Monday, April 29, 2019

Five ways to cook and enjoy your golden snapper (ang cho)

Most of know the golden snapper (also known as ang cho, jenahak) and this fish is exceptionally good eating but also offers a great fight on rod and reel. Over the years, golden snappers have been targeted using more novel fishing methods like slow fall jigging or light jigging. That said, the traditional way to fish them (at least in Singapore) would still be at night using squid bait or mantis prawns.

Here’s a handy list on how to cook these wonderful eating fish. Remember that if you can bleed the fish or eat the fish on the same day (without freezing), the quality of the meat would be much better. This fish also doesn’t suffer from meat stiffness or the “lor kor” effect. For bigger fish, you can slice steak cuts of the fish for steaming or frying.

1. Steamed fish


Steaming the golden snapper is one of most recommended ways to enjoy it. You can choose from many different ways of steaming (Hong Kong style, Teochew style, Assam steam) as the fish is quite versatile. My favourite would be Teochew style as this brings out the sweetness of the fish and the fish’s sweet juices also transform the steaming stock into something out of this world.

Also since we’re talking about steaming, you can follow #steamthebugger on Facebook. Always good inspiration. 

2. Baked fish



Baking the golden snapper is something quite trendy among our fishing group lately and it is likely because the oven is a fairly common household cooking equipment these days. Many recipes can be found online and you can follow them to good effect. The skin of the golden snapper is quite amazing because it is not too thick and yet not too thin (a perfect bake would crispy the skin nicely).

3. Yao zham/fried in oil

If you have golden snapper above 2kg, this is also an awesome way to have it done. Smaller fish won’t do well as the meat will shrink a fair bit. Note that this is best tried at the hawker or local zhi char stall as you’re unlikely to get optimal heat for the oil doing this at home.

Picture: We didn't have a picture of Yao zham golden snapper to show you so showing you a parrot fish will have to do it.

4. Fillet and grilled


This is an extremely decadent way of enjoying the golden snapper! In fact, we only recommend this if you have much to spare. This is one of the popular ways that the folks in Australia like to use. A little salt, black pepper and lemon will be enough for the fish. Remember not to overcook the fish!

5. Curry ang chor



Curry golden snapper used to be quite common in the past although farmed fish were used. Now the restaurants and zhi char places usually use farmed red snapper or kerisi for their fish curry. I couldn't taste any super difference between used farmed snapper or wild snapper for curry but I suppose it’s a fairly easy way to prepare. Not the best way I reckon but still good!

Photo credits: https://www.facebook.com/baitdabaoeat/

Friday, April 26, 2019

Nine predictions of Singapore’s fishing future in the next century or so


Fishing has always been a hobby and a way of life for many Singaporeans. Proud fathers have brought their sons (or daughters) out to catch their first big fish and their children have brought their own children out as well. My own father brought me on my very first fishing trip to Bedok Jetty at East Coast Park and when I caught my first tambans, I could see my father being quietly proud. I never knew what it meant back then until recently when I brought my dad and younger brother on an offshore fishing trip. Such a sweet role reversal and a subtle positive feeling that.

Singaporeans as a community have been talking about the future of Singapore – jobs, infrastructure, quality of living and so on, but has anyone thought about the future of fishing in Singapore? Looking at how the Singapore Government treats fishing in general, I really doubt so. The future of fishing would probably be the last thing in their yearly desired achievements.

Below, I predict some of the key trends that will affect the Singapore fishing scene (in general) in the next century or so. Some are positive but some are negative. Hey, someone needs to do the predictions right?
1. Declining fish stocks
I predict that fish stocks in the island (freshwater) and around the Island (surrounding waters) will continue to decline if nothing is done. Serious discussions have been created by the local fishing community – legal policies like fishing licenses and fish restocking were some of the ideas mooted. These have not gained any ground though and looks like it won’t any time soon.

