Kuala Rompin – Counting Chickens (20 & 21.08.16)

I’d been looking forward to this trip for a long time. Me and my youngest son, who was back in KL for the summer holidays, were going for a two to three day trip chasing sailfish. I have a personal tally that I’m chasing and I wanted to enjoy time on the water with my son. This time of year is usually when the fishing activity is ramping up to the red hot bite usually associated with the last third of the season. However, the omens were portent  – my son had broken his ankle 2 months previously, but had failed to heal enough in time for this trip. So, with thoughts of my personal sailfish goal, I decided to fish alone – every fish that we hooked up would be mine to fight and land. But, the middle part of the season had been slow, and it was shaping up to be an unusual (El Nino affected?) season. Still, I left KL on Friday afternoon full of optimism. I was escaping the haze that had just started rolling in to the city, I was giving my new car its first long run and the fishing had picked up over the previous weekend . I was hoping to pick up between 10 to 15 sailfish to add to my current score of 77 Sailfish and a Black Marlin since I began fishing in Rompin in October 2007. I had an outside chance of reaching to 100 fish score in 10 seasons of fishing. It was a case of counting the chickens before they hatched, but I was confident in Rompin and my guide’s ability to deliver …….!!

I arrived a little late at Rompin, due to a late departure and a missed turning due to lack of concentration. I was also slowed up by an intense rainstorm near Gombak. I arrived at 7.45pm, just at dusk. I was greeted by Anthony who had an iced cold tiger beers ready before informing me that the Rompin River Restaurant was closed for the weekend & that we’d have to eat in town. No problem, after a few beer we ate a dodgy meal at a local Mamak restaurant and returned to the chalets to watch Malaysian badmington champion (and World No.1) Lee Chong Wei beat his nemesis Lin Dan in the Silver Medal match. After a few more beers it was time to retire to prep tackle and sleep

Day 1 (20.08.16)

Day 1 started with a clear blue sky, no haze and a light breeze. We had another dodgy meal for breakfast at a local Chinese place and then headed out (through surprisingly choippy seas) to hunt for bait. This was where the problems began ….. we couldn’t find any. We gave up after around an hour and headed offshore with only two baits in the live-well, a large arrow head squid and a solitary scad. we would have to keep fishing for bait as we drifted for sailfish, plus we would have to treat the baits carefully.

We finally started fishing for sailfish at 10.50am and it was uncharacteristically slow. Limited surface activity and zero strikes. We moved around in the local vincinity looking for activity, but it remained slow until around 1.30pm, when sporadic sailfish surface feeding activity could be observed. Meanwhile, I was working a new 40gm Jackson Pintail lure on a new spinning rod, trying for mackerel (tenggiri). The braid kept catching on the raised EVA fore-grip (a design fault) and it dug a notch into the grip, eventually digging in and causing a break-off of the RM80 lure. Anthony (guide) noted laconically that pintails don’t float. F**k ….!!

Finally, at 2.15pm, we got the first take on a live-bait casted towards a sailfish teased up to the surface by Aziz o(guide) on a propeller pencil lure. I engaged the gear on the swifly running fish but only succeeded in letting the fish pull the bait off for a free meal. We now started hunting for birds and surface activity. At 2.45pm we cast live-baits – there were sailfish on three sides. A group of sails surfaced some distance away at the stern. I kept feeding my live-bait out towards the fish and, as my bait got close, it was snatched. I set the hook and had a good fight with what turned out to be the only fish of the day:

Fighting Sailfish (20.08.16)Fighting the only Sailfish of the day

(b) Sailfish (20.08.16)

(5) Sailfish (20.08.16)Sailfish c.35kg

Despite working hard for the remainder of the afternoon chasing feeding sailfish, and raising multiple fish on prep lures, that was our only fish and last strike of the day ….!! Except for a “hook-up” that Aziz achieved on a hookless prop lure. A sailfish grabbed the lure and held onto it for about a minute before spitting it out – I decided to rig it with a hook for the following day ….!!

(c) Searching for Sails (20.08.16)On the hunt for Sailfish

By 5.00pm it was time to call time on a very poor day’s fishing. Completely odd for late August. Once we got back to the dock on the Sungai Rompin river, it was time for cold Tigers, enjoy the view and discuss the plan for the following day with Anthony:

(6) Apres fishing Tiger (20.08.16)Tiger’s at Sungai Rompin

(7) Fishing Uncle (20.08.16)Fishing “uncle” Anthony fighting a Tiger

(9) Sungai Rompin low water (20.08.16)

(8) Sungai Rompin low water (20.08.16) [rc]Sungai Rompin at low tide

Day 2 (21.08.16)

On the second day I awoke to be greeted by the smell of burnt air and dull skies ….. yep, the haze had reached the east coast.  No more blue sky on this trip! The sea was very calm though with only a slight breeze. Much better fishing conditions than the previous day.

We headed out and stopped at a fad to catch bait. In contrast to yesterday, when we struggled and only had kerisi (a type of bream), today was much better. We got a range of livies, including scad, slimy mackerel, and sardines in about an hour of fishing. We then headed offshore to the sailfish grounds.

