Since November 2016, the Papuan Coast has been given a thorough rest and has seen no fishing pressure apart from the local community fishermen who fish only for sustenance for the villagers, so hopes were high that we were going to catch good fish on this first trip to the Bass Shack this 2017 season.
On this tour, we had our 2016 Christmas Giveaway winner, Clint Martin and his partner Kate Bracey excited as ever to catch PNG Black Bass. We also had Wayne Chan from Malaysia who has been dreaming of catching PNG Black Bass since he was a kid, after watching Rod Harrison’s old VHS tapes! Glen Makin, a PNG fishing regular, was keen to try out Black Bass after visiting Bensbach Lodge the last time chasing Barramundi and finally bit the bullet and joined our group. And finally, Troy Dean, and expatriate based in Lae, was an experienced Black Bass fisho who has been living in PNG for quite a while, and had plenty of time on the water, specifically Galley Reach and he wanted in on some action.
On day 1, everyone met for breakfast at the SFPNG guest house, getting filled up for the long drive up to the Bass Shack, while Moli was doing final checks on the boat and trailer that was going to be towed with us. At 6:30AM sharp, all vehicles were on the road.
Clients had trouble sleeping as the adrenaline was pumping all morning, preparing their bodies for the first session of the week. The drive up to the Bass Shack was over before everyone started getting monkey butts, and we were greeted by a group of traditional Sing Sing performers. Their performance added a boost of confidence as all anglers felt very much welcome in the village. After a quick few photos with the performers, the guys proceeded to rig up while having lunch.
First fishing session was quickly under-way and by 1300H, lures hit the water. The first session was arguably the hottest the whole week as the water quality was OK and it produced multiple fingermark snapper, a couple of barramundi caught by Wayne in the 60 – 70cm range on his first 2 trolls, and other estuarine species like mangrove jack and estuary cod caught by Kate.
The bass were not present during the first day, but all anglers came back to the bass shack with smiles on their faces, looking forward for another 5 days of fishing. After a great meal of steaks and potatoes, anglers took to bed early as the team planned to hit the water as early as 0600H.
Mother Nature was outright against us after the first day as the upper reaches of the river had a flood pushing through from up the mountains which in turn, made the river muddy and hard to fish, leaving us with only a few available areas closer to the river mouth to fish effectively.
On day 2, when a touch of light creeped over the horizon, all boats were on their way to start fishing at 0615H. We all split up to cover as much water as possible, but the bass and metery barramundi were still on hunger strike.
By lunch time, a mutual agreement among the guides was made and all three boats went back to the river mouth to fish the outgoing tide. The afternoon session was the highlight of the week. Glen and Troy were fishing in one boat, and were trolling a bank about 100 meters away from the coast which had a creek junction showing a bit of bait action. Troy hooked up first then was followed by a second hookup by Glen. Both anglers fought hard and after a mere 2 minutes, Troy got his fingermark on the boat. Glen on the other hand, had a bit of manoeuvring to do as his fish fought harder and was shocked to glimpse a black bass at the end of his line. While Troy and the guide Patrick was still handling the first of the double hookup, Glen was trying to keep the bass hooked up. Finally, bass netted and on the boat, Glen caught his first every PNG Black Bass at 20lbs!
Then on the other end of the upper side of the river, we saw a commotion occurring on Clint and Kate’s boat. Clint has also caught his first every PNG Black Bass at 10lbs!
Wayne had visited another river mouth early in the afternoon, and caught a nice 20lb Queensland cod, which gave Wayne a good fight.
Apart from the other estuarine species being caught, bites were few and far in between but everyone got hits that smoked them, either snapping their lines, or stitching them up in the snags. Again, dinner at 1900H and anglers were straight off to bed looking forward to another planned early start the next day.
Day 3’s plan was to do a casting session up the river to suss out the conditions, but we were all met by muddy water, flowing fast downriver. By lunchtime, we had to call it and head down back to the river mouth sections to fish the tide change. Everyone had a slow fishing day and came back with no bass and barra. Wayne had some success on mangrove jack and small trevallies, but again, the targeted species was avoiding us. Clint however managed to catch his 2nd bass of the trip, but was just under 5lbs.
Day 4’s main highlight was when Clint and Kate was fishing with Moli. They were trolling “Moli’s Spot” and they were getting some subtle hints. After the 3rd missed hit, Moli and Clint were well and truly prepared when they trolled the snag for the 4th time. No matter how much you anticipate it, you can never explain how hard a big bass hits. The hit was fast and violent, and Clint’s rod almost hit the gunnel of the tinny and gave him the shock of his life. 1 second later, slack line. He wound in his line to find the 80lb leader snapped a few centimetres away from the lure tie off point.
The rest of the week was pretty much similar, no matter how far we travelled and how hard we tried, the target species were just not cooperating.
We may have had a tough trip this week, but we will never give up. Hopefully by next month, river conditions would have improved and our clients would catch more quality fish.
Cheers and never give up!
Sport Fishing PNG
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