Andaman Adjustments 2010
Fishing Team Kalu always seeks the best sports fishing experiences in the world. This time we tested the fierce predators of the Indian Ocean.
Task force of four FTK Members took off towards Andaman and Nicobar Islands on a wintery Friday evening in March. So the adjustments begun…
When: 19-28 March 2010
Where: India / Andaman Islands / Port Blair & Havelock
How: Flights – Helsinki (Fri) – Delhi (Sat) – Port Blair (Sun), return vice versa
Fishing Plan: Mon-Fri Live-a-board on Reely Nauti, replaced by live-a-board on Serenity, replaced by day trips on Badmaash, replaced by day-trips on Surmai I
Who: Ron Katz, Tapio Kuosma, Jarkko Piispala, Ville Tawaststjerna
Budget: ~3000 EUR per each
Game fish: Giant Trevally, Bluefin Trevally, Groupers, Wahoo, Dogtooth Tuna, Barracuda. Marlins, Sharks and Yellowfin Tuna possible.
We arrived to Delhi’s heat early Saturday and after a short discussion with the local police wanting to know where we are going and with whom, we got our modest amount of luggage into a taxi and started the Indian Traffic -experience.
Arriving to Hotel Ajanta with only one dent in the side mirror was a relief and after a short stroll down the street it was time to take a nap. First dinner of chicken and rice was delicious and after a cold Kingfisher beer it was time to have a refreshing nap again before heading back to the airport at 04:00 am.
After a 5 hour flight via Kolkata we landed to Port Blair. If Delhi was hot, Port Blair was hell. The heat and humidity struck us like a sauna, and filling the immigration papers in the non-airconditioned airport lounge made it clear that this was going to be one physically challenging trip.
Screw-up #1 (minor)
Check-in, lunch and a quick trip to the ‘city’ to get some necessities not allowed in the airplane, then some chilling out at the pool before meeting the skipper of our vessel in the hotel bar.
Screw-up #2 (major, almost a show stopper)
Sorry sir, no sir, no liveaboard, sir. Mr. Jonas Nyqvist had informed us that he is not able to act as the captain of the ship because of his incapability to manage his own time, but he had NOT mentioned that the vessel Serenity had a broken gear-box and would not sail during our stay. He knew this a week before we arrived, but decided to keep this information to himself.
So, after being told that we would stay in various hotels all week and the boat would be much smaller than agreed and paid for, the crew left us feeling sorry for ourselves. We had some interesting questions about Jonas Nyqvist’s way of doing business, sticking to agreements and informing customers about changes. It isn’t lying if you just don’t tell everything, right?
Fishing Day 1 – Cinque Islands
Monster Fishing had arranged us a pickup from the hotel which took us to the Port Blair Jetty. We boarded the Mahimahi and started driving towards Cinque Islands. Breakfast – including coffee for the first and the last time – was offered on board while the Port Blair Harbour was left behind and the landscape started to change into a deserted tropical archipelago.
After about 45 minutes of driving we reached the fishing grounds and started popping. This fishing method was new to us, but we got the hang of it quite fast, and of course the popping technique evolved a lot during the day. We drove southward and stopped every now and then to cast poppers around reefs and rocks, but the fish avoided our lures (what a surprise).
We started trolling because the fish weren’t biting poppers, and just when we arrived to the southernmost point of that day (Sister Island) we had the first strike. Ron had the honor to fight the fish first and after winding the reel like crazy he landed about a 5 kg Bluefin Trevally. Not exactly a memorable fight, but first fish of the trip anyway! After this we got couple of strikes, but they didn’t stay on.
We spent a couple of hours popping around the flats and reefs near the island and saw massive schools of baitfish, but no predators that would attack our poppers. Around four o’clock we started to head back to the port and stopped couple of times to cast in good looking places, but to no avail.
Screw-up #3 (minor)
We were accommodated to another hotel (Hotel Sentinel) in Port Blair for Monday night, which meant that we had to pack and haul all our luggage with us. And of course in the evening to unpack and so on…
Fishing Day 2 – Invisible Bank
Rise and shine around 5 am and off to Invisible Bank (map), a shoal (depth less than 20 meters) many many nautical miles south-east of Port Blair that was supposed to be a very rich in fish. Yeah right…
We arrived at the fishing grounds around ten o’clock and started trolling. It took just two minutes until we got our first strike and Jasu was next in turn to tame the fish which was 10-11kg barracuda. After that it was Ron’s turn to reel in a 1kg baby dogtooth and Ville got his hands dirty with a 2kg jawfish. Because trolling didn’t seem to produce any bigger fish the crew decided it was time to do some popping around the single rock jutting out from the Bank. The place looked like it would teem with fish, but after about one hour we gave up. Back to trolling and after 5 minutes Tapio was on. This was a stronger fish but with the heavy gear it subdued to Tapio’s will in less than three minutes. A 9kg GT, not bad! After this we got a couple of strikes, but they didn’t stay on long and around 2 pm we had to start our dull journey to Havelock.
