Pulau Jarak, Perak – 17 MAR 2017
Finally, we kick start our first edition of Pulau Jarak Expedition in 2017 on board the infamous GT Chaser. Our first expedition will take place in March and following April and May. It is one of the trip that we all look forward too. The first batch of anglers that signed up for March outing were a group from Negeri Sembilan. Team members are Jaal, Warih, Rombau and Mahmud. Last time they were here was about 3 years ago, and this time they are well prepared to take on the challenges of scoring your trophy species. Myself and Salihin aka “Dangerman” were the only two veterans within our circle. Another addition is a new team member, Fitri. This will be his first time to Jarak waters.
GT Chaser is a Live-On-Board style boat. Captained by Ah Ho, a person who is extremely knowledgeable about the sea and a person who is completely obsessed with cleanliness. GT Chaser by far is the most cleanness ship across the west coast of Malaysia. You can literally sleep on the deck without worrying any stains or smell. First mate Ijat was a very helpful deckhand, managing food and all other chores that a deckhand needed to do. Together they are a formidable team, which provides exceptional service to the client.
Basically we arrived in Bagan Datoh at 8.00am in the morning. We had a quick breakfast in town, a simple Fried Bihun and fried egg is enough to get you started. 9.00am is the cut off time for us to embark on our 3 days fishing expedition. Since the old jetty were under construction since May last year, we were re route to an old jetty. Its a good time to try out my new gadget, the GoPro Hero 5 and Karma Grip. The result were outstanding stable video as I walked to the boat. Once it is ready we will post the video on Youtube. It does feels good to be back, on board the mighty Chaser. I just can’t wait to get things going and hopefully we had a good 3 day outing.
We were ready by 9.30am, a quick stop for food stock and ice before reaching Jarak Island in 4 hours. During our short stop, a fisherman boat docked next to us and we had good view what are being caught out here in Bagan Datoh shoreline. Clearly we saw some small baifish, Croaker, Sea catfish, crabs, prawns and crayfish. A good 3 big bucket full of it. Its a hard work being a fisherman, and what ever they catch can be put to good use. No wastage at all.
Day 1 – Jarak Island
Captain Ah Ho set course to Jarak Island, and we will be there in approximately 4 hours. During the initial part of the journey, I took the time to get the sleeping area ready and doze off for while. Right about half-way to Jarak, I suddenly the boat feels a bit rocky from side to side. It was a bright day, but right after Pulau Sembilan the wind starts to pick-up and 1-2m swell accompany us all the way to Jarak Island. The sea was rough, and I decided to head back to sleep. I can literally feel the movement of the boat, and my internal organs would just followed the same rhythm. I was sea sick in no time and it got me running by the deck spilling my lunch and breakfast overboard. Unpleasant experience but the only way to cure sea sickness is to throw up. It will spill everything that you have eaten that day until there is nothing left. Once you reach that point, its time to get some food in again to keep your stomach at a good fullness level and avoid air being filled. Which can make things worst.
The swell delayed our journey, but finally we reached our fishing spot. I wasn’t feeling too well, so I started the day with ease. Not pushing to hard, just keep the metal jig bouncing on the sea floor. Nothing were caught on metal Jig on first day. Since part of the group were keen to start fishing with bait, we decided to end the day early and focus on getting more live bait like small mackerel, sardines and yellow-tail scads. We cruise to a nearby Unjam, which is a man made underwater structure. Made from coconut fronds that acts as a safe haven for small bait-fish. We filled the live well that afternoon with a variety of live bait. Before we head back to the Island, we tried bottom fishing close to the Unjam and hopefully there is a predator stalking underneath our boat.
Jaal, scored our first fish of the trip with a beautiful Golden Snapper or scientifally known as Lutjanus johni. A prized catch along the Straits of Malacca. Soon when I was about to change bait, I haul in 1kg lead weight. It was difficult to get it up 60m from the sea floor haha. As I look at the end of the leader, a fish were hooked and it couldn’t pull the heavy dead weight. I switched to a smaller weight and the setting feels right. Minutes later, the boys at the other side were cheering when Mahmud’s rod finally hooked on to something big. It took him a while to get the beast out from the ocean floor. It was another massive Golden Snapper, must be between 5-6kg. Super catch! Things just gets better and better.
First 1 hour 3 Snappers. We leave the Unjam as we have to make way for trawlers who will be operating later that night. We head back to Jarak Island to continue our bottom fishing there. We were not the only one around the Island. There are some other fishing boat that do night fishing around the Island. The bait we use tonight is live Mantis Prawn. One of the most effective bait for Golden Snapper and Grouper. We get things going, and all of us on a different strategy. Some uses live bait like fish and mantis prawn while others on dead bait.
