This was my second visit to the Malacca Strait jigging mecca of Port Dickson in as many weeks. The previous visit had been an altogether frustrating affair [see Blog entry Port Dickson (21.03.15)]. Despite an initial brace of fish taken at the surface on the trusted pink 30gm jig lure, things had then taken a turn for the worst. In that first half an hour I’d managed to land a nice queenfish and a small spotted mackerel.
The fish were present in abundance, with regular feeding frenzies at the surface. Wheeling and diving seabirds marked schools of queenfish and mackerel chasing baitfish through the swells. However, they were just not interested in any of our offerings, neither the pink jigs nor the plethora of other jigs, poppers, plugs and soft plastics that were thrown at them. It was frustrating in the extreme! The captain informed me that it had been like that for weeks – lots of fish but finicky feeding.
A few days later, I was discussing the Port Dickson situation with my fishing mate Noru. He’d experienced a similar situation a few weeks before. We decided that with the fish around we needed to give it another shot. Noru managed to secure a boat for the following weekend, and we hatched a plan. Noru, Din (both experienced Port Dickson anglers) and I would start fishing with the standard jigs that usually produce at PD, but if the fishing followed recent form and tailed off into the afternoon then we would try a variety of different lures to try and mimic whatever it was that the fish were feeding on. We would also keep a keen eye when we spotted fish at the surface to get any hints of the forage type of the day and then try and “match the hatch”. We brought a large selection of lures with us in various sizes and colours – jigs, soft plastic squid patterns, diving plugs, pencil lures and poppers, and Noru brought a range of feather lures in 15, 30 and 45 gm weights! How could we fail …?!! We wanted to understand the fishes’ feeding behaviour to improve our catch rate!
We arrived at Teluk Kemang, Port Dickson at 8.00am, and immediately started preparing our gear. We were going to be lure fishing with light tackle: 5-15lb+ class spinning rods paired with 2500-5000 sized spinning reels loaded with 10-20lb braided line.
The sky was a glorious blue, with no hint of the recent haze, and after the boat was launched we loaded up our gear and set off through calm inshore waters.
Teluk Kemang, Port Dickson
However, on the journey offshore, it was a little choppier that forecast and once we arrived on location I was dismayed at the lack of bird activity! But after only 15 minutes or so, Captain Halim spotted birds wheeling and diving on baitfish and immediately headed towards the melee. I clipped on a 30gm pink jig and cast towards the action, my lure landing about a metre away from a surface boil. As soon as my lure hit the water, line started ripping from the open spool. I flicked the bail arm shut and tightened into my first fish, taken on the drop! A nice talang queenfish of about 2 kilos, which was duly released after a short, but spirited fight. It was a promising start to the trip and always nice to get the first fish and take the pressure off!
Meanwhile, in the stern of the boat the captain had also hooked-up and was doing battle with a good sized fish. After a five minute tug-of-war he brought in a perfectly conditioned 5kg queenfish, which proved to be the biggest fish of the day:
After the initial flurry of activity it then slowed down as the ebb tide approached slack water. Surface feeding was only sporadic now, and we had little to show for the next hour and a half, aside from Din plucking a small grouper and barracuda from the depths whilst deep jigging. We continued to search for surface activity and would chase any that we saw; in-between we would drift-fish known marks and try our luck deep jigging. Despite a lack of fish landed, all of us were bitten off in quick succession whilst fishing deep, presumably by tenggiri or barracuda.
The day progressed into the early afternoon, and the heat and humidity were becoming oppressive and sapping our energy. The flood tide started to generate water current and awaken the fish; we were soon re-energised by another burst of feeding activity and managed further hook-ups on jigs. Din managed to score a nice queenfish whilst deep jigging, a decent sized fish that put an impressive bend in his light jigging set-up:
I then followed this up with another queenfish picked-off from a school of surface feeding fish. The technique that worked was to cast toward the feeding fish, let the lure sink for about 20 seconds and then rip the lure back using a fast retrieve. This approach often resulted in a fish following the lure, and occasionally in a good strike and hook-up.
