Sunday, August 26, 2012

Singapore Southern Island Fishing Tips: Southern Treasures of Singapore

The Southern Islands of Singapore has been a happy fishing and popular spot for anglers in Singapore for many years. The fish season is all year round with certain fishes being more prolific during certain months. Boat charters and anglers usually head to Pulau Bukom, Sentosa, St John Island, Tuas, Sister Islands to do their fishing.

Beautiful picture of a sunset over our southern islands

Anglers have been using this place for a quick night out especially during the monsoon season when trips to regional waters are ceased. Anglers also have brought their newly customized fishing rods and newly bought reels to test out against the monster fishes of the deep!

A vast, exciting variety of fishes such as the Golden Snapper (Ang Cho), Sweetlips (Kaci), Stingrays, Threadfin Salmons (Ngo Heur), Cobia, Jewfish (Mien Heur) and Giant Grouper (Gao Tun) are regularly caught. Although the waters are productive and fishing charters are aplenty, some local knowledge will help you to snag that prized catch. It also helps if you get an experienced Captain who has great knowledge of the various popular fishing spots and how to fish them.

Snappers are very common fish to encounter at night
Abang with a grouper, a very common fish at our southern islands

Good size snappers!

Typical day fishing trips start 8am in the morning and end around evening time while night trips start at 6pm and end the following morning at 8am. Day trips are usually priced at $300 - $400 in general. Night trips are usually priced higher due to the longer hours and fall between the ranges of $350 - $500.

In this article, we’ll show you some of the methods that we use for night fishing in our Southern waters using baits.

Tackle Used
Many believe that night fishing at the southern islands should be done with at least a PE 2 – 4 setup and that’s pretty comfortable in general but I usually believe in three things. They are the current flow, terrain and the type of species targeted.

Current flow in the sea is different everyday. Neap tides generally present slower current and spring tides present strong, fast flowing current.

Fishes in general are usually more aggressive during fast current and pickier during slow current. Tackle requirement should be decided by studying the current flow for the night. For Southern Islands, one can use a PE 1 – 3 for slow flows ( sinker size 2 – 6 ), PE 2 – 4 for medium flows ( Size 6 – 14), PE 4 and above for strong flows (Beyond size 16). Note that current flows during certain times of the night are not always the same. There are changes in current direction and strength when the tide changes.

Terrain is very important for tackle requirement too. If you are fishing at a sand mound or muddy area, lighter tackle is usually okay as you do not need to stop the fish from dashing into the reefs. For fishing at wrecks or underwater structures, heavy gear is the way to go as you need to stop the fishes from dashing into the structures and cutting off your line.

Anglers must also take into account the type of species targeted. Snappers and other similar fish are okay on light tackle but Giant Groupers and stingray should be targeted using heavy gear.

Rigs Used and Terminals use
The standard rig used is always the old traditional way of using a “rang-gong” or metal spreader. The metal spreader is joined to a good strong swivel. This is to prevent the bite leader from catching the mainline while the line is being let down.

A single snood of around 1 – 4 meter long bite leader of 50lbs Dupont or 80lbs soft leader is used. The length of the snood often depends on the current flow.

Bait presentation is important and the long leader will allow your bait to “flap” like a flag in the current. If the current is slow, reel in a few cranks to keep your sinker off the bottom to allow the bait to be above the bottom and to “dangle”. This will also reduce your chances of snagging onto rocks.

Hook sizes of 4/0 to 10/0 are used depending on the type of fish targeted and the size of the bait. I usually prefer Owner hooks especially the Aki Twist series for the sharpness and thickness of the hook. Hook sizes must be in proportion with the size of bait used. If you are using a 7 inch Live Squid, you have to go with a hooks size of at least 7/0 so that hook up is better.

You can use a variety of hooks like Long Shank, Beak or even Circle hooks. These are due to angler preference but if you’re doing it first time, just stick with a normal beak hook.

The prime bait for night offshore in our Southern Waters are live arrow head squids although green eyed/reef squid/che bak and cuttlefish are often scooped as a by catch. These are scooped by going to popular squid scooping areas like Tuas, St John or Botak Hill.

The squids are in season from September to December and anglers usually have no problem scooping up bait. Charter boats should have lamps and squid nets. The skipper will assist in scooping but you can give it a try too. Once some live squids are caught, they are usually used as “pick ups” and put back into the water via a line. These will attract other squids to the surface.

Scooping duty for Shawn
Freshly scooped squids are the best bait!
Squids between 4 to 5 inches usually make good sizes for fishing Snapper. Bigger squids are good for Grouper.  30 – 50 pcs of squid are usually scooped up before heading out to fish. Always hook the squid on the tail once so that it will stay alive and so that it will be properly presented to the fishes. Don't hook your squid up a few times and present it like a sotong ball!

According to old sea salts, the reason why fishes love these live squids is that the live squids have a natural “luminous” colour that attracts fish at night. The fishes can see and smell this natural colour. Compare that to a live prawn which would look like a needle in a hay stack in the sea at night!

