Sep 09

New Caledonia Bonefish Beasts

There is a place that is slowly becoming synonymous with really big bonefish.  The  rumors are of an average size of 7 pounds with double digit fish a regular sight.  It seems to be similar to Hawaii in that what the fish have in size, they lack in numbers.  Despite being in the middle of nowhere (unless you live there, in which case you are just in the middle of whatever you are doing), the place doesn’t have Christmas Island numbers… but it has size… big ole bones… the tackle busting kind.  This place is called New Caledonia.

Closer to Australia than to Hawaii (by a long, long  way), New Caledonia sits in the South Pacific and looks to be a pretty interesting place.  The lux lodges are not around just yet… as one report said, this is not a place for folks that need hand holding.  The action isn’t hot and hectic, it is measured and tense… eyes looking for those truly large fish.

Seems in  2007 a group of anglers that included Charles Rangeley-Wilson (one of our bonefish addict faves) and Peter Morse hit the island in search of some of the giants.  They both have write ups about this trip.

The price on offer… big bones.

Peter Morse describes the trip…

As always the weather in New Cal makes it a challenge, this is not the place for anyone who needs to have their hand held, you require a level of experience that at the least means choosing flies, tying knots, and making decisions. The fish aren’t particularly spooky most of the time, but seeing them, and dealing with the wind and cloud becomes a test of patience and skill. This is not a place for Christmas island cricket score numbers, it’s a place for quality, a few very, very, good fish that will really last in your memory.

Certainly sounds like an interesting place, not a place I’m ready for, but something to aspire to.  Charles uses a bit more style in his article from Gray’s Sporting Journal

What little I’d discovered about bonefish in New Caledonia told me only two things: that they are very hard to find, and that if you find one, it will be very, very large. It’s the latter more than the former that dragged me here. There are many species of bonefish worldwide—Morsie gave us an expert tutorial in this—but while the physical differences may be subtle, all bonefish are paranoid, skittish, morphing ghosts that mess with your mind, your eyesight, and your sanity. And in New Caledonia, so the international fish-whispering goes, these fish become truly massive. The biggest rush, the biggest wave.

I found a report at Fishing International that said this of the fish and fish size…

We weighed all our fish using a “Bocagrip”* and we released fish from 6 up to 10 pounds. Both of us saw larger fish that were out of reach. I estimate the largest fish I saw at about 15+ pounds, but it is difficult to be certain. The average size of the fish we released was 6.5 to 7 pounds. It was obvious that there are some very large fish around. How large? Our guide Antoine landed a 9 kgs. (19.80 pounds) fish using bait, the week before we got there. Can you take them with a fly rod? Claude Nickrass’s party from France hooked and lost some of these large fish in December 2000 using a fly rod. The next world record bonefish could certainly be caught in New Caledonia.

OK… that sounds pretty interesting, no?  Even if I could catch a 19 pound bonefish in New Caledonia, I won’t be going any time soon.  See, a quick look at Kayak.com for flights puts a price tag for a flight from SFO to New Caledonia at about $2,750. The trip there is about 24 hours, the journey back is about 30… 30 hours… like, over a day.  Now, I’m not accustomed to travel to Australia or Singapore, so that sort of  travel is enough to make me think “Andros has some big bones too… Hawaii has big bones and air conditioning!”

Still… New Caledonia sounds like a fascinating place… a place where “Elk outnumber inhabitants” and 19 pound bonefish have been caught (even if on bait).  The  next world record just might come from this little chain of islands in the South Pacific.  Watch this space!

*Bocagrips are generally discouraged for handling bonefish. Don’t do it.