An Outdoor View: Bonefishing, Part 7

Author’s note: This column is the seventh in a series about fishing at Christmas Island in 1987. — LP


Feb. 27 — Up early and at ‘em again.

Two local Natives accompany us today, one as guide, one as boat captain. The weather is cloudy and windy.

Our guide lets me off on a reef. From the get-go, everything goes wrong. The coral feels like it’s cutting through my diving boots. On my first cast, I turn a leader into a bird nest. I see a few fish, but when I cast, I hang up on coral. After an hour of this, we get back in the boat and move to another flat.

The new flat isn’t much better. I make every mistake in the book. My outlook is as dark as the gray sky and dark water. About the time I’m wondering what I’m doing here, the sun blasts through a hole in the clouds. As if someone had tripped a switch, the coral turns white, the water turns a thousand shades of green and my outlook brightens significantly. Forget the fishing. This is one beautiful place to just stand and gawk at the scenery.

In the punt again, we venture out of the lagoon, into the ocean. The only thing between us and Australia is open water. When you consider that our lives depend on a 3-cylinder Yamaha outboard that’s seldom hitting on all three, it’s a little scary.

Our skipper stops just outside the reef, where we’ll try to catch giant trevally. We tie on the big, expensive plugs that we bought in Honolulu, and cast them toward the reef. Trevally can swim fast, our guide tells us, so we should reel in as fast as we can.

The giant trevally, a strong, fast-moving fish in the jack family, can reach weights of more than 100 pounds. When you hook one, odds are good that it will wrap your line around the nearest outcropping of coral. Boating a trevally is a real challenge.

We cast until our arms ache. Chip finally hooks a trevally. In the ensuing battle, his rod breaks twice. It takes him half an hour to get the fish to the boat. Trevally are considered “meat” fish here, so it’s gaffed and pulled aboard. A 50-pounder, it hits the deck with a healthy whump. My kind of fishing.

At Happy Hour, the consensus is that the bonefishing had been only so-so, but that venturing into the ocean and bringing back the big trevally had made our day.

At dinner, we and the other guests eat trevally.

Feb. 28 — It rained hard in the night. In the wee hours, I awake to a dripping sound. The roof is leaking. I scoot my bed away from the drip and go back to sleep.

At breakfast the Native women working in the dining room play Gilbertese music on a tape player and sing along with it. It’s simple music, pleasant to the ear.

Chip doesn’t feel good today, and stays at the hotel to “rest up.” The rest of us board a pickup for another banzai race to the flats.

Water from the night’s rain is everywhere. Several times, our driver has to slow down for puddles. At a deep one, the engine stalls. Our guide hops out with a king-size can of WD-40, opens the hood and sprays away. The engine starts right up.

Our guide grins and says, “Good ting I bring big can.”

Today is another so-so day on the flats. The clouds are reflected on the water, making it hard to see fish. When the sun is shining, you can at least see shadows of the fish. Today, I’m almost stepping on fish before I see them, and they zoom away, spooked. We need clear weather and less wind.

At happy hour, I learn that Howie is the only one who caught a bonefish today. On the positive side, Chip seems more chipper than he was this morning.

We’re looking forward to tomorrow, when we’ll have a punt again, and get to try for another trevally.

Les Palmer can be reached at