Focus on development at the sake of an authentic healthy environment* has seen land reclamation and habitat destruction kill off many of our fish stocks. The land reclamation in the past has claimed many coral reefs but recently, Singapore has also sealed (dammed) up most of her large natural and manmade estuaries. The areas at the Singapore River, Serangoon River (used to be a super spot for crabbing), Yishun Dam, Kranji and Lower Seletar Dam are now all freshwater. Thousands of fishes have died (I personally witnessed groupers and pelagics floating up dead at the Singapore River). Perhaps the greatest pity comes not from the fish stocks but that possible breeding grounds and migration routes for some inshore species have now disappeared. Our rivers are too small (in the authority’s eyes) to warrant any research but scientific evidence does suggest that many species such as the Barramundi, Threadfin require a working saltwater to freshwater system for spawning and survival. I won’t really write much about the land reclamation in the past because it would make the whole situation more pessimistic.

* My definition of authentic and healthy is different from the one our authorities usually endorse. One does not have an authentic venue just because things are made nice (for example, damming up Serangoon River and building boardwalks and bridges and all may seem like a really cool trade off but it’s not. It’s the destruction of a perfectly healthy environment.   

2. Singapore as a sportfishing utopia

This prediction really is the opposite of the prediction above. Assuming that our authorities do eventually contribute positively to the future of fishing and that the fishing community can come together to make legal fish restocking and licenses work, the above prediction will definitely just be a next step in the whole scheme of things.

Why? Our current freshwater reservoirs do hold some of the most ridiculously sized Peacock Bass and Temensis Bass in the world. You can do a search in some of the fishing groups online and you’ll see why. In fact, the reason why I even put this up is that I do have primary evidence to show increasing demand of foreigners wanting to fish in Singapore (some have contacted me, one has fished with me, some have contacted fishing groups). Casting for toman in our reservoirs via a motorised boat and hearing our Mandai Zoo lions at the background – the stuff of dreams.

Besides, Orto, Anglers Playground and Pasir Ris Farmway 3 do offer some of the best catch and release fishing in the region (a far stretch to compare it with Thailand’s Bungsamram Fishing Park though) and these can be good “filler” venues for sport fishermen around the world to spend their time at when they’re not doing wild fishing trips.

I won’t comment on saltwater fishing due to the inconsistencies in catch sometimes.

3. The last of the ‘bumboat fishing boatmen”

One hardly starts offshore fishing without trying one of the “bumboat fishing boatmen” of Changi. It’s one of the easiest ways to pick up the hobby and to also get a fairly consistent catch because of the sheer experience that these boatmen have (they don’t even need a fish finder!). Almost everyone in the offshore fishing community will know Ah Chong, Ah Long, Ah Chai and Ah Fong and co. They’re probably the last of their kind. These boatmen were originally from Pulau Ubin and they literally grew up as people of the sea. Their descendants will likely not take their place when they retire and it’s easy to see why. Bringing people out fishing is not only a tough job, it requires years of experience in reading the tides, knowing where the fishes are at and adapting to different expectations of anglers. I once spoke to one of the boatmen (won’t reveal out of confidentiality) and he mentioned that his children have no interest in following in his footsteps because they have successful careers outside. In fact, he also reasoned that these bumboats that they had were on special licenses and privileges (because of relocation benefits from Pulau Ubin) and that the government would likely never renew the licenses or grant new applications.

The thing is this… A century or so from now, anglers might never see these fishing bumboats out in Changi again. All we’d be seeing are those sports fishing charters on their fancy fibreglass boats using their state of the art fish finders.

4. Payponds will now encourage catch and release

If you follow Singapore’s demography, this wouldn’t come as a surprise. Anglers are now very well to do and many of us can afford to fish for pleasure instead of for food. As the different generations pass on, there will be less of the “baiting ah laus” and “PTK uncles” around. The high purchasing power also means anglers are now able to enjoy expensive fishing methods (luring, jigging, aji and so on) that are highly associated with catch and release.

I predict that the drop in demand for catch and keep fishing will drop drastically. Payponds will have to cater to this demand shift or to risk not being viable in the long run. Paypond operators know this and some of them have even moved into this business model either fully or partially.