Ijat started his night fishing with casting light micro jig. After countless tries, finally an unknown fish whack the jig and start pulling line out from his new Shimano Aldebaran casting set. It happen right in front of us and we are all fired up with such a bold strike. At the end, the fish finally manage to cut the leader and it was free to fight another day. Could have been a GT or even a big Barracuda. We continue on fishing, but the current seems a bit too strong. Usually the fishing frenzy will kick start when there is a change in tide. A change from High to Low or Low to High. Strong current associates with high tide, and when it reach the maximum level, current will slowed down and by then the fish would feed. Fitri and Rombau both scored one Gold Snapper each. I had my bait struck twice but didn’t hooked in nicely. Ijat followed through with another Golden Snapper. The feeding frenzy usually lasted 1-2 hours before we need to wait for another few hours to get the feeding cycle kick’s in again.
The winner for Day 1 has to go to Warih! He has been trying to get the feel of jigging but no luck. He has been faithful fishing with live fish from the start to the end. His long wait were sweetened by a strong pull on his fishing rod. The fish fought very hard and just doesn’t want to give up easily. As the fish emerges from the depth, a gold figure emerges! Jenahak! Undoubtedly the biggest of day one. Probably weighing 6-7kg, caught on live fish. His face brightens up and a big smile smacked on his face hahaha. I called it day early and head to bed. We take turn during the night to get fishing going. Warih and Fitri scored another 2 snappers and that marks the end of day 1, hopefully jigging tomorrow will be a good one.
Day 2 – Finally its J-Day!
7.00am sharp on deck! Knowing that today will be focused more on Jigging. I started the day early, checking out updates on last night final fish count. Not a bad start with 7 Snappers on board and 2 of them are good trophy sizes. Ijat prepared a Sardine sandwich, mixed with some lime juice and sliced of onion. Not forgetting a cup of hot 3 in 1 coffee to get your brain running. Ah Ho decided to head further up from Jarak Island to fished off a high reef. I still remember this place, this is where me, Scott and Izzuddin scored a triple strike GT. This will be our morning session location before turning back to Karang Tinggi. Captain Ah Ho told us that GT’s are concentrated in Karang Tinggi but will only be able to fish in the area from 2-6pm tide.
The challenges when we were jigging at a pinnacle covered with reef is that it is easy to get snagged. Our metal jig is required to at least knock the sea floor once before working it up about 10m and dropping it again. Timing has to be perfect. Jaal and Mahmud both scored a table size grouper. Second drift, Salihin and Mahmud scored 2 more groupers and while I got my jig stuck on the reef for good. Basically, in this area, I lost about 7 150-200g jigs. F’ing A. I still remember one time, when all the sudden there is a lot surface activity and Rombau cast his light jig and scored a Spotted Mackerel about 2-3kg. Jaal drop his jig and scored a Narrow Barred Mackerel. I drop mine and all the sudden, the reel were spilling line so fast. However, before I could even hooked it, the fish cut the freakin mainline. How is that even possible still boggles my mind, I store my overhead reel and get the spinning set ready.
Ijat was amused by what happen to me. He told me to take a break and start fishing at the next spot. To lose 7 Jig consecutively at every drop is annoying. I take his advice, and crawl back to my bunk bed and sleep on it. Right about mid-day, Captain Ah Ho change course to Karang Tinggi. We will be there in two hours and hopefully things will be better there. Although I’m trying to be optimistic, I’m only left with just 3 more metal jigs. 220g and 2 180g. All three are not my favorite profile, flat and and wide. It takes too long for it to reach bottom. On the positive side, the 220g and 180g are all gold and maroon color or (ironman color scheme). I manage to get some sleep, Ijat wake me up for lunch. Cold chicken soup is one of my favorite, its time to fill up the tank for the evening jigging session.
After 2 hours of full throttle, finally the Mighty Chaser slowed down and start scanning the sea floor. Karang Tinggi or High Reef has two distinctive underwater pinnacle that are filled with corals. The plan is to work our way towards the pinnacle. The current was perfect, slow and flowing. The illustration below will describe our path and strike zone. It doesn’t take long when Dangerman started the evening session with a super Golden Snapper. Soon another 3-4 strike around the back end of the boat. All scored either a Grouper or Golden Snapper. This place is definitely on fire, and we need to hit it accurately and fast.
