while visiting the island.

There are the flats fishing that it's famous for but we also did shore/reef fishing and there is world class blue water fishing.

Flats fishing is spot and stalk mostly for bones and triggers.

Trigger Fish

Brian with an average bonefish

We had un-common rough seas while I was there so we only got off-shore once.

After a few strikes while trolling for wahoo we moved locations and found tuna and birds.

Nothing like hook to hand sashimi

Four tuna later the school moved on so we switched over to some bottom fishing and filled a cooler of groceries for our guides and released a few GT that we jigged up.

This is what they called a sweat lips, they were excellent table fair. We caught them on the reef and while bottom fishing

Several in my crew stayed on for a second week and were joined by more Oregonians and they did a little more off-shore fishing where they caught wahoo, sailfish and quite a few more tuna including two yellowfin over 200 pounds.

The day we spent fishing the surf and reef from shore was a day of variety. Each of us caught over 40 fish each.

I caught 12 species here, including triggers, trevally, bonefish, snappers and grouper. I even had a GT try and eat one of the bonefish I caught. That was exciting! I stopped reeling and tried to get him to stick around while my guide ran for the GT rod up the beach but it was gone by the time we could get a cast in.

Surgeon Fish

"Fun size" GT

My guide Moy with a Blue Trevally


"Red Snapper" from the surf

I'm already planning for a trip there next year, if you want to join us let me know and I'll get you the details. I think there is going to be room for a couple more people. We will be going in the mid-February to March time frame. The cost of the trip is comparable to or cheaper than going to Western Alaska. Airfare was about $1,000 from Hawaii and the lodge, guides and food was about $2,500. And since your connecting flight is Hawaii you could add on a little stay before or after your trip too.

Comments (5)

SlipKnot wrote 1 year ago

I'm going in November. Can't wait!

Thanks for the post David

Ol' KL wrote 1 year ago

Looks like a fun trip!

I'm not sure about the sashimi! Shouldn't you freeze that first?

quackersnacker wrote 1 year ago

The pic of you fighting the fish, chest deep in the water is my favorite. What a great experience!

BillH wrote 1 year ago

AWESOME! And I'll bet those fish make the best deep fried fish sandwiches you could dream of!

Fishrite wrote 12 months ago

Great pictures, Dave. Lots like you had a ball! Did Trisha go with you? A little different environment than the NW.
Blessings, Terry

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