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May 16, 2013

Return to Bom Bom

A New Game Boat Rejuvenates a Special Fishery


A revived marlin fishery that could very well be the hottest blue-marlin bite on the planet was just recently elevated to a whole new level. IGFA-certified Capt. Bert Bouchard got his 41-foot G&S, Deceiver, in September 2011, and in one short year, he has put an island paradise back on the blue-marlin map!
One hundred and fifty miles off the coast of Gabon, West Africa, lies a cluster of islands that form the country of São Tomé. Príncipe, with just around 5,000 residents, is the smaller of the two major islands, and lies to the north. This is where you’ll find Bom Bom and the world-class Bom Bom Island Resort, offering secluded accommodations, wonderful service and idyllic, breathtaking tropical surroundings. As a bonus, the country boasts a stable, tourist-friendly government.

Made for Fishing

The islands owe their incredible fishery to their location — far offshore, beyond the seemingly endless oil rigs off West Africa, and just a mile from the dramatic drop-offs that hold vast schools of baitfish and, consequently, a lot of blue marlin.

The trade winds, or gravana, as the locals call them, blow predominately from the south to the southwest, providing calm water for fishing on the close-in drops on the lee side of the island — it’s almost like fishing in the lee at Kona. Bouchard fishes spots with names like Razza Drop, Razza Two, String Corner, Bobby’s Delight, Southwest Corner One and Two, and South Drop. “Razza is only a few minutes offshore, and South Drop is just an 18-nautical-mile ride,” he says. On a nice day, the 18-nautical-mile steam to the south sector makes for a nice change and can be very productive. Bouchard also fishes the 100-mile Drop, the 500-mile Drop and out in the deep. “In our main marlin season, from July through August, we fish a lot on birds and look for water temps around 83 degrees. This year we will fish Deceiver for the full season, from June until September, chasing the big girls in August and following the crazy packs in July,” he says.

The blues gorge themselves on a local feed fish called fullowfullow, as do frigate mackerel and bonitos. These large baitballs make for some good live-baiting opportunities if, for some reason, you get tired of catching blues on lures or while pitch-baiting.

On Bouchard’s best blue-marlin day last year, Deceiver went 8-for-10, and the biggest one he tagged was in the 800-pound range. “I didn’t fish the entire season last year, but we still did pretty good. Out of 27 days fishing, we caught 57 blues out of 77 bites. We had several tripleheaders, numerous doubles and a lot of five-fish days. Oh, and we also caught 36 Atlantic sails, with the biggest one weighing over 110 pounds — my biggest so far,” Bouchard says. “I think that 100-plus blues in a season is reasonable, and we bloody intend on breaking that number this year. There were also some seriously nice fish tagged last year and a 900-pounder lost, and with the big Atlantic sails roaming around, the island becomes something of a Jurassic Park,” he says.

Deceiver is a tag-and-release boat professionally crewed to international standards and compliant with all safety regulations. Bouchard outfitted the boat with the best gear money can buy — 130 Tiagra reels and fly-fishing rods, and anglers can choose between stand-up gear or a chair to suit their needs. Bouchard has been fishing African waters since 2001, and Deceiver’s full-time crew is very welcoming, well spoken and friendly. A new game lodge and a marine base for Deceiver are planned, with construction starting this year. Besides its world-class blue-marlin fishery, these rich waters hold billfish year-round, mahimahi (bulls in the 50-pound class are very common), a good wahoo and sailfish bite on the edge, and snapper big enough to feed a village.

Capt. Clay Hensley brought Hooker to Bom Bom several years back and really loved the place. “I was there on an odd year where we saw a lot of blue marlin in August and September, but not many big ones,” Hensley says. “I believe we had a 21-day stretch where we raised around 125 blues, but none over 500 pounds. Their normal fishing is less numbers and larger fish during that time frame.”

The new G&S boat should open up a lot of the areas that the smaller boats that were used in years past had to bypass. “I think the area is still a bit untapped, as the local charter fleet was confined to a smaller area closer to the island due to boat size and fuel requirements. We were there with our own mothership and were able to explore the numerous banks on the windward side of the island and had some fantastic fishing there,” Hensley says. “And the resort itself is spectacular, with one of the most beautiful bars and restaurants I’ve ever seen. The rooms were nice, and the staff was friendly. Bom Bom is definitely a place that I would love to return to,” he says.