I remember vividly, all those times that Nigel had me wake up early while he slept in, just so that we could go fishing all the way in the west, to get the ‘first-light-fish’.
Today the tables were turned. Except for the fact that I still had to wake up early. So retribution it was not.
At 5.30am, I was up. At 6.10am, I was out the door and on the way to buy Prawns from Changi. Fortunately, Changi Pro was open.
The inaugural Native League is a multi day kayak fishing competition open only to Native kayaks and related brands. It has a novel point scoring system (including bonus points for Catch and Release) which takes the weight of the fish and multiplies that based on rarity and quality, giving the points for that catch. It also includes a maximum daily quota of submissible fish and includes side games such as Catch of the Day (among others).
Most of us (read as ‘I, and some others’) arrived within the registration window, some were late, including one of the organisers.
We set up our gear (and nibbled on snacks and sipped on milkshakes from the McDonald’s drive through) before making the rounds to look at the competition’s kayaks, some socialising, and some occasional comments to try and psych the competition out. Something along the lines of: “Look at this weather! Sure cannot get fish. I think better to fish just in front of watercross.”; then you try to hide your sly grin.
Then someone else would say something like, “I think better not launch today. Risky and not safe.” and you respond with an “Ya. I agree. Come let’s all stay safe here.”, while quietly pulling your kayak closer to the shore.
When the missing organiser finally turned up, we pulled our kayaks to the launch site in front of watercross. A not so small amount of time elapsed before we could get the briefing started.
When it finally did get started, the briefing was peppered with various participants trying to find loopholes in the competition format. It had an interesting scoring format with additional incentives for catch and release.
It also allowed up to 3 members per team, with the stipulation that only 2 were allowed on the water at any one time. Nigel and I made up team Lucky Strike.
As most of us knew each other well, there were flagrant offers of bribery to the organisers. There were also friendly accusations of cheating (Kelong!) to the organisers (as one of them had taken part in the competition). It was all in good fun of course.
After the not-exactly-brief briefing, we were all set to launch and the organisers made a final pass around the kayaks to make sure no one was cheating.
One of the “side games”, as they were called, was the Catch of the Day. The first person to catch a specified fish would win an additional prize. Today’s CotD was any grouper. Despite this, no one ran to their kayaks, or pushed their kayaks into the sea before jumping in (like bobsled racing).
It was all very casual with only the slightest hint of urgency. Competitors peddled to their favourite spots or followed those who they thought they could steal fish off, all at a fairly leisurely pace.
Mathew from SGYakAttack caught the CotD barely half an hour into the competition. It was at a location that I was planning to drift by.
Seeing that, I started to expedite my drifting by peddling but it was not fast enough so I pulled my line out of the water and headed straight there.
When I arrived, I was shocked to see, on my fishfinder, so much debris on the floor bed. Dropping my line to the bottom and the subsequent snags as I kept moving around the area confirmed that there were many discarded nets laying around. The last time I had been here, there were only a few structures and no nets.
I did manage to land a small flathead but it was too small to satisfy the minimum length required for submission.
I gave up after my 2nd or 3rd snag and allowed myself to continue drifting west to eventually meet up with Nigel.
When I eventually linked up with Nigel, he had managed to land quite a few fish, but very unusually, there were a lot of small fish, some of which even the most ardent ‘tao-pao afficionado’ would probably not have bagged.
As I was about to reach his spot, he also hooked up a 2nd Kaci.
Then came the distant roll of thunder.
Once I saw the rain wall approaching, I immediately pulled my line up and made plans to shelter at the nearby beach. However, Nigel dropped his lunch overboard and I had to go pick it up (it can be a pain to lift up the anchor, even with a small kayak, and especially with strong winds and currents and fast approaching rain – so since I was on the move and Nigel was still anchored, I went to help him out).
Seemingly out of nowhere, a school of students (pun intended) started to kayak their way past us. They were headed to OBS and just before they reached us, the heavens opened. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get the chance to deliver Nigel’s lunch to him before the downpour began.
Throughout all this, Pochong and Omar from team FenOmMan were in the middle of the channel, though as we later found out, it was because they were fighting a big fish. A big fishing boat later went alongside them then went off. Even the Police Coast Guard paid them a visit then went off.
Luckily it started to clear up. The wind died down and the rain becames ‘finer’.
If you haven’t noticed it yet, Nigel is teaching you how NOT to wear a disposable poncho.
When the rain finally stopped, Nigel continued on at the same spot while I went in search of fish elsewhere. I headed to a nearby spot where I had seen some underwater structures before. That isn’t completely correct though. At the time, all I saw was one single stick.
I passed by Omar who told me what was happening with Pochong. Omar had stuck with Pochong throughout the fight, acting as lookout and cheerleader. Pochong was still fighting the fish. I wished them luck and continued on my way.
I couldn’t find my spot though so I began to drift back towards watercross. There was a cutoff time for the submission of catches for weighing.
Then I saw a small (height and area) underwater hill and decided to try my luck there.
Within 30 seconds of my line touching the water, I caught this guy. He put up a decent fight too, all the way up to the surface.
After putting him on the stringer, I tried my luck around the area but caught nothing else, despite a few bites.
As I was manoeuvring around the area, I began to notice many more underwater sticks. I marked the positions of where the sticks were, creating a perimeter of digital markers on my fish finder.
I suspect it is a sunken kelong, or as some who use the more accurate term call it, a sunken marine farm. On the fishfinder, I also spotted what seemed to be some discarded netting, laying near the seabed.
When my line finally snapped from a snag, I called it a day and began to make my way back to watercross.
The weight of the fish was (suspiciously) exactly the average of Nigel’s 2 kaci (i.e. exactly 1/3 the total weight). Despite being in different categories, the points attributed to our fish were the same. However, because Nigel couldn’t release one of his kaci (due to it being dead), he missed out on the Catch and Release bonus so my fish accounted for 35.6% of the days points for our team.
We made our way back to shore for the weigh in. Each team took their turns to weigh their catch, and yell out their offers of bribery to the weighing officials, while standing right next to their competitors.
There was also a bit of a kerfuffle when I was releasing my grouper after the weigh in. Instead of swimming away, the grouper swam to the seabed, right next to our feet. Nordin tried to encourage it to leave by moving his foot close to it. While it did take the hint, it went in the wrong direction and swam circles around our feet, much to our horror. We had no choice but to dance a little and practise defensive kung fu. One of the officials whose feet were barely in the water also took a few steps back. Fortunately, after about 5 seconds, it got its bearings and swam to deeper waters.
Pictures were taken and the table of standings was updated and disseminated to the rest later that night. Though it was updated a few days after, giving team Z Fighters, already the leaders at the time, an even bigger lead. It was then updated again a few days after that to give them an even bigger advantage. *cough*kelong*cough.
Team East Side Anglers
Team Sea Assasins
Team Z Fighters
After the fish had been weighed and the day had been officially closed, Nordin relaunched his kayak out for more fishing. Within half an hour, and before we had even finished cleaning up our kayaks, he caught this guy.
|East Side Anglers||1.202|
|Team Liquid Moly||0.016|
|The A Team||0.011|
Check out SGYakAttack’s video of this day here or view it below:
End of Day 1
Shawn started fishing in 1994. He caught his first fish (an Ah Seng) on that very first trip to Changi Carpark 4 (before it was barricaded). He built up his fishing knowledge and gear over the years but still keeps his old gear, just like the memories.