5. Tackle shops will be increasingly modern and cater more to modern age sport fishing

This prediction and the above one on encouraging catch and release are really the same points. As anglers have higher purchasing power, we’re going to be investing and using expensive fishing methods to catch fish. More emphasis will be placed on modern sport fishing techniques like jigging, luring, popping and so on. Overseas fishing trips will also be increasingly popular and tackle shops will cater to this change in demand. There could also be a shift in owning a fishing kayak especially since there are so many models and types available now. There are already quite a few tackle shops that have continued to do well in this niche area and they will likely be sustainable in the long run.

6. The East Coast of Malaysia fishing industry to collapse

A victim of exceptional demand and poor fishing conservation policies, I predict that the sport fishing industry in the east coast of Malaysia will either collapse or face irreparable damage.

There are many facets to this problem and one cannot simply describe it accurately over a few sentences. I try my best to give my own opinion below.

Fishing stocks have been declining rapidly in the east coast of Malaysia over the years and this has forced fishing charters all along the east coast to push further into the seas in search of “pristine” fishing spots. Many fishing charters are now pushing into areas around restricted areas and marine parks (Pulau Tioman (Rompin) and Pulau Tinggi (Sibu)) because the nearby reefs are already barren from overfishing. In recent years, fishermen and fishing charters have also been fishing for squids on an intensified level. Of course, one would ask how we predict squid population levels. Well, I’m sure any fishing charter or individuals that have fished the east coast will tell you that squids catches are so much worse now compared to about five years ago.

Besides venturing out further and squid fishing, fishing charters have also been targeting migratory sportfish (Pelagics such as Spanish Mackeral, Ebek, Dorado, etc.) relentless. Much of these fishes are migratory so the consequences of this are yet to be seen but the difference in numbers caught these days are pretty alarming. The shift in this is due to the increasing popularity of targeting these pelagic but also because resident fish (groupers, snappers etc.) are so few in numbers now that it’s not acceptable for the purpose of fishing charters.

I won’t comment much on the Sailfish season and conservation efforts in Rompin because I think they have been doing the right thing, all things considered. I do wonder though how the decline of squid population levels will affect these fish.

7. More females will be into fishing 

As Singapore continues its march towards gender equality, more females will show up to the fishing scene the same way more females are in the workforce now. We can already see this happening in the local fishing community. And why not? Fishing can now be cute, cool and fun (instead of being boring and for old people) and the boys love it!

8. The “fishing sanctuary” fishing Condominium or “fisherman’s estate”'

This one is more wishful thinking than prediction. I hope that a super-rich property developer (who loves fishing) will develop the very first property geared towards fishermen. If it’s a Condominium, it should have a dedicated catch and release pond, a prawning pond, 24 hours tackle & bait shop, fishing reels & rods servicing shop and a restaurant that cooks your fishing catch.

9. A form of fishing being lost or dead 

In the worst case scenario, we cannot discount that fishing may really become extinct in Singapore. If these trades are under threat, then why not fishing? As Singaporeans become more engrossed in the rat race (less time for fishing) and fish stocks continue to dwindle, will we see a day when fishing is a lost skill? Maybe. In reality though, one of the most likely things that may happen for this prediction would be certain forms of fishing dying. Traditional fishing methods like net casting, putting out fish or crab traps are getting less popular these days so they may really be at risk of being lost. People hardly dig for clams these days so this possibility is quite real.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Fishing, cooking and eating river half beak

Do you know that one of the tastiest and easiest to catch fish is the river half beak? It is present in many salt-water or brackish water bodies and can be easily caught with bread or a little prawn bait. Floated rigs or sight casting some bait at these cute fish work very well. Note that this is not to be confused with the larger half beak species.

Fry it the same way you would fry whitings (swa jiam). It's actually sweeter than whitings and a crispier beer snack since it is less meaty and gets really crispy easily.

Some pictures of a simple outing I went on last year to get some of these for a snack. Some other fishes came along the way (including some whiting) so I had to eat all of them.

