3 Days Fishing at Rompin Tioman – Beginners Experience


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I went on my first fishing trip to Rompin back in 2007 when it was part of a CCA activity.
We have never fished in our entire life before and suddenly we were tasked to buy our own fishing rods and reels (which we paid about $30 for). We bought like 1 Sotong Bait each and that was it.

Prior to the fishing trip, we went prawning at east coast park and marina south (non-existent now) as it was the “closest” we can ever get to fishing and apart from knowing what does a rod, line and hook looks like and having to deal with unhooking live prawn, that’s pretty much about it. Prawning and Fishing is so different.

Photos from 2007

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In the 2007 trip, it was a 3D2N with 2 days of fishing around Rompin. For the first day, our target was sailfish and we landed about 4 to 5 fishes. Sailfish fishing ain’t an easy thing and the rods that were used cost approximately $1000. The $30 rods we bought were practically useless. Well, we did use it at the beginning for catching the bait fishes and that’s about it. On our second day, we went for sotong-fishing and I lost my sotong bait (which cost $1-$2 each) and my sotong in one miss. I can’t remember if my line snapped or what but that was game over for me. In case you’re wondering what it looks like, please see image below.

Image result for sotong bait Img Cr: Virtual Malaysia

Anyway, we (4 of us + boatman) eventually caught about 14 to 15 sotongs (for the whole day) together with some red fishes (I think it is snapper).

Photo of our solo boatman who had to teach 4 + 1 (senior) newbies how to fish. We had absolutely 0 knowledge. Everything from tying of hook to unhooking the fishes to putting bait for the fish had to be done by him.. >_<

Sorry for the digress. Just wanted some throwback memories from 9 years back =p


*********** November 2016 ***********

After months of procrastination with somewhat the same group from 2007, we finally embarked on our second trip to Rompin after getting to know a really pro and bao-ge-liao (everything also cover) fishing guide.

It was a 3D2N fishing trip with..

  • 3 Days of fishing (Departing SG at 2am on Day 1 and arriving SG at 11pm on Day 3)
  • 2-way house-pick up MPV transport
    • This means that you do not have to exit the vehicle at the customs.
    • Our Toyota Alphard was pretty comfortable (Note: vehicle models and type subject to availability)
  • 2 Nights accommodation at basic “chalet”
  • All Rods Provided
    • We had like 10 to 12 rods shared between 6 of us.
    • Different rods are set up for different conditions
  • All Baits Provided
    • Live Prawns were bought as baits
  • All Fishing Accessories Provided
    • This includes hooks, strings, weights, sotong lure, jigging lure.
      My friends and I lost quite a number of hooks and weights to ferocious fishes.. Such items are not cheap and we felt really bad but the fishing guide had this 八宝箱 which had everything. We also damaged one rod (hopefully it is salvageable) along the way.. 
  • All Meals included
    • Breakfast @ Rompin & Tioman (We had delicious prata)
    • 3 Day Packed Lunch in Fishing Boat (Rice with Chicken, Fried Rice and Rice with Chicken)
      Please don’t expect much.. it will just be food to fill your stomach.
    • 2 Dinner @ Tioman (We had BBQ prepared by our accommodation)
    • 1 Dinner @ Rompin on Last Day
      We ate some fishes from our catch

So.. for the whole trip, I did not take my wallet out at all. The only place you could possibly use your own money is at the small mini mart at the accommodation. It has duty-free alcohol (Think Hoegarden for RM 7) and several snacks and necessities (marked-up to SG pricing) in case you didn’t bring them.

Weather

The monsoon season kind of started really early this year and even though we went in early November, the sailfish sightings were minimal and we did not waste any time searching for sailfish. To be honest, I don’t mind not catching sailfish as sometimes I do get disturbing thoughts on the idea of catch & release (tell me about it.. why did I even go fishing).

We were both lucky and unlucky for our trip. It did not rain on the first day but the waves were strong and one friend suffered from seasickness (even after medication) for a few hours. For the second and third morning, it rained during our breakfast timing and we set off about 1 hour after scheduled time (which also means 1 less hour of fishing). The waves were kinder to us on the second and third morning. No one complained of seasickness after eating the pills. Most pills have drowsy effect but the moment your fish bites, you will be wide awake.

