Air Kuning, Perak – 26 OCT 2016
Air Kuning in Perak,Malaysia is one of Malaysia’s most famed Peacock Bass fisheries.The tales of glory here have been published in many fishing magazines where trophy Peacock Bass from several mining ponds capture the attention of readers. Recently I had the chance to fish Air Kuning for one day with some hardcore soft plastic anglers and I didn’t have enough of it so I went for a second day.
Trip members consisted of experienced Air Kuning anglers – Mr.Fahmi, Mr.Azman, Duane and his father, Mr.Roshdi. Our journey to Air Kuning began early on Saturday morning. We left Cheras at 5 a.m and arrived at 7.30 a.m. I was pumped and ready to hit the water as it was my first visit but the guys were relaxing as we had our breakfast of Nasi Lemak and Teh Tarik. Mr.Fahmi told me that there is no need to rush as the Peacocks are active when it is sunny. Pictures of his trophy catches in the blazing heat from previous trips was solid proof. After a nice breakfast and some good laughs we were on our way through a road with oil palm plantations spread left and right. Soon we were parked on a point beside the biggest lake in Air Kuning. This was our launch point and the sight of groups of Peacock Bass ‘boiling’ or busting on bait with boats hot on their tails had me excited. One angler was already hooked up as we were setting up our gear. Duane strolled along to the edge of the water and he made a cast with a long soft plastic worm and he had a bite without a hook up. We set up our gear and by 8.45 a.m we were at our first spot. I was in a boat with Mr.Fahmi and Mr.Azman while Duane was in another with his father.
The first spot was an island visible from our launch point.The water was quite clear and low as the annual monsoon rains haven’t arrived yet.The 5 minute journey on our 12ft boat powered by a 5hp engine was smooth. We drifted with the wind and fished along a transition point between the island and deeper water.I was told that this was an ambush zone. My Deeper Fishfinder readings showed that it was 1m deep with a hard, sandy bottom. Duane told me that his go-to bait for this area would be topwater lures but we stick to soft plastics. Luckily the clouds were scattered and it provided us a bit of comfort from the sun.
In about 10 mins of fishing, Mr.Azman set the hook and his rod turned into a perfect C. With 8lb mono and a light rod in hand, the punishing runs of a solid fish at the end of his line was good entertainment. After some awesome runs a 46cm Peacock Bass with a paddle tail 7cm soft plastic hanging out of its mouth was netted. The soft plastic was brown in color with a lot of red flakes. In the water the flakes truly changed the color of the bait and it proved to be effective once again later in the day. Mr.Azman scored his fish by slowly retrieving and twitching the small paddle tail along the sandy bottom.
We noticed a few more solid Peaock Bass rising and big surface blast near fish traps in the area but they were not interested in our offerings. We drifted along the area and I continued fishing a Carolina rigged Berkley Powerbait 3” Power Minnow (Emerald Shiner). We decided to move and as I was cranking my soft plastic back I had a bite. I set the hook and a small Peacock Bass was on for a brief fight. After a jump the fish was gone along with my first good shot at scoring an Air Kuning Peacock Bass. Nonetheless, it was a good start for me and it fired me up to keep trying. We continued drifting and by noon, the Peacocks began to scoop bait from the surface. They were not eating baitfish, but they were scooping up small bugs. We tried all kinds of lures but we came up empty handed.
We moved on to our next spot which was just around the corner of the island. The water was much more shallow here at around 4ft deep. Tons of baitfish along with some Peacock Bass busting bait on the outer edge of this shallow passage. We sailed on to the outer edge and began casting into the shallow passage with no results. A group of Giant Snakehead fry catch our attention but the parents were too shy to even rise for air. We moved on to our next spot, one of Mr.Fahmi’s favorite areas. It was a big channel with a bit of land left and right. Duane’s boat was parked at the entry of the channel and they began probing the channel on foot.