Coat them evenly
Fry till golden and crispy

Served!
Simple recipe:
1) Mix all purpose plain flour with black pepper, sea salt and oregano. Feel free to tweak the seasoning according to your preference.
2) Coat the fish evenly
3) Proceed to fry till golden and crispy

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Daiwa Ishidai Genpaoh 40 Fishing Reel Unboxing

I've never really done and unboxing before as I saw no need for most reels found in the market. There was always some resource on them whether in the form of tackle reviews, videos and so on. That was not true for the Daiwa Ishidai Genpaoh 40 though. There were only bits and pieces on the Internet and not even any promotional videos and information.

I'm going to be using the Genpao for night bottom fishing (cracking heavy sinkers) so don't ask me about using this reel for conventional jigging or slow fall jigging. You might wanna take a look at the Reel Spa (Calvin) video in which an Ishidai Genpaoh is being tuned up to do those. The reel should also be an excellent choice for wreck fishing due to its drag (15kg) and also very high retrieve per crank (111 cm).

Reel specifications for Genpao 40
Line retrieve per crank 111cm
Weight 705g
Drag 15kg
PE10-200m, PE20-150m
Handle length 85mm
Gear ration 5:9

For official reel specifications:
http://www.daiwa.com/jp/fishing/item/reel/ishi_rl/genpao_ishidai/index.html

And so below goes my amateurish attempt at an unboxing! I've included the reel specifications in the video as well.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Fishing with Seacharter (Daniel) around Tuas waters, Singapore



The last time that I fish Tuas waters on an offshore trip was 10 years back. Back then, I went with this fishing charter boatman called “Ah Poh”. The boat was small and only for four passengers and had no toilet. I was very impressed by the snappers that we were hauling up though!

Recently, we tried this fishing charter which was very literally named as “Seacharter”. The fishing charter has three boats to choose from (full details below) and we chose SC-01 which was skippered by Daniel. First thought was when I boarded the boat was that this was a very low boat and was perfect for some light offshore baiting.

As for the fishing action, spots were mostly rocky and coral patches near breakers, channels and near docks/jetties/wharves. Action was quite consistent and the species that seemed to appear more were groupers. I caught four groupers that day (3 on Kurau Deep 150g jig and 1 on bait) and I was pretty surprised that when aggressive, groupers will hit jigs that are even 10m away from the bottom. I had two fish that hit way above the bottom and even hit the jig when it was stationary (I was busy talking and paused). In my opinion, when the grouper are being very aggressive, action is not the most important aspect and the most effective thing you can do is to constantly keep covering ground as the boat drifts. Another important aspect is using big jigs or baits to ensure that your presentation gets noticed by the fish.

5kg on the scale
An awesome 5kg specimen taken on CTS custom 12-25lbs, 2011 OJ1500PG, Kurau Deep 150g. Technique used was long fall pitching and direct bottom pitching. Not much skill needed to apply this technique. Just reel up and drop the jig back down.
Slow jigging was very effective too and Ah Biao landed some groupers and barracudas.

Total catch
All in all, quite a comfortable boat, nice berthing/launching place and a very friendly charter captain. Will surely go again.

Details of three Seacharter vessels berthed at Raffles Marina (10 Tuas West drive, Singapore 638404), Singapore:

Boat name: SC-01   
Details: 38ft length, wide 7ft fiberglass hull open deck with shelter and built in toilet, twin Suzuki 140hp.

Boat name: SC-02
Details: 28ft length, 6ft wide inboard engine 200hp.

Boat name: SC-03
Details: 26ft length, 6ft wide outboard motor 140hp.

Note: Live prawns, cooler boxes and mineral water are included. Please check latest costs with Daniel at +65 9232 1688. 

Seacharter Facebook.

Seacharter Facebook post for our trip:

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Running a Contest Giveaway for complimentary 3 qty of 1 hour of pole fishing at Ah Hua Fishing!

Hello all readers, in case you don't know, I'm running this giveaway right now till end of the month.

To participate, simply go to https://www.facebook.com/baktao/videos/1233846943438497/ and follow the instructions! May the prawns of good luck be with you :)

Abang Southern Island Singapore "Snapper" Fishing Trip March 2019

The last "Abang" southern island night offshore fishing trip? 17 September 2011 (See here). I remembered good old Shawn of Singaporefishing.org catching a fish head and nothing more. Not sure why I didn’t go night fishing for the last 8 years but I like to tell people that night fishing was for young folks and that I wasn’t getting younger.

