Words by Paul Shannon
|Paul Shannon - Ascension Island Yellowfin Tuna|
The team comprised of Kitt Steen, the owner of the Yum Thai restaurants in Durban North and Umhlanga, who was our chef. Dion Kuter, a water purification specialist and our trip organizer. Andy Deckwash, our boating engineer. And I was the “wheeler-dealer” from Sparesboyz. All of us are ex-underwater hockey players who have been diving together for over 25 years. Whilst we are not competitive divers, we do always enter into a competition between ourselves for the biggest fish. This time the prize was to be a really good single malt whiskey. A fair deal, we thought.
We planned on doing a trip to either of the Lazarus Banks in Northern Mozambique or possibly West Africa. Then Dion came up with an out-of-the-box exploration; hunting big Tuna of Ascension Island. Game on!
There was a lot of planning which was mostly carried out by Dion. The plan was to fly to UK and from there catch a military aircraft to “Ascension Island”, a remote location just south of the Equator with its nearest neighbour being West Africa, which is approximately about 1600km away. How secluded is Ascension Island? It has been quoted as the most desolate place on earth, so that should help you paint a picture. It now has approximately 880 inhabitants (all on a 2 year contract) and it covers an area of approximately 88 square kilometres. Part of the planning involved obtaining MI 5 clearance, which was a worrying factor as one of our members, Kitt Steen, an ex-Rhodesian who has had a questionable past. Thankfully, our fears were allayed when we were all cleared for departure from Brize Norton military base.
|Steve Ellis testing the first MAMBA Roller Gun|
I paid a few visits to Rob Allen at the Dive Factory and placed orders for 1.5m carbon graphite guns with drop away 7.5m spears and heavy grade Dyneema. We were off to a “gunfight” and certainly couldn’t arrive to the occasion with knives. Sorry Kitt.
A couple of 35L floats and 30m long bungees made up the balance of the arsenal. Dion also ordered a few sardines to feed the fish, 500kg’s all in all, which Steve arranged to have shipped to the island. Then it was fitness time and Dion and I spent days training at the Kings Park Pool. We also met Steve for a pool session to practice with different equipment such as Mamba guns and roller guns; the latter of which Dion started an affair with which lasted the entire trip.
The airport was a laugh with 4 of us having to “gypo” the scales to fall within the allowable weight for an Emirates flight. Then it was the long haul to London via Dubai. From Heathrow we headed straight for Oxford all jammed into a fortunately spacious Mercedes bus. There was some touring done and a brief art museum visit, followed by the short trip to the Brize Norton military base. We arrived at Ascension after an overnight flight where we were met by Colin, a local who has a concession on the island as well as a number of boats for us to use.
|The first look at paradise|
We started to settle and get to the business end of spearing. I got into a big fish and sunk in a great solid shot. I don’t believe in being subtle and letting a fish run until it tires and then hauling it in. I say put in a good shot: hold the pressure, and enjoy the ride and the fight. These fish swim straight down, taking all of your line and popping the float under a couple of times. Often, I would put in a fair amount of effort to retrieve the line only to have the same line taken again by the fish. After about 25 minutes of line-in, line-out we got colour, and Steve went to “settle the fish”. I then pulled the line in and managed to grab this beauty of a Yellowfin, before Steve demonstrated what to do with the long blade knife. The fight on top was a fun, learning experience, to say the least, primarily because the fish was big, strong and difficult to hold. Steve had warned of getting wrapped in the line, as this can be fatal. We carried special cut-away knives for that exact eventuality, but fortunately we experienced no problems. The fish I landed was a big one. It was my biggest game fish by a long shot, and it later weighed in at 83kgs. There was a moment of congratulations and high fives all round; then it was back to the business. I was now content with my catch, and we took it in turns so that each of us could bag a big fish.
|Deon with his 83kg Yellowfin Tuna|
|Deon and an Ascension Island Sailfish|
Ascension Island is an absolutely beautiful place to be and we spent evenings fishing from the beach and catching Black Travelley “shot for shot” until our arms were tired. This was the signal to head for a meal and a drink to wind down after an exhilarating day. I hasten to add that the island also boasts a really cool pub called, The Saints Bar, which needless to say was frequented by all.
Another day dawned and after a morning dive with no big tuna shot, we headed for the shallows to dive in 20-30m water to look for some Wahoo. We were about 100m offshore, and seeing Wahoo, but their presence did not materialise into a catch for the two interested divers, Dion and I. However, our tenacity was rewarded when a monster tuna way over 100kgs came along. Dion was at the ready, and “thunk” his spear set well in the fish from the top, just behind the head. Moans and groans from our top men, Kitt and Deckwash, who wanted to drink rather than perform top man duties. Dion fought the fish for 2 long hours and then…nothing. This is one of the worst feelings for any spearo. All of that training for fitness and practice in the pool came to nil.
|Kitt and another Wahoo|
|Paul & Steve and the record Yellowfin|
Any trip to Ascension would not be complete without a visit to Bird Island. As usual, we headed out in the morning for our boat ride to the other side of the island where were welcomed by this massive rock island jutting out just off the mainland. It is truly spectacular and provides awesome diving. Whilst we never managed to shoot any big Tuna, Dion was lucky enough to see a nice big (really big) Big Eye Tuna swimming on the surface in the 12m depth channel, but unfortunately he missed it. We swam amongst huge shoals of Big Eye Kingfish some in excess of 8kg’s and we also spotted some really big Sea Pike cruising around the island. As is commonplace on Ascension we were constantly surrounded by hundreds of Triggerfish.
|Da Boys up on Green Mountain|
Take an Ascension Trip of a Lifetime go to:
Ascension Island Spearfishing Trips
Ascension Island Spearfishing Trips