> POPPING IN PARADISE
Popper fishing in the Maldives is not a new thing. We did it for the first time in 2008. Some did it before, and many more have done it since. Though we followed up with a couple of great group trips – and though we loved the place for its sheer beauty and the impressive variety of species – the destination never really caught on for us. Prices increased to a level that didn’t justify fishing from boats that were either limited in size, speed or both.
Enter Shin Achiwa, a Japanese businessman. After having a long break from fishing he tried popper fishing and got hooked right away. Later, on a vacation to the Maldives, he fished for a few days and fell in love with the place – and especially with its popper fishing!
Being the kind of guy that doesn’t go for the second best, Shin realized after his first few trips that he had to solve the boating problem. Popping from one of the local dhonis wasn’t optimal. Within a month he had found a suited vessel: A 32 foot speedboat with 400HP.
The next step was starting a sport fishing operation, so he could employ the talented young captain Mohamed full time and take popper fishing in the Maldives to a new level. And the following step – in February 2015 – was upgrading to a newly built 37 foot speedboat.
At GetAway Sea Angling we are proud to be partners for Europe and we can now offer a variety of trips with this dedicated crew; from combined speedboat and dhoni live aboard expeditions to short three day trips for clients staying at resorts with their families. For the hard core popping enthusiast we offer longer tailor made trips to the atoll – and accommodation – of choice.
SEASON: Year round.
FLY TO: Male.
Day 1: Arrival in Male, boat transfer to chosen atoll.
Day 2-6: Five full days of fishing.
Day 7: Fishing your way back to Male for a late evening flight home.
Longer, or shorter, trips possible.
From €1990 ($2100) per person for a for a five nights, five days fishing package.
INCLUDED: From five full days of guided fishing (Four anglers on the boat), from five nights at guest house.
NOT INCLUDED: International flights to Male, all meals, gratuities (approx. $100 per angler).
From €2530 ($2700) to €3200 ($3400) per person for a for a six or seven nights, six or seven days remote atoll fishing package.
INCLUDED: From six full days of guided fishing (Four anglers on the boat), from six nights at guest house, return transfers to remote atoll, fuel surcharge.
NOT INCLUDED: International flights to Male, all meals, possible transfers, gratuities (approx. $100 per angler).
The Maldives Popper School
From €2700 ($2850) per person for a for a six nights, six days fishing package.
INCLUDED: Six full days of guided fishing (five anglers + tour leader on the boat), six nights at guest house (or resort), return transfers to remote atoll, fuel surcharge.
99% of the Maldives 90.000 km² is covered by the sea. The remaining 1% is made up of 1190 islands are spread over 26 atolls. Each island is surrounded by reefs and with more than 800 km from North to South (and up to 130 km from East to West) there is a lot of water to fish. Like A LOT!
With our boat based in Malé, roughly in the middle of the Maldives, we can move in any direction to find the best possible fishing. We mainly fish reef edges, either casting on to the reef or fishing the deeper water near the drop offs. All kind of reef species patrol along these edges and with one reef after the other, we rarely spent much time running the boat.
Few fishing grounds – if any – are as beautiful to fish as the Maldives. The combination of clear water, changing depths, all shades of blue and tiny islands with bright white beaches and palm trees is hard to find better anywhere else.
Some atolls are deep on the inside with wider cuts in the reef and here you might even hook off shore species like sailfish or tuna when popping for reef species. At other times we can go off shore chasing yellowfin tuna but most often we stay inside the atolls.
Though the reefs of the Maldives sees an abundance of species the country’s commercial fishery is mainly an off shore fishery for skipjack and yellowfin tuna. Only simple hand lining for grouper is carried out in shore.
We fish from a locally built 37 foot speedboat with 500 HP at the stern. It has a cabin that is very convenient when doing longer transfers or seeking shelter from a torrential tropical rainfall. From the large front deck up to four anglers can fish when rotating between casts. The back end of the boat is best suited for either light tackle spinning or jigging. There are 14 rod holders on the boat’s roof to hold rigged up rods. Speed jigging rods can easily be stored in the cabin until needed. There are usually a diving masks and snorkels on the boat and we strongly recommend that you take a break from fishing and try it. The Maldives offers excellent snorkeling on the edge of the reefs. It is an amazing experience you shouldn’t miss.
Most often we stay at local guesthouses. It’s good value for money and by now we have so many guest house partners that we can move all over the Maldives, rarely fishing one area for more than seven days before relocating for the next week. A great way to keep fishing pressure at a minimum instead of hammering the same spots again and again. The guesthouses are most often located on some of the larger islands. Usually there is also a few restaurants where we can dine after fishing and some small grocery shops. The guesthouses aren’t very luxurious but they are always clean, with air condition and private bath rooms – and really, what more do you need on a fishing trip?
