ROSPAIZAL Ismail’s transformation from a humble coconut water seller to a seasoned kayak fisher exemplifies the passion and dedication enthusiasts bring to their hobbies.
In 2017, driven by his love for fishing, the 42-year-old father of three from Kulim, Kedah, made a bold decision to invest in a kayak.
What began as a pastime soon burgeoned into a full-time occupation as he hauled in abundant catches from his kayak, prompting him to shutter his coconut juice stall.
Now, equipped with an array of kayaks tailored to diverse water conditions, Rospaizal navigates rivers, lakes, and seas with finesse.
“Shorter kayaks are more manoeuvrable. So they are good for rivers or lakes with lots of narrow channels,” Rospaizal elaborates.
“Longer kayaks are better for straight-line speed, so they are best to use at sea.”
His kayaks range from 3.5m to almost 4m long with varying widths, which affect how well they cut through waves and currents.
“I’ve been fishing all my life, since I was a boy, but it was only a hobby.
“I regularly chartered boats with friends, and the rentals can be expensive.
“After I got my first kayak, my fishing costs became super low. That is how I could sell my catches for a good profit,” he said.
Sharing his expertise generously, Rospaizal employs chest- and kayak-mounted cameras to document his fishing expeditions.
Through his online persona, Faiz Panjang, he disseminates insights into locating fish-rich spots, including the productive waters beneath the second Penang bridge.
Using the bridge’s strategic positioning to exploit tidal currents, Rospaizal demonstrates the efficacy of kayak-fishing in accessing prime fishing grounds.
With precision, he manoeuvres his kayak close to the bridge’s submerged structures, deploying a mix of lures and live bait to entice prized catches while evading damage from sharp barnacles.
His diligence pays dividends, yielding bountiful hauls of sought-after species like dragon-tiger grouper and golden snappers, fetching lucrative prices in local markets.
Rospaizal can catch so much prized food fish that on some months, he said he could earn about RM3,000.
Once, he said he caught so many golden snappers (Malay: jenahak; Hokkien: ang choh) that he earned RM750 from that one-day trip.
Using pedal-powered high-speed kayaks that have propeller fins at the bottom of the hull, much like riding a bicycle, he doesn’t incur petrol or diesel costs.
“I sell my catch at just below the current retail market price and because my customers know my fish are freshly caught with hook and line, I am almost always sold out every time,” he said.
To be sure of a good day of fishing, Rospaizal brings the works.
He would have 20 to 30 live shrimps on his kayak in an aerated bait tank, plus a small cast net to catch mullets (belanak), on top of a full arsenal of artificial lures.
“You never know what fish want for the day. Their feeding preferences change with the time of the day, the water’s temperature, oxygen levels, the current, so many things.
“I usually start with a soft plastic grub and it tends to work. If it doesn’t, I switch to live bait,” he said, adding that artificial lures are more efficient, since small fish sometimes nibble away live bait.
Work is still work, except that in Rospaizal’s case, it is the kind of work that he does with a smile each day.