We drifted along the channel and Mr.Azman had a solid hit on his sinking pencil right beside a bank packed with hydrilla which seemed like the perfect ambush point. Follow up casts produced nothing so we continued drifting along the 100 meter stretch of the channel and eventually we parked on a thick patch of hydrilla at a corner of the stretch. It started drizzling and Mr.Azman managed to land a juvenile Giant Snakehead on a white 7cm paddle tail soft plastic just as we parked. As I photographed his snakehead, I spotted Mr.Roshdi fighting a fish far in the background. We continued Mr.Fahmi’s style of fishing which consisted of probing every inch of water with soft plastics and I enjoyed that. We probed the area and we had a few bites on Carolina rigged worms. Mr.Azman had a solid Peacock Bass chase his minnow lure right to the boat but it didn’t bite. Duane’s father told us that he had caught a 49cm Peacock Bass here on a previous trip. Things continued to be a bit quiet for the next hour in this spot but on our next trip this place turned into a hot bite zone. Duane and his father were in their boat and they were drifting along the channel when I spotted Mr.Roshdi sitting down in his boat, seeming a bit frustrated. It turned out that a solid Peacock Bass whacked his wacky rigged worm when he used a light setup and he couldn’t control the fish it made a burst of speed into hydrilla and game over.
By 3 p.m we started our engine and moved towards the corner of the channel where it widened and became deeper. Everyone started to probe the depths with long 9” soft plastic worms. Mr.Azman had a few bites but he missed the hooksets on a few fish. Eventually he had a big bite and the fish was on. With a locked drag and loaded rod he fought the fish for a bit as it peeled line until it eventually made it to an old discarded net which was dissapointing. We continued fishing here with no results for the next hour. We had lunch and moved on to a little piece of water separated from the lake due to low water levels. Mr.Fahmi walked onto a little piece of land as I was in the boat preparing some lures. I heard the familiar zing of a spinning reel drag with some screams.”Fish on,fish on!”-as those words were said I saw a solid Forest Snakehead burst out of the water and a 9” worm bursting out the other way. The fish wasn’t hooked as it just held on to the tail of Mr.Fahmi’s worm. We continued fishing that piece of water and Mr.Fahmi managed to get one decent Giant Snakehead to bite his white spinnerbait. The hook was too small and it didn’t pierce through for a hook up. The Giant Snakeheads continued to taunt us by rolling on the surface just meters in front of us. Our attempts to get bites from Peacock Bass which were busting bait on weed edges around us also proved to be unsuccessful. We parked nearby to rest and I continued fishing from the parked boat.I managed to catch a small Striped Snakehead/Haruan by aggressively twitching my fluke soft plastic in pockets between weeds and after a few pictures the little snakehead was released.
The final push
It was 5 p.m and we reached the final chance to catch a fish before dark.We fished an area packed with hydrilla not far from Air Kuning’s “Little Kenyir”- with solid Peacock Bass coming up and disappearing back into the depths. Our efforts were fruitless but Mr.Azman did his usual thing – he caught a juvenile Peacock Bass on his paddle tail soft plastic and the fish was quickly released. We moved back to the channel and fished in the rain. I managed to get a few bites by fishing a soft plastic on the surface but it was not my day. Seeing the yellow flash of the Peacock Bass was tempting.
By 6 p.m we sped back to the island as topwater frenzies would begin and just as the engine was off, Mr.Azman was on another fish on his paddle tail once again, rigged on an under spin. Light rain came and the darkness was like a signal for the Peacock Bass to eat. Bait was being chased on banks as we desperately tried to get our lures in place. Mr.Azman managed another 3 bites but all three didn’t connect. As it got darker, Mr.Fahmi’s topwater pencil was blasted. I thought it was a Giant Snakehead but the guys told me it’s a big Peacock Bass as they always miss topwater baits at dark. Another Peacock Bass trailed behind Mr.Fahmi’s pencil but it didn’t bite.
We were engulfed by darkness in no time and travelled back to our launch point in the darkness. As we arrived Mr.Syed and Mr.Azrul, the owners of the boats we rented were waiting. We unloaded all our gear and our long day ended. I was happy to experience Air Kuning, even without catching a Peacock Bass. Mr.Fahmi’s unorthodox approach of fishing big worm soft plastics and creature baits was interesting when compared to the usual styles of fishing here which consists of fishing topwater baits, jerkbaits and the spin fly. I planned to visit again to go even deeper with soft plastic fishing and I did visit again. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for Part 2.