Squid are always not available. For this reason, organizers usually standby Kelong Sotong and these are sold at a premium of up to $30/kg! Kelong Sotong are squids that have not touched freshwater and are specially packed for fishermen. Anglers believe that this helps the squid retain its natural smell and makes it a must have bait.

The infamous kelong squid!
Other popular baits include live bait fishes and flower crabs for Giant Grouper.

“Cold Water”
Understanding the type of fishes that bite during different circumstances is vital as it usually is the make or break between a great trip and a poor trip. Angler’s often blame the Captain for a bad catch but do not realize that sometimes fishes do not bite during poor conditions.

The “cold water” condition usually comes about after heavy down pours and strong winds. Anglers believe that the water temperature goes down and certain fishes like the snapper become less active during this period. However, other fishes like Lizard Sharks, Sweetlips, Red Snapper, Deep Sea Barramundi and Catfish become more active during this period.

It is good to note that this “cold water” condition does not really affect certain fishes like Grouper and Stingray. However, fishes like Golden Snapper “hibernate” during this period and stay off the hunt.

Sea lice are very common during “cold water” and will eat up your good bait in minutes. If you do encounter an area with many sea lice, it is a good idea to conserve the good bait and wait for better times like day break!
A Catfish - sure signs of cold water
We have come to the end of the mini guide and below are some short write ups on a few trips with Abang whom I usually fish with at Southern Islands

Blackie Follows Squid Home!!
It was a bad night so far and sea lice were found in our bait.  This was a sure sign that the water was “cold”. Less fishes feed during this period and bites were very slow.
The current was picking up and Abang proceeded to the secret spot as planned. This secret spot was an underground cave of around 30 meters from the bottom and was a proven spot for big snapper.

We lowered down our lines with renewed hope and vigor. Current was fairly slow and size 6 sinkers were able to hold. A few minutes passed but there was an air of hopefulness surrounding the crew. Bang and Bang! Two of the rods bent at the same time. Teeth were grit and arms were cranking! Abang, who was using hand line also had a hit and was struggling to recover line with his hands. Good size Golden Snappers were landed in quick succession.

I looked at my rod and waited in silent longing but after that, it was quiet for next one hour. “Up Lines” said Abang and we started reeling in our lines. I was feeling fairly lethargic and reeling in slowly but steadily. I could feel my rig brushing against the sea cave as I was reeling in. It was another 20 meters to the boat when I felt a big thud.

Poom! Something took the bait hard! My Calstar 10 – 25lbs gave a wicked bend and the Accurate 197 was peeling out line at a good rate. I shifted the reel to sunset drag and immediately gave it a good wank to stop the fish so that it could not take me into the structures below. I was excited as this was a big surprise and immediately the thoughts of Cobia followed through.

The squad was cheering and I was still cranking the bugger up. The pure adrenaline rush contributed to the great orgasmic feeling that all fishos feel. The mystery fish gave sporadic short bursts but was obediently following the line in. It had all the traits of a Cobia and I vividly recalled Ah Don who had lost a giant Cobia over 60lbs on Abang’s boat recently!
Then, at around 10 meters of water, the fish went berserk and made countless short dashes. The squad were laughing and cheering as I gave strange squealing sounds of orgasm. Well, the battle soon reached the climax and the fish was in after another few cranks.

A good sized Black Sweetlips(Orh Kaci) around the 5lb mark was scooped up in the net by Abang. Disbelief followed by understanding registered on our faces. The fish must have been hanging around the fringes of the sea cave when it saw my squid slowly being reeled up from the bottom! Yet another reason to reel in your line slowly when checking for baits!

Needless to say, the look of contentment was on me as I landed my 2nd ever Black Sweetlips in my fishing life!
Blackie AKA Orh Kaci
Jewfish Frenzy!
Four kakis were out on a Friday night on Abang’s boat. We went to the usual spot and started to mass the live squid with squid jigs and scooping them up. They were surfacing in sporadic amounts tonight and we scooped around 30 pcs by 2300 hrs.
We headed to our first spot with our live bullets hitting the seabed hoping for some good Golden Snappers. Cold winds, slow current and cold water left us wanting with little more than a small ray and a couple nurse sharks.

Disappointed, we shifted a few spots. We had plenty of squid left and we used them without reserve. Everyone was falling asleep but the current was somewhat picking up and suddenly Thomas got a quick bite with a small Golden Snapper at the end of it!

The next few minutes saw everyone check their baits and let down their lines with great energy. After what seemed like forever, Thomas got another hit. This time, it was different. The rod bent all the way to the hilt and the Accurate Boss Magnum 500n was screaming! Everyone was waiting to see the fish since it didn’t fight like a Golden Snapper!

It was a Jewfish around 3kg! That really got the mood up and right after that it was a feeding frenzy. Everyone pulled up some Jewfish all around the 3kg range! Even Abang joined in and one! We had 5 Jewfish in the bag within 30 minutes and the air was tense with excitement!

The next strike for Thomas was so much different though… The rod just bent down without warning and a sunset drag setting on the Accurate Boss Magnum 500N was not enough to stop the fish. Thomas regained a little line each time and it was clear it wasn’t a ray but what was it?!  The fish dashed out again and took more line before it cut Thomas off on the reef. What a waste!


