North of Port Klang
by Chris Tan

I was pretty grumpy that Thursday evening. I had been sick for four weeks and had been back at work for the last two weeks, so I had not been fishing for quite sometime. But a call from Joe cheered me up! He wanted to know if I was free to go for a day trip on Saturday. A friend of ours had booked a boat, but now was going further afield for better fishing in East Malaysia. The boat booking was ours if we wanted it. After a quick consultation with my better half, I told Joe to count me in.

We planned to do mainly trolling this trip. Lim, the boatman told Joe that quite a number of large spanish mackerel (tenggiri batang) had been caught the past week. I spent the evening deciding on the lures to take. Finally, I settled on the ever reliable rapalas and storm big macs. Some high speed bibless minnows and plastic skirts were also added to the collection. The usual bottom gear was thrown into the tackle box too.

The night before our departure, Joe called me at eleven o'clock. Calls at that hour usually meant the cancelling of a trip. To my relief it was just to move the departure time forward! Early the next morning, after the usual sleepless night, Joe turned up at a quarter to six. After we picked up Roy, Joe's uncle, we headed up to Jeram.

We had our usual bah-kut-teh breakfast at Jeram. This coffee shop also happened to be the place where Lim would meet us. It was obvious that we were not the only group going fishing that day. A group of five at the next table were enthusiastically discussing the merits of using live prawns for bait. As we finished our breakfast, Lim turned up on his little motorbike. He said he would go and get his boat ready and instructed us to meet him at the nearby jetty.

Arriving at the jetty, we found that there were two other groups going out that day too. The jetty was piled high with fishing tackle and ice-boxes. We waited for our respective boats to turn up. In the past we discovered that it was pointless bringing the large 54-qt ice boxes because we had never come close to filling it up. For this trip Joe brought a 40-qt and I a 28-qt ice-box. We were to reconsider this decision in the future!

The three fishing boats turned up almost simultaneously and parked side by side. Loading our boat quickly, we cast off and were on our way. As Lim headed the boat towards Pulau Angsa, we rigged up our gear. Clearing the river mouth, the water became clearer and bluer. We let out our lures. With our hopes high, we settled down and waited for the first lure to be taken.

Lim told us that only one other boat would be trolling with us. The other boat was going to bottom fish at Anak Angsa. Before reaching Pulau Angsa we turned north and trolled along the trench at about seven knots.

After an hour, there were still no strikes. We were passing the local fishing trawlers. Occasionally we had seen the other boat stop. Did they get a strike? We were not sure. We did see an angler frantically cranking his reel on the other boat, but we did not see a fish landed.

By now we had passed abeam Kuala Selangor and were heading towards a light beacon abeam Sekinchan. This light beacon stands in water about forty feet deep. A previous fishing trip there had produced some good sized cincaru and selar. It was also a haunt for bat fish. We had only three hook-ups of these strong fighters. The boat anchored forty meters away from us had at least a dozen hook-ups. We enviously watched the sole angler on board continuously running around the boat fighting the bat fish.

From Pulau Angsa it took us three hours to reach the light beacon. No strikes. As Lim anchored the boat, we laid out our bottom fishing gear. Lowering our jigs and prawn baited hooks, we waited. No bites. Lim warned us that the colour of the water was not very good. With the water a cloudy greenish hue, the fish would not gather at this spot.

Being past midday, I was hungry. If the fish were not biting, I would do some biting of my own! Leaving my rods secure in the rod holders, I devoured my two pieces of roti chanai bought in Jeram. The others declined to lunch with me. I suppose they reasoned that if the fish were fasting, so would they.

By one o'clock Lim mumbled something about catching the tide-change. He directed us to retrieve our sunken baits. After pulling up the anchor, Lim steered the boat back along the same route we came. Setting out our lures again we made ourselves comfortable and waited. In the meantime I noticed my friends giving up their fast. I guess the hunger pangs overcame them!

By now the effects of getting up at five o'clock in the morning began to take its toll. With heavy eye lids I lay down and made myself comfortable. Within minutes I was asleep. Unfortunately, I was not awakened by any alarms.

Half an hour later, feeling considerably refreshed I got up. Joe decided it was now his turn to nap and occupied my now vacant spot. By now it was two o'clock and I thought it was going to be a zero fish day. This is common in "polluted" and heavily-fished areas like these (mainly due to commercial fishing, not so much anglers). Later I found out that Joe had been rather more optimistic. At this stage he had been hoping for only one fish, for anyone of us!

At three o'clock, nearing Pulau Angsa, Lim turned to me and said we were approaching a good spot. But having been trolling for almost six hours with no strikes I did not get particularly excited. I sat down and chatted with the others.

