Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Southern Islands / St John's Island / Sister Island "Sure Heng, Sure Sleep" Offshore Fishing

Received a shoutout from Alan Chan from the Hooked fishing team about some vacancies on the famous Sure Heng at Southern Islands and I thought why not? Sure Heng sets off from RSYC (Republic of Singapore Yacht Club) and it was near me! Sure Heng trips centre alot on Madai / Tai Kabura, Inchiku, Slow Fall Jigs although there is a fair bit of micro and light jigging too. Fishing grounds are the Southern Islands which can consist of Bukom, Pawai, Sudong, St John's, Sisters, Hantu, Semakau etc.

Weather was good for this trip but that didn't make a difference as the day started out brighly but ebbed into complete misery for some of us.

The theme of the day was probably carpie diem or rather sieze the chance to catch good fish while they were biting.... problem was, they only started biting from 9am - 11am and zilch after that. Nevertheless, some good fishes were landed on the boat by only artificial baits at the ever famous St John's channel. It was here that the famous Singapore Threadfin Salmon and Jewfish craze took place when there was an earthquake sometime back.

Current was extremely fast in the morning and the drifting across the drop offs meant we snagged alot of our madais and 150g was the minium weight used. Many of us hit nothing on this very day while some of us got lucky.

See below pictures for our catches.

Was that sadness in Alan Chan's eyes?

Sagai school passed by and someone hooked one up by the tail!

Alan is on!

decent sized

Biggest gao by Frank

Queenies passed by too but were soon gone
Next visit to Southern's will be on Ah Eng's boat in October ;)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sibu Kelong Closing Down

It seems that the popular Sibu Kelongs - Ah Ngan (Wing Sing Kelong), Ah Fatt Kelong and Hotboys Kelong will be facing closure soon. It was reported at various sources that they were ordered to stop taking in customers as of 17 September and discussions are now going on. News is that some of the kelong including Hotboys kelong have stopped taking in customers.

Do take note if you are going up anytime soon! Best way is to call the kelongs up directly and find out more information!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Digging for Shellfish (Clams, mussels, oysters) Guide

Today is a day where I find myself with totally no mood to do just about anything except sharing my experience with my readers. And here it is, the holy grail of digging for shell fish is born!

Before I start, I want to let all readers know that this guide should be used as a reference only and should you have a better way, do go ahead yourselves! Please also do not use this guide as a safety guide and assume that whatever I have covered is sufficient. There can be many safety issues on a beach such as Saltwater Crocodiles to fatal Blue Ring Octopuses or even sinking into the mud and being devoured by it.

The purpose of this guide would serve to let those of us with no prior experience of digging for shellfish get a head start in what is a free and fun actvitity for the family - something which is pretty rare in Singapore these days!

The Purpose of Digging?
I have been facing this question many times when friends or relatives tell me... why Dig when a few kg of clams merely cost a few bucks? The art of digging is really simple when I use the old saying "Money does not fall from the sky" and parents can use this basis to teach their children about the tough work just to get a few kgs of clams. Digging for clams is backbreaking work - it involves getting all down and dirty in the mud, digging till you have cuts on your hands and so on. Simply said, it teaches us to work for food literally! Adding to urbanization these days, most kids do not have this "Kampong Spirit" or the explorer in them to be trying such fun, natural and healthy hobbies!
Personally brought my brother along for some fun in the sun!

Back breaking work!
Are the Shellfish Safe for Consumption?
Another popular question, people are often concerned about whether the Shellfish are safe for consumption since there are cases of red tide, shit pollution in Pasir Ris and so on. While, I myself have already eaten a few kgs of Clams dug at Kranji Dam Beach area, I would like to caution readers that pollution has gone a long way these days and we can never ensure that whatever we catch are "safe". The golden rule would be to avoid eating anything that originates from polluted areas (e.g NEA advised public not to fish, swim at Pasir Ris sometime back) and of course to eat everything in moderation.