It all changed one evening as the usual kakis were dreading the heat during the day Southern Island/Tuas offshore fishing and casual conversations about the myths of 12kg golden snappers during night trips got to us. All too soon, we were gathering up our dusty gear and our old night fishing terminal tackles (rangongs, giant swivels and big sinkers up to size 24) to go on a somewhat “refresher” night offshore fishing trip.

We only had 20 bullets or so...
We weren’t rusty though and Abang didn’t disappoint with his astute as always attitude towards night fishing. It simply was a matter of letting time pass (and the fish to get on the bite) when we’re with him. We were the opposite of unlucky that night though and we scored some very decent golden snappers (ang chors) and deep sea mangrove jacks. Chin, who was a first timer to night offshores, caught a pretty decent deep sea mangrove jack and we were all pretty jealous (especially when he didn’t know how rare it was). The biggest ang chor was around 4kg by Biao and that really gave him a good run for his money on his Penn 12T. Joshua too was having the time of his life with the trip being one of his most successful ones for the time being. Grown men (yours included) were pretty much reduced to moaning when the snappers hit us. All of us managed at least 3 to 4 pieces of good fish. We even had the luxury of letting a few go either through hooks coming off or bust lines. The frenzy lasted an hour or so gave us 15 pieces of assorted snappers of mixed sizes (mostly at the 1.5kg to 3kg range) and we picked up another 3 pieces of snapper on the way back to RSYC.

Brilliant 4kg specimen!

Filling up fast!
Chin scores his first decent sized chor!
Biao posing with the MJ. Hehe!
We reached land just as the rains were about to have a go at us and this reminded me yet again of the legend of Abang (heck, this guy is a fish and rain machine; Abang told us rain coming, better go).

Really decent haul for Singapore waters!
Fishing in Singapore dead? Nah, that’s something that we want everyone to think.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Ah Hua Fishing and Prawning at Neo Tiew Lane 2, Gallop Kranji Farm Resort (formerly D Kranji Resort) visit



I’ve always loved pole fishing ever since I tried it years ago at Pasir Ris Pro fishing pond (PRPP). Back then at the pole fishing pond, they stocked golden pomfret (kim chio), snappers, groupers, red drum (taiwan ngor) and even barramundi (KBL). So, when I heard that Ah Hua Fishing has a catch and keep pole fishing pond, I knew I just had to go and see for myself. It just took a few minutes to gather some kakis and we visited one weekday afternoon. In my heart, I knew, “where got so easy to land a lot of fishes one…”. But I suppose we convinced ourselves that even if have no fish, we could also do some prawning and have a good prawn BBQ dinner.

So fast forward to the trip… the first thing that we noticed when we arrived at Ah Hua Fishing and Prawning pond was that the water was crystal clear! We could see the fishes in the fishing pond clearly and even count how many there were. Likewise, for the prawning pond, we could see orange yabbies’, blue yabbies’ and blue mountain prawns all crawling around below. Well, I don’t know if it’s going to be this clear but clear water always signals that the pond operator/owner (Ah Hua) has nothing to hide since it would be pretty clear if there are fishes or prawns in the pond just by looking around.

Biao and David quickly collected the fishing rods from Ah Hua at the counter and we went to the fishing pond. We could see barramundi, patin, pacu, tilapia (black and red) in the pond and I suppose we were a little too complacent since we could see them. Even as I was filming, I expected bites instantly but that was not the case. Bites were hard to come by and the fishes were very smart and avoided our baits. That was when we sat down and just watched our floaters. Oddly though, that was when the bite rates improved. Biao and David managed to get a few tilapias in quick succession and hooked up with a couple of barramundis (we only landed one for dinner eventually). Oh well, I would have given anything to see them battle the huge patin and pacu in the pond! Still good fun though.

