[Warning: This post may take a while to load.]
There were countless sea tales told by many-a-scallywag, tales of seas awash with the golden glow of the setting sun reflecting off an orgy of fish. Expectedly, there was immense anticipation for this trip.
Entire companies went on forced leave, old ladies began to report more and more missing jewelry, loved ones near death were told to hang on a little longer, all to make way for this.
Nick started buying gear at the first mention of the possibility of this trip, which was about a year before the date.
Although the trip officially started on the 9th of June, we were already having regular meetings way before that, both virtual and physical to plan for the best possible outcome.
I drove over to pick up Nick and Mark, Kiat picked up Weiyee, Nigel and Cindy took a cab while Pete was chaffuered.
My group was bang on time but Nigel was way early. When everyone had arrived and my group finished our coffees, we bought our internet-booked tickets, took one last look around and headed for the queue.
Thankfully, this queue was a little bit faster than the causeway queue and once we were in, Cindy, Mark and me headed for the duty free store to buy cigarettes, which were much more expensive than those at the airport. They were also lacking my favourite green lucky strikes.
We finally arrived at the Indonesian port about 2 hours later but were less fortunate with the queue over there.
We cleared customs about half an hour later before our driver took us to a local supermarket to stock up on supplies before dropping us off seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We managed to find the boat though and settled down for lunch at the “restaurant” next to the dock.
The food was alright but then again we were quite hungry. The staples in the otak-otaks were a nice touch.
Most of us headed for the toilets immediately after though. Perhaps it was in fear of the state of the toilet onboard. Nevertheless, just like my field camp in BMT, I did not take another shit until the very last day.
The accommodations on the boat were quite good, relatively speaking. Prone to getting seasick ever since NS (the massive headache kind, not the hurling kind), I reserved the lowest bed available.
There was only one AC socket available which I shared with the others. I didn’t trust anyone else’s chargers.
The deck was also incredibly spacious. My luggage for this trip was a simple waterproof floating backpack, many plastic bags of snacks, one orange Awashima tackle box and my rods.
Within half an hour, everyone was mostly settled in.
All the 4 ceiling mounted rod racks which held 7 rods each were completely full and many were forced to stow their rods randomly on deck or in the fishing rod holders.
Mark had neglected to bring proper tackle for the trip though and so spent the remainder of the trip fishing off other’s rods.
For the 2 hours it took to get to the first fishing spot, some slept, others played with their phones and others stayed up on deck and chatted or admired the scenery.
By the time we reached the spot, the captain declared that the wind was too strong and that he was going to shelter behind an island.
Nigel was keen to uphold the TP image and so tried jigging for some fish. Then all of a sudden we saw a flash of white in the water and people were shouting “GT! GT”. Alas, it never surfaced again so we spent the remainder of the evening enjoying our dinner.
Most of us went for seconds and a few even went for thirds. The food was that tasty. Naturally, the chicken wings were the first to go.
We were advised to head to bed while the boat trudged along to our next fishing hole. Some of us tried playing cards to pass the time but the wind and waves kept messing up the table so eventually, every one of us was in bed.
At about 12am, I was suddenly thrusted into the conscious world when Nigel ran into the room and exclaimed excitedly that someone had landed a big fish!
Kiat was sleeping as well and we both mumbled incoherently to each other although the message was clear.
“Frack that shit. I’m sleeping.”
I eventually fell asleep for a grand total of 15 minutes before he burst into the room again. I gave in and dragged my dying body to the nearest rod holder and planted my baited rod in.
My line was running all over the place due to strong currents. Eventually though, I managed to land this eel which I took as a clear and present sign to head back to bed, a sign that I heeded.
While I was sleeping, the others managed to land a few fish. I woke for a brief spell when Nigel woke me up to help him video Kiat’s “big stingray” but when it became apparent that the fish was stuck or the line was now snagged, I disappeared back to bed.
I woke up at about 8.30am the next day and was greeted by the sight of smiling faces on deck. Apparently the fishing was living up to the tales.
Someone had already landed this chermin.
I wolfed down the prepared breakfast and collected my rod from the deckie (who used it after I went to bed), repositioned a rod that was not in use, and squeezed myself in to where it seemed the fish were.
The moment the weight hit the floor, I had a strong tug and moved to strike.
Nick was already fighting a fish and as I striked, Mark hooked up as well. These “small” bulats only gave us a mild thrill but what really excited us was the apparent abundance of fish.
Pete, who pulled an all nighter, eventually contributed with another bulat before taking a breather.
I, on the otherhand, wasted no time in letting my line down again and within intervals of mere minutes, I was rewarded with two more fish.
The rest of the gang had started to trickle onto deck and were seeing for the first time, what I first saw only a little while ago.
They too wasted little time in getting their gear ready.
Fighting 3 fish in such a short amount of time, I decided I would give up my space for a while and let them experience what I felt.
So everyone except me let their lines down at about the same time and almost instantly, everyone was hooked up!
In the melee that were it in Singapore, could only be called a feeding frenzy, someone was unlucky enough to hook up a catfish, while Pete burst his line.
Pete eventually retied his line and casted out just 10 minutes later (as shown in the picture on the left) but this eventually burst as well.
He was determined though and came back fighting (picture on right) with another setup.
I wasted little time with ‘species identification photos’ and rejoined the fight putting the total fighting fit count at 4 (including the skipper and Kiat).
