MID year has always been the most exciting part of my life. It is during this period that I go for a lot of fishing trips in the east coast, particularly in the southern part of the peninsula.
Over the past six years, I would faithfully return to this part of the country to escape the hustle bustle of city life, and do what I like best — fishing.
The annual journey to the other side of the coast, as I call it, normally starts in mid-May, where I head to Chukai, a town bordering Terengganu and Pahang, for squid jigging. This is followed by trips to Rompin at the end of June or early July to catch the sailfish.
I usually continue to fish in the Rompin and Mersing areas until late October, travelling as far as Pulau Au, the island located furthest off the Johor coast in the South China Sea.
Trips to this part of the country
have always been fascinating and memorable.
The road journey itself is so colourful, where one gets to see the countryside, its people and taste the local delicacies along the way.
While Kuala Rompin, a small fishing town situated about four hours from Kuala Lumpur by road, is known among anglers as the spot for sailfish between June and October, not many know that it is one of the 15 greatest locations for this species in the world.
Catching sailfish in Rompin is inexpensive. For less than RM600 per person on a boat of four, one would be able to get two days of fishing.
Known to be the calmest sailfish hot-spot in the world, where one can get a mirror-like sea surface throughout the season, the fish caught here often
average between 20kg and 40kg.
However, the bigger ones can be found further from the shore.
Catching sailfish off Kuala Rompin is not difficult as it is the breeding ground for ikan bilis or anchovies, the favourite food for this species.
What I like about fishing sailfish in Rompin is, each trip here is different.
The enigmatic personalities, their resistance and action in taking the bait, the incredible display of grey hounding, breaking water and tail-dancing, due to the different temperature, as well as wind and water conditions offer a total new experience each time.
There are few techniques to catch sailfish.
One can troll, use the drifting technique with balloons, popping with lures or simply jigging.
Drifting is straightforward and simple but trolling, casting and jigging require a bit of preparation, as one has to pick and choose the right colour lures or skirtings to do the job.
Drifting is the easiest and simplest method to catch the sailfish. Live
baitfish such as Indian mackerel (kembong), yellowtail (selar), sardines and herring (tamban) are used for this type of method.
The live bait must be hooked on its top dorsal, nearer to the upper fin, before it is released into the water. The idea is to allow the fish to swim and as it struggles to make way to the open sea, with a balloon tied between three and four metres from the hook, its swimming motion will send out some sort of signal in the water which attracts the sailfish.
Personally, I would recommend
barbless circle hooks, preferably 4/0, on a 30lb to 60 lb leader, attached to a 30lb or 40lb monofilament or braided line to fish sailfish.
Of course, a medium size multiplier or spinning reel, between 4000 and 4500 series, attached to a medium heavy or heavy is a must.
For casting, deep runners and surface lures, which imitate fish movements, would be effective. A single hook is recommended on these lures.
But watch out for the sudden surge. The energetic run, as fast as 110kmh, offers all the excitement that an angler could ask for when the sailfish takes the bait.
The sailfish would take several dives, as it tries to escape and when it fails, after multiple runs, it returns to the surface to perform tail-dance and dive madly back into the water to dislodge the hook.
But the trick here is to keep the line tension to prevent it from escaping.
The tug of war between the angler and fish would last for a while before the fish can be reeled in.
One also needs to revive the fish, by holding its beak and move the boat forward in a slow speed, to enable the water and oxygen to gush into its mouth, passing through it gills, to revitalize the exhausted fish.
The fish should be released back into the wild once it starts to kick its tail fin.
Catch and release is one way to preserve the population of the sailfish in the Rompin.
This would also ensure that we can return for yet another good year of fishing for this species.