Lay of the Land
Aitutaki stands alone in the Pacific ocean some 45 minutes flying time from the gateway of Rarotonga. It is a secluded paradise. The top travel companies rate Aitutaki as one of the most beautiful Islands in the world.
Aitutaki is made up of one large volcanic Island (Aitutaki) and several smaller islands, (motu) that are strung along the eastern shore of the lagoon “like a string of pearls”. Two of the motu are volcanic , the rest coral. The vast lagoon is shallow with an average depth of only 15 feet, and has a mainly sand and coral marl bottom. Coral heads throughout make boating hazardous. There is one access to the open ocean where a narrow channel and a hole has been blasted through the coral. Sand beaches and associated flats abound and are safe to wade. Access is easy by boat to the vast flats to the south and even on foot around the main island there is enough flats fishing to last a week or two.
Where to Fish
Habitation is on Aitutaki Island. The rest of the islands are largely devoid of life. While there is good fishing near the accommodations the best flats fishing is in the remote south eastern end of the lagoon. This is only available by boat. Some famous fishing spots are within easy walking distance of where you may stay though, places like the Town Flat, Inano Flat, Samades Flat, the Causeway, and a wealth of water all around the large island is available for DIY fishers. The ocean flats at this end of the atoll are not often fished. There are miles of ankle to thigh deep waters teeming with all sorts of fish, all keen on taking a fly. Bonefish, giant and bluefin trevally rule the waters but there are many types of parrot fish, wrasse, goat fish, snappers, queenfish, milkfish, various cod and flounders ready for some fun. It is interesting that no sharks enter the lagoon. That makes for comfortable fishing.
A guide is recommended to visit the southern end of the lagoon and the renowned flats of One Foot Island, Rapota and Moturakau as well as other likely spots. The guides have boats to whisk you down the lagoon and to pole you to fish if you want to do it that way. On a guided trip you might like to experience “Fishing the Milk”. This is great fishing where you hunt for murky, milky waters which indicate that bonefish and other species are digging for food. You can drift through and hold on tight, or you may like to cast sinking lines and heavy flies to the milky areas. This is almost a certainty if someone wants to catch their first bonefish.
When tackling up for Aitutaki you need to keep in mind that the bonefish here are some of the biggest in the world. Ten pound fish are caught every week and some will run up to 14 to 15lb. You need plenty of backing on reels. Flies can be the worldwide favourites and all colours will catch bonefish. The only outstanding fly colour is orange. Crazy Charlies, Gotchas and Christmas Island Specials all fish well. Make sure you have a few with heavy lead eyes. Most fishing can be done with a Tropical slow sinking line to beat the wind and sink the line quick, Fast lines like the Rio Bonefish floater can be handy for still days. Take spare lines as there are none available on location and a big bonefish will strip you sooner or later. # 9 weight rods and lines are recommended due to the wind that can blow there, but pack a seven weight as well for still days. Normal wading gear with solid soles, polarised sunglasses and a good hat are mandatory. Multi-piece rods are easiest to live with.
Success fishing the flats can be varied. There are times when bonefish leave the shallows. This could be due to water and weather temperature fluctuations. Low reef around the lagoon also allows a big spill of ocean water into the sheltered lagoon at times of big seas and that may affect the fishing. Other times you will find good numbers of bonefish cruising and tailing in the shallows. Aitutaki bonefish on the flats are generally loners but can be found in the lagoon in schools of hundreds at times. The edges of the flats fish best where they are wadable. Often bones will cruise up on to the flat for a minute then head back to the deep. The wading on some flats, while safe, can be fairly deep. It gets difficult to spot fish when you are waist deep.
Big trevally make a good distraction and you will see them up on the flats sometimes. These are Giant trevally in the 60 to 100lb range. A bit disconcerting when you are in deep. The guides tell us that they chase all the bonefish off the flats and when they see one ,they will move away from that flat. The local guides offer poled fishing and this will get you casting in areas where few have fished.
The DIY fisher has miles of flats around Aitutaki Island to explore without worrying about a boat. You can hire a car or scooter and access flats around the island.
Offshore fishing is available and best booked once you are there. Dogtooth, skipjack and yellowfin tuna, trevally, sailfish, wahoo and marlin are all present at one time or another. Check with Mike at Black Pearl Charters or Itu Davey at Itu’s Way guide service.
Where to Stay
Accommodation is plentiful and varied. There are three luxury resorts and a number of motel type lodges to choose from. Prices vary too. So you should be able to find something to suit on Trip Advisor or a similar site. This writer stays at Inano Beach Bungalows. This is right on the water and within walking distance of three places to eat. We can fish right outside the front door. The Inano Flat is a tricky wade but has regular tailers that you can see from your bungalow.
Eat at Koru Café for breakfast and The Boat Shed or Samades for dinner, all are close by. To get around the island to the town, wharf and associated flats you will need a ride. On that side of the island are other places to stay and a couple of restaurants. Make a visit to the Sportfishing Club on the wharf.
Aitutaki gets a 10 if only because it is a great place to do nothing in the nicest location available.
There are beach activities like wind surfing, SUP and swimming.
The Lagoon boat cruise to One Foot Island is not to be missed. It is a day trip with lunch supplied and great fun and entertainment by the staff. There are gardens to visit, walks and cultural spots to visit. The locals are really friendly and there is a limited amount of shopping available. Shell collecting is fun but check to see if you are allowed to take them home.
A cold beer or a freshly picked coconut in the shade of a palm on the edge of the lagoon at Aitutaki might just be the best situation you can ever get yourself into.