Fishing Christmas Island: Part 2 – In a Spin

Tom Slater holds a sensational GT caught while casting across the surf.

Tom Slater holds a sensational GT caught while casting across the surf.

Christmas Island, or Kiritimati as it is known by the locals, is often hailed as a fly fishing paradise. In his second in-depth chapter on the remote atoll, Kaydo writer Brett Habener explains the endless options available for the light and heavy tackle fisherman.
Andrew Phillips jigged up this hard-fighting Red Bass.

Andrew Phillips jigged up this hard-fighting Red Bass.

The island’s fringing reef holds a variety of angry predators making it an ideal location for anglers interested popping and jigging. If you are a light tackle enthusiast and enjoy sight fishing, walking the pristine lagoon flats with a spin rod in hand is one of the ultimate experiences.

Many shallow water options

Kiritimati’s expansive flats have made it famous among fly fishers world-wide but when armed with a light spin outfit you can take full advantage of what the amazing fishery has to offer. Strap on a backpack and head out onto the flats holding a 6-10lb outfit and you can find some of the best sight fishing on offer anywhere. Using 2-3 inch shrimp style soft plastics on 1/16 – 1/12oz heavy wire jig head will get the attention of most fish you spot cruising the flats.
Mathew Scholz- Titan with a hefty Triggerfish.

Mathew Scholz- Titan with a hefty Triggerfish.

Bonefish, triggerfish and trevallys will climb onto a well-presented soft plastic and are all formidable fighters on light tackle. Bonefish are the most prolific species on the flats and are true line burners capable of scorching runs that will make you spool warm to the touch. Smaller 2 inch translucent shrimp and grub style soft plastics seem to be the most effective on the fussy bonefish. If you mange to fool a big 10lb+ bonefish will have you running across the shallows to avoid getting spooled.

Pulling the trigger

Triggerfish will not run as far as a bonefish but have the ability to generate an incredible amount of power for their size. The fight with a trigger is usually over in a few seconds if they make it back into one of the numerous holes in the flats they call their homes. If you can steer a trigger into clear water you can land them easily if the hook holds. The powerful jaw of a trigger is all bone and teeth capable of biting hooks in half which makes it hard to get a hook into them where it wont get destroyed. When fly fishing triggerfish can be very fussy but they seem to climb all over a soft plastic making it the ideal way to target these bulldozers of the flats.
Brett with a lovely long nosed emperor caught in the tropical lagoon.

Brett with a lovely long nosed emperor caught in the tropical lagoon.

Fishing a 7 foot PE2-3 outfit over the shallow lagoon bommies and outer reef flats can also be incredibly exciting. Longnose emperor, triggerfish, green jobfish, coral trout, red bass and various trevallies are just some of the species you can expect to catch. The use of light tackle stickbaits and poppers in the 90-120mm size are ideal for targeting fish over the isolated bommies near the mouth of the lagoon. Rising up from a sandy bottom the bommies vary in depth from 1 to 3metres. You will often see a big fish race out to eat your lure and you have to be ready – it’s real heart-in-mouth stuff. The fights can be over very quick if the fish finds its way under a ledge so it is very important to push your tackle to the limit and go as hard as you can as soon as you get the bite. If you enjoy throwing big poppers Kiritimati’s expansive reef system is home to one of the world’s healthiest populations of giant trevally. The lagoon acts as a GT factory and churns out huge numbers of juvenile fish and packs of the small 1-2kg are often seen terrorising bait on the edges of the shallow flats. The average size of GTs on CXI is not huge at 10-25kg but the sheer numbers make up for it. Sessions of over 50 GTs in a single day on one boat with 3 just anglers have been experienced on recent trips. Numbers like this are not common in many other places in the world. Don’t let the average size misguide you though as there is some monster fish lurking in deep blue water off the reefs edge for those that persist casting big poppers. The atoll quickly rises up from the depths and it can be up to 300m deep just 150m from shore in some places. When current hits these step edges the GTs will congregate in big numbers and these areas are also great jigging spots. Whilst casting for GTs you will also catch a variety of other species such as bluefin trevally, barracuda, green jobfish but the bulk of the by catch will generally be red bass. And guess what? When you hook a big red bass you will definitely know about it! Pound for pound they are one of the strongest fish in the ocean and fight hard, dogged and dirty.

Surf casting big fish

Surf Cast- Tom Surf Cast

Tom Slater casts towards the wash in hope of yet another monster GT.

Due to the close proximity of deep blue water close to shore CXI is an excellent place to shore cast in the surf with poppers and stick baits. This style of fishing is not for the faint hearted but is incredibly rewarding when all goes to plan. Keeping your balance standing in waist deep water with waves crashing all around you is difficult. Put a heavy popping rod in your hand and a rampaging GT on the end of it and things can get very interesting. Often fish can be seen cruising down the waves in pursuit of your lure making it extremely visual and the strikes are often brutal. A 10kg fish feels like a 30kg fish when you are hooked up in the surf. The surf zone is full of highly oxygenated water, which seems to supercharge the trevally, giving them more power and stamina during the fight. Big bluefin trevally, emperors and red bass add some variety to your catch in the surf as they often hunting in the surf zone along side the GTs. The atolls step reef drop offs also make it an excellent jigging location. The variety of fish you can catch on a jig out of the deep blue water is astounding. The boats on the island do not have sounders to help you find fish so relying on your guide’s local knowledge and reading the ocean is the key to success. If you can find some current hitting one of the islands many points causing bait to gather you can assume there will be plenty of fish taking advantage of the conditions. Tropical reef fish such as red bass, emperors, jobfish, coronation trout and various cod species make up the bulk of the catch. There is however an extremely good chance of coming up tight on a big pelagic species whilst jigging along the islands deep ledges. We have encountered big yellowfin tuna, giant trevally, amberjack and recently some dogtooth tuna. These line burners will test your tackle to the limit and if you are lucky enough to win the battle a fish of a lifetime is usually the result. Although Kiritimati is extremely remote, getting there is a relatively simple af-fair. Air Pacific runs a service between Brisbane and Honolulu once a week giving both Australians and Americans easy access to this amazing fishery. Whether you are a conventional or fly angler Kiritimati is the ultimate location giving you both variety of terrain and species to target. For those with a sense of adventure this remote atoll presents endless fishing options and I can’t recommend the experience enough.    


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