Abang posing with a good sized one

There were no bites after that and the kakis decided to pack up and go home at 0400 hrs. Calls and SMS of bragging, laughter and delight was the name of the game that day!

Abang and His Magical Toe
Squid scooping was slow tonight and the squid were not surfacing due to dirty water which was probably caused by the afternoon downpour early in the day. Abang was patient and asked us to wait while we amassed the 30 live squids required for our “killing grounds”.
We finally got around 30 – 40 pieces of live squid around 0100 hrs and proceeded to the danger zone. Abang had a slight grin on his face as he maneuvered to boat the location.
However, at 0300 hrs, we were calling it a disaster. Only a small Spanish Flag Snapper and Deep Sea Barramundi were caught. The water was awfully cold and our sinkers came up with a warm feel. Sea lice were rife and dug into our live squid with obvious disregard for the poor anglers.

Abang had tied his handline to his toe and was already close to starting his “Generator”. Time passed slowly and 2 more of the crew were turning on their “Generators”.

“Hoii Oiii Urggg!!”

Out of a sudden, we saw Abang sat upright and made lots of funny noises. He was frantically trying to get his hand line out of his toe which got so tight that he had trouble taking it out! He gave up trying to undo the line and grabbed the other side of the hand line. “Come to Papa!” he shouted as he gave a great big pull.

After that, we saw a completely revitalized and different Abang as he treated his hand line like an anchor rope. He pulled the line as if he was pulling up anchor and never looked back. The fish on the line wasn’t about to give in meekly and we saw Abang stick his hand into the water as the fish tried to take some line. Abang did not yield and continue his frenzied state of pulling as the crew remained silent.

This was the first time that there was no cheering and laughing as it was obvious that this was one serious fish and utmost concentration was required by Abang. Nobody got up from their places so as balance the boat.

5 minutes later, after it seemed like hours of endless pulling, Abang finally gave us a big smile and told us that the danger was over. He calmly took out a Cigarette and continued to pull in slowly. He told us that it was a Giant Grouper or a Giant Moving rock!

A few minutes later, Abang motioned for us to give him some space as he needed to land the fish. “Find the Gaff!” Abang shouted to us.

I got the gaff from the back just as the fish surfaced with a huge swirl. It was the largest Giant Grouper or Gao Tun that I have seen up close! The crew itched for a quick view of the fish but everyone kept their discipline and stayed in their places.

Abang passed me the hand line and told me not to panic as the fish was already spent. He inserted the gaff into the fish’s mouth with a quick motion and gaffed the fish.

“Nigel, drop the hand line and help me with this! He motioned to me. The two of us grabbed the gaff and slowly lifted the fish into the boat as the crew burst into cries of disbelief and laughter. We gave each other Hi Fives and Abang gave thumbs up to the many snapping cameras!

We got back to the marina and had a photo taking session there. It was back there that we had a better look at the fish and realized that it was even bigger than we though. Abang estimated it to be at least 100lbs. The restaurant at the marina even wanted to buy the fish off from Abang at $1200 but Abang said no as he cut up the fish to be divided between the crew. Looks like fish head steam boat and curry fish head was going to be on the menu for all of us!

Abang with the monster grouper!


Hedonist said...

very nice catch !

the part where he had the line around his toe was hilarious !

waiting for ur bkk report !

Hedonist said...

the line around the toe was hilarious !

kudos to ah bang on managing to land that beast on handline .

looking forward to ur BKK report

Anonymous said...

Im new here.. can i have contact number of the boatman.. im interested in going..

Anonymous said...

Can i have contact 4 the boatman.. im interested in going

Unknown said...

Yes. Me too. Interested in gg too

Unknown said...

Hi guys. Hope that I can have the boatman contact no too. Really interested in gg. Thanks in advance.

Unknown said...

Hi guys. Hope that I can have the boatman contact no too. Really interested in gg. Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Hi any tips for fishing spot?


Anonymous said...

hi,can i have the contact for the abang? thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

hi,what is the ababng's name? can i have his contact? i am interest to go,thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

Bro, carry a thermometer when out boat fishing out at sea, be it Singapore or Malaysia waters. If the temp of sea water does not cross the magical 30deg C mark, go sleep, don,t waste time. Make sure your thermometer is calibrated. You will thank me for this one :-)

Nigel said...

dont know about that one mate! personally have seen the fishes bite at 28, 29,30. but noted that bite rates is definitely affected at 26 27? cheerss!

Nigel said...

for contact, pls email me, dont wanna disclose here. thanks all!

khai said...

Bro can i have the boatman contact number? Can sms me at my number 86869614

Anonymous said...

When is fishing season?

Nigel said...

hi mate, usually during the Singapore monsoon from nov - feb, the bigger fishes come inshore

Bryan Lee said...

Bro.. do you mind if I can join you guys for southern night fishing? I'm interested to go again. So far I had tried once but the catch is very poor due to cold water

tim12345 said...

can i please have the contact for abang?

BackhandClear! said...

Hi, may I know what equipments you were using to catch the 100lbs grouper? The reel, and line poundage thanks.

Unknown said...

Hi Nigel, do you mind sharing Abang contact ?