The skipper eventually burst his line to a Barracuda – it hit the fish he hooked up.
The rest of us managed to land our fish.
Seeing that the fish were still there, Weiyee and Mark retook their positions on the front line and naturally I let my line down again while Pete headed off to bed.
None of us were disappointed. Unless it turns out that Weiyee was disappointed that his line had burst. Well, 2 out of 3 is still pretty good.
The fishing was still pretty good but had died down from the peak of only a few hours ago so the boatman decided to move elsewhere while the rest of us ate lunch.
Still groggy, one by one, they started to trickle off to bed. Nick, Mark and I were the last three to head to bed and we were lucky enough to watch a slight kerfuffle unfold as the boatman fought a massive fish only to snag it halfway up the water column and end up landing a massive fish trap.
Those who had headed to bed first were the first to reawaken (though not by much) and got to enjoy some light jigging while the rest of us stoned the day away.
The skipper managed to land two separate fish on his doubled hooked bait while Pete managed to land, among others, a baby Blue Fin Tuna!
Weiyee wanted in on the action but only my Freams 4500J paired with a Eupro Exploder was available. Nigel was quick to say that it would never work but Weiyee was having none of it and proceeded to jig with vigour.
When he eventually hooked up on his third cast, I was equally quick to vocally note the occurence!
I was also very vocal in pointing out that that was MY setup which was responded to with much laughter.
Eventually, we settled down and enjoyed another tasty dinner….
… and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.
When was the last time you got to see the sun set over the horizon?
I can’t recall who it was but someone managed to land this eleventh hour Orange Spotted Malabar Grouper while the rest of us resigned ourselves to eging and squid scooping.
At about 9pm, we started to trickle off to bed.
I woke up at about 11pm to pull an all nighter with Nigel as if to get my money’s worth of fishing. Kiat joined soon after but kept drifting between the fishing and his bed.
I whiled the time away by playing with the boat’s resident catfishes on light tackle for about an hour.
Soon though, I heard a lot of action on the other side of the boat and watched as Nigel and Kiat landed these big cobias!
I was keen to get in on the action as well and let my line down. Almost instantly, I hooked up with a cobia slightly larger than the one Nigel is holding in the picture above.
Unfortunately, the hook gave way. I was determined though and rebaited and let my line out again.
After about 20 minutes, my reel started to scream! I lifted up my rod with much strength and striked!
I tightened my drag but the line was still running out of my Accurate BX2 500 N like a cheetah, so Nigel moved it close to max drag but the fish was still running!
So it was now on me and not on the gear to manhandle the fish!
I turned him around and quickly reeled in the slack only for him to shoot off in the other direction but I focused on the task and pulled it back towards me. The fish still had a lot of fight left in him and I was getting tired but I managed to coerce it near the boat.
When we looked over the gunwale. we could see how massive it was! It was about 50% longer than Nigel’s and was fat! There was also another cobia slightly smaller than the size of Nigel’s fish, swimming with it.
The fish was nowhere ready to be landed safely but because I managed to bring the fish to the boat, the deckies were ready to land it. Unfortunately, the gaff was passed to a green deckie.
He attempted to gaff it once and missed. He tried again and hit the fish but still failed to hook it up. By now my line had tangled with Nigel’s line which appeared to be snagged on the sea floor. Then the deckie tried again for the third time and hit the fish again but still failed to hook it up! The fish was having none of this and took off at lightning speed, before breaking the hook off.
I was devastated.
As the deckies untangled Nigel’s line from mine, I silently hoped that there was a huge stingray on the end of his line.
How it would console me I did not know.
As it turned out, there really was a stingray on the other end of the line.
The fish was near the boat in about twenty minutes but yet again, that same green deckie kept missing the mark which kept chasing the fish away.
After about 35 minutes of trying to reel him in, it was finally landed by another deckie.
Nigel enjoyed his freshly cooked pot of Maggi Mee with every crustacean we caught plus sotong thrown in, while the deckie skillfully portioned the stingray.
Owing to the method he used, virtually no meat was wasted.
With little bites, weakened flesh, and a dejected heart, I went to bed shortly after.
Whoever it was that woke up at 6am managed to take a photo of a muted sunrise.
I woke up at about 8am to fish strewn all over the deck and bombay toast on the table
I took a quick shower and an uneasy shit while the deckies filled up the iceboxes.
Mmm.. Bombay toast.
While it is a generally good idea to not fill up your icebox to the brim, this icebox was seriously underfilled!
Gutting the fish also allows you to keep fish longer which means it could have been filled up even more!
There was also a large quantity of “unwanted fish” which was “leftover”.
Much to our amusement, when it came time for us to alight, it wasn’t at a jetty or dock.
Instead, the boat stopped near the beach and we had to climb down to a leaking and extremely unstable sampan with a tattered cloth as a roof.
Some of the guys went for a massage while the rest of us went for a quick shopping trip and some light makan before we all reconvened for another round of food.
The ice cream man is on a sampan… AFTER the custom’s scanning machine.
A man also dropped his dentures on the ferry. I would have handed it to him instead of informing him of the fact but it just felt weird.
We reached Singapore about 2 hours later where we took a group photo and went home.
Great experience, good fishing, extremely fun. Looking forward to the next one.
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.