Kuala Rompin – Tenggiri hunting (09-10.04.16)

I hadn’t been sea fishing since November of 2015. I was getting restless and wanted to fish. I was particularly keen to hit Rompin as I’d heard reports of a good run of tenggiri (aka Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel, Kingfish) east of Tioman. That was too far to go, but then I heard from my regular guide, Anthony (Sullivan, of Hook, Line & Sinker charters) that tenggiri were starting to move closer inshore, within fishing distance from Rompin. I asked Anthony when he was next at Rompin, to which he replied that the weekend of the 16th was his first trip. That got me scheming as I knew that the coming weekend was available.

The first thing Monday morning I asked my colleague, Jochen, if he was still on bachelor status. He was. “Fancy trying for tenggiri at Rompin this coming weekend? I asked”. “Yes”, was his immediate reply. A few quick phone calls to gain the necessary wifey permission plus book the trip and all was set. The primary target was to be the elusive and problematic (for me, at least) tenggiri, followed by a day dedicated to Sailfish.

Day 1 (09.04.16)

After the usual afternoon drive east and the customary Friday evening drinks by the riverside (together with a feed of fish, salad and chips for me), it was up at 7am for breakfast and then the long trip offshore to fish.

The plan for day 1 was to fish for tenggiri (Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel), followed by a sailfish fishing on day 2. We stopped on the way to the fishing grounds to make bait – we soon filled the tank up with, primarily, selar (yellow tailed scad), but with a fair number of a sardine type fish. Ironically, the selar is the ideal sailfish bait, whilst the smaller sardine is considered better for tengirri  …….!!

After a long run offshore, we finally reached the unjam (fish attracting device or FAD) that was our first stop in the hunt for tenggiri. We tied up and immediately put out two sardine liveries on short wire traces. I went to the bow and started casting a small (25gm) Jackson pintail lure. Second cast I was onto a reasonable fish, but quickly pulled the hook. Damn, my tenggiri curse continued ….!! Whilst I was working the lure at the bow, we suddenly got a fierce strike at the stern. Jochen took the rod and did battle with the unseen adversary, which made repeated short, but extremely fast and powerful runs. After a few minutes, a good sized tenggiri showed itself in the clear blue water. After a final screaming run it was within gaffing range. Captain Sam made no mistake and we had our target on board within half an hour of commencing fishing, a decent 7.5kg fish:

(2) Jochen's tenggiri (09.04.16)Jochen with the first tenggiri, 7.5kg

With the first fish on board, we reset two livies and continued with the lure fishing. I had another knock, but this time it failed to hook-up. After a short lull, we got another strike on the live-bait. My turn on the rod and, given my poor luck with tenggiri, a brief, but extremely nervous fight before we slid another, slightly smaller, c.4kg tenggiri over the gunwhale:

(7) Tenggiri no.2 (09.04.16) [ed]Tenggiri no.2, 4kg. My curse finally broken

It was now noon, and the fishing took on its inevitable mid-afternoon lull. We had no further interest, other than a todak (garfish) that Jochen took, on either live bait or lures. We had lunch of nasi goring and fried chicken and then the decision was made to move to a new fad and try again.

We reach the new location aound 1.30pm. This was a more complicated fad, with numerous clusters of floating buoys and water containers acting as floats, with associated anchor lines. It was tight to fish and with the constant risk of snagging a lure (or a fish) on an anchor line.

It wasn’t long before we got some activity. One of the rods kept getting the live bait taken. As the captain was resetting the bait for the third time in a c.10 minute period line suddenly started ripping off the reel and a fish broke surface as it leapt from the water near the bow. “Dorado”, I exclaimed as I grabbed the rod. The fish made a searing run from the bow back to the stern, with me in hot pursuit around the boat (a walkaround design). I was keeping the drag tight and the rod high as the fish did a 360 degree run around the hull and as I frantically tried to steer it thtough the clusters of floating buoys and anchor lines. It was weaving between the various floats, but, luckily, staying close to the surface and clear of the ropes. Finally, I worked it back to the port side and then, avoiding the engines, it finally ended up on the starboard side near the stern where it made it’s last gasp jumps and runs before succumbing to the gaff. A decent sized (for Rompin waters) bull dorado of 4kg:


(9) Bull Dorado (09.04.16) [ed]

(10) Bull Dorado (09.04.16) [ed]Bull Dorado (4kg)

We now had three live-baits out on the starboard side. Whin c.15 minutes of the dorado, we got a slow, powerful take, which just bent the rod into a vicious curve. Jochen took the rod and fought the unseen adversary. The fish made repeated dives down to the seabed. “Cobia”, muttered Anthony as the fish made yet another power dive. Slowly, Jochen worked the fish to towards the surface, in a straight up-and-down tug of war. There was a sudden flash of deep colour, revealing a stocky sliver sided fish and then it was gone, a pulled hook. A trevally of some description, possible a smallish Giant Trevally …??