Thanks to our pro guide, he knows exactly what we could catch depending on the weather and season. Sad to say, my favourite sotong was pretty rare and we only managed to catch enough for the usage of baits. The previous time (2007) we went in mid-November, we caught more sotongs.

Before Fishing

Since my friends and I were all lazy, we sat comfortably and enjoyed the boat ride while the pro guide set up all the rods, reels and hooks for us. Towards the end of the trip, it came to my realisation that we did not learn how to tie any knots at all. We were that lazy. It’s kind of regretful that we conveniently did not help at all but.. I guess that’s why we followed the pro guide 😉

By the way, apart from the 4 of us and the pro guide, there was a 2-year experience angler and a boatman (who knows how to fish) with us. So rest assured, it wasn’t solely the pro guide helping us out.

Types of Bait and Bait Hooking

There are many different types of baits and each attracts different types of fishes.

Non-Living Baits

  • Sabiki – it is a ready-made setup with multiple hooks. Each hook has a white feather-like thing attached and this white thing looks like “fish food” in the water. This setup attracts bait fishes like scads, fusiliers, selar, sardine etc.
  • Fishing Lures – Here’s a “fake fish” which has the power and ability to attract real fish. The technology and research behind the design, weight, material and colour of the lure is so intense that these lures can cost up to hundreds. It is so effective that some anglers prefer using such lures to live bait.
    Image result for fishing lures
  • Squid Jig – this thing is shaped like a fish to attract sotongs to it. If you bounce your rod slowly up and down in a certain manner, this jig will move in a certain way that will “cheat” the squids into believing it is food and swim towards it and get hooked.
    Image result for sotong head bait

Living Bait

  • Live Prawns – a very popular bait that anglers usually order from the boatman prior to the trip. I guess prawns are a good treat in the ocean and our catch rate for the first day (mainly using these fresh and alive prawns) in bottom fishing was really good!
    At the beginning, i refused to touch the prawns with my bare hands, often using the construction gloves we brought along but by the second half of the first day, we were all pretty comfortable using our bare hands to hook the prawns (if boatman or fishing guide is not near us). When you are on a roll, there’s no time to wait. You just got to hook in, reel out, reel in, hook out and repeat.
    There are many ways to hook a prawn but we were taught to do it this way.
    Image result for how to hook live prawn bait
  • Live Fish – I remember the boatman using a live fish (from the bait fish we caught using Sabiki) as a bait to attract sailfish back in 2007. They will hook either at the “nose” or the fin area where I suppose the fish doesn’t have nerves at. The point is that you keep the fish alive so that it swims around the ocean and attracts its predator (a bigger fish). We didn’t really use this bait in our trip as I guess it was not the correct season/weather.
    Image result for how to hook live fish bait

Dead Bait (Awful name but I can’t think of anything better)

  • Bite-size Bait Fishes – Cutting up the bait fishes that we caught into smaller pieces and using them as a bait. If I’m not wrong, selars and sardines are usually used. I guess their blood attracts the bigger fishes. This is used commonly for bottom fishing (where you use a sinker to bring your hook down to the bottom).
    Image result for cutting bait fish
  • Smaller pieces of squid – Cutting up the squids that we caught. As much as I prefer to bring the caught squids home to eat, they were “better off” being sliced up and used as baits to catch bigger fish.
    Image result for cutting squid for bait

Actual Fishing

Depending on the setup of the rods/lines/hooks, the fishing techniques can vary. I’ll only be talking about those that I’ve tried or watched personally for my trip.

