Aitutaki “bonefish ambassador” Jon Hall who is a US fly fisherman and is popularly known on the island as “Papa Jon,” says that from a business with only one guide, one island fishing business has grown to become a successful venture with six guides and four boats.
“Seven years ago in 2009 I went fishing in Aitutaki and a gentleman from the Ministry of Marine Resources asked me if I would help turn bonefish net fishermen into fishing guides for visitors.
“I agreed and since then I have been returning every year to where we started with just one guide, Itu Davey, and one boat,” Hall says.
The operation has grown into a big bonefishing business known as Bonefish E2’s Way and Hall says he’s proud of what those involved with the venture have achieved.
Each year he returns to Aitutaki, the business has grown larger, he says.
“This year I went fishing with one of the guys who I taught originally, whose name is Shaka, and he has become a great bonefishing guide.
“We caught eight bonefish and the largest weighed 4.5kg. We caught a 4kg fish and two 3.5kg ones and it was a great day of bonefishing. I am so happy that one of the guides who I taught has been able to grasp this skill.”
Bonefishing is a fishing sport with a difference, in that fishermen don’t catch the fish to eat, but go after them purely for the thrill and skills involved in catching them. The fight the fish put up and the difficulty of catching them makes for an exhilarating experience, especially as the wily bonefish is pretty clever, says Hall.
“Bonefish have big eyes and they will look at your fly and from one metre away they will see a hook on the lure and will turn away.
Known as “the silver rocket,” bonefish put up a great struggle when fishermen attempt to bring them to the boat, and when they are released, they quickly swim away.
Hall says it’s a “wild” sport, particularly on Aitutaki, because the average weight of mature bonefish in other countries is just one to 1.5kg.
“Here it’s more than 2.5kg. The species that lives in Aitutaki is different and it is not unusual to catch bonefish weighing two to 3kg.
“And every year I catch at least a 4.5kg fish,” Hall says.