Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Are There Plenty More Fish In The Sea ?

Hantu Laut

As promised, it would be churlish of me if I don't deliver the story of my weekend fishing trip.

Sabah is blessed with rich fishing grounds and its close proximity has made it a favourite fishing spot for many fishing kakis (anglers) from as far as Singapore, Peninsula Malaysia and Hong Kong. Going by speedboat would take between forty minutes to an hour to reach the fishing grounds. Overnight fishing would require bigger trawler-type boat which would take between three to four hours from Kota Kinabalu.

Since there were 10 of us we opted for the slow boat which only travels around 8 to 10 knots and is ideal for trolling.

We left KK on a bright sunny morning and trolled all the way towards Mengalum Island.After almost four hours of trolling it was more deep frustrations rather than exhilarating fun as there were still no sign of the elusive marlin and sailfish. Even the more common Spanish mackerel(tenggiri) didn't make an appearance.

The sea was flat calm and looked almost lifeless.Maybe we just have to accept that the open ocean is a mighty big place and not every area in the ocean is jammed with hungry predators.In fact only a small portion of the sea is populated with game fish. These are predators that travel the ocean's highways from their breeding grounds to their place of adulthood and demise which could be thousands of miles apart. Those in Sabah waters are mostly juveniles passing by on their way to other parts of the world's oceans. Therefore, to catch them is a rarity and a dream of every sport anglers.

We were also lucky to have spotted some pilot whales in the vicinity.There were about 4 or 5 of them looking for their usual food, squids and krill (bubuk). The whales always make their annual appearance at this time of the year, usually between March to June.

Fishing in Sabah waters can be as unpredictable as its politicians. The seabeds can spring lots of surprises.

After four hours of zero catch at the end of our trolled lines, we decided and probably a wise move to do bottom fishing. To our surprises, we were catching fish like no body's business. With the excitement of a bumper harvest of bottom fishing we decided to abandon our plan of hunting for the big quarry.

At our first stop we caught respectable amount of 'kerisi bali' (Malay) or 'kim-sein' (Chinese), in English it is called by many names, gold-banded job fish,white snapper or sharptooth snapper.This is considered a good eating fish and popular with the Chinese and occasionally with the Indians for fish head curry.

Erbwest Oil Rig

After about an hour when the activity ceased, we moved to another spot near to Erbwest, an oil rig. This spot produced fish of various species.After ten minutes of catching a dozen of uninspiring species I landed a prize eating fish.It was none other than the much sought after coral trout or sunoh(Bajau,Malay) or chee-sien-pan or tung-sing (Chinese). This is the type of fish you pay hundred of dollars in the seafood restaurants in town.My catch weighs about 2.3 kg which is just a nice size for a small family.It's usually eaten fresh and steamed the Chinese way.

The sea again gave us another shocking surprise.My past experiences tell me that night fishing usually are more active than daylight fishing.This one must be the most horrendous night fishing I have ever experienced in my entire life. After 6 p.m the fish completely stopped biting.We shifted spots at least 5 times during the night and every spot bore nothing.It was zero take for the whole night.

At about daybreak the eerie silence of dawn was deeply shaken by the sound of a ratchet running wild on someone' reel at the back of the boat. Someone shouted "The fish are back". True to his word the fish did come back from that time onwards. We were again catching fish, mostly kerisi bali, groupers and breams.

Something at the bottom of the sea has definitely changed the habitual nature of the fish. What it is, I really don't know. Maybe, the scientists from UMS Sabah should do some research on it.

At about noon we decided to head back home, happy and fully satisfied that all our eskies were full of good eating fish. While on the way we put down two trolling lines and after about an hour and a half into the journey we were alerted by the sound of the ratchet on one of the reels and saw a big splash in the water but was to fast to make out the type of fish. I first thought it was either a marlin or sailfish doing it usual tail walk. However, there was no further jumps when my friend Jimmy was fighting it, so it couldn't be a marlin or sailfish. As he brought the fish nearer the boat I caught a glimpse of it under water. The striking gold and green colour of its body can only unmistakenly be one fish, a dorado or mahe-mahe.

Finally after less than 10 minutes of battling the fish on a 30 lbs line, Jim brought it in.It was a bull dorado. It is a pity, such a beautiful fish should be in an aquarium not in our stomach.

In a small way and when we least expected it, we did have one game fish after all.

Note:Practice catch and release all billfish except in competitions if it is needed for judging purposes.


jeffery said...

Dear HL,

Another fishing kaki here. Glad to hear that you had a good trip.
I just got back from sea fishing off the coast of Kota Bahru, Kelantan. Plenty of sotong and small kerisi. We caught only two tenggiri on live bait..estimated 3kg and 5kg. Next trip will be somewhere off Pulau Langkawi in May.
Hope to hear more fishing story from you especially the one got away..hehehe.

supa said...

I'm not really a fishing fan but I did went for a fishing trip in New Zealand once. We left the jetty at about noon and went straight for the deep sea fishing spot at a volcanic area. Session started at about 6pm, took a break and started at about 9m again. Slept and started again at 6am the next morning. Plenty of big catch there. The biggest fish I caught was something called a blue cod(?) about 1.5m in length. I probably caught 3 of those and some other smaller fishes. It was not the season for marlins (really big ones) or tuna, so no luck. It was fun and lots of fishes for dinner for the next 3 or 4 months. Give it a try if you're ever there. Cost me about RM600 for the boat; crew included.

Hantu Laut said...

The fishing season has just started here.That's when the north east monsoon stopped and the south west monsoon takes over and the sea is much calmer.

You should try Sabah next time and see for yourself the varieties of fish we have here.

Not to worry, I will post my future trips on this blog.

Hantu Laut said...


That's pretty good deal you had for charter of whole boat and crew.

supa said...

That's 600 per person. To charter the whole boat and crew we needed about RM3000.

jeffery said...

Dear HL

I've been to KK once in 1991. Spent two weeks on a boat from KK to Kudat, Sandakan, Lahad Datu , Semporna and finally got off at Tawau.
I had a wonderful time and of course I did some fishing along the way.
I would love to fish in Sabah waters one of these days, but alas...lots of commitments here lah.
The trip to Kota Bahru last weekend was my first in more than seven years.
I normally do freshwater fishing once or twice a month mainly in Pahang.
Ampang, Selangor.

Hantu Laut said...


That sounds more like it.Sorry, I thought you said RM600. for the whole boat.

What makes you to go fishing, if you are not interested ?

Hantu Laut said...


About 3 years ago I went to Rompin,Pahang and joined the Billfish competition.My team came 3rd.There are lots of sailfish in the area but no marlin.

It was a catch and release competition.We released the fish after taking its measurement and photo.The weight was judged based on the measurement shown in the photo.

Fresh water fishing is not popular in Sabah.We only do blue water over here.

Anonymous said...

Dear HL
What size was the Billfish that you caught that landed you in 3rd place? and also what was the size that landed the 1st prize.
I appreciate if .. maybe you could post a photo or two. thanks..

Over here freshwater fishing is very popular because of abandon tin mines. There are hundreds of lakes and ponds in Kinta Valley, Perak.

We caught ikan tongsan (big head carp or silver carp) that weight up to 50kgs from these large lakes.
It can be fun with light tackle and 10lb lines.