Tahitian Bounty

A couple of trips to the South Pacific fulfill a lifelong dream.

fishing in Tahiti
Fishing in Tahiti is an adventure not many have experienced.Bill Boyce

Few places elicit the spirit of exploration and adventure of the South Pacific. Tahiti and its surrounding atolls epitomize the word pristine as well. From Hemingway to Lerner, McClane to Ted Williams, all the way up to the modern writers of today, few had the opportunity to fish truly pristine waters like those encountered by Zane Grey during his early expeditions. I first read of Grey’s international fishing quests in Tales of Tahitian  Waters. Published in the early 1930s, this book provided a punk junior high school kid looking for book report material a glimpse into the world of big-game fishing. Not only did I get an A on the report, but I also became fascinated with the prospect of going to the South Pacific to fish virgin marlin waters myself. Little did I know that some 40 years later I would find myself on one of the most custom sport-fishers ever built fishing remote Tahitian waters that Grey himself never reached.

fishing in Tahiti
Tahiti is home to the first 1,000-pound sport fish ever caught on rod and reel.John Ashley

All manner of pelagic species make their home in the waters of French Polynesia, including decent-size blue marlin. Tahiti boasts some amazing blue-water fishing; Grey caught the world’s first 1,000-pound sport fish on rod and reel — a blue marlin — off the main island of Tahiti back in 1930. The account of the capture of that fish in his book is mesmerizing, as was the opportunity to fish the very same waters and land blue marlin 80 years later. But the real adventure of fishing the untouched waters that Grey experienced lies in the outer French Polynesian island groups: the Tuamotu Archipelago to the east and the Austral Islands to the south.

fishing in Tahiti
This 155 lb dogtooth was brought boatside after a 38 minute fight.Bill Boyce

Joining us on the trip was Daniel Siu, a local Tahitian businessman and very serious sport angler. He warned me of the giant dogtooth tuna and huge giant trevally we would be catching in and near the coral reef habitats. But no warning can prepare you for what you see and feel when one of these bites. Although I started my career as a tuna biologist and had been lucky enough to catch almost every tuna that swims, I had never caught a dogtooth. I was anxious to pick a fight with one big enough to be worthy of some bragging rights. Hooking them was not the issue; keeping them away from the prolific shark populations found in such remote areas proved to be the problem. The fish fought doggedly for 38 minutes on 80-pound Braid and a five-piece spinning rod and eventually weighed in at 155 pounds. It bit a blue-and-white butterfly jig rigged on the top ring with a Mustad single tuna hook, as opposed to the double dangle hooked rigging.

fishing in Tahiti

Austral Islands

Huge wahoo can be found off the historic island of Tubuai.Bill Boyce

The Austral Islands sit 300 miles south of Tahiti. Among them is the historic island of Tubuai. It's the first place Fletcher Christian took HMS Bounty after the crew mutinied and sent Capt. William Bligh adrift with 18 loyal men in a 23-foot boat (the Bounty's launch). Such history made our journey to the Australs even more intriguing.

Since June is wintertime there, we were not hitting the Austral Islands at the peak season for billfish, but we were confident huge wahoo would be on those high spots, as well as sizable numbers of tuna, including yellowfin, bigeye and dogtooth. Heading southeast, we ran just over 100 miles and made it to the remote President Thiers Bank in the late afternoon and soon made ourselves at home sampling the local wahoo population.

fishing in Tahiti
Scenery is just another perk of fishing in Tahiti.Bill Boyce

Beautiful scenery has made Tahiti and French Polynesia a popular vacation spot for decades. The true beauty of this trip in the showcased itself each night with the incredible anchorages we stumbled upon. Every night, we watched stunning sunsets and stared in amazement at the palm-tree-studded landscapes that only South Pacific island atolls can provide.

fishing in Tahiti
Ultimate Lady, a 90-foot custom catamaran sport-fisher built in New Zealand.Bill Boyce

When fishing Tahitian waters for the last two years, I did so in style. I fished aboard Ultimate Lady, a 90-foot custom catamaran sport-fisher built in New Zealand. Owner Fred Lewis designed the boat to be the world's ultimate long-range fishing platform — I'm pretty sure that he succeeded. Sporting a 33-foot beam, a top speed of 32 knots, a clean wake and great fuel economy, Ultimate Lady backs down at 12 knots and sports an advanced side-scanning sonar.

fishing in Tahiti
The Ultimate Lady meets all your tackle needs.Bill Boyce

When exploring remote areas many miles from assistance of any kind, it's good to have a mothership as your base of operations. Ultimate Lady is just what its name implies: the ultimate long-range sport-fishing boat. It takes charters that cover the entire French Polynesian island chain, and Capt. Tom Francis and crew members Justin and Dan can cater to as many as 10 anglers/divers for extended trips of seven to 10 days. With a range of 5,500 miles, Ultimate Lady can stay out where the fish are biting and keep you there in complete comfort. A complete lineup of excellent tackle is on board, alleviating the need to take tackle on charter flights. For more information, visit ultimatelady.com, or call 661-202-0080.

fishing in Tahiti
Blues weren't hard to come by, especially in the morning hours.Al Maglashan

Our trip was to culminate 140 miles to the northeast on Tahiti but only after fishing for marlin in these “home waters” not far from Grey’s grander catch. Greeted by a wondrous sunrise with Tahiti showcased as the world-class destination it is, we gleefully put the lines out and got the coffee brewing. Within minutes, we raised a large blue that crashed our lures but escaped the hook. An hour later, two blues simultaneously came into the spread. One bit the long; one bit the short, and we hooked up a single for a quick release on a 130.

fishing in Tahiti
Not many places can hold a candle to the beauty of French Polynesia.Bill Boyce

Few places on Earth can match the many dazzling shades of blue and green found in French Polynesia. The people are friendly; the resorts are world-class, and the idyllic islands of Bora Bora and Moorea are perhaps the most famous in the South Pacific. For more information about the islands of Tahiti, check out tahititourism.com, which features current offers from a variety of travel partners, as well as background on the islands, accommodations and excursion information.

fishing in Tahiti
Fishing the Tahitian islands is worth every struggle it takes to plan.Bill Boyce

Yes, the Tahitian islands are remote, but they aren’t uncivilized. Although it might take a little time and some special planning to get to Tahiti, the chance to fish in untouched waters makes up for any travel headaches. My crew and I plan to return to French Polynesia to fish the even more remote Gambier Islands, situated way to the east of Tahiti. What we will catch once we get there is anyone’s guess, but after experiencing Zane Grey-quality expeditions in my trips to the Tuamotu Archipelago and the Austral Islands, I anticipate another epic adventure.