It has been a long time, about 6 months, since I last fished out of Port Dickson. A combination of work and poor fishing reports had kept me away. I’d heard that the queenfish, that used to have feeding frenzies at the surface, were a thing of the past. Infact, on my last visit in November, it was very slow, with little surface activity and only one (albeit a decent sized specimen) queenfish being caught and very little surface activity. Apparenly, things had been very slow here since that time.
I was, however, keen to give it another chance. And also, in that fisherman’s way, I was blindly optimistic that it would be as good as before. I also had a new light spinning rod to try out – a Lemax President 8-17lb 7.0′ spinning rod (a replacement for my similarly weighted trusty Sure Catch rod that was binned after a broken eye). I managed to get a boat for the weekend, and here I was, with almost perfect weather conditions, on a solo trip with Captain Hallim.
We reached the Vikram wreck site, the usual place for good fishing. There was not even a solitary seabird passing by. It was very quiet. the captain informed me that there were still queenfish around but that the surface feeding frenzies (“boiling queenfish”) were a rare occurrence over the past half a year.
The lack of surface feeding meant there was only one course of action – deep drop jigging. This is my least favourite type of lure fishing – it’s hard work, it’s not visual (unlike surface casting), I don’t have a proper jigging outfit and ….. so far I’ve not landed a fish using this technique … (although I have had a fair number of strikes)!! So, I commenced working a c.50gm jig on my Xzoga Shiteno spinning rod paired with a Shimano Sustain 4000 and 15lb braid (the new Lemax President was set-up for surface casting).
The jigging was hard on my problematic right shoulder, and I alternated between jigging and the casting rod (for casting letting a casted metal sardine lure sink deep before retrieval to work deeper water). After a while, Captain Hallim got a strike and hooked up deep jigging. The fish was on, briefly, before all his terminal tackle was bitten off – tenggiri or barracuda.
That action gave me renewed hope and I redoubled my efforts on the deep drop jig. After the end of one drift, the captain called lines up and I worked my jig up through the water column. Suddenly, I felt a strike and was hooked up to what felt like a decent fish. I worked it up towards the surface when it suddenly breached, making a series of leaps over a metre into the air, before making a power dive under the hull. I was forced to jump onto the bow to clear my line before working the fish to the boat. It was a good sized and, after a couple more short, but powerful dives, came to the net. My first deep jig catch … a c.5kg queenfish.
After some photo’s, it was time to carefully revive the exhausted fish, before it finally started to kick its tail and I released it back into the green waters of Port Dickson.
Deep Jig Queenfish in the net
We continued to fish, firstly at Vikram, then at a number of other reef marks that the captain knew. I asked him more about the change in fishing and lack of bird activity. In broken English, he explained that he hadn’t seen birds for a long time. He thought it was due to a change in baitfish – the ikan bilis (anchovy) schools had moved from the area, not due to commercial netting or overfishing of the queenfish. I understood that this was a natural occurrence that occurs from time to time (at least I think that was what I understood). At any rate, the fishing was slow and a shadow if last years glory. We only had one further strike, which the captian failed to hook-up.
There was a brief period of excitement – I’d just switched to the casting outfit and fired a jig around 40m from the boat. As the jig landed, there were three boils on the surface, presumably from queenfish. I ripped my jig back through the rear but got no hits. The fish didn’t surface again!!
Later, in the distance, I saw what I though was a flock of birds feeding (although my long distance vision is not perfect). The captain squinted and thought he saw them too. We sped over, bewtween two large cargo boats, but drew a blank. I thought my eyes (& mind) must have been playing tricks on me. We returned to Vikram to continue fishing.
Then, just as I was getting despondent, the captain exclaimed “birds” and fired up the engine. We sped over to a surface frenzy of thrashing fish and wheeling, diving birds. Just as I like it. First cast and I got a strike, but it didn’t hook. The fish were moving fast and we followed them for around 45 minutes, each time getting no hits on our jigs. It became apparent that this was a school of scad, not queenfish, feeding on fry. I scaled down to a smaller 20gm jig, still to no avail. We finally gave up and returned to the torture of deep jigging.
As the day wore on, and the conveyor belt of cargo ships passed us by, I decided to call the trip early and to head in and beat the long weekend traffic heading back to KL. It had been great to be on the water, it was great to catch the big queenfish deep jigging, but it was also sad to witness the slow-down in fishing quality. I will return, once the ikan bilis reappear along with the boiling queenfish ….! I hope it happens soon.
Strait of Malacca shipping #2