Regarding one of the popular digging spots at Kranji, I have to say that the water is much cleaner these days and it is quite clear now (not so murky) compared to previous years. There are actually healthy populations of fish, corals and even Horshoe crabs there now. Furthermore, many supermarkets actually get their shellfish from sources such as Kranji Beach or other beaches (sometimes diggers may dig the shells and sell them to any retailers who would buy them).

Hope I've cleared the doubts about eating what you dig!

Digging Equipment
$2 buys from Daiso!

Thankfully Digging of Clams require no special digging equipment and you only need basic digging equipment such as mini shovels, spoons, ladles - anything that can dig up 10 - 50cm of sand/mud! Once you are good at digging for the clams, you can even use your bare hands!

Finding a Digging Spot
The next thing to do is finding a spot to dig! A potential spot would have a few tell tale signs like exposed mudflats at low tide and the best way is to actually see people digging at the spot! The most popular spot so far is Kranji Dam Beach which also has a toilet and carpark nearby!
Kranji Reservoir Beach - awesome digging grounds

Look at where that person is standing? He's digging there in submerged water! But that area will be also above water soon!

The way down to the beach

Turn left here to access the beach!
Also, you should make sure that the spot has clams by actually keeping quiet. Once you do, you can hear the clams and their "Squirting or hissing" noises as they expel water/mud out through their tubers! If you are quick enough you may even see the tubers stick out of the mud and squirt the water! That's a clear sign there are some clams below and usually, I would encourage to dig at such spots instead of digging blindly!

Many people often dig at the most exposed portions of the mud/sand banks and this has proved to be a good theory as these banks only expose during low tides certain times of the month. By digging at these spots, you get to the harder to get areas!

Safety First
Safety issues should always be your top priority. Rising tides can leave you stranded at your spot in no time and other issues such as Crocodiles, Horshoe Crabs and Coral should not be overlooked. In the case of Kranji dam, you must be wary if the tidal gates open! I do not want to list down or be a safety guru here, so everyone please make sure you take into consideration your needs (PCK rubber boots for beach wading, gloves for digging etc)

Be on the lookout for Horshoe Crabs!
 Making the Most of a Clam "School"
One very interesting concept which I learned is once you hit a good vein of clams, stick to it! It will be likely there around a few clams, there are many others in a "school" clustered around the same area. Don't dig one spot for 2 - 3 clams and then move a few meters away to another! The best way is to calmly dig while taking a sit on the mud while slowly moving around your digging area. Digging depth is not very deep only 10 - 50cm and you should be digging sideways after a certain depth and not digging deeper!

Turning Pro
Once you have gotten the feel of it, discard the shovel or digging tool and use your hands! This is the best way as you get maximum sensitivity and it is also less tiring! One can also differentiate between actual shells and rubbish! You also won't destroy your clams by using your digging tool! Beware though, you'll get cuts and nicks from broken shells so where a glove if you have to!

Getting rid of Sand

Here's a short video on the clam squirting!

Once you have your shells, many housewives often ask me, how do I get rid of sand. Many of them use salt added to freshwater from the tap and this is wrong as it KILLS the clams! The best way is to bring home saltwater from the sea and use that! Clams will then be alive and able to "expel" out the sand naturally. This should be done over a few water changes of at least 8 hours. Please also do not put your clams into pails as they will drown! Use a horizontal tray and semi submerge them slightly below the water level and you can see them trying to breathe by using their feelers/tubers! Remember to change water every 2 hours or when the water is dirty/used up. If you want, you can dilute the seawater with 30-40% freshwater and it should still be okay for them.

Soak them for a few hours with regular water changes
Their "feelers" will come up to breathe/expel

Soaking after 6 hours and few water changes. Note that it is getting cleaner.

Well, I should not be elaborate on this, ask your wife or mom! Here's some from mine!

Curry clams!

Clams with chinese wine!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Tioman Paya Beach Spa and Dive Resort

Tioman Paya Beach Spa and Dive Resort was on the Baktao's agenda after countless fishing trips and this was a rather relaxing trip. He got the deal from Discovery Tours Singapore - Just do a search for Discovery Tours Tioman Paya and you can get all the information from their site.

