Aur Island, Johore – 6 May 2017
Johore Darul Takzim, a prosperous state located south of Malaysia. Over the past years, I did not have the opportunity to try out fishing in Johore waters. Since it is at the end of Peninsular of Malaysia. It is the only state that have both east and west coast costal line. I was called up to fill an empty seat to Aur Island. Since May was a quite month for Fishyology Tour, I decided to embark on this 3 days 2 nights exploratory outing. I’ve googled up some fishing in Aur Island, Johor. The usual catches were snappers, emperor, trevallies, narrow barred mackerel and grouper. What catches my attention was the number of reported catches of Guitarfish or locally known as Yu Kemejan. Basically, within all the Islands that falls under Johore Territory is home to a fish called Guitarfish. The size is enormous! Some catches weighing more than 50kg! It is a unique fish, it looks like a shark but falls under the Ray family. Feeds at the bottom and active at night. Hah! We clearly have a good shot in catching this Guitarfish in Aur Island.
The jetty is located in Mersing, Johore. Took us about 4-5 hours to drive from Kajang to Mersing. Via the North South Highway and cross over Johore from west to east via state road from Yong Peng to Mersing. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and had to sleep all the way. It’s a bumpy route, couple with tight corner and fog. We survived the journey and reach Mersing the next morning. Just in time for some Roti Canai. It was still early morning and notice a lot of foreign tourist around. They were everywhere. At the 24 Hours Laundry service, Mamak Stall and by the road side. Doesn’t make sense, but then I realize, Mersing is the only port that heads out to Tioman and the surrounding Islands.
We had a quick breakfast at a Mamak Stall. One thing I notice, Mamak Stall in KL is far better than those situated outside KL. I wonder why. The sky was still dark and we head down to the jetty to drop off all our supplies and equipment. It was a big LOB boat. Properly maintained with several onboard compartments. We had leave early morning to ride the high tide out of the port. The Captain of this Ship is called Pak Sarip. Very talkative captain. It’s a three-day fishing trip and hopefully it will be a good one.
ENCOUNTER WITH THE DOLLIES
Trolling deep divers plug plays a significant role in this trip. We will be trolling from Mersing coastal to Aur Island. The regular followers of this setup all their trolling lures, utilizing 4 rods at the back of the boat. Their favorite lure for trolling is Rapala Magnum Trolling Lures. Bit different from my previous experience in Yan, Kedah and Pekan, Pahang. Both location would only use Halco Deep Trolling lures. About an hour later, we passed by one of the smaller Island close to the coastal area of Mersing. Fitri’s rod were hit by an unknown predator. The target species for trolling is only the Narrow-Barred Mackerel, but this one hardly put a fight. Fitri just reel it back home, with 200m worth of line to reel in on 4.3 ratio Penn GTI coffee grinder. It takes ages to get the fish on the boat. As soon as the fish surface closer to the boat. It was a Red Grouper! A decent size that will fit handsomely on the dining table.
We continue our journey to Aur Island. We are expected to be there by 5.00pm as we will make a few stops in FAD’s to look for some fresh bait and fishing for Mackerel. Along the way, next was Angah’s trolling lure were hit by a curious predator. Steadily Angah cranked the fish up and scored our first Tenggiri or Narrow-Barred Mackerel of the day. That was the only two fish in the morning session. I took my time looking around the boat. I knew it was still a long way across the sea. The front deck was quite clean, with slanting deck. Looks like a lovely place to sleep for few hours. With cool breeze and away from the engine diesel fume. Lucky the sky is filled with clouds, it keeps the intense heat from the sun away. All I here next is, the captain called! Time to work!
The boat is lashed on to the FAD’s or Unjam. At first, we will try to fill in the cooler with some good fresh bait-fish for bait. Sardines, Yellow Tail Scads, Mullet and Small Mackerel are some of the usual bait-fish that will be good for any bottom feeders. At the same time, close to our position was a group of Bonito feeding frenzy on the surface. The guys are casting small feathered lures with weight. Mainly for Tenggiri. I decided to cast out 40g silver jigs with CKT Tackle Handmade Assist Hook. Cast as far as you can before reaping it fast to trigger a strike. It works well on most midwater pelagic and thanks to the trick I learn in Perhentian Island.