Screw-up #4 (major breakdown – again)
From the start, the two 225 hp Mercury Optimax (vintage 2007) outboard engines that were mounted on the Badmaash had some trouble. They wouldn’t go above 4200 rpm, so the speed of the Badmaash was only around 20 kts. Max speed would’ve been around 36, so a lot of time lost there. There was probably something wrong with one of the cylinders (V6) / spark plugs / fuel injectors, but in general, lack of service. One of the engine’s stronger-than-normal vibration was not promising anything good in the near future…
We were arriving to Havelock Island at the max speed of 20 kts, when one of the engines died on us. There was no attempt to replace plugs or anything like that, so the skipper settled to only one engine. Speed was around 8 kts then, so it was slow business from there on. Also, fresh gasoline onboard smelled kinda funny / odd, maybe that also has something to do with this mess. It was already dark when we arrived to the jetty at Havelock after 4,5 hours of driving.
NOTE: Despite all the trouble Monster Fishing staff always kept us well informed and really tried with a smile to arrange everything. Having engine and gear breakdowns with no spares is something to develop, but the service attitude was excellent.
Fishing Day 3 – BUSTED
Since the engine failure of the well serviced Mercury Outboard Toilet screwed the day we were in no rush and for once had time to have a semi-decent breakfast in the Hotel.
Screw-up #5 (major – police involved)
Our morning was however interrupted by the hotel manager telling us to get our asses to the local Police Station to register as arrived to Havelock (map), which we did not do the previous evening because we arrived so late that the harbour’s office was closed and no one instructed us about the formalities. Great.
When we got to the police station there was a definate “tension in the air”. We were unsure of what was going to happen next. After we sat down at the station a couple of police men started to yell, first to each other and then to us. We were in a cross-examination, and keeping our heads down we listened obediently. They yelled something like: “Why haven’t you informed us that you are here? Why haven’t you read the instructions on your permit ?” and so on. Luckily the officials decided at one point to call the hotel manager and give him some hell, and after that we were actually treated quite nicely.
Side note: The permit actually says that with it, we can go to Havelock. No information about checking in at the police station.
We packed our asses to the car again and drove some 15 minutes to Beach Number 7 a.k.a Radhanagar Beach, which indeed did live up to its reputation (Best Beach in Asia 2004).
After the beach we headed to the harbour again, but this time there was no fishing to be executed (the engine was very badly damaged and the spares should be ordered from mainland India, great). We just went snorkelling with one engine. Did that for a couple of hours. In other words we paid 1200 euros for a few hours of snorkelling and some rice & chicken. Hmm…
After this normal-vacation-stuff -day we stuffed our heads with some liquor trying to forget all that happened that day. We succeeded.
Fishing Day 4 – Barren Island
Day number four started early as we were told the previous evening that Monster Fishing has arranged another boat from Port Blair to serve us for the remaining two days. The boat was again smaller than it’s predecessor and we calculated that if we were to spend another week here, we would end up fishing in a bucket.
Thursday’s agenda was Barren Island, an active volcano some 2,5 hours drive from Havelock. Getting there was (again) booooring but as the smoke from the volcano started to show in the horizon our weary minds were revived and as the Jurassic Park -like shores got closer previous dull hours were swept away for a moment.
Popping was the name of the game, and after an hour of that we changed the game to trolling even though Jasu and Tape got small GT’s by popping.
After we started trolling it took just some minutes before the first fish kinda tried to fight the gear with little success. Reeling the poor thing in to be photographed was of course to some extent hard work but mainly because of the weather.
Well, after one hour of trolling with decent amount of small fish (couple of 6-7 kg wahoos for example) the skipper said that we should get going back because the action wasn’t what it was supposed to be, so again 2,5 hours of pure dullness hit us.
Luckily we still had couple of hours left to fish before darkness, so the rest of the day was dedicated to popping around reefs and islets around Ritchies Archipelago near Havelock. This turned out to be a good decision. First place didn’t give any fish, but the second one did. First Ville got a strike and couple of coral trouts followed Ron’s popper and then the captain of the Surmai I showed us how to catch GT’s. He made couple of casts and whoa, fish tried to get the popper! Big fish, around 30kg! Couple of more casts and fish on! The captain handed the rod to Ron who had the honor to fight the fish and after a while the captain grabbed the leader and around 7kg GT was ready to be photographed. The place got quiet after this and we moved to another place. The last place of the day proved productive, when Jasu and Tape caught two GT’s (around 10kg), the captain (again) had a huge strike and Ron caught a 5kg Bluefin.
We drove back to the jetty and hopped into a jeep again. While driving back we stopped in ‘down town’ Havelock to walk around and get some tonic water replacements (you really can’t get any tonic water in India except for that one small supermarket-like shop in Havelock).
Basic evening. Dinner (guess what), some GT’s (the drink) in the bungalow balcony and sleep.
Fishing Day 5 – Popping back to Port Blair
Weather forecast for the day was like all the other days, heavenly beautiful scenery with little or no wind and temperatures around 30-35 Celsius.
