An angler with a 2.5kg parrotfish caught in the reef off Pekan.
FIGHTING the parrotfish is not as easy as it seems. The real challenge comes when you are reeling in the catch.
More often than not, the fish would win the tug of war, especially when simple fishing rules are ignored.
Parrotfish or bayan, as it is known locally, is a group of brilliantly coloured fish that live on corals or feed on small organisms along our shores.
While they can be found on both sides of our coasts and just about anywhere in the world, there are some 50 different species in Malaysia.
Among the most sought-after species for local anglers is the luminous green variety with a white belly. Aside from the colours, this fish can easily be identified by its fused and protruding teeth.
While parrotfish found nearer to the shore are much smaller in size, weighing less than a kilogram or so, those found further out in the open sea can be big – as heavy as three to five kilos.
The parrotfish thrives in our east coast, especially in areas where there are patches of dense coral reef.
Bayan or ang koh li, as it is known among the Chinese, is strong, fast and puts up a brutal fight as soon as it takes the bait.
Known as the bull of the sea among anglers, the fish would forcefully wrestle its way back into the corals to take refuge in its bid to escape.
This poses a real test to an angler’s skills.
When fishing for parrotfish, one has to stay alert all the time and constantly feel the line for a light nibble.
You have to react quickly if there is a sudden tug as the line spools out. A fast retrieval of the rod is needed after setting the hook to prevent the fish from running into the corals.
One also has to use a heavier line, as the fish has the ability to take off in a surge and snap the line among the sharp corals.
The parrotfish is a powerful diver and strong wrestler. When hooked, it usually makes a series of forceful manoeuvres to free itself.
The fish, which has the ability to crack corals with its powerful teeth, would fight continuously until it loses strength.
Giving the fish a rest or a short break would be a mistake as this may just allow it to regain energy and fight strongly again.
A heavy or medium-heavy rod is recommended. I prefer a boat rod, which is shorter and can work quickly on the fish.
I normally use a 30lb or 40lb line on a bait-caster with a heavier leader on the main line. The leader is anywhere between 50lb and 80lb, and about 2.5m long.
A semi-circle spreader is used to secure the main line and the leader. The longer leader is to allow the bait to flip freely, imitating fish swimming action.
For parrotfish, the monofilament line is highly recommended. Braided lines can be easily cut by the sharp corals or barnacles.
The parrotfish also has a strong and thick jaw. Therefore, a sharp hook is needed.
Never mind the normal bait; you will want to use mud crabs or huge prawns. They are the best bait to lure the fish.
One can use the entire crab or cut it into two pieces if it is too big for the bait.
The trick to being successful at parrotfish fishing is to fight the species in mid-water. Wrestling with the parrotfish can be a good and memorable experience for any beginner and even the hardcore angler.
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