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Exploratory trip to Eastern Fields with Sport Fishing PNG – Nov 2014


by Mark Harris
I had been in contact for some time with Sport Fishing PNG,
mostly to monitor their amazing progress with targeting the almost mythical Papuan
black bass. With the arrival of their very impressive mothership K20 earlier
this year, it became clear that these guys wanted to seriously tackle remote
blue water fishing as well as the rivers and swamps of PNG.
As soon I saw their intention to undertake an exploratory
trip to the Eastern Fields reef system, the email flew out almost instantly.  From the outset it was clear that I was dealing
with a very professional outfit. Arrangements were made efficiently and it was
all systems go with the exploratory trip. On November 18th I joined the
Sportfishing PNG team plus a couple of their friends in Port Moresby to pour
over maps (such as they are, much of Eastern Fields remains uncharted or
incorrectly charted).  Intel is very
limited and mostly from the odd trolling boat that has been out there.  The sense of excitement and anticipation was
huge as we prepared for the 100 nautical mile journey. 
Before reporting on the trip itself, I think it is worth explaining
a bit about the wider operations of this company. A lot is made of the dangers
of being a visitor to Port Moresby and there is no doubt that this city has its
problems. I was though expertly looked after from the moment I walked through
customs at Jackson’s airport to the moment I did the reverse trip 7 days later.
 Owner Jason Yip has a substantial and
very well established business operation in Port Moresby, and you could not be
in better hands.
Having read a bit about it, I was also keen to see first-hand
more about the charitable works of the organisation. Again, this was most
impressive with major operations to bring education, nutrition and healthcare
to some of PNG’s most remote village communities. Very well done guys – you are doing great work for the commuity.  Spending money with this operator means you
are offering significant support to some extremely under-privileged
communities. A very refreshing atttitude compared to some fishing operators
After a splendid dinner at the Port Moresby yacht club we all boarded K20
for the overnight sailing out to Eastern Fields.  One look at K20 and it was clear that we would
not exactly be roughing it.  This is a
superbly presented and maintained vessel with six guest rooms and full air-conditioning
throughout.  A walk-in fridge and an
espresso machine will give you a good idea of the on-board standards.
Upon arrival the following morning at the truly vast  400 square mile reef system it became clear
just how daunting a prospect it was to figure out where to target fish, where
to anchor the mothership etc.  This was not
made any easier by the weather – solid 15 to 25 knot southeast winds. Anyone
who has fished the Coral Sea will know that winds of that strength in that
quarter make for some serious challenges!
Over the next 6 days we fished hard and we fished as widely
as the wind would allow. Unfortunately our plans to fish the obvious pressure points
on the outside of the reef were scuppered by the wind and 95% of our fishing had
to be inside the reef. That being the case, we still did very well. GTs were
everywhere.  I have forgotten the boat
total for the trip and I suspect it was miscounted anyway. I certainly forgot some
of the fish I caught and I am sure the same is true for others!  The reef was every bit as pristine and healthy
as I expected. It was a constant battle to get past the truly incredible numbers
of large coral trout, green jobfish and red bass – a sure sign of health of the
reef.
On the very limited occasions we could get outside and
target the windward size of the reef, the number of fish was even more
remarkable. I will never forget the sight of GTs lined up in the high breakers
and the frustration of not being able to target them due to the conditions.
Sharks were a constant problem as expected. Not only were
they taxing our catches (especially green jobfish….. they seem to love green
jobfish!) but also hitting stick baits. 
One in particular nearly broke me in half after taking my bigfoot 180.
I  can’t emphasise enough
just how many reef fish there were. The shallow reefs were thick with big coral
trout, green jobfish, thumping red bass, bluefin trevally and a host of other
species. Although these got annoying when using the GT gear, I personally had
huge fun with these fish on the PE3 casting set up. Several large Napoleon
wrasse were seen but sadly, none caught. 
Another sign of just how healthy this reef system is.
On the jigging front, the largest doggie landed was 30 kgs with
several smokings by larger fish.  Again,
the pinnacles outside the reef would surely be doggie heaven but we could not safely
reach those areas.  But even inside the
reef in shallower water, big doggies made their presence known.

Each evening at my urging, a big effort was made to get a
baitball going around the mothership. Given the extremely good health of the
water this was not hard to achieve and the light PE2 jigging was great fun. I

personally
lost 26 small jigs mostly to barracuda. When I got past the barracuda some fine
fish were landed – red bass, coral trout, paddletails, various emperors and
groupers, bigeye trevally etc.  Fantastic
sport on the PE2 gear. Slow, longfall techniques were especially productive.
After 6 days of this intense fishing for 14-16 hours each
day exhaustion was certainly setting in but personally I could have stayed
longer…… the fishing was that good.  As
we set sail back for Port Moresby the only thing on my mind was arranging a full
blown trip back to this amazing place as soon as possible.

Some tackle notes….. given the nature of the terrain, PE10
is the most sensible set up for GT fishing at Eastern Fields. I had two PE10
setups and one PE8 and the former made me fish over the reefs with more confidence.
On the jigging front, I went heavy with PE8. Don’t underestimate the world
class nature of the lighter fishing – it would be nuts to go out there without
lighter setups. 
Big efforts were made ot release fish in as healthy a state as possible
I would like to personally thank everyone who was involved in
setting up this exploratory trip – Jason, Angus, Moli, Jia An, Marty, Brendan
and Robert. You guys are legends and made me feel very at home and part of the
team.
I hope that the very small selection of pics which follow will give
you a feeling for the fishing that is available at this most remarkable reef system.

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