It triggered a Bonito to hammered my 40g jig. It’s not that big but still a fun size on a light jigging rod. As I was fighting the bonito, somehow it might have called in a group of Dorado closer to our boat. Dorado are opportunist and only will take live fish for their meal. I can clearly see a group close by and asked the guys to cast out live bait. I know, to change a rig and tie a fishing hook can be troublesome when fishing is hot but you just got to do it to get the result. It must be a clean leader with just hook and Live Bait. I cut my jig, tie a 5/0 hook and a live Tamban or mullet. I thought of tying a balloon to the line, couldn’t complete the step because the fish already took it. It brings back some memories of Port Dickson, the fish jumps out of the water and they swim fast too.
Peeling line with ease. The other fish swims closer to the caught dorado. Fitri was the second person to get it on with another Dorado. We keep the fish close to our position and hopefully we can max our catch. Mahfudz gaffed my Dorado and that was a good fight and a keeper! Fitri was still fighting the fish to get in onboard. I can now lay back and record some video on my GoPro.
Azrul took over my rod a cast out another live bait. At first, he was having trouble to hook the fish. Like sailfish, it doesn’t swallow the bait directly. Usually it will snatch it first before swallow it. Anglers are caught napping when the fish took the bait and fail as they immediately try to set the hook. Azrul got it right the next time, let the fish take it for a few second and then set the hook. Fish ON! Fizie was onboard with us and this is his first sea fishing trip or should I say first ever fishing trip haha. Azrul passed the rod to Fizie and he was given a task to reel that Dorado in. Saiful was up next. Hooked a couple of times but could not set the hook as he sets it too early. After give it some time, he too hooked another Dorado. Dollie Fest!!
We got some good footage of our Dollie fest. Saiful posed with his beautiful Dorado. At the meantime, Fizie was still fighting the fish! LOL. The drag was set too loose! He finally scored his first fish of the day, a decent size Dorado! We take turn, so that everyone can have fun. It was Azrul and Mahfudz turn as they were too busy recording and managing our catches. Tamban seems to be their favorite bait. Azrul finally hooked one, but this time the fish dashed straight to the bottom at a blistering speed. It was a large Bonito! Honestly those fish are like underwater bullet train when they peel his Saltiga Game 3500 reel. Very Fast! In between our Dollie fight, Angah and Bulat scored some amazing catches on Sabiki rig. 2 huge yellowtail Barracuda! Each fish was caught barely by the corner of the mouth. Those sabiki rigs has only small hooks but they stayed on! Amazing! Angah tried to fish for Dorado too but caught another large Bonito! I guess Bonito now took over this FAD’s because there are no more Dorado can be seen on the surface.
Things get quitter later. We were still catching bait fish at this moment but Mahfudz and Azrul were still drifting live bait. I notice there is a single Dorado splashes in the distance but close enough to our boat. It was just a matter of time before the fish will took Azrul or Mahfudz live bait. We are still passionate waiting for a strike… and the lucky anglers goes to… Mahfudz!
This time was probably bigger, my 3000 Penn Pursuit were struggling to keep up with this fish. I swim into the FAD’s and jumps over a drifting line. Mahfudz were lucky as the fish swims outwards and after he was in a good pathway, he reeled it back in and scored a Bull! We called it a Bull for large Dorado! Beautiful fish! The captain seems satisfied with our catches and decided to press on straight to Aur Island. I am satisfied, even more satisfied as others are doing well too.
The deckhand picked up some of our fresh small fish cooked our lunch. It was quite late but we had fun and now we do feel a bit hungry. One thing I love about Johore is its Asam Pedas. I’m not kidding, they made one of the Best Asam Pedas in Malaysia. Fish is fresh and the Asam Pedas was perfect. WOW. Nothing more can be said. So, good.
