ROMPIN: Huge waves and bad weather put anglers at the Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge to the test, as they had to wait for hours to spot billfish, even right at the species’ habitat off the coast of Rompin.
After spending two days at sea, the 75 participants had to be content with hooking only 147 billfishes, as compared to more than 300 in previous years.
Even photographers from the media had a hard time trying to capture good shots of the action, no thanks to the choppy sea.
A few of them were seasick .
Nevertheless, the harsh conditions did not dampen the spirit of these anglers from all over the world taking part in the annual competition emphasising a catch-and-release concept.
Pahang Regent Tengku Mahkota Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah graced the competition’s opening ceremony, while Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry’s deputy secretary-general Datuk Haslina Abdul Hamid attended the closing ceremony.
The ministry’s Pahang director Datuk Idros Yahya said the weather was not favourable for participants this year.
“That is why only 147 billfishes were spotted, caught and released. In the past, participants could catch more than 300 of them,” he said.
However, Idros noted that the competition focused more on promoting fishing as a sport and a tourist attraction.
He said based on the number of participants, the event was a success in increasing awareness of billfish conservation and generating economic activities for locals.
Idros added that the catch-and-release concept was catching on among anglers, including those who would visit the area during off-peak season.
“There are anglers from Japan and China who regularly come here to catch and release billfishes.
“This growing interest has a positive impact on the local economy, as these anglers will rent boats and hire local fishermen as their guides when they are here.
“It is learnt that last year alone, locals managed to make about RM18mil in total through economic activities related to billfish fishing,” he said.
Idros said anglers would come in groups of 20 to 30, to go on fishing trips during the daytime and spend the night on the mainland, for several days on end.
“This has benefited accommodation operators, including chalets, hotels and homestays in Rompin and the nearby areas,” he said.
He said there were more than 50 speedboats for rental here, while boat services and fishing stores continued to mushroom to cater to the high demand.
Haslina presented the prizes to champions, Team Kelah Gold (Shafaril Mohd Yussof, Muhamad Kamarul Asri Kamal, Muhamad Alif Muhamed Nordin) from Malaysia.
The team caught 16 billfishes to bag RM20,000, trophy and other goodies.
Other winners included first runner-up Team Gawas (Steven Chong, Wilson Tan, Denis Lee) who were also from Malaysia and had 15 catches.
They walked away with RM14,000, trophy and goodies.
Second runner-up was Team Xzoga, comprising Malaysian Sky Chong, and Singaporeans Jacky Ho and Reuben Tan.
The team caught 14 fish and received RM10,000 and other rewards.