As we say catch-ya later to the end of winter it’s time to start thinking about some awesome activities to dive into this spring, and sport fishing off the pristine coastlines of Papua New Guinea sounds like a good place to start!

Hidden in a picturesque cove between East and West New Britain is a secluded, yet renowned Sport Fishing and eco-tourism lodge. Baia Sports Fishing Lodge is owned and operated by keen fisherman Riccard Reimann and this is my host for this trip. He tells me that lying in the Pandi and network of unchartered rivers, are the elusive Black Bass. The Black and Spottail Bass, both esteemed trophy fish among expert anglers, are abundant in these jungle rivers.  Like the majestic Mt Ulavun, which towers ahead of us, the beasts here are big – some even reaching over 50 pounds! However, I am reminded time and time again that opportunity favours the brave and only patience and skill will land these larger ones. Upon arrival I unpack my gear into one of the six rooms at the Baia Lodge, all with comfortable twin singles and pull up to the fridge at the bar to grab a cold one.

From the bar the view is amazing.  The calm ocean of the Bismark Sea stretches ahead, meeting the land of the East New Britain coastline.  But the fish we’re hunting for aren’t hiding in the ocean.   In the coming days we will explore the several river systems, each with their own characteristics and each delivering a different and challenging arena to take on these river brutes.

Sport Fishing in PNG is a major draw card for tourists worldwide and a largely untapped industry, making Sport Fishing businesses here few and far between. The fact that these lodges are scattered throughout the country, isolated from competition, makes them that much more appealing to travellers who crave adventure in quiet lands, with high action on the waters.

Baia Sports Fishing Lodge has been standing here on smooth sands for the last 12 years and is named after the village which lies just a short walk away. The eco-tourism business brought here has created a self-sustaining cycle for the people of Baia Village, where income generated is used to improve educational facilities at their local school, purchase sporting equipment, install rain water tanks, improve the medical outpost and allow the maintenance of the community church – a place of congregation for the entire village.

As well as benefitting the beautiful people here, the industry has allowed a team from Townsville’s James Cook University to conduct academic research into the Black and Spottail Bass. The team, comprised of students and professors, are now into their third year of study into the Bass’ breeding habits and  movement throughout river systems. The results are beginning to bring to light, some of the secrets that surround the infamous Black and Spottail Bass.

Based at the lodge, the team visit rivers daily, tagging Bass and installing underwater receivers in prominent passageways which capture the signals of tagged fish whenever they pass by. Exciting discoveries are now being documented, all with the common goal to promote the conservation of both these endemic species and their habitats.  Logging is now the biggest threat to our river systems, with soil erosion and sedimentation destroying the rivers and the life within them.

Riccard reminds me that the Bass puts up one hell of a fight against any angler lucky enough to tangle with them, yet they are a very vulnerable species that require protection and conservation. These magnificent fish are the very foundation of a sustainable eco business venture which can support the livelihood of many.

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