June 22, 2018 Last Updated 1:53 pm

* Pop Till You Drop – Andaman Islands

Stan Ryan completes another of his globe trotting adventures.... The Andaman Islands! Planning and preparation are a must. Being switched on when on location is important....


Away back in October 2016 the usual group of anglers met to look at a possible trip to far off lands with big fish. Finally eight anglers agreed on a trip to the Andaman Islands.  This is an archipelago consisting of 572 islands in the Bay of Bengal. They are owned by India but are actually nearer to Myanmar and Thailand. Some of the islands are occupied by tribes that are still hunter-gatherers and have been known to attack and kill people that have tried to land on their island!!

We chose Sportquest Holidays to organize everything. They would organize flights as well as our fishing trip.

The plan was to catch big Giant Trevally , Dogtooth Tuna plus other species. March 2018 was the date set for out expedition. This allowed time to save for such an expensive trip. All told this trip was going to cost €3785 plus some other expected extras. You pay your money, you take your chances but you stack things as much in your favour as you can!

Planning and Excitement

The buildup and planning for any trip begins when you decide to take the plunge. Our research began online and we looked for reports and information.

We looked at Sportquest Holidays and Game fishing Asia websites….loads of GT’s and big Dogtooth Tunas. Enough to whet anyone’s appetite…

Next was choosing the right gear. Gear selection when heading to the tropics is crucial. You are going to remote parts of the planet so your gear needs to be up to the fight it’s not like you can replenish easily. Popping and jigging rods and reels were available for hire from Game Fishing Asia according to their website. This is a great service as it cuts down on the equipment each has to carry and check-in; however, this turned out not to be the case…..more on this later. We still had to provide lures, monofilament line and hooks, terminal tackle if you will.

There are only a few companies in the UK that provide the lures required, Jigabite and Rok Max are two of the better outfits.   Terry Smith of Jigabite has fished the Andaman’s and was both knowledgeable and helpful. He sent us a full list or all lures, hooks, line, split rings and swivels. We also bought some poppers from Pecheur.com in France. Pecheur have a huge selection of poplar tackle and cater for all types of angling.

Fellow Fishermen

As it turned out there was another group from Ireland heading out, in February 2018, a month before us and so we met to swap information. It makes sense to pool information and resources.  Steve, Neil, Padraic and Sean are well known experienced anglers and had done a huge amount of research,  much more research than we had.  We even missed one of the Irish international rugby matches for the meeting!!!  But it was worth it.

Most of us had fished in various places abroad, including Africa, South / Central/ North America but a new venue means different tactics.

We agreed that we would be in contact and that they would give us any tips required for our trip when they came back.

Forward a few weeks and we met Steve, after their trip, with loads of photos of huge GT’s and other species. The bare bones of the trip was:  The first day the group fished out of Port Blair, which is the capital of the South Andaman Island, where Game fishing Asia have their office and accommodation. They caught 4 GT’s popping and 16 other fish jigging. For the next five days they were brought to the Little Andaman Island where they popped most of the time and landed over 140 fish including some huge GT’s up to 48Kg. The photos say it all. It looks an excellent trip.

Steve did say that the popping is hard work and gave us some tips.

I sent an email to Sportquest outlining a possible fishing itinerary for our group.  We wanted 2 days popping in the Little Andaman like the other group and would do mixed fishing for the remainder. Our contact, Paul, there said “ If you have a word with the guides when you get there they will arrange for you to fish where you want”.

The Flights

Time rolled by quickly and we set off on a long trip. …Dublin- Dubai, Dubai- Chennai with Emirates Airlines and then on to Port Blair with Jet Airways. Door to door took 25 hours. However, Emirates are super and with the good selection of films time passed quickly. Add in a glass or 4 of wine followed by a snooze and we were in India before we knew it. There is a lot of paperwork on arrival in Chennai but the people there are very polite.

Approaching our final destination, the islands seen from the window of the plane looked absolutely spectacular. The sea was a beautiful turquoise colour and the islands themselves were a luscious green. It was hard to contain the excitement and building anticipation.

Port Blair

Accommodation & Game Fishing Asia Meeting

The accommodation at Port Blair was first rate. Each ensuite bedroom has 2 comfortable single beds and is air-conditioned. The living / eating area is spacious and spotless and leads onto a large balcony with beautiful views of the sea.

Naturally, we were tired on arrival and sat down to have a cool beer on the balcony. We had ordered a week’s supply of local Kingfisher beer in advance and at a cost of $3 per pint bottle it was very reasonable.

So far all was going very well but then we had a few bits of bad news:

  • They did not have enough rods and reels for us! We needed 8 popping and 8 jigging rods plus reels for each. Fortunately, I had brought 3 good reels and Eamon 1. By dividing into 2 groups we managed to have one group that had popping rods and the other with trolling and jigging rods. Not ideal but we should be able to cope


  • Pratap, one of the managers, informed us that the fishing in the Port Blair area was not what it once was when they started business there 12 years ago. There are now 7 different angling companies operating there and this has taken its toll on the fish.


  • I asked about going to the Little Andaman for 2 days fishing. He asked for an extra $300 each. To me this was absolutely scandalous. Nobody was willing to pay the extra money and rightly so.


