My first visit to the Natural Exotic Fishing Pond in almost 6 months. I have to confess to a degree of ambivalence about the place – it draws me in but I also feel a bit depressed about going there at the same time (a bit like going with a dirty woman, lol) …..!! It’s not that it’s not well set-up, because it is pretty organised and professional. And it has a wide range of species and an abundance of good sized fish, including some huge specimens! It’s just that it’s not, despite the name, natural! It was described to me by my mate as “industrial fishing”, a point reinforced during certain wind directions when a chemical, acrylic odour blows across the pond; and also hinted at by the opaque, tinted water with occasional oil sheen. It’s also fairly structureless, at least to the naked eye, so it initially seems to almost matter not where you cast your bait (although to be fair there are certain areas that have apparent, subtle, pond bed features that hold fish, plus the restaurant feature and drainage pipes also offer cover to predatory catfish).
Despite all of the above, it does hold big fish, can be successfully fished with a range of baits and lures, and is only 30 minutes drive from my house. So, here I was, for a late afternoon lure fishing session. Now, in recent months I’ve been doing a lot of lure fishing, and wanted to give the NEFFP another crack, as it’s been almost a year since I caught a fish on lures here (normally I bait fish and spend half an hour or so lure fishing each visit, despite this I’ve had no fish on lures for a long time):
I had armed myself with two tackle set-ups: (1) A 4-10lb Daiwa Crossbeat rod paired with a Shimano Biomaster 4000FB spooled with 10lb braid for gar and toman. (2) An 8-17lb spinning rod with a Shimano Ultegra 5000 and 15lb braid for catfish.
When I arrived, the place was deserted and I thought it was closed, but I guess it was quiet because of Ramadan. So, with the place to myself I started off near the entrance casting a variety of lures towards the restaurant and its walkway trying for a garfish (they always hold near the restaurant walkway) or a toman. The session started off slowly though, without a single knock, despite pulling surface and soft plastic lures through surface activity and past cruising knife fish (belida). Unfortunately, I did manage to snag a large turtle on the leg, but which was released back unscathed.
After half an hour I decided to move to my favoured Post 6, on the east side of the pond. I was a little disturbed to see a number of dead and rotting fish, including a large Asian Catfish and a big turtle in the southern end of the pond. It was making me feel uneasy, and together with the lack of strikes, was making me lose confidence in my chances of catching anything on lures this session. Still, I had no choice. At Post 6 I started to fish with the 10lb set-up using a 10 gm jig-head with a small (3″) Berkley scented grub tail lure. Again it was dead for about another half an hour and I again managed to snag a big turtle (again unharmed) …… wtf!
I started to work the lure past the drainage piper near Post 6 when I suddenly got a strike and was hooked-up. The fish ran me into the pipes, but I managed to work it free and was making progress when the hook suddenly pulled. I was still not feeling confident of actually catching anything, and thought that was my one chance gone. However, 10 minutes later I was hooked-up again in exactly the same manner – once again I pulled the hook. Damn! Finally, at the third hook-up I managed to extract a small Amazon Redtail Catfish from the pipes, a fish that put up a decent scrap on the light tackle:
It was now past 6 o’clock and I was starting to get a strike almost every cast on the small white grub-tail lure. The next fish was a big talapia of c.3 kg, unfortunately foul hooked in the dorsal fin:
I quickly followed this up with a big Asian Redtail Catfish that fought hard and gave me quite a tussle:
As these fish were a bit on the large side for the Daiwa Crossbeat 10lb rig, I decided to switch to the heavier spinning rod a try a Starlit soft plastic (unscented) lure. After three or four unproductive casts I was starting to wonder if the scent was the factor getting me the bites with the Berkley grub when bang, I got hit by my second Asian Redtail of the day. I quickly followed this with another big Asian Red, again on the green and yellow Starlit lure:
After a brief rest for some water, I decided to try the light rod again with the Berkley white grub-tail lure. The light was starting to fade – I checked the time – 7pm, 40 minutes left. First cast and I got a hit almost as soon as the lure had hit the water. This felt like a good fish – first it ran right towards the restaurant and I ran the opposite direction to try to turn it. It then made a powerful run in the opposite direction, to the bank of aerator wheels. I managed to stop it after c.50 m, and it was perilously close to the aerator structures. I was then able to slowly work it towards me and regained around 20m of line, before it double-backed towards the aerators. I tightened the drag as much as I dared on 10lb line and once again started moving it towards me. It then ran towards the centre of the pond. I was by now palming the spool to get extra drag on the fish, particularly when pumping and trying to retrieve line. But the runs kept continuing, although they were now of shorter duration.
I was lucky because initially the pond was empty but now, as dusk approached, anglers started to turn up and commence fishing. Fortunately, the runs were now shorter and I had the fish on my side of the pond, reducing the chances of tangling with other lines. I’d now been fighting the fish for half an hour and was beginning to tire – my right arm and shoulder were aching and my fingers on my right hand were numb. I put on as much pressure as I dared and was amazed at how much pressure the Daiwa Crossbeat rod could stand.
Eventually I managed to work the fish near the bank, but I couldn’t get the last 15′, the 30lb wind-on leader section, onto the rod tip. The fish stubbornly refused to come in. Each time I gained 5m of line, the fish took 5m back. Finally, I managed to get it to the surface, a big a Mekong Catfish, and was able to guide it to the net. A massive fish of around 30kg or more (I really don’t have a good feel for the size, but could be more), my personal best freshwater fish, my first ever Mekong Catfish and biggest fish weight to line class ratio ( at least 6:1)!
It was now 7.50pm and dark. It had been a 50 minute fight and I was done! I quickly packed-up, collected my RM50 deposit, loaded the car and then went to reward myself with a cold one at the restaurant to calm down, relax and reflect on the day’s events. It had been a pretty satisfying visit to the NEFFP, one of my best to-date and I was definitely glad I chose this location to fish today. I think I’ll return again soon, it’s not that bad after all, ha ha ……!!