My first visit to Rompin, and my first visit to the salt this year! This trip was to chase the elusive tenggiri (Narrow-Barred Spanish Mackerel). Beside me, the other anglers were Jochen Kassan and Noru Razak.
I left KL on Friday, in the early afternoon as usual. Jochen was going to travel on his motorbike and Noru was also going to travel independently and meet us there. As I was pulling out of the Petronas Service station in the hills near Betong on the Kuantan-Karak highway, I heared a loud crack. I checked my gauges and the car’s performance but all seemed well. It was maybe an hour later when I noticed a significant impact mark on the left hand side of the windscreen – a 50 cent diameter, compound impact crater. Damn …. a bad start. Things got worse as I reached Pekan. I took a call from Noru informing me that his card had overheated an that he was stuck at Muadzam Shay, about an hour out from Rompin – his estimated time of arrival at the Rompin river Chalets was uncertain ….! Bad omens for the trip ahead? Well, I’m not superstitious … and Noru eventually arrived at the base around 10pm, so we were in good shape for the following day!
The news at the dock was that the sailfish fishing was very slow, but that tenggiri and dorado were around to be fished.
Day 1 (8th April)
After a slow start to the session, with it taking some time to get enough baits, we started the search for tenggiri action. We didn’t have to go far until we found a game boat working a weed and flotsam line. We spend 30 minutes working it with lures but had no takes. We were then on the hunt once again, and soon found birds and a few boats. We set up a drift with a live-bait whilst we commenced casting pintail and similar sinking plugs.
We soon had our first strike on the live-bait. I picked up the rod and started to work what I hoped to be a tenggiri to the boat. I was disappointed when a large todak (garfish), or “Singapore Marlin”, came into view. Still, it was nice to get on the scoreboard, and was fun on the light set-up. It was also a first saltwater test of my FG knot tying skills…
Todak (a.k.a Singapore Marlin)
We reset our spread and contimued to fish the area. The Captain was in action next, hooking a sailfish on a clone Jackson Pintail 40g lure. Jochen took on the fight, and it was a surprisingly long fight from a juvenile Sailfish on the light tackle set-up (20lb braid and a Shimano 4000 size reel). We brough the fish on-board for pictures and to implant a tag. Noru has set-up with tagging equipment, which was a first for me to see. After successfully tagging the fish, it was quickly revived and released:
Noru tagging Jochen’s Sailfish
Jochen with juvenile Sailfish
The Captain followed this with another take, which didn’t hook, and a further follow from small sailfish curious about his pintail clone. He then snagged a small barracuda, again on lure. It was a good start to the first part of the day.
Then one of the live-baits, fished on my new 2008 model Stella SW8000HG,went off. It was being fished on a drop-back loose drag, and after a couple of surface breaches it took off on a long run as I frantically tightened and set the drag. It ran be 150m behind the boat, before jumping and throwing the hook.
We gave the area another hour or so, but despite a few bite-offs, we had no further action. We decided to head to an unjam (FAD), tie up, fish live-baits and lures and eat lunch.
At our first FAD, it started off slowly, despite having live-bait out off the stern and all three of us, plus the Captain, having spells of casting lures. We decided to have lunch and then moved to another FAD.
At the second FAD, the action started hotting up – the Caprain gad a strike and got bitten off whilst casting pintail copies. He passed the second fish to my, only for it to bite off yet again – the dangers of fishing for mackerel without wire. We’d debated this – the thought that wire leader makes the mackerel wary, versus the chance of bite-off. Up until that point, both Jochen and I, both fishing with wire leader, hadn’t garnered even a single strike ……
But then things changed …..
I was working a small pintail along the edge of the unjam float when I had my first strike … a lively fish that I was convinced was a tenggiri, until a small barracuda came into view:
Barracuda on Jackson Pintail
I followed that in quick succession by another small fish, this time a tenggiri. My mackerel curse continued though as the Captain managed to knock the small fish from my lure as tried to gaff it. I really do have bad luck with mackerel ….!! The fish escaped unscathed (but I did have the leader on the rod …. so an IGFA legal catch and release …!!). All I could do was burst out laughing at the situation. But I redeemed myself about 15 minutes later when I had another hit alongside the float line. This was a much better fish and after a short fight, with a number of sizzling runs, I brought a nice 4kg tenggiri to gaff:
Tenggiri (Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel)
Just 10 minutes later it was Jochen’s turn. His newly purchased Halco C-Gar lure got struck by another decent tenggiri, again of 4kg, that he quickly subdued and brought to the gaff.
Finally, as the day drew to a close, Noru was in action. He hooked a good sized yellowtail barracuda of c.5kg that gave a reasonable fight on light tackle. We rounded off the day with the Captain bringing in a small tenggiri to compensate for the previous poor gaff shot – this one was dinner for the evening.
The evening’s dinner …!
After things went quiet, we started the journey back, making brief stops along the way, but with no further action. It had been a reasonable first day and I was looking forward to cold beer and a fresh tenggiri dinner!
Back at the dock, some good catches of tenggiri and dorado were on dirplay, and we decided to head towards Tioman Island area for Day 2 to try for more mackerel and possibly some dollies.
Score for day 1:
- 4 tenggiri
- 1 Sailfish
- 3 barracuda
Day 2 (9h April)
We started day 2 with anticipation – we were going to go to Tioman to hunt tenggiri. But, once again, bait was hard to come by and we had another slow start to the day. It had initially looked good, as our mate had hooked-up to a decent sized Great Barracuda at our first unjam, but that proved to be a rare piece of action:
Out optimism was blunted after we then went through a number of FAD stops without any signs of activity or any action.
Searching for fish
We slowly worked our way towards FADs located within the Tioman area. It became apparent to us that all boats were struggling – reports of the odd sail here, an occasional tenggiri there came over the radio, but the general message was that everyone was struggling. We worked hard, casting lures repeatedly at each FAD stop together with live-baiting from the stern, all without even a strike to raise our hopes.
We did have the misfortune of snagging a juvenile frigate bird as Jochen was paying out a lure off the stern port side. It was released without harm a few minutes later:
Captain TX with a Frigate Bird ready for release
Later in the day we tied up at yet another FAD. It continued to be slow. Another boat tied up about 40m from us at quickly had a double hook-up with large cobia. They lost one but, after a 30 minute fight on light tackle, brought a c.25kg+ cobia to gaff. 5 minutes later, 3 large cobia appeared alongside their boat but couldn’t be enticed to eat, even with live-bait …!
As the afternoon wore on, me and Jochen decided to call an early end to the trip – the fishing was non-existent and we had a long drive back to KL ahead of us. When we wound in out live-bait we found that it had been sancocho’d – surgically dissected in half by a wily tenggiri that had skilfully managed to avoid the second stinger hook fixed towards the back of the bait:
It was a another sign to give-up. Sometime you have to admit defeat and know when your are beaten. We called it a day and headed back to the dock for an early start on the journey back to KL. Except for Jochen, that was not the end of the story …! On the way back his bike broke-down as he reached the Betong Toll, around 50km outside of KL. Despite this being the interconnected electronic smart-phone age we still need humans (at the current time, at least) to drive taxi’s – and they proved impossible to get. Jochen finally made it back too KL around 4 hours later, sans bike, courtesy of friends from Shah Alam. We’d caught some tenggiri, but they proved to be a very expensive quarry given the additional cost in car and bike repairs suffered by all three of us on the trip. Car trouble tenggiri indeed!!
Score for day 1:
1 great barracuda …!!