Ever have that sinking feeling in your stomach!!! I had suggested the trip and felt guilty already. We had paid a large amount of money, over €30,000 between us and now Game Fishing Asia wanted more. I explained that our friends had actually had 5 days fishing in the Little Andamans and were not charged for this. Pat, the manager from the UK came back to me the next evening to say that they had actually only spent 3 days there according to the logbook. Had he not heard of mobile phones?!!! I immediately contacted Steve who confirmed that 5 days and he was shocked to hear that Game Fishing Asia were now looking for an extra $300 each. Pat agreed when I told him that he was incorrect but there was no offer made to bring us where we wanted to go.

Looking back on it I should really have contacted Sportquest about this.

Moving quickly on we went down to the boats for 6.30am the following morning.



The popping group were on a 37ft centre console boat powered by 2 X 250HP engines and those jigging and trolling had a 32ft centre console boat powered by 2X200 HP . All engines were 4 stroke Yamahas. Both had the best of electronics and gear on board.




The boats travelled quickly to our initial destination. The water was crystal clear and we could see the bottom clearly even in fairly deep water. It was just paradise.


Using large poppers is not easy and takes a while to master the techniques. Casting a weight of 135-180gm requires determination and some amount of skill. Popping involves chucking the popper as far as possible. The next stage is to get the lure to create as much disturbance as possible.  Our skipper, Rama, gave demonstrations and was an excellent teacher. We were quite proficient in a couple of hours.

We popped and popped and popped and end of the day managed to catch one small GT and barracuda between us.

The other boat managed 5 fish for their day trolling and jigging.

Yep it looked like Pratap was right when he said that the area was overfished.

The next part of this report refers to the popping group only. The second group were happy with their results from jigging and trolling. They got lots of species and some very nice fish.

Day 2

Our boat travelled further afield and fished around 2 magnificent islands. This proved to be a more productive day and we managed 7 GT’s and a very nice Bohar snapper. I actually hooked 2 GT’s together on the same popper.

There is no other fish that can compare to a Giant Trevally in strength. The initial take is savage and just holding onto the rod is a job in itself. The reels are loaded with 100lb braid with a 200lb leader and the drags are virtually locked down.

The fight that ensues is unbelievable and extremely exciting. Many anglers that catch one GT and become addicted to this type of fishing and it is easy to see why. The minute the fish grabs the lure the hook has to be set by striking and slack line must never be allowed or the fish is off. All hooks are barbless.

Day 3

We travelled to an area called the Invisible Bank. The seas swirled around masses of rock rising up from the sea bed. Bait balls could be clearly seen in quantities and the bigger fish should have been feeding but weren’t interested in our poppers.  Our skipper managed a few nice jobfish on dead bait. Later we trolled some plugs and caught some small dogtooth tuna and barracuda. Overall our boat had a very quiet day.


Day 4 & 5

We managed a few fish popping. However, it is very long day throwing big lures all day for a few fish. If we had jigging rods it would have been possible do a bit of slow jigging which is less demanding on the system. We would probably have caught more fish.

The manager and crew had a meeting every evening to discuss the events of the day. We were always asked how we got on. I made no bones about saying that it was poor and that we should have been brought to the Little Andamans.

Eventually, Pat, who was the manager from the UK there conceded that we should go to the Little Andaman for our last day’s fishing.

Day 6

We set off at 5am for a 2.5 hour journey to our destination. At last we might get a shot at some decent fishing.

On arrival Rama, our skipper immediately saw bait balls . These are not like our fry jumping everywhere. Very often a big yellow / gold coloured patch can be seen in the water. When attacked by predators then the fish can be seen to jump. Other times there is a mild disturbance on the water…Rama called it “nervous water”.  Our boat would approach the bait slowly and we would cast poppers towards it.

There was action almost immediately. Our arms were nearly falling off after 5 previous days non-stop popping but we kept flinging lures out in the hopes of another GT. We actually saw schools of GT’s swimming around….even under the boat. After over 4 hours we had landed 9 GT’s and had either lost or had follows from 13 others. I have no doubt that had we had a full day in this area we could easily have hooked over 20 GT’s. The fish were much bigger there and really wolfed the poppers into their mouths. It was simply marvelous.

Well it was great to have a short while at such a marvelous fishery but such a pity that we did not get 2 days there as we requested.

The Post Mortem

On returning home I sent a note to Sportquest and Paul rang me. He was shocked that we had not been brought to the Little Andaman and that Game Fishing Asia did not have enough gear. Paul said that there is a new company working in the Andaman’s in the near future and that they will deal with them from next year but will NOT be working with Game Fishing Asia.

Of course when I sent a message to Game Fishing Asia they blamed Sportquest.

I have to say that we found Sportquest to be very professional at all times. Also, one of our group had to go home after the first day and they helped sort it out immediately.

My belief is that in certain parts of the Andaman Islands there is excellent fishing and given the right guides and boats the GT fishing cannot be beaten. However, there is a serious problem with Game Fishing Asia. Telling people that Port Blair is over fished when they arrive and then refusing to bring them to the good fishing area is just not on. Having 4 boats that cost lots of money and not having enough rods and reels is just ridiculous.


Editor’s Note:

It would be clear that when planning an expedition fishing abroad it pays to research your trip. It is important to convey  your expectations to your organiser. At that stage it should be clear if everybody’s expectations are within reason. While fishing is a game of chance you have to be put into the best possible areas to catch your fish.

Extra Tip

Even through the GT’s are extremely strong we lost no poppers because of the line used. We had a huge array of poppers with us and only used a fraction of them. The 135 , 150 and 180 gm Cubera caught a lot of the fish. I think that  3 or 4 poppers each is enough. Jigs are reasonable cheap and again 3 speed jigs and 3 slow jigs should be adequate.

Collage of Photos

The photos can be viewed at

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