At this stage, we were all too focused on enticing the fish to bite our metal jig. Captain Ah Ho maneuvered for a second drift in Karang Tinggi. As the boat inches closer to the pinnacle point, Dangerman, Mahmud and Rombau strikes again! 2 Snappers and lost one. I dropped my jig hoping that it is still within strike zone. Midway to the drop, BOOM! Finally a fish at the end of my fishing line. The fish pulled strongly, trying to break free. The knocking on the rod tip suggest that this might have been either a GT or Cobia. I muscle it up, and I look down it was a silvery white figure. When I look again, there is two GT hooked on to a single jig! Powerr!!
It all has to be in the final hours of day 2. Dangerman is definitely on a rampage here, racking up 4 Golden Snappers. Rombau is not that far behind with a total tally of 2 Snappers and 1 GT. Mahmud joined in with 3 groupers and 1 GT. Fitri was still trying hard to get the rhythm right, and God always reward those who put great effort and not giving up. All it takes is just one good strike. Fitri hooked it nicely and the battle begins. 10 minutes to be exact, to get the fish on its tail. Captain Ah Ho knew that it was a GT and this time a big one. This could end up as the biggest fish of the trip. I got my Go Pro ready, and start to capture some video. Finally the fish gave up, and Fitri steadily pull the fish in to mark his first jigging score of the day. Indeed it was a Giant Trevally and a good size too!. Sweet!
It was about 6.00pm, and still haven’t scored any Snapper or Grouper. I pushed my luck a little bit, and scouted the seafloor with jig. Still nothing. Ah Ho position for another drift at the right side of the pinnacle. 2 more drift and then we need to head back closer to Sembilan Island. Is now or never, I drop my jig and knock the sea floor, right after my second knock. BOOM! Another fish took it. I set the hook nicely and haul it up. Half-way, the fish manage to free it self from the hook. What!!! I knew it was a good size Snapper or Grouper, and I am gutted to lost that one. Rombau, a person standing right next to me, got lucky and scored another snapper.
Not happy with my performance, I’ve eked out last bit of energy that are still in me. Fitri told me that one of the assist hook on my jig was open. To change a new set of assist hook will cost me time, and if I continue I might not get a good clean hook on the fish. Plus, I’m running out of energy to get this one down again. I decided to get on with it and drop down the jig again. Since it is a wide profile, it swayed off the target area. I pulled it back about 50m, pain started to kick in on my right hand. I was about to give up and end the day. Somehow, I decided to give it one more try. Just one more, the last one.
I felt the metal jig knock the sea floor once, and as I reel it up, 1..2.. BOOM! Another fish took. It was a strong pull. I’ve upgraded the drag on this reel and today something manage to spill the line from it. Right about 5 seconds, it snagged itself into the reef. Captain Ah Ho told me to quickly open the bail and free the line. I felt another strong jerk, it went out from the reef and I manage to get back on the game. This might be a big ass GT and a took me a while to finally beat it. As it surfaces, it swims away from the boat. Cobia?? But we are surprised again, as this time a red figure emerges from the depth. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was large Mangrove Jack. Out here, miles away from the shore. It has to be said that this is probably one of the best fighting fish I’ve ever encounter. Extremely strong and fast, a worthy opponent.
Dangerman not gonna let it slide this time. At the final drift, he has the last laugh of the day. Another big fish just took his metal jig. We are all already laid back and just watch Salihin mark his final score of the day. The fish surfaces from the depth, spilling a crab from its bloated belly. A large Grouper marked the end of our jigging session. Dangerman has come a long way since his last trip to Jarak waters last year. Scoring only a Queenfish. This time he is The Man of the day :).
Captain Ah Ho finally change course to our final position for another bottom fishing session. I think all of us were hammered and tired after a long jigging session. We keep on fishing that night. Fitri finally got his large golden snapper. I didn’t wait that long before decided to called it a day. My final fish was a Gerut or the scientific name is Pomadasys kaakan. A silver fish with long spines at its back.
Overall, it was another great tip on-board the GT Chaser. We leave early the next morning and reach the jetty by 10.00am! There is no need to do extra fishing as the team are pretty much satisfied with their catches. Rombau even caught a nice 7kg Stingray haha. It was a great experience and good to be fishing among new friends. As we reach the jetty we packed our stuff and filled our ice box with our catches. A great 3 days at sea and hopefully April will be even better. Thank you Fitri, Sailihin, Mahmud, Jaal, Warih and Rombau. Hopefully we will meet again next year 🙂