Palmyra Atoll

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Posted by T-Bro on 2013-04-25 15:05:36

Palmyra Atoll Report


Just got back from 5 days of fishing on Palmyra Atoll, in the Line Islands. Privately owned by the Nature Conservancy, I weaseled my way onto one of the trips they offer to high net worth potential donors and got to experience an unbelievable couple of days of fishing.

Flew to Honolulu from Denver last Wednesday and spent the night in Waikiki. Then left early the next AM for the FBO, where we jumped on a Gulfstream 2 for the 2.5 hour flight down to Palmyra. Just prior to WWII, the Navy took the island from its owners and constructed a base there to provide a refueling station for planes fighting in the South Pacific. Untold hundreds of millions of pounds of coral was blown up, creating a deep water channel through the coral ringing the island and allowing large ships to drop off heavy equipment. Much of the dredged material was used to build a mile long landing strip for large planes and also to build causeways across the interior lagoons. After the war, the island was abandoned.

Purchased in 1999 by the Nature Conservancy, the atoll has been used as a research station to study intact coral systems and very high concentrations of sharks and reef fishes. Many of the islands serve as breeding areas for boobies, terns, tropic birds, and frigate birds. In addition, the flats and lagoons hold large populations of bonefish, triggerfish, giant and blue trevally. There are also milkfish, but we did not get any shots. The island is amazing, and with the recent eradication of the rats that were introduced during the Navy occupation, the native cocount crabs have been able to rebound.

In a nutshell, the fishing was insane. Not a lot of bonefish, but the ones we caught were largely singles and doubles and in the 3-9 pound range. Caught a huge trevally that went 45 pounds on my 12 weight. At the beginning of the fight, a grey reef shark came up on the flat and tried to bite my leg. The GoPro video taken by guide Mike Hennessy of Oahu captured the attack and my graceful aerial 360 while still fighting the GT. Hope to get the video soon to share. During the trip, I caught 4 more GTs that ranged in size from 15-25 pounds. Also caught a few emperor fish, which are great fights on a 9 or 10 weight.

The real highlight was the presence of triggerfish, both peach faced and triton, that would tail in the coral flats and give you shots if you were an accurate caster. I could get the fly close to them, but did not figure out the right amount of pressure until the last day. I kept setting the hook with a strip set, like you would on a permit, but it kept pulling the hook out of their very hard mouths. The trick was just to come tight and wait for them to take and hook themselves. Something to look forward to on future trips.

Anyway, if any of you have connections to TNC or wealthy friends that are conservation minded, I would heartily endorse this experience. Snorkeling was insane, and they have a 25' Davis that they use to take you outside the reef for scuba or offshore fishing. Caught a 55lb. ahi and a 40 lb. ono on a trolled handline, which was necessary because the sharks were voracious and would of eaten the fish before you could get it in on conventional tackle.

Buena suerte,


Enjoy the photos. For perspective, I am 6'2" and 235#.

[click here to display pictures]

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