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Luring Bonefish in Christmas Island

16 Jun 2017 9:11 AM - Chris Baty learns Christmas Island has loads on offer for lure fisherman
While most people think of flats fishing for Bonefish as solely the realm of the fly angler I decided to spend a bit of time on a recent trip to Christmas Island seeing how successful spin fishing could be for this cagey flats predator.

After several challenging yet fun days of flyfishing I decided to dedicate a day to throwing lures at the bones of Christmas Island. From the get-go I had decided to put in a full day regardless of how successful I was.

The flats of Christmas Island are the home to some of the world's best Bonefishing

I let my fishing partner for the day take the guide and positioned myself on the edge of the flat where it shelved off into deeper water. The thinking here was that I could blind fish the edge while I waited to see fish cruising the flat. I knew that I wouldn't see as many fish without the guides eyes to help but was happy to see how things went.

Up close and personal with the business end of this amazing sportfish.

As we came up onto a shallow coral rubble flat tails appeared through the surface to glint in the morning light. The bones were coming onto the flat with the rising tide and as they dipped their head to feed off the bottom their tails would poke through the surface giving their position away. Noting what the guide was doing I stopped where I was and let the fish feed towards me. With hard, loose coral underfoot moving forward could easily spook these fish with sound. The waiting began.
This solid bonefish found the Cranka Crab irresistible.

Seeing the fish as they tailed was easy but once they continued patrolling and their tail no longer gave their position away I struggled to see them over the mottled bottom. Several fish spooked at close distance that I just hadn't seen. This would have been disappointing except for the fact that Andrew and our guide were having the same lack of success.
Chris checking out the spectacular world class fishery on offer at Christmas Island.

A couple of shots presented themselves and the cranka was sent out to lay a trap, falling far enough in front of the fish not to spook them. The first of these attempts ended with the crab either catching on coral as I manoeuvred it into place or not being seen by a fish that changed directions before getting sight of my offering. 

As often happens in fishing if you stick to something long enough success will follow. A tailing fish showed itself and as it tracked along the bottom I could follow its shadow and see the direction of travel. The cranka landed with a soft plop about 3m in front of the fish and when I thought it was within sight of the crab I gave a very subtle twitch to make the claws wiggle. The reaction of the fish surprised me as it rushed forward and tailed over the Cranka. A quick turn of the handle was all it took to set on that fish and the flat exploded into swirling water and a screaming drag as the fish shot out into deeper water. 

What was immediately obvious was the difference in how the fight felt through spin tackle. 10lb braided line running through the short crisp Nitro rod transmitted every turn, surge and pulse through to my hand more noticeably than with the fly rod. It was the difference between listening to the radio on volume 5 and somebody cranking the dial all the way up to 10. I loved it! Andrew and the guide came over to help the end game and to take a couple of pics. That first fish on spin gear would be my best for the trip at about 5 lb and was the first of 8 bonefish hookups I would have on the Cranka crabs that day.

The floating claws of the Cranka Crab seemed to be the difference between a look and a take.

Towards the end of the day as we waded the flat several Triggerfish started to tail on the flats also. These fish had proved elusive to me on the fly gear but I decided to have a go with the cranka. With our guide Jobu alongside for this one we waded within casting range watching the bright tails stick through the surface and invitingly wave at us. 
One encounter with a Christmas Island Triggerfish saw this Cranka Crab quickly retired hurt at 1 for 1.

The idea was to wait until the fish tailed and then cast past it and off to the side it was facing. Once the crab had settled on the bottom short twitchy movements would slowly bring it closer to the trigger until it hopefully saw the offering. It went like clockwork, the Cranka was noticed fairly quickly and the little trigger zoomed over and tailed on it. That's when things got difficult. I could feel the trigger biting the crab but couldn't get the hooks to find their mark. The mouth on these things is all teeth and I guess they must pull their lips back when they feed meaning there isn't much flesh to grab onto. The fish was keen and continued to attack the crab almost to our feet even pulling it off the coral it got hung up on at one point. As it peeled off and started heading away I quickly checked the cranka before re-casting and noted one of the trebles was missing. The teeth and jaws on these things are so powerful that it had bitten clean through the eye of the hook. With nothing to lose and no time to tie on a fresh lure I re-cast and immediately the trigger was back on the crab. This time the hook found its mark and the calm water erupted as the fish bulldozed across the flat looking for a way to dislodge the irritating morsel stuck to its top lip.
Like something out of 'Finding Nemo' the Triggerfish is a very cool fish to catch.

These creatures are one of the coolest fish to have in hand and this one was no exception. Looking like something out of 'Finding Nemo' they are one fish you really want to catch if you have the chance.

The Cranka had to be retired. Looking like it had been clamped in a vice; teeth marks covered the body, one treble completely missing and the other a mangled mess with only two of the 3 points remaining.

I quickly tied on one of River 2 Sea's Krusty Krabs and cast at the next trigger. The hookup this time was almost immediate, possibly due to this lure sporting a rather large double hook as opposed to the small trebles of the Cranka.......or it could have been coincidence. The fight was over before it really began as the fish raced across the flat and down a hole in the coral that was his home. I did manage to rescue the lure but that was the last action I would see that day.

The home of Triggerfish. Stop them before they get here or it's GAME OVER!

So what's the wrap up here. Would I spin the flats of Christmas Island again? You bet. Would I recommend Christmas Island as a destination for non-fly anglers? Absolutely, if you come from a light lure background and have reasonable casting accuracy this place will blow your mind. Will I be heading back to Christmas Island? For sure, dates are already booked to join our Geelong team's hosted trip in June 2018. How do you go about organising a trip to Christmas Island? Simply check out Angling Adventures for details on how to get there or give our Geelong store a call on 03 52723201 and ask about joining one of their hosted trips.