Ipoh has hundreds of lakes that are excellent spots for kayaking and fishing


A group of kayak-fishers unloading three kayaks from a truck to paddle on an ex-mining lake near people’s homes in Ipoh.

Ipoh folk who love kayaking, boating or freshwater fishing have got it made.

They have hundreds of ex-mining pools north and south of their city and some of these water features are right around the corner of their neighbourhoods, right beside their houses even.

Ipoh was nicknamed “The City of Millionaires”; it was the largest exporter of tin in the world and many of its residents were downright rich.

During the nation’s infancy, between the late 1800s and early 1900s, when the Federated Malay States of Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang proposed Kuala Lumpur as its capital, the movers and shakers of Ipoh laughed at the idea and launched an aggressive campaign against it.

The campaign evidently did not work. Kuala Lumpur won the fight and Ipoh today is just the eighth largest city in Malaysia.

But it has lakes galore today as a legacy of the tin mines.

Ipohans can just drive to the next neighbourhood and launch kayaks or boats and have a good day on the water.

Many don’t even need to have 4x4 vehicles, since the ease-of-access to most ex-mining lakes lets them install roof racks on regular cars to carry their water vessels.

A lady kayak-fisher gets a peacock bass in an Ipoh ex-mining lake beside a residential estate.A lady kayak-fisher gets a peacock bass in an Ipoh ex-mining lake beside a residential estate.

Many Ipohans own car topper boats or fishing kayaks.

Car topper boats are small and light enough for you to haul onto a roof rack on top of your car. The fibreglass types are cheaper and heavier, while aluminium ones are much lighter but can cost more than three times more. They usually sit two to three persons.

Fishing kayaks are purpose-built models and new ones are equipped with chairs that have backrests so that you can sit all day in them in relative comfort. There are rails, brackets and mounts for you to install a fish-finder, rod holders, cameras and any other gear you feel necessary.

One such seasoned angler is Vincent Paul, 43, a process engineer in a semiconductor plant near Ipoh.

“I know around 25 people in Ipoh with car topper boats. With kayaks, I’ve lost count. It’s just too easy to keep one at home and they’ve become so cheap over the years,” he said.

Vincent has lived in Ipoh all his life and as a kid, he remembers peering down active tin mines from the roadside and gawking at the massive lorries carrying dirt down below which looked so tiny to him from above.

Today, his kayak is fitted with a high performance fish finder and with that, he is able to ascertain that those mines have now become lakes with a depth of almost 40m (roughly a 10-storey apartment block).

But usually, he said, most ex-mining lakes were a little over 12m (almost four storeys).

“Whenever my fish finder records a depth of 40m and above, I feel fear,” he laughed.

The water colour and even how the surface waves react to the wind is different, said Vincent, and it would give him an ominous feeling.

A kayak-fisher with a good-sized jelawat fish, caught not even 50m from a row of houses.A kayak-fisher with a good-sized jelawat fish, caught not even 50m from a row of houses.

Indeed, he urged people never to take any ex-mining lake as a potential swimming spot because the sides of these lakes can have a sheer drop, while the water may have cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), which can produce harmful cyanotoxins.

“If you swim, you can swallow mouthfuls of the water, unlike us who ride boats and kayaks,” he stressed.

When it comes to lure fishing, full-time angler Gary Wei, 42, who has been fishing for close to 30 years, has specific advice for fishing in the lakes near Ipoh: use tiny lures.

Wei, who lives in Penang, is a product tester for a Malaysian fishing tackle manufacturer that has been in business since 1978.

He regularly visits Ipoh’s ex-mining lakes, which are convenient locations for him to go and launch his kayak to test fishing lures.

Being close to urban areas, he said the fish in these lakes faced high fishing pressure.

“Fish learn, somehow, to be wary of our lures. I don’t know how but decades of fishing taught me that.

“When you sense that the fish are spooked and finicky, switch to small lures,” said Wei, who prefers soft plastic grubs of below 6cm in length, paired with small jighead hooks.

Nonetheless, there are still lakes about an hour’s drive from Ipoh city which harbour monsters: peacock bass of over 50cm long and giant toman exceeding 5kg.

Vincent regularly catches them on weekends and shows off his catches on his social media accounts.

But the background of his photos are always blurred, something he does to prevent others familiar with the landscape to work out which lake the lunkers are in.

This peacock bass, lip-hooked with a 5cm-long soft plastic grub attached to a tiny jighead hook, can be released without much harm.This peacock bass, lip-hooked with a 5cm-long soft plastic grub attached to a tiny jighead hook, can be released without much harm.

“We have to. When we catch big fish and if we show where we caught them, the lake becomes like a market the next weekend,” Vincent laughed.

He only shares his top spots with anglers whom he knows are catch-and- release anglers.

The fishing technique involving lures is such that the angler holds the rod all the time and retrieves the lure after casting to make it look like a juicy prey for predatory fish.

When the predator mouths the lure, the angler feels it instantaneously and gives the rod a sharp flick to set the hook.

This results in the fish being just slightly hooked in the mouth, instead of being hooked in the gills or, worse, gut; which are mortal injuries.

Sports anglers like Vincent and Wei regard their game fish as “worthy opponents” and do not treat them as food fish.

“When you want to eat fish, the wet markets have lots of fish you can buy at good prices.

“The amount of money we have spent on our fishing gear is so much more than the cost of buying fish to eat.

“We don’t go out to catch fish to eat. It is an outdoor activity we love and we hope other anglers realise that in lakes, the fish ecosystem is sensitive so we shouldn’t bag the fish unnecessarily,” said Vincent.

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StarExtra , Outdoors , kayaking


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