After the initial flurry of activity, things once again went quiet. After a while, Anthony suggested moving to another FAD and try trolling diving lures for the last hour or so of the day. With nothing happening at this location, we agreed to the plan and headed off. But I had reservations – I’d had no success in the past trolling for tenggiri at Rompin (with the exception of an accidental  sailfish on a deep diver) and felt that we were going to have no further success.

However, as we sped along we chanced upon bird activity and evidence of feeding sailfish. I suggested that, rather than leave fish to find fish, we stop and try for sailfish. Jochen was in agreement, so we stopped and put out two selar live baits. Anthony got a strike almost immediately, but the fish quickly dropped the bait. A few minutes later, the bait that I’d put out got some interest. I picked up the rod just as the fish started running with the bait. I flipped it in gear, hooked-up the fish and passed the rod to Jochen. This was a decent sized fish and set of on a long, powerful run, stripping over 200m of line from the reel before it put on a distant aerial display. It was then a long slog of pump-and-wind to bring the fish to the boat. It stayed stubbornly about 20m off the stern before finally coming boat-side. A large, well conditioned sailfish which Anthony reckoned to be approaching 40 kg in weight:

(12) Jochen's sailfish (09.04.16)

(15) Jochen's sailfish (09.04.16)Jochen with the first sailfish of the trip

We continued chasing bird activity and setting out live baits for sailfish for the next half an hour, but with no further luck as the day finally drew to an end and we called it a day and headed back to the dock.

Day 2 (10.04.16)

The initial plan for day 2 was to target sailfish. During breakfast, Jochen suggested that we spend the morning on tenggiri again and then switch to sailfish in the afternoon. Given the proximity of the tenggiri and sailfish locations, this seemed like a good idea. So we once again set of hunting for tenggiri, departing Sungai Rompin in the developing haze (it’s that time of year again in Malaysia):

(3) Departing Sungai Rompin (10.04.16)Departing Sungai Rompin river mouth in the haze

After spending some time getting bait (it was harder than the previous day), we once again headed for a FAD. This time we anchored up-tide and let our baits drift close to the floats. Within 20 minutes of setting up Jochen got a good strike and was in action fighting his first ever Dorado. These fish give a much stronger account of themselves, pound-for-pound, compared to tenggiri, although the style of fight is different. After a good fight against fairly heavy tackle, the fish came to the gaff:

(5) Cow Dorado (10.04.16)Jochen and cow Dorado

Barely 10 minutes later, Anthony was working a 45gm Jackson Pintail lure when he got an aggressive double hit, hooking the fish on the second attempt. He passed the rod to me to bring in the first tenggiri of the day:

(7) AG's tenggiri (10.04.16) [ed]

(8) CIMG5623AG's tenggiri (10.04.16) [ed]Tenggiri no.1 one of the day (my second of the trip)

Following my tenggiri, I decided to redouble my efforts to try to score a fish on lure, but it was pretty quiet. It was a good hour after the last fish before I felt a weight on my line and a fish broke surface. A todak had taken my 25gm Jackson Pintail on the drop. It gave a reasonable fight on the 15lb class light spinning tod set-up:

Todak on Jackson pintail (10.04.16)Todak (garfish) on lure

Almost immediately after releasing the todak, my Abu-Garcia Ultra Cast – Shimano Biomaster SW5000XG set-up received a vicious hit. Jochen picked up and was hooked up to another powerful fish the put on a number of lightning fast runs indicative of a tenggiri. Sure enough, after struggling with the fish on the light gear, a decent c.4kg tenggiri came to the boat:

(15) Tenggiri no.2 (10.04.16)Tenggiri to the gaff

Tenggiri no.2 (10.04.16)Jochen’s second tenggiri of the trip

With two tenggiri and a dorado under our belt it had been a good decision to spend the morning chasing mackerel. However, it was now almost 1pm and we needed to start thinking about sailfish. We decided to give it another half an hour and then head off and look for sailfish. After no further activity at the FAD we were on our way hunting for sailfish.