  • Bottom Fishing – we did this method 90% of the trip.
    We used the “Drop Rig” setup as seen in the diagram below where a sinker brings your hook all the way to the bottom.
    Depending on the current and depth, different sizes of sinkers will be used.
    Image result for fishing techniques
    Img Cr
    It is the simplest method of them all. All you have to do is to release the line and let the sinker drop to the bottom of the seabed.When you feel the sinker reaching the bottom, tighten your line and wait for your rod to bend. When your rod bends, it means that there’s something disturbing your bait at the bottom. Hold your rod up and feel the tug and it might give you a slight inkling of what lies below.Reeling in too fast for a big fish may cause your rod to break especially when the fishing you’re fighting is very strong. When dealing with strong fishes, what you need to do is to reel up cautiously and when the fish is struggling (aka swimming away), do not reel in. Reel in only when the fish is not struggling too aggressively. The lines may snap if the tension is too tight and you’ll lose your hook and sinker. Reeling in too slowly? The fish might swim away after noticing the hook while nibbling your bait.To be honest, there isn’t any hard and fast rule to reeling in your catch after a bite and you got to feel it to understand.
    It’s hard to put it in words but the anticipation is real. Every time there’s a nibble and you’re reeling it in, you will start wondering and anticipating what’s at the end of the line and that drives you to reel in harder and faster!
  • Ranggong Rig – something a little technical but it was an effective setup which caught me the bigger fishes.
    It is commonly used in deeper waters with higher current. The line (A) is a lot longer to allow the bait to float/swim (in the case of live bait) further away, widening the luring area. There is the presence of a spreader (long metal curve thing) for the sinker which prevents the string from getting tangled up.
  • Squid Fishing
    To catch squids, a squid jig is used. In the case of deep to mid water fishing, you need to slowly lift your rod up and down to create this effect for the squid jig to “swim” in order to attract the squids to bite.Just some tips from handlinefishing.com

    When the squid and cuttlefish strikes

    Squids and cuttlefish can strike anytime while the artificial lure is being worked depending on the mood and aggressiveness of the squid. Those that hit during retrieval are very likely to successful hookups while those hit while the jig is stationary or during sinking may have slightly less success in hookups. This is because the squid has more opportunity to observe the lure and they often will will attack the lure from its side instead of the back where the hook is.

    As you should know, squids releases ink when they are in distress. Thus, you should be very cautious when reeling them up. Once they are out of the water, do not reel in too close. Allow the squids to squirt out their ink (hopefully not towards you). If the ink doesn’t come out, hold the squid cautiously when unhooking and always ensure that the squirt direction is away from your face/clothes.

  • Fly Fishing (Demo only)
    It makes use of the artificial lures as the weight and it involves casting in a certain manner which allows you to go further. This fishing method allows you to fish for fishes that swim along the surface and midwater bodies. The reel is somewhat different as you need to do this action called “Jigging” which involves the shaking and reeling in at the same time, allowing the lure to swim like a fish in the water. Don’t know how to describe it but here’s a video to see how a lure can “swim” in water. Well, always remember that the purpose of a lure is to mimic a bait.
  • Trolling (Demo only) – This a technique whereby you “fish” for pelagic fishes (fishes where don’t swim near the seabed) In Rompin, you will be aiming for Mackeral.
    People usually use a lure or dead bait for trolling and it involves you letting go of your line for a certain distance before locking the line down. All these is done when the boat is traveling at a slow speed of about 4 knots (7km/hr) to 6 knots (11km/hr). The speed is a guesstimate as it depends a lot of the surrounding conditions. After your rods are all set up, all you have to do is wait. If you’re good and experienced, you can set up 5 rods at the back of the boat and wait for them to bite. Do practice with caution as there may be chances that the lines might tangle if it is not done properly.When there’s a bite, you will hear the line being pulled out and you need to get hold of your rod and start reeling it in. It should be at a speed faster than it can swim. Mackerals are strong swimmers and they can swim really fast in water. To be good in trolling, you need to alert and fast.

Unhooking the Fish

If you’re afraid of the slime and the scales and the wetness, bring along a glove with you. Gloves can also prevent blisters on your hand and gives you more grip when holding on to the fish.
Image result for fishing gloves

Something trivial: so.. we were trying to minimise the touching of fishes with our bare hands since it was slimy and wet, we hardly did the unhooking of fishes (leaving it to pro guide and boatman). When we had to do it, we wore the construction gloves that we bought. While holding on to fishes as “prized catch” for photos, we wore the gloves too.. However, on the last day, we used our bare hands to collect the fishes from the floor and pack them into our ice box as the gloves had been thrown away the moment we left the boat. Urgh. Slimy, wet and fishy. Right. Tell me why am I fishing again?

Constantly Moving

The best part of sea-fishing is that you get to move, and move and move again if the bite rate ain’t good. When we anchor at a location and the bite is pathetic, the boatman will usually shout 5 or 10 more minutes before we depart again. It can be slightly tiring especially at deeper waters as your hand has to reel in and out time and again but.. nothing is tiring in comparison to the potential big fishes that you can catch.. as long as you keep searching. Furthermore, being on a boat, you can even ride away from dark rain clouds.