If you prefer the best possible accommodation the Maldives has plenty of resorts. Most have their own private islands and they are located in beautiful surroundings. Here, you can even buy alcohol which is forbidden on the local islands. The downside? The resorts are really expensive and they will raise the cost of your fishing trip significantly! Whether it’s worth it is up to you to decide but don’t forget that you are on the water in most of the light hours of the day anyway so you wont see much of your fancy resort in daylight.
For larger groups (up to 10 persons) we can also add a mothership that accommodates the whole group. You will then have the freedom of staying when the fishing is hot and move to a new area when it is not. Splitting the group in two means that half the group will fish from the mothership and the other half from the speedboat – maybe meeting up for lunch, and change boats for the second part of the day. A pretty cool way to go fishing with your friends!
The Maldives climate provides warm, tropical weather all year round, even during the wet season the temperature averages around the high twenties and low thirties.
The Hulhangu Monsoon season runs from May to November leading to significantly higher rainfall, particularly on the southern islands; this period can see strong winds and fierce storms as well as overcast skies. However, it is still likely visitors will experience long hours of bright sunshine amidst the short, sharp torrential downpours of the monsoon.
The Iruvai dry season sees a reduction in humidity and rainfall starting in January and continuing until April. February and March provide the most sun for those seeking refuge from colder climes back home.
The islands of the Maldives make up the lowest lying country in the world, the highest point stands a mere 2.3 metres above sea level, this in combination with the islands’ equatorial location mean the Maldives climate is constantly hot and humid wherever you are. The average temperature generally ranges between 25°C (77°F) and 31°C (88°F) during the day, falling to 23°C (73°F) at night. Humidity is generally high with the wet season experiencing humidity levels of above 80% on average and the dryer months still as high as 75%; this is somewhat tempered by the sea breeze that can be felt almost anywhere on the small, flat islands that make up the Maldives, particularly during February and March when humidity is at its lowest.
The Maldives location 250 miles (700km) south west of the coast of India leaves the islands vulnerable to weather patterns from the Asian mainland. Despite this, the Maldives are not as affected by monsoon weather as on the subcontinent meaning storms are less frequent and persistent than inland, particularly during the dry season when monsoon winds actually cause a reduction in humidity and drive storm clouds away from the island atolls.
We recommend a quality rod with a casting weight of around 180 grams. That will basically cover all your fishing with poppers and stick baits. There are lots of good rods on the market and for a while we have been fishing new three piece rods. They are much easier for travel as you can fit them into a larger suitcase or duffle bag but being a bit shorter (usually between 7’ 6” and 8 feet) they don’t cast quite as well as the longer (8’6”) two piece rods. Still, we think it’s a fair trade off.
When it comes to reels we think a fixed spool reel like Shimano’s Stella 14000XG (or 10000SW) is the perfect size for the Maldives. There is no need to bring bigger (and heavier) models.
The choice of line is a matter of personal taste. Some prefer 60 lbs braid as long casts can be very effective, with most strikes happening on a long line. However, you will brake it more often than heavier braided lines so we most often fish 80 or 100 lbs.
You can hire quality tackle from GT Fishers but you need to book it with us in advance. This is a great way to try go without the need to buy the expensive tackle before you know that you have signed up for.
You can’t hire lures but you can order a Starter Set with a few well proven poppers and stick baits, a box of quality hooks and split rings and it will be on board the boat when you arrive. Usually, it’s possible to buy extra lures on the boat but we recommend ordering some in advance to make sure they are on board.
Besides GT Fishers own custom made poppers we like Heru Cubera, Dumbell Pop (L), Orion Fraser Pop, Sebile Splasher 190 and especially our favourite Heru Skipjack. Of course, many other poppers in the 100-180 range will work well too. Stick baits of 20 cm and up that will cast well also do really well in. We have fished Gunz (sinking), GT Fisher’s own stickbaits, GT Harrier, Orion Big Foot and many more with success. For some time pink has been a really popular colour in these waters which obviously soon becomes self-perpetuating; there more we now fish pink they more we catch on it. Don’t be a slave by that – other colours can work equally well, or better.
You can also jig in the Maldives but we don’t do it much. However, if you are fishing some of the deeper atolls jigging for dog tooth tunas and other species can be quite good.
NOTE: It’s possible to rent quality tackle for popping and jigging at the lodge. Just inform us so we are sure the have it set up and ready for you when you arrive.
The overseas flights usually arrives in the Maldives early enough that you can transfer to your chosen destination on the same day. Transfers will be either with the fishing boat (small groups), with domestic flights (if you go to an atoll very far from Male and the boat is already waiting for you there), with dhoni (mother ship) or by water taxi. If you are fishing around the North or South Male atolls you are only a boattaxi ride from your chosen accommodation.
There are all sorts of accommodation to choose from in the Maldives. You have already chosen the best one for you so you will either go to one of the many resorts, a mothership or – in most cases – a local guesthouse.