After a half hour run to the suspected sailfish feeding area we came across good bird activity and sailfish fins and tails breaking the surface as they corralled baitfish. We set our drift and put out a live bait on the multiplier set-up plus two on casting rods. Within minutes, Anthony got a take and passed me the rod. The fish took off on a searing and prolonged run, to the extent that I was in danger of being spooled. Anthony was testing a Penn Fierce II Live Liner reel on behalf of Penn and had not fully set the drag. I cranked it a full 360 degree turn but the sailfish was still smoking line from the reel. I was down to about a 1/3rd of my line and the skipper had to turn and chase the fish. I slowly regained line. Once I’d managed to turn the fish, it eventually came in without too much further fuss:

AG Sailfish no.1 (10.04.16)My first sailfish of the trip

After a few quick in-the-water pictures, it was released and we set off again. This was run and gun fishing – the sailfish were moving fast and after a few drifts using the multiplier reels without success we decided to concentrate on the casting rods. I was using my “hybrid” Shimano Baitrunner set-up: a 6000D body paired with an 8000D spool (I’d bought the 6000D unseen on-line and the line capacity was a bit too meagre for sailfish –  as I’d found to my cost when I’d been spooled first cast on it’s first ever outing a few years before …!).

We repeatedly chased after feeding birds and cast out selar baits in the general direction of the frenzy. Suddenly, the Baitrunner drag started to click, slowly at first and then starting to buzz as a sailfish sped off. I engaged the reel, felt the fish on and passed the rod to Jochen. The fish took off, just like the others, on a crazy run, stripping line from the reel. These early season fish were fresh and extremely feisty. Once again we had to back down on the fish in-order that Jochen could regain line. Slowly, inch by inch, the fish came to the boat. Finally sitting about 30m off the stern, refusing to budge.

(28) Jochen fighting sailfish (10.04.16)Jochen putting pressure on the feisty sailfish

After a fight of more than 20 minutes, the fish finally capitulated and came in for billing. The first fish on my Baitrunner hybrid, hooked perfectly in the mouth hinge. It was another good sized fish of c.35kg:

Jochen's sailfish (10.04.16)

(31) Jochen's sailfish (10.04.16)Jochen’s second sailfish of the trip

The afternoon was now slipping away, as each fish took around half an hour to land, revive and release, and we redoubled our efforts with a continuous run and gun assault. It was my turn next as we once again approached feeding sailfish. both Anthony and I cast out, and Anthony’s bait got picked-up first. Once again I was passed the rod to do battle. Another prolonged battle with a mid-thirties kg fish, feisty and aggressive, and another good test of the Penn Fierce II Live Liner reel:

(34) AG Sailfish no.2 (10.04.16) [ed]My second sailfish of the day

It was now 4.30pm, and we’d picked up 3 sailfish in 2.5 hours of fishing. The day, and trip, was drawing to a close. We had one last chance of a final fish (or two) as we approached a bird and sailfish feeding frenzy. Both Anthony and I case out live baits from the starboard side of the boat. Almost immediately, Anthony felt a take and passed the rod to Jochen. He waited and then struggled to flip the bail-arm as the fish ran with the bait. He then got the reel in gear and felt the fish. At the same time, my Baitrunner drag started to whine as a fish made a strong run with my bait, I engaged the reel and was on. Double hook-up! But almost immediately, Jochen’s line went slack and he reeled in a line minus the hook – probably a large tenggiri. I on the other hand, was firmly connected to a big sailfish, once again fighting aggressively for its freedom. This was my first decent sailfish that I’d actually fought on my Baitrunner and it was very satisfying to put the reel through it’s paces and subdue the big gamefish:


Fighting a large Sailfish on a Shimano Baitrunner “hybrid” setup

(37) AG Sailfish no.3 (10.04.16)

AG Sailfish no.3 (10.04.16) [ed]The fourth (and my third) and final sailfish of the trip

This fish concluded the day and the trip. It was now time for the long trip back to the jetty, followed by a rush pack, eat and then the arduous drive back to KL. This time too be followed by fish preparation. The last day of the trip is always a long day!

But, it had been an excellent trip. The final catch tally was as follows:

  • Jochen: 2 tenggiri, 1 todak, 1 dorado and 2 sailfish
  • Me: 2 tenggiri, 1 todak, 1 dorado and 3 sailfish

It was an even catch rate. We’d done particularly well on sailfish for the time of year, landing 5 fish in just half a day’s fishing. We’d only dropped one hooked fish and missed one strike, so good statistics. I look forward to my next visit ….!!

This entry was posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.01) - Kuala Rompin, Dorado (Dolphinfish), Garfish, Mackerel - Narrow Barred Spanish (Kingfish, Tenggiri), Sailfish. Bookmark the permalink.

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