To make the most of my vacation, I decided to go to Raiatea, at my uncle’s to enjoy some quality time with him and his wife. Teva happens to be a fisherman, he goes offshore daily.
I have always wanted to know what it was like so I took advantage of my stay with them to discover his passion.
The truth is that fishing has always been a big part of Polynesian people’s daily life, so it is no wonder many of them chose to make it a full time job. Fish is indeed a key ingredient of most of our traditional dishes. In French Polynesia, the ocean is swarming with coloful species.
Are you passionate about fishing, craving for adventure? Try the big-game fishing! I take you with me offshore, between the islands of Raiatea and Bora Bora…
Before leaving the house, my uncle gets his fishing gear ready: canes, lures, sardines, ‘ōfāfa’i (lead), his nylons of about 150m to 260m long, the additions of 20 to 100m; good music and some snacks and water to last the whole day.
For my part, I make sure not to forget the sunscreen, my glasses and my cap, because on his boat, there is nowhere to hide from the sun.
As soon as we are all set, we head to the dock for the boat’s technical checks. We warm up the engine and load the cooler with ice flakes. One last chat with the other fishermen to define the fishing zone and there we go. Wait, no… Short stop at the gas station to fill up the cans.
We are heading to the southwest of Taha’a, the vanilla island, towards the Paipai pass. Before leaving the lagoon, my uncle makes a prayer to protect us throughout the day. It is a very common practice in French Polynesia since religion is deeply rooted in our tradition.
Now, let’s get closer to Bora Bora.
Offshore, there are two main ways to fish:
– Trolling (pūtōtō in Tahitian): we tie the lures on to the fishing rods you put in the water. Then we sail at a moderate speed as we wait for a fish to rise to the bait.
– With a buoy (hī pōito in Tahitian) : pieces of sardines are wrapped around the ‘ōfāfa’i with a nylon attached to the hook. The ‘ōfāfa’i is used to drag the bait to the depths, so the tie must be adjusted to ensure that the lead comes off once the nylon is completely unrolled. Besides, the pieces of rolled sardines are also released to attract the preys. Eventually, one must not forget to launch the buoy as it is the signal of a catch. In order to do so, one must also check the direction of the current. You don’t just randomly throw it away…
Today, we start with the buoy fishing by the island of Bora Bora, not far from a FAD (fish aggregating device).
Surprisingly, right in front of the Pearl of the Pacific, we were lucky to witness a spectacular phenomenon… Just before launching the buoys, schools of tuna started to jump on both sides of the boat with the mountain of Bora Bora in the background. It was breathtaking! It instantly put a smile on my face, as it is a very good sign for us: it means there are lots of fish in this area. We launch a buoy, another, up to six. The first buoy start to move about, we come closer and try to catch the fish while a second buoy start shaking. You know what’s most exciting? All the buoys ended up moving about at the very same time. It really was our lucky day… Let’s face it, it requires a lot of strength and patience…
It is quite tedious but with the adrenaline pumping, we forget a bit about the difficulty of the process. It is so satisfying when the fish comes to the surface. Before hauling the tuna out of the ocean, we stun it with a rā’au (stick).
Once all the buoys are back in the boat, we troll towards Raiatea, the sacred island since it’s getting late and it’s time for us to go home. Unfortunately we will not be so lucky this time but with six tuna from 25 to 30 kg, we cannot complain.
It was a memorable experience, which made me want to try fishing on my own. Whenever I get a chance, I go with my uncle offshore.
In my opinion, if you come to the islands of Tahiti, you should definitely spend a day at sea.
Dare to discover the destination from a different perspective !