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.