It will be another 1.5 hours before we reach Aur Island. I just lay back, and had some nice cool watermelon. The surrounding is beautiful. Filled with a lot of Islands and most of them are protected to ensure a sustainable ecosystem. Next will be bottom fishing. We will be fishing with sort of like a sabiki rig but only 2-3 hooks. Angah thought us how to rig everything and it was quite easy to get it done. One thing I’m worried was the current and the depth. East coast is known to be calmer then west coast. So, I’m just hoping my 5000-size reel can withstand the task that are scheduled this evening…
Wicked Tuna… As close as it gets…
Paternoster Rig is the way to go. 2-3 hooks with a sinker tied at the bottom of the rig is used to catch snappers and small trevally. Fresh caught bait-fish will be our chosen bait. The boatman did buy some dead squid, but it was no longer fresh and smelly. It was late towards the evening, I think about 5.30pm. The only fish that I caught was a small long-fin trevally. The fish is decent enough to be kept in the freezer. We did change the spot twice but still fish are not really biting. Captain Sarip decided to cook us dinner before changing to a new spot. Again, fresh fish fried till crisp, splashed with 3 rasa sauce… perfect.
The boat is repositioned for the third time and I hope soon we can catch something. As soon as the bait hits the floor. It doesn’t take long before me and Angah started the ball rolling with 2 Pink Ear Emperors. I used to catch this over Rompin and Jarak. The sizes here though are bigger! More less a 1kg fish. We all uses different bait. Some Sliced fish, whole fish and I used dead squid. Those who are on sliced fish get the most bite but small fish, on a dead squid I’ve consistently scored more Emperors and bigger in average size too. It was fun, I never really had a good chance to sit down and do bottom fishing at night. It was a great fishing time for few hours, we have been consistently getting bites. Fizie then landed an unusual species, a juvenile Cobia. It is good to see a new comer getting in to the mix and having fun fishing.
While we are all targeting table size fish, one of us has been eyeing to catch a grand trophy of Aur Island. Fitri’s has been quite that night and doesn’t seems to be catching much. Instead of using sliced fish, he just hooked a single fish with two hooks on it. Equipped with 60lb and a fishing set that are up to the task. He has been yapping about how good it is to experience what it’s like to land a huge Tuna, like in Wicked Tuna series. He is about to be tested that night…
Finally, a fish did take Fitri’s bait. It was a strong pull and his 60lb rod was taking a good beating by an unknown predator. We didn’t put any attention to it, as it might have been a larger Emperor… apparently, not this time. Fitri was struggling to reel the line and soon we all know this could have been a large sting-ray. The fish somehow snagged all lines that are in the water. As I am trying to pull my line up, I can feel our line is tangled and something big is on Fitri’s rod. Luckily, we manage to untangle everything and make way for Fitri to get this one on the boat. The battle was intense! Fitri was already on the limit after 20 minutes and he only manage to crank up few tenth of meters. Once an angler is in a prolong battle, the first muscle pain that we are going to feel is our arm and our back. He was all sweating, he changes his rod position several times to ease the pain. There is no short cut to this, he has the rod to pull the thing up and all he can do right now is just endure it. Fooz got his camera recording and pointing light in to the sea. To try to have a glimpse what it might be. The fish suddenly dashed to the sea floor in high speed! I was worried the line might break during that sudden dash but it holds on to it. After that dash, Fitri got the upper hand. The fish was tiring and he was gaining on him. Slowly crank the line in.
As the fish was close enough to the boat, we look down and spooked by the size of the fish. A white figure as big as a man. Looks like a shark but it was a White Spotted Wedgefish or the scientific name is Rhynchobatus australiae. It is a crossover between shark and ray. After close to 30-40 minutes of intense battle, finally the deckie gaffed it. It shakes its head ferociously and we pulled it up on the boat. It doesn’t like to be on the boat deck and ferociously knock the boat wall. We stayed away from it until it is calmed down. Fitri decided to release it but, to handle that huge fish was not going to be easy.
At one hand, I think to release that fish was not going to help it as it was already dying. Since it is edible, so might as well respect it and consume it. It was like a dream. That was a record breaker fish for Fitri and that will surely go down to one the best moment for us all. Things just completely go quite after that. No other fish were interested with our bait. It was already 2.00-3.00am in the morning. The guys are still fishing and I decided to head inside to have my sleep. That is after I had shower! So refreshing… I hope tomorrow will be another great day. To be Continued…