Suddenly my Abu Garcia 6500 screamed once, then twice! With my rod bent over and reel screeching away, I shrugged off any remnants of stupor and grabbed my rod! Simultaneously I heard another reel's ratchet screaming away. A double hook-up! It was Roy's. Being thoroughly occupied watching more than half of my 300 meters of line on the spool disappearing over the horizon, I paid no attention to what he was doing. Joe was busy too, frantically cranking in his lure to ensure his line and lure did not tangle up with ours. Lim had put the boat engine into neutral. I asked him to reel in my bibless lure on my heavier rod and reel.

By now the run had slowed down and I started pumping the unknown fish back in. Feeling the discomfort of the rod butt in my abdomen, I asked Joe to assist me by placing my rod belt around my waist for me. The rod belt certainly made things more comfortable.

Still retrieving my line, I noticed that Roy's and my lines had crossed. With some fancy foot-work on the narrow transom, I crossed to the other side. After many more minutes of hard work, I saw a fin emerge 20 meters aft! My fish was finally brought alongside and gaffed by Lim. It had made only one really hard and long run. To my surprise it was a 5 kg cobia (haruan tasik), captured on a skirted lure! I never expected to get a cobia on a plastic skirt. I would have expected a spanish mackerel or barracuda, but not a cobia! Well, I always like new experiences.

Roy was still working hard on his 2 speed TLD 30. Not taking very long, he finally brought in his fish. Another cobia! This one was much larger, weighing 12 kg. After unhooking the bright orange rapala from his large cobia, we recommenced trolling. Our spirits were buoyed up considerably!

Making a wide circle, Lim was concentrating his trolling pattern in the same area. Again, another double hook up! This time it was Joe's and Roy's. I quickly reeled in my lure on the TLD 20. I had temporarily retired my 6500, as the conditions were too busy for me to have two lines out at one time. I was kept busy dancing around the boat, trying to get pictures of all this exciting action! Joe was having a thrilling time as his fish was making a magnificent effort to escape!

Lim was actively moving from side to side of the boat with his gaff, unsure which fish would be first to surface! Finally Roy's fish surfaced, a barracuda! Quickly gaffing it, Lim now moved to the right side of the boat, ready to assist Joe. With his usual skill and dexterity, Joe eventually brought his fish alongside. Another barracuda! This was the largest so far, 14 kg! Roy's weighed 12 kg.

We started trolling again. I had been using a bibless minnow, and after two double hook ups with no strikes on this lure, a change seemed warranted. This time I got a strike! It seemed to be a big one judging from the run, but this one got away! The line just went slack and I reeled back my golden storm big mac. It was possible that we could have had a triple hook up. But Roy's and Joe's lures had tangled up while trolling.

Lim said when a fish gets away while trolling they seem to spook the other predatory fish. I had to agree, as my past experience had shown that it took a couple of hours before another strike occurs when a fish gets away. Nevertheless we continued to try. In the mean time Joe and I busied ourselves weighing the catch.

A quarter of an hour later we were still trolling. Then came another double hook up! Joe and I swung into action. Joe was reminded that he should bring a rod belt in the future by the discomfort of his rod butt sticking into his stomach, which was already sore from his previous tussle. Unfortunately for him the only rod belt on the boat was mine and it was already strapped around me. I sure was glad that for once the fish had not been spooked! This time I landed my fish! Another two big barracudas. 12 kg for Joe and 14 kg for me!

Now we had more fish than we could consume. We decided that with any additional fish landed, we would practise catch and release. This time I hooked up a small barracuda. It was quickly landed. But it was hooked up to the lure very securely. We decided to keep it as its chances for survival after releasing it would be slim due to the time it spent out of water to unhook it! Once more, Roy's and Joe's lures had tangled up. There was no telling if we might have had a multiple hook up that time, if not for the tangle.

Another half an hour of trolling and the fish had stopped biting. Calling it a day we headed home. Now came a major problem. How were we to fit all that fish into two small ice boxes! I managed to cut up my small cobia and barracuda to fit into my 28 qt ice box. Joe decided that we would just have to place the other five big fish in the back of his Landcruiser. Fortunately he had a big tarpaulin to wrap the fish in.

Reaching the jetty we unloaded our gear and catch. The other boats came in shortly. They inspected our catch with great envy. We learnt that they had been unfortunate. Although they had five strikes while trolling, all five had broken off. The other boat that went bottom fishing had caught nothing worth showing.

We quickly packed our gear and catch into the Landcruiser, to rush home, fifty minutes away. We had to get the fish into the freezer before the fish decayed!

While these areas have normally produced hardly any catches in my past fishing trips, this had been a superb one! I certainly would continue fishing here, especially due to its close proximity to the Klang Valley.