As usual at this location, we were fishing in, and on the edge of, the Strait of Malacca shipping lanes …..!!
Despite a lot of surface activity, the fish were starting to repeat the behaviour of the past few weeks. We repeatedly fished run and gun style, speeding towards feeding fish marked by diving birds and fired off casts with jigs into the frenzy. We were frustrated over and over; despite repeated casts we were getting very few strikes. We’d been fishing now for around four hours, with only four queenfish to show for our efforts. It was time to switch tactics, or to be more precise, time to change lures. We’d noticed that the fish appeared to be feeding on small flying fish. Noru, who had yet to score a fish, decided to try out his white feather lures that he’d bought specifically to try on this trip.
He quickly rigged up the new lure as we approached yet more surface activity. A quick cast and he was immediately rewarded with a good strike, and was soon easing a nice queenfish to the net. Whilst we were unhooking this fish and cleaning up, the captain was already repositioning the boat for the next drift. Noru cast out again and took a hit near to the boat – 2 fish in as many minutes, after being fishless for the previous 4.5 hours…. incredible!
Seeing Noru’s immediate success with the new lure, I quickly rigged up a 30gm model and prepared to fish. It took a while until we were in a good position once again, alongside surface feeding fish. I cast out close to a surface splash and was soon in action again, this time to a slightly larger fish that gave a good account of itself on the light tackle. I was amazed at the power and fight from these fish, they were typically only 2-3 kilos in weight but put on a spectacular aerial display complemented by short power dives when they came near to the boat.
We weren’t the only anglers fishing the area:
By now, everyone on the boat had switched to the feather lures. But I’d also given us the angler’s curse…. given the number of strikes that we were now getting, I decided to don the GoPro for some action footage. As soon as I put it on bad luck started. First I hooked-up but quickly lost the fish on its first jump. Then I got a number of fish following the lure but couldn’t get them to bite. Finally, Din got a hook-up on a good fish, only to pull the hook as he worked the fish to the boat after a lengthy fight. I decided it was time to stop trying to film the action and to re-concentrate on the fishing….!
As soon as the camera was off, I started to enjoy some luck again. I was soon hooked-up to another queenfish, which proved to be the last fish landed of the day. Once again the fish was released to fight again after a quick photograph.
As the day drew to a close, I had a final strike to a speculative cast to featureless seas and again I was connected to a good fish. Unfortunately, my rushed rigging job on wire leader was not up to the task and broke at the crimp as a big queenfish revealed itself with a powerful surface jump. And that was it for the day. We were hot and tired, but satisfied after a memorable day.
And what a day it had been! We’d done alright in the morning session, landing 4 queenfish before things had started to slow down. But the afternoon session had been phenomenal. Once we switched to the new lures, we’d had 9 strikes in about 3 hours of fishing, landing a further 5 fish. Have we “Cracked the Code”…? I think for this trip we had. But only time will tell if these lures will produce again or if we just happened upon the right lure to mimic the baitfish being eaten on this particular day. We’ll just have to return and fish again and again, all in the cause of scientific investigation, you understand!
This trip once again highlighted the light tackle sport fishing potential available out of Port Dickson. Apart from the ubiquitous talang queenfish, the area also sporadically produces GT’s, diamond and other species of trevally, tenggiri, spotted mackerel and the occasional large cobia. It would be great to see this place develop, with more anglers considering catch and release, particularly of the queenfish, which are great sport fish but of questionable table fare. If the local captains could encourage this, plus make improvements in boat safety (I’m very aware that we are out of cell phone range, on the edge of the shipping lanes in single engine boats …..), PD could provide a light tackle, west coast alternative to its famous east coast cousin at Kuala Rompin, particularly given it’s close proximity to Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley. Just a thought ….!
Port Dickson Queenfish Angling – a flavour!