2012-03 EIAO Island, Marquesas, Tahiti

Exploration trip to EIAO Island with Teddy, Malcom, Fabio and Marcio, Report by Malcolm: In early march, after months of planning, four of us – Fabio and Marcio from Brazil, Randy from California and me from Australia – travelled to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.

The trip was conceived by Randy from JDM Tackle and the logistics handled by keen Tahitian jigger & popper Teddy Moux who lives on Nuku Hiva.The Marquesas are located about 1500km NE of Tahiti and include a dozen islands, of which only 6 are inhabited. Our plan was to travel to Nuku Hiva in the northern group by plane from Tahiti, and then travel on a further 240kms by boat to uninhabited Eiao Island, where we would camp and fish.

Due to flight scheduling from South America Fabio & Marcio arrived a few days early and fished a “light” program around Nuku Hiva with Teddy, landing Wahoo, tuna and GT’s before Randy and I arrived. Once all there, after the one & a half hour 4-wheel drive trip to the other side of Nuku Hiva, we left at midday for the 8 hour boat trip to Eiao.

Teddy had arranged with local fishermen, the Falchetto brothers, to use their boats and guiding skills for the trip and so complete with seven Marquesans from one extended family, three hunting dogs, guns, a chainsaw, tents, food & water and a lot of fishing equipment we headed for Eiao.

The four of us with three of the Marquesans’ travelled in a local small Bertram style boat, and Teddy and the remaining Falchetto’s with the dogs and the rest of the supplies travelled in a faster local open Poti Marara boat. The plan was for the Poti Marara to get there before us and set up camp. We arrived at night and being too dark and the seas to rough to safely transfer from the boat to the rocks we slept onboard and woke in the morning to find the camp set up and fully functioning. These Marquesians make Bear Grylls look like a junior boy scout! They had tapped into a natural spring with a gravity feed so we had a shower, running water, and by the time we were ashore they had even built a wooden floored shelter, complete with roof. A rifle shot let us know to expect goat on the menu that night!So – to the fishing! Splitting ourselves between the two boats we headed out.

Eiao is a rocky fairly barren island about 11kms long and 4kms wide, 550 odd metres high with vertical cliffs diving straight into the sea. It’s quite reminiscent of the terrain around Komodo and Sumba.At the base of the cliffs, significantly around points with wave action and current flow, both jigs and casting soon bought results. GT’s, red bass, and black jacks were all in abundance.

Our style of fishing, casting and jigging, was very unique and new to the Marquesans who fish very successfully with traditional methods. So we had some interesting and entertaining episodes trying to communicate and explain what we needed with boat positioning, and especially what was needed when hooked up to bigger fish.

The Marquesians speak Tahitian, Marquesian and French – and next to no English! Teddy was our main interpreter, but he couldn’t be in all places at once so we had a communication learning curve to master.Away from the cliffs the seas were full of yellowfin tuna and casting poppers, stickbaits and dropping jigs saw an endless stream of tuna hook-ups.

They were mainly school sized tuna – around the metre mark in length, with the occasional fish up to about 35kgs.The problem with the tuna though was sharks – lots of sharks. We landed scores of tuna over the time we were there, but also lost a lot to sharks, and in the process losing a lot of tackle. I was a probably a bit tardy in deciding that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea using Carpenter Katobi’s , Pandoras, Gammas and Seafrogs when in reality any lure at all would be hit almost as soon as it was in the water!There were also so many birds offshore that casting at times was a real headache.

Diving frigates in particular could make life difficult, resulting in a good dozen bird releases being necessary. At times trying to keep diving birds away from your stickbait was hard. You would try to cast only to find a frigate had grabbed your stickbait in the air behind you whilst you were winding up to cast. They had no fear at all and would hover feet away from you screaming for your lure.GT’s responded well to poppers, more so than stickbaits, but both were effective.

The larger fish were all taken on poppers. Jigs were also accounting for a lot of smaller GT’s. True to rumour many of the GT’s were black in colour.There are some very significant GT’s in the Marquesas. The locals call them ‘Ghosts”. They are huge… a true Garua GT, unstoppables. I had one take my popper no more than 8 metres from the boat. A pack of small to midsized GT’s had followed the popper back to the boat making half hearted feints at it when this absolute monster just tore through the pack shouldering the others aside. Its back was out of the water broadside to me when it took the popper and lit its afterburners and left the room! I’ve been lucky enough to see some big GT’s over the years but never anything that looked like this, enormous, black and very very scary. All I could do was hold on and try and stay in the boat. If I hadn’t seen it to be a GT I would have thought it was an 80kgs+ dogtooth in the way it just stripped line and headed for the cliffs. Never a chance of even getting a turn on the reel and the cliffs are very close.

The inevitable result, re-rigging with very shaky hands.It will be possible to stop one of these behemoths one day, but a lot of luck will be involved. Also it will need boat driving skills that are not there at the moment, as the locals have never tried to target the “Ghosts” and the necessities and skills in using a boat to help subdue one are still to be mastered there, but that will come.As a destination it’s an exciting place to fish. GT’s, tuna, wahoo and dogtooth are all present, many in good size, and both casting and jigging work well.

On this trip we didn’t encounter that many dogtooth, but that’s merely because we didn’t find them. They are there. It’s also very scenic. In the late afternoons there were literally hundreds of manta rays basking up against the cliff faces in the sun.

The Marquesians are an amazingly friendly and hospitable people – I’ve never been made to feel more welcome – and are capable of living off the land with an ease and practicality that we seem to have lost many generations ago.

A trip to the Marquesas is not without its logistical difficulties and many parts of it would make an Occupational Health and Safety inspector drop in their tracks, but the effort was well worth it. We only ended up with one person in hospital on Nuku Hiva after the trip – Teddy with a badly dislocated shoulder after an incident transferring from the rocks to the boat on the last day.Teddy and his family, and the Falchetto clan made a far fetched dream to fish a very remote location a very achievable reality.