After fishing, we moved on to the prawning ponds and were pleasantly surprised that it was quite productive. The average time to get one prawn was definitely less than fie minutes. Take note that there are yabbies’ in the pond though. One thing I can tell you though that do not try the “spot the prawn and drop the bait there” thing. It didn’t really work at all and the prawns wouldn’t be interested. The usual techniques still work well.

After prawning, we then went to prepare the fish and some of the prawns for dinner. One observation was that the prawns here looked clean and vibrant. Experienced prawning folks will know – the bright colours on the prawns and bright orange/red/blue hues told us that the prawns were very health and I was not squeamish about eating them. The star of the show though, was the freshwater barramundi (KBL). It was a little unbelievable because it tasted as good or better than seawater ones. Of course, we had good seasoning with a mix of herbs (dill, garlic powder, salt, black pepper) and lemon for the BBQ but it was really sweet and the flesh was fairly firm (not the “hu-hu” kind of flesh that you expect from such fishes). It will probably also taste good if we foiled it up, added some ginger, soy sauce, Chinese wine and BBQ-steam the fish.

That brings us to the conclusion of our visit there. I’ve appended some tips in point form and all the other information that you may need before heading there. The verdict on Ah Hua Fishing and Prawning? Well, I’d definitely go there again!

Image summary of tips (if you want to send your friends) 

Credit me ok?


Tips for pole fishing (Summary)
  • Use a variety of baits if the fishes aren’t responding to the house bait which is prawn meat. You can try live mollies or freshwater shrimps. 
  • Water is very clear so any movement or walking around will scare fish since they can see you too. The best is to play around the middle, middle left or middle right, especially in dark corners. Be tactful!
  • Sit down and wait if the bite is not hot. This will calm the fish down and enable them to focus on the bait that is in the water. 
  • Since the water is so clear, have a look and see if the pond is stocked up. If you see schools of barramundi in the pond, it should be good to go. 

Tips for prawning (Summary)
  • Water is super clear but doing the see prawn here and put bait there really doesn’t do anything special. Save your energy better.
  • The usual techniques apply and looks like slowly dragging the bait works well too. Both prawning ponds have yabbies’ stocked in FYI so if you feel something very heavy, take the fight slowly and also read this tip.
  • Some corners of the pond have many mollies. They’ll nibble on your bait on the way down (especially if your'e using worms) so get your bait down quick.
  • There are many prawns in the pond and that means you will hit lots of small to medium ones. Be wary of hitting a big one though. That may catch you off guard!
  • Need more tips? Read Basic Introduction to Prawning: Simple Tips and Tricks.

Ah Hua Fishing and Prawning also has the below activities that you can try
  • Fish feeding of koi (they allow hand feeding and the pond is stocked with lots of koi) through handfed milk bottles. Very different from just throwing the fish feed and looking since there’s an element of touch involved. Quite a novel way of providing a child with the experience of touch.
  • Longkang fishing. This is a little small since it’s just a rectangular enlarged tank but seems more hygienic or safe since your child doesn’t need to like wade or stand around water.
  • Corporate bookings for teambuilding purposes for the prawning ponds. Prices are very competitive and there are some team building games built into the packages.

How to get there
  • Take the shuttle bus (weekend and weekday)
  • Here's a guide provided by Ah Hua Fishing and Prawning
  • By cab (duh)
  • If you drive, parking is per entry and there is an hourly charge. We can’t remember the hourly one but it’s $3.50 per entry.
  • It’s near the previous D Kranji Farm Resort (now called Gallop Kranji Farm Resort)
  • Address: 10 Neo Tiew Lane 2, Singapore 718813, Email: ahhuafishing@gmail.com, Contact number: +65 91252088
  • Note prawning cost is 1 hour $20, 3 hours $36 or $100 for 10 hours (limited to 2 rods per card). Fishing cost is 1 hour $25, additional hours $15. Koi feeding is 1 bottle/pack at $1.

Note by author: The fishing and prawning bite rates were not rigged in any way. We used the house bait they provided and the operator also did not release dozens of fish or kilograms of prawns for us. In other words, this catch report is not a kelong and bluff people one although we did seek Ah Hua’s permission to film the fun and work together for a giveaway contest.