Published Apr 29. 2012 - 11 years ago
Updated or edited Jul 31. 2019

Video review: Itu's Bones

A story about bonefish

A fantastic and in many ways touching story about a bonefish gillnet fisherman who helps his community turn towards guiding bonefish anglers and protect the fantastic bonefish population on his home island in the Pacific. See more on the home page for the DVD and the project.

Carl McNiel
On The Fly
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I honestly didn't know that bonefish were caught commercially and eaten! I came as a bit of a surprise to me to see nets being emptied for bonefish and the fish piled up on the ground and loaded on and off trucks.
I have seen cod, salmon, tuna and many other species treated like this, but I never thought about bonefish in the terms of a consumer fish.
That's of course due to my naivete. The places I have fished for bones, they were protected and I have never seen one served as food and never thought of them as food.
But why shouldn't people catch bones for harvesting? With the number of bonefish I have seen on my few bonefishing trips combined with their behavior it makes good sense. And if they taste good... why not? Which by the way seems to be somewhat a paradox, because obviously they don't really taste good, and the name bonefish? It seems to have a reason. But still: people eat them, and on the island Aitutaki, a Pacific island off Cook Islands they seem to be the delicacy!

But there's a good reason not to catch the bones commercially, and that's economy!
This video tells the story about a project where a local, commercial gillnet fishing for bonefish is replaced by tourism and sportfishing for the same fish.
Itu and his family are targeted as the ones who will be persuaded by filmmaker Carl McNiel to drop netting and take up guiding in stead. Itu tells that he hopes he will be the last generation of netters and that he will teach his kids to guide and not to net.
We follow him as he attends and teaches on a guiding school, learns how to spool on line, rig rods, tie knots and not least cast.
Itu builds a flats boat and equips it with all the extras needed, and once The Silver Rocket is ready, it's as good as any flats boat I have seen, and way better looking and more advanced than any boat I have fished from in Mexico and Belize.

Read the story behind the DVD in this interview with Carl McNiel.

There's lots of fishing shown, and some huge bones caught, but also a lot of poling, spotting and casting. Actually Carl McNiel says at one point that the fish seem too illusive to build a whole business around, which of course is a major problem in a project where the whole idea is to catch the fish on a rod.
But what changes their luck is The Crazy Itu, the fly that Itu and Carl tie before a trip, combined with some changed tactics where they start targeting foraging bonefish. Soon they start catching fish consistently and prove to themselves that this might not be a totally crazy idea.
Itu poles McNiel around, and he does a fantastic job of locating and spotting fish. Something that of course comes from making a living from catching these fish.
At one point everything comes together, and there's a double hookup - one angler with a push pole the other one with a camera, and both with fish and bent rods at the same time.
The video also features some of the best closeup video of swimming and foraging bonefish I have seen, from above the surface, underwater and even as a bonefish-mounted camera!

An important part of the video is the more documentary-like part where we meet the island inhabitants and follow the process of convincing them that recreational fishing and guiding might actually be a batter way of utilizing the bonefish resources on the island, more sustainable, better paying and with a loot of spinoff in the form of general non-fishing tourism. You can of course argue that "spoiling" a pristine Pacific island with hordes of tourists is exactly that - spoiling it. But if it comes to making a living, money doesn't smell, and in ma part of the world where the resources are few and the jobs even fewer, basing a living on sensible tourism and sustainable use of the natural resource, namely the bonefish, makes very good sense.
And the bonefish seem to be plenty and not least large. Itu talks about 10 kilo or 20lbs bonefish as common and tells that he has seen fish in the 18-19 kilos or up towards 40 lbs! True trophies and most likely enough to tempt many a bonefish angler.

I find this a very touching story in many ways. It does very little to lecture or moralize, but simply tells the story in a factual and very entertaining way. And of course the location is pretty as can be, the water, the island, the kids, the fishing and the fish.
It almost goes without saying, but of course the filming and production is exquisite! This is after all made by the people behind "Once in a Blue Moon" one of the best fishing videos in the recent years, and this lives up to the expectations in every way. Props out to Carl McNiel as well as his sidekicks Earl Kingi and Jeane Ackley who all contribute well composed and dynamic images that come together to a beautiful display of this breathtaking place.
They tell the story visually and together with a great narrative - from Carl McNiel commenting, but first and foremost from the dialog and connection between Carl and Itu. Chatting, silent, frustrated, happy and obviously having a great understanding of each other as they switch roles back and forth being guide and client on Itu's boat the Silver Rocket.

Altogether a very educating story, and the tale of a project that can hopefully turn a devastating commercial fishing into a sustainable and economically better way of using the abundance of fish.


Bonefish E2's way - Itu's guiding business with contact information.
On The Fly Productions - Carl McNiel's video producrtion company and a source for the DVD.
Itu's Bones - the web site set up for the video and the project.
An interview with Carl McNiel about the video.


I have fished with I...

I have fished with Itu and he is a great guy, the fishing in the lagoon on Aitutaki is superb and the lagoon is easily big enough for the number of tourists to at least double without any undue crowding.
I wish him well in his guiding business and would say to anyone thinking of going to Aitutaki, go, you will love it, it truly is a little piece of paradise.
All the best.


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