3. Asia Spirit
Port: Port Blair, Andaman Islands, India
Vessel name: Asia Spirit
Capacity: Four anglers
Length of trips: Four to 10 days
Getting there: Fly into Calcutta, Mumbai or Chennai, India (you'll need an Indian visa). A nonstop from New York (JFK) to Mumbai takes about 15 hours. Board one of the many daily domestic flights to Port Blair, in the Andaman Islands - about two hours from any of the mainland cities. Capt. John Pearce meets clients at the airport to drive them a short distance to their hotel. Pearce recommends one overnight before departure to clear any formalities and show guests around this historic location, a former British penal colony. Once at Port Blair, everything lies only a short ride away, and the Indian food is top-notch. Quality Western food is also available.
Vessel description: The Asia Spirit is a 47-foot Riviera from Australia, powered by twin Caterpillar marine turbocharged diesels and set up for long-range, live-aboard charters. It's equipped with three cabins - one with a queen-size bed, a second with two single beds that convert to a double and a third with bunks - as well as two heads with showers.
The vessel carries a full complement of Raymarine and Simrad electronics, and the cockpit boasts Rupp outriggers, a Reelax fighting chair, a livewell and 20 rod holders, as well as underwater lights to attract fish.
The teak-lined salon and leather sofas offer comfortable dining and lounging space inside the salon, where there's also a TV and DVD player with an iPod hookup.
Crew info: Capt. John Pearce, originally from the United Kingdom, has lived and worked in Thailand for 20 years. (The Andaman Islands are governed by India, though they're much closer to Thailand. The only available air service to Port Blair is from India.) He earned The Billfish Foundation's Tag and Release Captain of the Year award in 2008 for the Indian Ocean and captured a 1,076-pound blue marlin in Ghana, West Africa, in 2004 to set that country's blue marlin record.
Pearce's crew includes Thai captain Somkiat, who has been with him nearly 20 years, a deckhand and a Thai cook.
Location description: The Andamans form a chain of more than 500 islands in the Bay of Bengal just above the Indian Ocean. Port Blair is the population center; the region was originally populated by aboriginal tribes, followed by British settlers in 1789 and later the Japanese and Indians. Many islands still host tribal people that remain far removed from civilization.
The densely forested, hilly islands lie along a long, broken arc, covering a distance of about 500 miles. The region has never been commercially fished, and strict rules govern boating.
Pearce generally heads northeast from Port Blair, targeting the volcanic Barren and Narcondam islands, 45 and 90 miles away.
Narcondam features several seamounts that produce top marlin catches. Barren offers dogtooth tuna jigging and shark fishing. The vessel trolls for marlin, wahoo and yellowfin tuna between the two destinations.
The Andamans' fishing season runs January through April. Temperatures range from the high 80s to low 90s with very little rain and flat seas.
Fishing description: The early year fishing season corresponds to when blue and black marlin are present in good numbers. In 2009, Pearce released 40 marlin during the short season. At Narcondam, Pearce has raised 10 marlin on a good day, releasing five. The billfish range from 100 to 700 pounds; most are caught on lures, though some are taken on live bait. Sailfish also roam the area.
The Andamans yield non-billfish species, such as yellowfin and dogtooth tuna to 150 pounds, giant trevally, red bass and groupers.
Tackle info: Asia Spirit provides 30- to 130-pound-class stand-up and chair rods with Shimano Tiagra reels, plus popping and jigging outfits - including Shimano Stella and custom spinning reels - a vast selection of lures, teasers and terminal tackle and plenty of Halco products for wahoo and other species. Guests may bring their own gear if they choose.
Cost in U.S. dollars: Trips cost $3,000 per day for a maximum of four anglers, which includes local boat taxes, all food on board, soft drinks and water. Pearce recommends at least a six-day trip; eight-day adventures are most popular.