There is no denying that Christmas Island has stood the test of time as a world-class bonefish destination. For decades, this piece of angling paradise has been visited on an annual basis by a large number of dedicated anglers. They travel from every corner of the globe arriving nearly every month of the year. In fact, if you ask almost any veteran bonefisherman outside of Florida, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t enjoyed Christmas Island at some point in his or her fishing career.
Without a shadow of doubt, Christmas Island, also known as Kiritimati and not to be confused with the Australian Christmas Island, is a mature destination. While at one point it was a strategic base during World War II, today it is best known for its bonefishing, diving and surfing. Most know its reputation, but the fact that traveling anglers from all over the world are still visiting the destination—in the numbers that they do—tells me there’s something else going on that’s really worthwhile. I believe the anglers that truly have this place dialed-in have tapped into the diversity of the region’s prolific fisheries. Yes, they certainly chase gray ghosts on fly gear when the tides are right, but they also come for GT, various reef species and powerful pelagics, not excluding super-fast wahoo and tackle-testing yellowfin tuna.
Today’s visitors not only have diversified their target species, but the guys that really maximize on the area’s success have evolved into crossover anglers. Inshore fishing doesn’t always mean fly gear. Nowadays, the savvy Christmas Island crowd comes well prepared with a wide variety of tackle. They do whatever it takes to score big and they have a blast doing it.
For East Coast anglers, Christmas Island might seem like a world away, yet despite its remote location, getting there is not all that difficult. Located 1,200 miles south of Hawaii and 200 miles north of the Equator, a hop from the West Coast has you flying into Honolulu. It’s best to arrive at least one day before your flight to Christmas Island, because the extra day helps if a bag or angler gets sideways along the way. The flight from Honolulu to Christmas Island is only three and a half hours non-stop, but there is an International Date Line crossing with this itinerary that can be confusing—especially heading back—so check with your travel agent and make sure to double check every detail. With limited flights to Christmas Island, I suggest redundant packing among your group’s members. This strategy helps to keep everyone fishing if someone’s gear bag turns up missing.
Accommodations at Christmas Island have traditionally been at land-based lodges, but as anglers look to explore the furthest reaches of the nearby atolls, new options have sprouted. However, no matter where you stay, it’s important to note that this isn’t a trip for those who enjoy five-star comfort. There isn’t much to do here besides enjoy the tropical remoteness and the facilities are limited, so understand that this is a hardcore adventure for the unique angler who wants to have the trip of a lifetime. You have to be a bit rough and tumble and possess plenty of energy. In other words, you need to be a complete fish-a-holic! The only limitations at Christmas Island are your angling endurance and the amount of daylight.
Christmas Island is a tropical paradise and everyone should explore it to its fullest. The island’s landscapes make for appealing images almost anywhere one might care to look. The countryside is dotted with immense groves of swaying palms, grassy fields and rugged picturesque seascapes. With a population of nearly 7,000 Kiribati citizens, most of these people make their living from the sea. As much as I recommend a land-based operation, on one special trip we were at sea for a week aboard a 60-foot sailboat. Our fearless leader was an American expatriate surfer named Chuck Corbet. Disenchanted with the crowded waves of the Golden State, he relocated to Hawaii to pursue his surfing passion before the very same thing that drove him from the mainland—the crowded waves—drove him from Hawaii as well. So began Chuck’s exploration of the South Pacific in search of virgin territory. Over the years, Chuck’s life and adventures have been chronicled in the pages of many popular surfing magazines and by hook or by crook, Chuck explored the South Pacific and lived off the bounty of the sea.
This trip was much different than any other experienced at this historic atoll, and although not fancy, Chuck’s 60-foot Tuaraoi had all the creature comforts to make an angler’s stay safe and pleasant. What follows is a very real situation that occurred on my most memorable trip to Christmas Island.
The sun would sink over the horizon. I’m standing on the aft deck with my fishing buddies. We all have ice-cold beers in hand. We are enjoying what remains of our day here in the lee of Christmas Island. In the distance, and moving our way, is a mass of seabirds working a school of bait, a “breezer” as it is called in this part of the world. From the Tuaraoi deck we can see sizable yellowfin tuna feeding under the baitball. The tuna are exploding from the churning white water created by the frenzied bait and diving flock. It’s quite a sight as predators from the two distinctly different worlds of air and water do their unmerciful best to ruin the day for the unfortunate baitfish. Meanwhile, the mayhem continues to move closer to our floating lodge. I casually ask, “Is that 12-weight still rigged?”
The answer comes quickly from my like-minded companion and he knows exactly where this is going. Suddenly, a half dozen 40-pound tuna clear the water by six feet not more than 200 yards off our port stern.
“Sure, hop in the tender, I’ll drive. Grab your headlamps and the gaff. We are going to be out there for a while,”
Minutes later, not quite a mile from the beach, we are lined up casting flies to a boiling mass of sea foam, bait, huge fish and birds in the last bit of daylight. One strip…two…a third and I’m tight! In a flash, the fly line, as if divinely guided, clears my nervous fingers, engages the spool and the reel’s drag shifts into hyper-speed. An hour later, in pitch dark, we motor back with fresh sashimi and my fly rod fish of a lifetime. It simply doesn’t get any better than this!
Offering so much more than just spectacular flats fishing, the key to fishing Christmas Island is in the region’s diversity and in your ability to be flexible in your approach. If you plan on visiting Christmas Island, take my word for it…bring more than your bonefish flies and get off the beaten path. Trust me when I tell you that certain atolls reachable by boat are pure angling nirvana!
Notes of Interest
- Christmas Island is the world’s largest coral atoll with a total land area (including the lagoon) of 248 square miles. It is located in the north of the Line Island Group of the Republic of Kiribati.
- Capitan James Cook passed through here on Christmas Day in 1777, hence the name.
- Towns located on the island are curiously named after European countries and cities, including London, Paris and Poland.
- Christmas Island is the first inhabited place on Earth to experience the New Year.
- The currency is the Australian Dollar
and the language is English.
- For travel/fishing arrangements, contact: Angling Destinations, 800.211.8530 | anglingdestinations.com