The explosive bite came out of the blue. There were frantic birds everywhere and even though we expected the shot, I was still startled as the Tiagra roared to life. In typical blue marlin fashion the determined fish charged away before leaping off in the distance with almost half a spool dumped. At first I enjoyed the experience, but when the bottom of the spool started to show I began to worry.
Just when I thought I was in serious trouble the fish came unglued and I was left to crank nearly half a mile of line back in. Interestingly, we were pulling a Towcam and after reviewing the underwater footage of the strike we saw that the fish had grabbed the lure, but the hook wrapped around its bill and never penetrated.
Unlike many other island destinations, the Samoan coastline is not crowded with endless rows of plush resorts and hotels.
Luckily, the very next day we were tight again and this time the blue marlin stayed connected. With the fish on the leader I swapped the rod for my camera housing and jumped in to capture the release. While Samoa is breathtaking, one thing that really stands out is the amazing water clarity…it is simply out of this world!
With the blue marlin safely on his way we had barely set the spread again when we hooked up with a pair of brightly lit mahi. One of the main reasons I came to Samoa, apart from sampling the sport fishing potential, was to film mahi in their natural environment. These well-equipped predators that Americans call dolphin are incredible to observe underwater. With their golden green flanks flashing against a rich blue background, dolphin are about as pretty as it gets. With such good looks it’s not surprising I have a heap of jobs on the books for exciting mahi footage, so once again I reluctantly handed over the rod and hit the water. While capturing stunning footage is certainly thrilling, watching the fish interact and move about in their natural environment really provides a spectacular perspective of how things work.
In my home waters of Australia, mahi seem to be more rare these days. I’m not sure whether it is seasonal or something more sinister, but looking back it has been three years since I have seen a decent one off the east coast. Samoa clearly doesn’t suffer this same problem at all and not only are mahi everywhere, but they are all big. The fish we encountered were all over 20 pounds, with some easily double that size.
Samoa is roughly halfway between Australia and North America, right on the edge of the International Date Line. East of Fiji and north of Tonga, Samoa is largely isolated apart from the smaller American Samoa, which lies 100 kilometers to the east. Positioned along the northern tip of the Tonga Trench, which is almost 11 kilometers deep, Samoa sits perfectly at the end of a natural fish highway. With such fertile deep water so close to shore, the currents are rich in life and you can encounter just about anything from whales to marlin, wahoo to barracuda, and everything in between. Typical of tropical islands, Samoa is fringed by coral reefs, but what makes it all the more impressive is the rugged mountain range the runs down the spine of the islands, forming a spectacular backdrop.
For the traveling angler Samoa has largely been ignored, as other more developed island nations have done a better job of taking advantage of the sport fishing dollar. My trip had come about when the Samoan Tourism Authority and Greg Hopping from Troppo Fishing Adventures invited me to sample the fishing and host a television documentary on the island. While I was downright ecstatic, there was another surprise…we were going to explore the remote southern coast of the island that hadn’t seen a fishing boat in nearly a year!
The fishing kicked off as soon as we left the marina when we hooked into mackerel. It was amazing trolling down the outside of the reef marveling at waterfalls that plummeted straight into the sea. The only distraction from the eye-catching scenery was the steady procession of strikes from eager game fish. Spanish mackerel, bluefin trevally, sailfish and even juvenile dogtooth tuna were all over the lures and kept us extremely busy.
Trolling just a few miles from shore we caught endless mahi as well as a few wahoo and even a pair of yellowfin tuna. Every day we encountered billfish, whether it was sailfish patrolling the inshore grounds along the reef edge or blue marlin holding offshore along the 1,000-meter line. The potential here is massive, but with just a couple of charter boats there is a lot of water that has yet to be fished.
Billfish aside, one of the most exciting things we witnessed unfolded on the last day. As we headed back around the eastern end of the island toward the marina in Apia we tagged a blue for the camera, missed a sail and then intercepted a massive baitball. It was easy to find, as the sky was black with sea birds. At first we hoped there would be whale sharks in the mix, but as we closed the gap it appeared that everything but whale sharks were at the party. There were tuna, rainbow runners and sharks attacking the bait.
Ignoring the sharks, I moved in toward the baitball and observed tuna attacking with amazing precision, lining up almost in single file. It was a machine gun attack that was relentless. Eventually, the tuna eased up and seizing the moment, the decimated bait school broke free and raced off across the surface.
Unfortunately we were on a tight schedule to get back for our return flight to Australia, so we left the helpless baitfish and continued on our way. It was right in the dying moments as we were about to pull the gear that we got our final fish of the trip. We had seen sailfish most days but catching them on lures is always a tough gig. I was desperate to swim with one and sure enough I finally got the opportunity at the very last moment.
After a week in Polynesian paradise I can firmly say that Samoa is one of the world’s most impressive angling destinations where sensational culture and eager predators await adventurous anglers.
Traveling to Samoa
Samoa is just 3 hours from Auckland, 5 hours from Sydney and 10 hours from Los Angeles. The island has a population of around 190,000, and the majority of residents still practice the region’s time-honored customs and traditions. A beachside “Fia Fia,” a Samoan feast accompanied with a traditional Polynesian fire dance should not be missed. Samoa may be undeveloped in terms of tourism but it still has great roads, is clean and the locals are very welcoming. Unlike many other island destinations, the Samoan coastline is not crowded with endless rows of plush resorts and hotels. Instead, there are villages with natives who are eager to greet you. Troppo Fishing Adventures, fishsamoa.ws
Notes of Interest About Samoa
Area: 1,133 sq mi
Currency: Samoan Tala ($1.00 US = 2.26 WST)
Languages: Samoan and English
Government: Parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy