I started thinking about the possibility of doing a 5 day trip to Rompin whilst on a previous visit here in September last year. I discussed the possibility with a few mates but I realised that it would be difficult to get people together on the same schedule. Then in March of this year I tentatively started scoping out a possible trip to Muscat, Oman with the idea of chasing longtail tuna and dorado with light spinning tackle. That idea also didn’t pan out. Then, a few chance events happened that switched my focus back to a 5 day trip – first I had an awesome 2 day trip to Rompin in mid June, with unexpectedly good fishing:
Secondly, the tuna school didn’t materialise off of Muscat in any numbers worth chasing. Thirdly, I had both of my sons back here in KL for the summer; and finally I got a window of opportunity with my wife’s, work and fishing guides schedules …!! So here we were, me, Siôn and Ceri set for a 5 day sailfish fishing extravaganza at Kuala Rompin. As usual, I was fishing with Anthony Sullivan:
DAY 1 (07.08.17)
We awoke on Day 1 to clear skies, although the forecast all week was for blustery weather every afternoon …! The routine commenced as usual – run offshore, stop at various unjams (FADs) to collect bait and then start the hunt for signs of sailfish feeding activity. We did struggle to get bait and had to head offshore with only a limit supply (in both number and species) of bait. For this trip I was going to keep a fishing log to help me with catches and sequencing for writing this blog entry ……!
So, we commenced fishing for sailfish at Tok Rahmat at 10.20am! It looked good, with birds and abundant sailfish surface feeding activity. Almost immediately Siôn started to get follows on the popper and we had our first hook-up by 11.00am. Ceri took this first fish whilst me an Anthony continued to soak live-baits and Siôn was working hard with the popper:
Whilst Ceri was in the final throes of the fight, I had a subtle take on my livie, and set the hook on a fish that stayed deep – it moved deep and close to the boat. I had to navigate it past the engines as it moved from the port stern corner around to the starboard corner, whilst passing under Ceri’s rod and Sailfish that was coming to the boat for landing. I worked it to the surface and wasn’t completely surprise when a large Cobia broke the surface. The fish then pulled me 360 degrees around the boat (a walk-around design) and back to the original hook-up position …. and then back and forth across the stern as it made multiple deep diving runs back to the sea-bed. Finally, after a number of aborted attempts, the captain finally managed to get in a gaff shot and the fish was mine. A nice fat Cobia of 30lbs (14kg), my biggest to-date and another trophy fish on the Stella Sw8000 and another good test of my new “double-lock” FG knot tying technique:
Cobia 14 kg
The full intense fight was all captured on video:
It was a good start to the day and we were anticipating a really good session. We continued to chase feeding birds and raising fish on popper – Siôn was getting multiple follows and had two brief pulls from Sailfish, but nothing stayed hooked for more than a few seconds. I had a go and also managed to get multiple raises to the lure but no strikes. Frustratingly, we were throwing live-baits at these fish but they were ignoring our offerings each time.
We then had a comical interlude – Siôn brough in a green-eyed squid. It was attached to, but not hooked, the live-bait. As soon as we made an naive and amateurish attempt to net it it was gone in a flash and a puff of ink!
We stopped for lunch at 12.40 pm and then Anthony made the decision to try to get better baits – we needed more variety and we needed to replenish our live bait stock. We sped off to a near-by unjam, gathered more bait and headed back to the sailfish. We resumed fishing just before 2.00 pm. Once again Siôn was working a popper from the bow and immediately began garnering follows from fired-up sailfish. This time the pop and switch worked – I dropped a live-bait right in-front of a sailfish as it turned away from the popper near the boat and it immediately took my bait. Siôn had raised this fish and he wanted it so I passed him the rod to do battle:
Sailfish #2 – pop & switch
Sailfish #2 c. 30 kg
Shortly after this fish I was in action again – another strange fight, but with an evidently smaller fish ….. another, albeit smaller, cobia:
Cobia #2 – 5 kg
Almost immediately after the cobia, we took a vicious strike on the port rod. Both boys were at the bow, popping and chilling. I took the rod and started to wind rapidly to keep tight to what was probable a good sized tenggiri …… but the inevitable happened as the fish neared the boat, despite my best efforts the bloody thing bit me off ….. arrrgh.
We spend the remainder of the afternoon chasing sailfish, but despite rasing fish to the boat and at one point being in a pack of 4 or 5 sailfish we couldn’t get another take. Then, with a big storm approaching on the horizon, we had to finish fishing early and we left at 4.15 pm to head to port.
It had been a reasonable, if slow and frustrating, first day. We had caught and released two good sailfish and landed two cobia, including a personal best for me. I was looking for an improvement over the coming days.
DAY 2 (08.08.17)
The slow bait-fish fishing continued over from day 1. We’d had information from a sister boat that the fish (on the previous day) were taking small sardine type baits, so we were trying to get a live well full of these, but without much luck. We’d only managed 5 baits in half an hours fishing …! We finally had to commence fishing for sailfish with a limited bait supply and try to pick up more bait as we drift-fished for sails.
But despite our lack of bait, the sailfish were in a hungry mood and we kicked off the session with a double hook-up at 10.25am on our first drift. I pulled the hook on my fish but Siôn stayed buttoned and after a short skirmish brought in the first fish of the day:
Day 2 – Sailfish #1
Barely 20 minutes later and we were in action again – another double. This time Ceri lost the fish whilst I was able to bring in the second fish of the day, a sailfish well into the 30 kg class:
After these two double hook-ups, things went quiet, with little bird or surface activity to chase. We relocated but still found slow going. At 11.42 am the Captain decided to run to a nearby unjam to collect more live bait. After better success with bait gathering we headed back to fish for sailfish with a good stock of sardines.
Ceri and Siôn free-lining live-baits
Once again, the boys put in some effort popping from the bow, getting 3 follows in less than 5 minutes and Siôn manage another, if brief, hook-up on popper. Ceri then raised 3 more fish in the crazy half hour since we re-commenced sailfish fishing at c.1 pm. Finally, at 1.30 pm I got a strike on my live-bait. I set the hook and fought a big sailfish to the boat, a decent fish approaching 40 kg:
Sailfish #3, c.40 kg
Reviving Sailfish #3
Ready for release
We now had 3 from 5 hook-ups landed. We went on the hunt for more. It was Ceri’s turn next and half an hour later he was doing battle with his first sailfish of the day. As the fish came in we could see that it had a large wound on it’s back and damaged pectoral fin – it was either from a squid attach or a shark bite, but it was apparent that it was an old wound and was healing up. We opted for a quick in-water photo before release:
Sailfish #4 with large wound on it’s back
After this fish things went quiet, and that was our lot for the day. We’d improved our sailfish catch, but it was still slow going. I was hoping that things would pick up as the week progressed. Once we got back to port it was apparent that the rest of the fleet had also been struggling. Pretty slow for the time of year.
Day 2 Summary
DAY 3 (09.08.17)
We started the third day with better luck – we made two separate unjam (FAD) stops and quickly filled up the live-well with a good variety of baits including scad, slimy mackerel, kerisi and sardines. We were able to start fishing for sails at the relatively early time of 10 am …!
Following the previous day’s protocol, Siôn and Ceri took to the bow to try to raise sailfish on popper:
Siôn and Ceri casting poppers
I kicked off the day with the first fish. The ratchet screamed on the bait-caster on the starboard ballon rod, I picked up the rod and felt line running out slowly, another cryptic take. I flipped the reel in gear and wound down …. nothing. But as a was retrieving to re-bait I could feel light tension and some jigging on the line. I reeled in yet another cobia, although this was a feeble 1 kg specimen that we released.
It was Ceri’s turn next. He took the rod on the next strike and soon had a chunky c.30kg sailfish alongside for billing, the first of the day:
Ceri with Sailfish #1 of Day 3
Meanwhile, Siôn was busy working a popper at the bow, repeatedly working the area with the lure and raising a number of fish that he enticed towards the boat. Despite his efforts though he still couldn’t manage a hook-up. He then turned his attentions to live-baiting, attempting to hook-up a sailfish. He had a subtle take that get taking line, but very slowly. I took the rod to see if I could figure out what was going on. I put the reel in gear and wound down. I felt some resistance but it was definitely not a sailfish. I suspected a squid (as we’d encountered on Day 1) and reeled the bait slowly to the boat. Sure enough, a large and aggressive green-eyed squid was on the bait. We let the captain try to net the creature this time. After a number of attempts (the greedy cephalopod repeatedly returned to the bait each time it was spooked by the net), the captain finally managed to get it in the net and it was transferred to the cooler – the starter course for the evenings meal.
Siôn was in action again half an hour later as we hooked-up the second sailfish of the day, another c.30kg fish:
Siôn with Sailfish #2
We re-baited and reset out drift and were bitten again almost immediately, but we failed to hook-up. On retrieving the leader we saw that it was cleanly cut-off above the hook. Another tenggiri (Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel) had robbed our bait and escaped once again. I was incensed and grabbed my spinning kit armed with a 40g blue Sotelo casting lure (a Jackson Pintail clone) and cast if off the stern. I only had time for a handful of casts before we had to reset our drift. On the third cast, as I was retrieving the lure near the boat I got a decent strike and set the hook on a small, Spanish Mack that I quickly brought to gaff. Another fish for the ice box and the entree for the evenings dinner:
Spanish Mackerel – olé ….!
It was now noon and the day was shaping up well. We were getting consistent strikes from a variety of species. It wasn’t too long before I was hooked up again, this time a smallish, but feisty, sailfish that I soon had boat-side for Sailfish no.3 for the session:
Sailfish #3 c.20 kg+
It was barely 15 minutes after sail no.3 than we were hooked up yet again. Ceri stepped up to do battle with his second fish of the day. This fish put up a good fight but was hooked near the eye, so we opted for a quick release to minimise damage to the fish:
We now had four sailfish and it was still only 1.00 pm. We still had plenty of fishing time left. Ceri and Siôn continued to work poppers from the bow at the start of each new drift, once gain helping to bring sailfish to the boat, with Siôn yet again having the popper slashed by a fish without hooking-up. Whilst this work was undoubtedly helping us bring sailfish to the boat and increasing our strikes, the fish were still mostly snubbing the live-baits cast at them was the chased down the poppers. Once again, extremely frustrating.
In-between spending time popping at the bow, Siôn was in the stern long enough to take a strike on live-bait and wrangle his first ever cobia, a decent fish of 14 lb (6.4 kg), for another different species for the day:
Siôn with 14 lb Cobia
We then went through a lull with no further activity for about two hours. Then, as the session was drawing to a close there was a sudden increase in sailfish activity. First Siôn was in action with another decent sailfish:
And then right at the end of the day, at 4.40pm, I managed to secure one last fish before we had to return to the jetty:
This had been the best day so far – we were on an upward trajectory for sailfish, with 6 landed, plus we’d added a couple of cobia, a spanish mackerel and a fat squid to round off a decent day’s fishing. The weather had also been excellent and the best of the trip so far. We deserved the cold Tigers that we drank on the journey back.
The days events are summarised in the following video:
Day 3 Summary
DAY 4 (10.08.17)
We were now in to the second half of the trip. The catch rate and the weather had been steadily improving. As usual, we set off with expectations high, and were soon into the familiar routine of collecting live-baits at a number of FAD stops.
We commenced fishing for sailfish at 10.20am, and within 15 minutes had our first hook-up, unfortunately only a “Singapore Marlin” (garfish or todak in local parlance) that we let the captain sort out. Withing the hour we got our first sailfish action, a double hook-up, but pulled the hook on one fish and broke off at the leader knot on the other. Ten minutes later, at 11.30am, I set the hook on another fish only for it to turn and pull the hook again ….. 0/3 to start the day ….!! The tale of woe continued when Ceri missed a possible tenggiri strike on the popper and then Anthony got bitten off by a tenggiri on his live-bait rig.
Finally, 2 hours after we started fishing, we got our first solid hook-up, with Siôn in action bringing in a c.35 kg Sailfish. I followed up half an hour later with a smaller fish of c.25kg:
Sailfish #1 & #2, Day 4
In-between the sailfish, Siôn had raised two cobia that followed his sabiki rig with attached hooked bait-fish to the surface. The were in the area and, sure enough, took one of the sailfish baits. Ceri took the rod and did battle with his first ever cobia, a decent 17lbs fish:
Cobia #1 – 17lbs
Ceri with his first Cobia
Meanwhile Siôn continued to fish for bait withe sabiki rig. He was catching kerisi (a type of red bream) and then snagged a decent grouper of c.1kg, that was retained for dinner that evening.
Next up was Ceri again, almost an hour after his first ever fish, he had another decent cobia of 16lbs. Whilst he was fighting this fish, Siôn set the hook on a Sailfish that eventually jumped and snapped off at the hook as it neared the boat. All action was captured on video:
Day 4 Summary – Sailfish & Cobia
As the afternoon wore on the action started to improve. Anthony was on fire today, hooking up the majority of the fish on his new Stella Sw10000, and once again was able to elicit another good take. I took over the rod to fight sailfish #3 of the session. This was a good sized fish that gave us some good surface action right next to the boat (shown in the video above). We brought this fish on-board for a quick photograph before release:
The final fish of the day came, once again, courtesy of Anthony (he’d cetainly earned his fees today). It was Siôn’s turn to take the rod and he enjoyed playing his second sailfish of the day on the luxuriant Stella SW10000:
Shortly after this fish we were forced to make a move to a new location, Saga Batu, to avoid an brewing storm. Things though were quiet at the new location, apart from a single follow on popper for Siôn that we failed to convert into a hook-up. We closed up for the day at 4.50pm. Time to break out the tigers and head for home ….
Anthony and me toasting the day
DAY 5 (11.08.17)
The final day of the trip. My first ever 5 day fishing trip. I thought that it may become a bit stale after this length of trip …. but not at all. We left the port for the day’s fishing with the same level of excitement and anticipation as for the previous 4 days.
As per the previous days we had to visit a number of spots until we found good concentrations of bait. At the second FAD today we managed to find a good stock of good bait, tamban – a type of sardine, that was proving successful on sailfish this week. We then haded offshore to the Saga Batu area once again, and started to fish for sails at 10.30am. We searched, soaked live-baits, and waited, and waited ….. and repeated this scenario multiple times. It initially looked quite fishy, with some sailfish and bird activity. And then just went dead, apart from a single sailfish follow to a pencil lure and a small group of garfish attracted to the boat by Siôn chumming chunks of tamban in an attempt to generate some activity. Other boats in the area were all in the same situation.
Four hours later we still had not had a single take. Siôn then managed to lose his Ray Bands sunglasses overboard as he bend over the side to wash his hands. He dived in straight after them, banging his nose on an outlet fitting and pushing the glasses deeper. It was frustrating because they were just about neutrally buoyant and it we’d realised we could have got then with the dip net. It was extremely frustrating to watch them disappear …!
Siôn sans Ray Bands ….!
Slowly …. very slowly, the fishing started to come to life. First Ceri scored a garfish of around 2 kg for the first fish of the day (at 2.45pm!). Then, at 3.30pm, completely out of the blue and with no signs of activity, we get a strike from a decent size sailfish that Ceri took on. But as Ceri was show-boating, and the fish started making some leaps in the distance after a long initial run, the line went slack. Ceri reeled in to find that the line had broken above the leader knot – the only one that I hadn’t repleaced after the previous weeks’ fishing. Damn. I cursed myself for not retying the leader – we paid for this lack of attention to detail on a very slow day.
Ceri fighting the solitary Sailfish hook-up of the day
Ten minutes later Anthony hooked-up a small fish that Ceri retrieved – a small Cobia of c.1kg:
And that was it for the day and the trip – a skunk on sailfish and a very poor day. We’d tried hard, despite the lack of fish. I spent hours fishing pintail lures in the vain hope of scoring another tenggiri (Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel):
Lure fishing for tenggiri
As well as poor fishing, the weather was also on the turn, as we were on the edge of a big storm:
Given the poor fishing and developing weather situation we decided to end the day early and started the run back to port at 4.20pm:
Running for port
End of trip beers with Anthony
It had been a very enjoyable trip, with reasonable (but not spectacular) fishing. The catch break-down was as follows:
- Day 1 – 2 Sailfish, 2 Cobia (including a personal best 14kg fish for me)
- Day 2 – 4 Sailfish
- Day 3 – 6 Sailfish, 2 Cobia (including a new species ffirst for Sion), 1 Spanish Mackerel and a squid
- Day 4 – 4 Sailfish, 2 Cobia (including a new species first for Ceri)
- Day 5 – 1 Cobia …..!
So, 16 Sailfish, 7 Cobia and a mackerel. Not too bad, but certainly slower than expected for the time of year. My personal haul was 6 Sailfish, 3 Cobia and the mackerel. I didn’t achieve my target of 100 billfish and 100 Sailfish (my personal tally now stands at 92 Sailfish and 1 Black Marlin), but that goal will be achievable within the next few trips. I look forward to becoming a centurian!