Types of Fish

Alright, I tried to do a fish ID kind of thing but I failed terribly so I’ll just post the photos of some fishes that were caught and leave it to the pros to identify the fishes.

Useful fish identification information can be found from handline fishing talk about fish i eat i shoot i post

fish3 coral-trout fish fish1  grouper white-tail-grouper

Some photos of our catch

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Fish Distribution

Although the fishing trip is 3 days, rest assured – your fish from Day 1 will be kept in an ice box throughout. The boatman will ensure that there’s sufficient ice available for your fishes through the day and night. The more fishes you catch, the harder it is to transport the fishes out from the boat to the shore. Our boat was like the third boat and the fishes were transferred hand to hand from the icebox of the fishing boat to the floor. Yes – the floor. This is how fishes are treated before ending up in your stomach. Well, they have scales to “cushion” away the dirt.. I hope. Unless you can remember specifically which fish you caught, most fishes are distributed evenly among the anglers. Despite requesting to take home less fishes, my box was like 3/4 full after the division and we even had some leftover fishes. The previous boat also left behind some fishes for us as their icebox couldn’t accommodate anymore fish. #fishingwoes101

Other highlights of the trip

I can never get enough of the sea, the sunsets and the sea breeze.

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Here’s a photo of the accommodation. It’s pretty basic but there’s aircon and hot water with a hell lot of commando mosquitoes.
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Tips on what to bring

If it’s your first time fishing, it is good to be prepared or face the consequences of the sun. Being out in the sea, you are exposed to the weather elements and the worse would be the UV rays from the sun. Just some personal advice from me..

  • Wear long sleeve or use an Arm Sleeve.
    This would prevent you from getting too badly burn. I even sprayed sunblock over my arm sleeve as a double protection.
  • Sun Block
    This is seriously a must. Apply it to all areas of your exposed skin – face, neck, arms and legs.
  • Sunglasses
    The sun is unforgiving. The glares are so strong that it makes your eyes tired. Never forget your sunglasses when you’re out at sea!
  • Hat/Cap
    Bring a hat or cap to block the sun from your face/head. The best type of hat is those safari hat with a strap to stop it from being blown away by the strong winds.
  • Hair Dryer
    This item was not provided in the accommodation and it took me quite a while to dry my hair but I ended up sleeping with somewhat wet hair because I was too tired =/
    For people who are more particular, it would be good to bring one along.
  • GoPro
    With its wide angle lens, it will be super useful when filming fishing videos. Furthermore, when the water is so clear and when the depth is not too deep, you can just put your gopro in the water and capture some underwater footages!
  • Card Games
    There’s like nothing to do at the accommodation at night except visiting the mini mart to buy beer. Furthermore, the wifi might be a little weak depending on the room that you are staying. This means that it can be extremely boring at night, especially when you’re the type that cannot sleep early. However, in this trip, we were so tired that we all chose to sleep early.

For the girls only..

Click to read

With regards to pee-ing on the boat, it is usually done at the front of the boat. In my 2007 trip, we had to squat down to pee into this hole which goes straight into the ocean. In my recent 2016 trip, you could sit down on like a bowl-like thing and pee. There are no doors and you just have to do it in the open. When you do it, you usually inform the rest of the people in the boat so they can show a little respect and look away while you’re at it. Right. Anyway, I managed to hold in my pee and I did not use the boat toilet the entire trip. I think it is quite unhealthy but I guess 3 days in my life is fine. I controlled my water intake and I only start drink water when I start sweating. Which means like at the start of the journey when we are heading to our fishing locations, I don’t drink any water at all. I only start drinking when I feel that I am sweating and thankfully all the water intake goes out as sweat for me.

*****************


To be honest, I think fishing to me is more like a discovery hobby rather than something I will enjoy on a regular basis. I still feel a little sad when you do a catch and release but at the back of your mind, you know the fish ain’t gonna make it. Fishing for food – is somewhat acceptable if the fish is not facing extinction. Oh wells, I haven’t settled on my stand yet but let’s see again.

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