Agenda for the day was to do popping all day long while slowly moving back to Port Blair to start our journey back home.
As the whole day was now just for popping we got our first (on the last f*cking day) overdose of casting 150g lures in the 35C heat while trying to stay put in the rocking boat. No wind does not equal to no waves. Luckily swimming in a paradise-like bay with turquoise water, white sands and palm trees was never more than 5 minutes away when in the archipelago.
The good thing was that while we were catching our breath in the minimum shade that the boat offered the crew were casting like pros (that they of course were) and when getting a strike and hooking the fish the rod was handled to it’s ‘owner’ who then got to fight the fish. Those fish (like the trolled fish) are anyhow a bit tricky to claim as ‘my fish’, but when in rome…
Lunch (lukewarm rice and chicken) was served from a newspaper wrap to be consumed with bare hands since ‘sorry sir, no knives or forks sir’ but it was a very minor thing compared to all the other ‘sorry sir’s’, so no damage done.
The biggest fish of the trip, a 26 kg Giant Trevally, was caught by our skipper on Ville’s rod, and after ensuring that the fish was hooked, he handed the rod to Ville (because he’s the only one in our bunch who reels with his left hand, like the skipper), who then enjoyed the fight for some minutes. Have to say that the Rapala 200-400g rods, 80 lbs (seemed like over 1 mm in diameter) braided line and 20 000 -series Shimano Stellas were a bit over-measured even to these fish, since there was no need to loosen the drag and the fish was lifted to the boat straight from the leader.
As the day passed on we lost two rods, both breaking from the tip. No spares. So besides poor culture of engine maintenance also having spare gear is something that Monster Fishing could put some attention to. The skipper also lost one of our fake Buster Jerks (which he judged to be quite good for those waters?) with one quite powerful cast resulting in a loose nose ring sending the lure to the orbital trajectory.
The last fishing day was anyhow very enjoyable and maybe most of what we came for. We reached Port Blair Harbour skippered by Tape just to discover that the Reely Nauti (the original live-a-board boat) was in the pier. WTF?!? Ron had a short talk with the boat owner Martin who gave us some more information about our beloved Mr. Jonas and his previous dealings. Martin was truly sorry for us and gave us his email address and phone number in case we would have to get back to him later on.
Journey back home
Back to the Fortune Bay, quick summarizing of the trip with the guys from Monster Fishing (they always came to meet us in person) and dinner.
Monster Fishing met us also in the morning and arranged the transportation to the airport, really decent service.
At the airport we got the usuals: No sir, broken computer sir, can’t seat you next to each other sir -show, immigration bureaucracy show, security check show (cans of soft drinks allowed???) and in the plane if-you-are-seated-in-the-back-there-won’t-be-any-food-left-to-buy -show.
5 hours in the plane and back to the 37C Delhi and to the hotel. A room with no window wasn’t even a minor setback anymore, and off to the Ajanta Restaurant to have the best Chicken Tikka of the trip. For all Finnish readers, the menu was Masalan Tikka, Joku Roti and Jarru Raita. We were quite tired…
Since the hotel did not serve any alcohol except in the roof terrace opening sometime between never-a-clock and maybe-later-o’clock we headed to the local Wine and Beer Store couple of blocks away just to note that minutes before closing time on a Saturday evening can be quite, hmmm, riot-like also in Delhi. Gee, if we had had a group of local security guys with us, pictures of the inferno inside would have been the World Press Photo contest Top 10 -material guaranteed, but since we were on our own it was better to keep the camera down and concentrate on avoiding eye contact with the wasted locals.
Back to the hotel terrace and enjoying the last warm night for a long time to come. 3 hours of sleep before leaving to the airport and before we knew it, good old Finnair had flown us back to Helsinki. Empty, silent, gray and sterile Helsinki.
- Always ask/have a plan B in case of screw-ups and Jonas Nyqvist
- Rules/practises about allowed carry-on items (lighters, soft drinks, water, alcohol, container sizes) vary, safest choise is to exclude all mentioned from hand baggage.
- Don’t trust anyone but yourself to take care of the formalities
- You are not allowed to access airports without a print-out displaying your name and flight number. So much for eTickets… The amount of paperwork in India is quite excessive, so always have a pen with you and enough time and nerves. Tip: What is the original meaning of carbon copy?
- 1000 rupee bills are way too large in majority of establishments, try to get 500’s and 100’s when exchanging currency.
- You can’t have too much sunscreen while at sea, remember your toes and the underside of your nose
- Rely as much as possible on your own fishing gear. We did not bring any because expectations on the catch size were high, but as the average size of GT’s was only around 9kg, it would have been a treat to fight those with nordic pike/salmon gear. Of course the 100g+ popper lures would have been out of the question, but with lighter lures equipped with decent hooks the fights would have been possible. Maybe. 😉 And in case of that tropical 50kg+ train, well, it would have been a broken line to remember…
If your computer can’t play HD-videofiles, here’s the SD version. (24MB .wmv)