En route, we chanced upon a bird feeding frenzy, and the skipper, Ah Ping, spotted tenggiri jumping. We decided to spend a while casting Jackson Pintail lures and drifting a live bait on wire leader. Despite working hard, we had nothing to show for our time, except for a tentative strike on the Captain’s lure which failed to connect. After about 45 minutes we decided to quit and go for sailfish.

We commenced fishing for sailfish at 11.30am. We stopped at feeding birds and a sailfish at the surface. I went to the bow and cast out the prop lure that was so successful in raising fish the previous day:

(1) Prop surface luresLuhr Jensen pencil-propeller lures

I cast at  a sailfish about 10m off the bow and got an immediate follow. The fish returned a second time on the next cast but I couldn’t entice it to strike the lure and we didn’t get it to feed on the casted live bait. Thins were, however, looking more positive than the previous day. But that was basically the only significant surface action that we saw for the next hour and a half. The Captain decided to move away from the fleet of boats and search for activity. We were in the Berhala Island area and motored for half an hour to Mile 16, before we recommenced fishing at 1.20pm.

After a wait of about an hour, and with boats around us picking up a couple of sailfish, a cobia and a tenggiri, out of nowhere we got a take immediately after putting out baits for a new drift. I took the rod, and waited as the fish took line slowly but steadily. I flipped the reel in gear … nothing. No weight, no vibrating from the live-bait. I thought that the bait had been taken. I wound down and eventually felt weight after taking up all the slack …..FISH ON!

Fighting Sailfish #1 (21.08.16)Sailfish #1 of the day (c.30kg)

Finally we had a hook-up, at 2.25pm. I was beginning to feel that we were going to skunk – unprecedented in late August. But here I was fighting an erratic fish that was shaking and jigging it’s head and staying deep. Very weird fight. I suspected a foul hook-up but the skipper saw the fish at the surface was adamant that it was clean-hooked …. and he was right. After 20 minutes we had the first fish of the day boat-side:

(11) Sailfish #1 (21.08.16)Sailfish #1 of Day 2

The pressure of Mr. Skunk was off now that we had our first fish under our belt. We started to see sporadic surface bird activity and started chasing groups of birds. Aziz kept raising fish on the prop lures and we had a number of shots at sailfish. Anthony got a take on a casted live-bait – I set the hook but was surprised to bring in a small grouper of c.1kg. “First time to see that” mused Anthony.

Then, we got another good take as Anthony was feeding out a bait. “Tenggiri” he shouted as I rushed to pick up the rod and cranked like crazy to keep the line tight and try to avoid being bitten off. It was obviously a good fish and it put a big curve in the trolling rod. But then it breached off the port side and revealed itself as a good sized cobia. It then made a power dive stripping line and forcing the rod over into a crazy bend before slowly coming to the surface for gaffing, a good fish of 10kg, taken at 3.30pm:

(13) Cobia 10kg (21.08.16)Cobia 10kg

Captain Ah Ping bled and gutted the fish before we once again resumed the hunt for sailfish:

(15) Cobia prep (21.08.16)Captain Ah Ping doing the honours

As the afternoon drew to a close, the feeding activity was intensifying. At 4.10pm, after casting live-baits towards feeding birds, Anthony’s bait got picked up. He passed the rod to me and I set the hook on a good sized sailfish. This fish put up a good fight and aerial display before finally coming to the boat for leadering. It was nice fighting this fish on a Stella 8000, I could definitely feel the quality compared to my Shimano Baitrunned 8000D reel ……

(g) Fighting Sailfish #2 (21.08.16)

(h) Fighting Sailfish #2 (21.08.16)Fighting Sailfish on Shimano Stella 8000 reel

We got the fish boat side and took a few quick pictures, a large fish possibly approaching 40kg, before reviving, release and continuing the chase for more.

Sailfish #2 at surface (21.08.16)Sailfish #2 at the surface

(27) Sailfish #2 (21.08.16)Sailfish #2, c.40kg

Time was now running out and I was desperate to catch one more to improve on the trip’s catch rate. We got one more shot as we approached another group of birds. We drifted a couple of baits but got not takes. Finally, as time was ebbing away, my Baitrunner spool started to turn. Slowly at first and then speeding up as a sailfish ran with the bait. I engaged the gears and the fight was on, at 4.40pm. This fish started running and then jumping all over the place. After 10 minutes, as I was getting the fish near to the boat it made another series of jumps, twisting and turning and finally shedding the hook. Damn! It’s ok to drop a fish when the catch rate is high but it’s annoying when you ‘ve only had a couple. Than’s part and parcel of fishing!

With that we finished up and headed for port.

Trip Statistics:

  • 3 from 4 Sailfish hook-ups caught and released
  • 1 Cobia (10kg)

A poor return for late August. I was expecting 10 to 15 fish. don’t count your chickens until they’ve hatched!

Still, always a privilege to be game fishing in the blue water. Three sailfish and a nice fat cobia for the pan is nothing to be sniffed at. I look forward to my next visit!


(1) Cobia (23.08.16)(2) Cobia (23.08.16)From ocean to plate – delicious fresh cobia meal courtesy of wifey

This entry was posted in (1) Malaysia, (1.01) - Kuala Rompin, Cobia, Sailfish. Bookmark the permalink.

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