The usual arrangement was to meet outside Galleria (DFS) outside Scotts road and the coach would then take you to Tanjong Gemok to board the ferry to Tioman. There would be a tour guide all the way till Tanjong Gemok but once you board the ferry, it's all free and easy - pretty nifty arrangement this! I booked the full board package meaning all my meals would be provided for and there was a "Renggis Island and Marine Park" snorkeling trip out.

Note that there are many resorts at Paya Beach and one may get confused there. The trick was to turn left after the jetty and walk on! You'll see the sign once you reach Paya Beach Spa and Dive Resort or rather Paya Beach Resort (PBR).

During the day he spent the days lazing by the white pristine beach and clear blue waters while doing some snorkeling. During the night, he would sip on his favourite cheap cider - Savanna Dry (Cigarettes and Alcohol are duty free on the island) and have a good BBQ dinner. This was a beach getaway at its best. One could argue that there is nothing to do in Tioman except probably dive, snorkel, visit Mukut waterfalls but.... "Exactly!" is all I have to say. The flexible schedule let us plan our own activities or even sleep in when we felt like it.

The buffet food that PBR served was great and I can safely say that it is "Diver-Approved!". Avid divers would definitely recogize this term as divers are often a hungry bunch after diving. Having good food in unlimited amounts helps the diver regain stamina for more dives! I had the usual ramly burger and magnum ice cream in between too!

The Baktao is an avid Scuba Diver and he was delighted to find Paya Diver Cove right beside our rooms. Although he did not dive, this was a great future spot to hang out at! Instead, I did two long snorkel trips out - they had fins, life jackets, masks/snorkel for rent and although rental was more pricey at Paya Beach Resort than the surrounding small shops, rental was for our ENTIRE TRIP meaning, snorkel and dive as and when you like! For keen explorers like me, this was great as it meant more time in the water. The surrounding small shops charged a cheaper flat rate but it was limited to per day use.

I saw some pretty cool things at Paya's house reef that I didn't think were possible doing snorkeling. Paya's house reef was something like Tioman's Malang Rock although I didn't really recall diving there, it was familiar. I managed to see 2 bluespotted stingrays, school of Barracudas, a humphead wrasse, numerous smaller wrasses, the common nemo/clownfish and so on. I managed to spot a sizeable red bass near the rocks even.

Check out the below pictures during our stay at Tioman Paya Beach Resort and drop me an Email at if you're planning to drop by there and I could probably give you more juice! Pay for my next trip lah... I'll be happy to be your snorkeling guide ;)

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Welcome to Paya Beach Resort!
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You can see the best diving area - the big rock. Sweeping the reef to the right of it or round it would be choice
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One of the breakfasts
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We ordered additional ramly!
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One of the lunches
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Life at it's finest?
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Another breakfast
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Could resist stingray so ordered it during one dinner! Stingray was too fresh that it tasted strange! Juicy!
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Couldn't help but grab a bite of oyster - it's sustainable, I only had 1 pc out of thousands!
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view down under from the big rock
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If you notice, this patch of urchins actually resemble a heart shape
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Salted egg prawns - also a winner
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Fishes at marine park
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big but kinda boring
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wrasse were everywhere
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snorkeled out to the tank storage location! great view!
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viz wasn't so good during the rising tide at the rock area

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bishan Haibin Prawning Closing Down

Received some sad news as it was confirmed by Haibin (Bishan Prawning) that they will be closing down their prawning ponds at Bishan soon. Their prawning facilities at Bishan are their biggest and most popular branch and will be fondly missed by many including myself.

Not sure if they will release more prawns on their closing day or will they be "clearing stock" though. Prawn fishing must be a tough business!

Here's the details...

Last day of operation: 7th September 2013, 2359hrs

They have other branches too at Punggol (6 Tebing Lane, #01-04, Singapore 828835, Tel: 64478693) and Jurong Birdpark (241 Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim / The Village, Singapore 629143, Tel: 62652598)

Here's the official snapshot from their twitter/facebook