I remember the very first time I went fishing — it was 20 years ago, and it really wasn’t a very memorable experience. I was in the middle of the ocean, the boat was moving violently, and I was feeling sick as hell. And at the end of all that, we didn’t even catch a thing! My very first thoughts on fishing? Stressful. Boring.
Well, that was the first time; and my fishing experience since has only gotten better, thanks to friends who let me tag along on their fishing trips. I am still no angler, but I’ve at least been patient enough to reel in my own catch once or twice. Fishing isn’t boring anymore — at times, it can actually get pretty exciting. So when I was invited to join a sailfish expedition in the waters of Kuala Rompin, I jumped at the chance. Getting a picture taken with a sailfish is such an elusive opportunity, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
I went on this sailfish ‘media’ expedition with a couple of reporters and photographers from local Malaysian newspapers and magazines. Organised by Sea Urchin Charters and SportFishin.Asia — the journey to our destination in Kuala Rompin, Pahang began in Kuala Lumpur at 4am in the morning. It was crazy early, so I slept for most of the 4-hour ride there, and woke up just in time for a quick local Nasi Lemak breakfast in town. After breakfast, we were driven to the jetty; where our boat for the day, Sea Urchin, was waiting for us.
Due to its size, Sea Urchin had to leave the Sungai Rompin jetty during high tide to make it pass the river mouth and into the open sea — so we were on our way for our sailfishing adventure at about 9am in the morning.
A Little Bit about Kuala Rompin…
The town of Kuala Rompin is located in the state of Pahang in the east coast of Malaysia. It is situated almost 2 hours south of the state capital, Kuantan (my hometown, and where I grew up in); and despite the many years I spent in Kuantan, I have never been to Kuala Rompin.
Kuala Rompin is known for its seafood — however, it is increasingly gaining popularity as a base for the sport of sailfishing in the months of June to September (I went on this expedition at the end of the season in September 2016). Some people call this small unassuming town the “Sailfish Capital of Asia”, and an international catch and release competition called the “Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge” is held here annually. So I guess with its reputation, there is no better place for my first sailfish experience than at Kuala Rompin!
… and a Lot More about Sea Urchin
Sea Urchin spends most of the sailfish season on the waters of Kuala Rompin. It is a beautiful 72-footer sports fishing boat built in Taiwan, and comes with 4 cabins and an air-conditioned saloon (living room). The boat can comfortably sleep 8 people — it is furnished with 4 bunk beds, 2 twin beds, and a queen bed in the master cabin with an ensuite head (toilet and shower). There are a total of 3 heads on the boat.
The two outdoor decks of Sea Urchin is a great place to lounge at — the upper deck has a dining table for 8 and a barbecue pit; and the bottom deck has two sofas for some extra comfort while fishing. The top part of the boat is the flybridge, where a quick visit to see the captain offers beautiful views of the boat sailing into the wide open sea.
Sea Urchin offers luxurious facilities and comfort — and for overnight trips it provides full-board accommodations and a dedicated full-time captain and crew onboard. The charter is the only one plying the waters of Kuala Rompin to offer such lavish services.
Off to Fish!
The first thing we had to do when we got out to sea was to jig for bait, and our fishing guides knew exactly where the small fishes gather. I watched them lower the fishing lines (filled with many small hooks along it) into the water, and observed as they skillfully jigged the lines up and down to lure the fishes to it. When they lifted the lines a few minutes later, they had a whole row of small fishes hooked onto it! It looked so simple that I had to have a go as well, and it was fun because the little fishies were so easy to catch! If only fishing was always like that.
The sailfish in Kuala Rompin are fished with these live bait, and after getting a tank full of ikan kembong (mackerels), we were off again — this time to find the sailfish. We sailed towards the direction of Tioman island; and because the journey took almost an hour along mildly choppy waters, I got a little seasick and had to settle in the saloon for a nap.
I was woken up by sounds of exclamation and laughter from the deck. The boat had stopped, and during my slumber, the quest to catch the sailfish had already begun. I immediately made my way to the fishing deck — I didn’t want to miss out on the action. Unfortunately, I walked out just as they released the very first sailfish they caught that day back into the water.
Lucky for me, just as I was about to wallow in self-pity for missing out on the very first catch of the day — a second angler got a strike. The guide immediately strapped on the fishing belt on him (so that he can place the rod on it for support), and I watched in apprehension as he began his very long (almost half an hour, I think) fight with the sailfish. From the boat, I could see the sailfish jumping out of the water as it struggled to free itself from the hook — the entire battle between man and fish was fascinating to watch.
In the end, the sailfish lost the fight and was finally reeled in next to the boat. It wasn’t taken out of the water immediately — using gloves, the guide loosened the hook from its mouth, and held onto its sharp bill. When everyone was ready, he then pulled the sailfish up on board for a picture with the angler who reeled it in; and then offered another photo-op to a second person, which I took up! This whole process took less than a minute, and the sailfish was then released back into the sea (due to the catch and release concept practiced by the anglers in Kuala Rompin) to fight another day.
And that was how I got my up close and personal moment with the incredible, glistening (and a little slimy) blue-colored sailfish.
End of the Day
All in all, the Sea Urchin had three sailfishes on board that day, and a cobia for good measure. We made our way back to the Kuala Rompin jetty at about 4pm, and I slept for most of the way. When we arrived at the mouth of Sungai Rompin later that evening, the tide was too low for Sea Urchin to make it pass the sandbanks, so the entire group had to be transferred to one of the smaller fishing boats and taken back to shore.
We were treated to a delightful seafood dinner at one of the restaurants by the jetty, and had the cobia we caught that day. It was my first time tasting the cobia — I have to say the firm and succulent flakes of white meat from the fish was absolutely delicious.
It was about 8pm when we finally got on our 4-hour journey back to Kuala Lumpur, ending the immensely fun and exciting day out fishing.
My Sailfishing Experience
This sailfish expedition was definitely an unforgettable one. I’m pretty glad I did it with Sea Urchin as the luxury boat made the whole experience a comfortable one — I can’t imagine combating the seasickness on one of the smaller fishing boats. For the hardcore anglers, the standard fishing boats make navigating the seas to catch the sailfish easier (chartering Sea Urchin for sailfishing comes with one of these fishing boats as well); and with Sea Urchin as a base, friends and family (and non-anglers like me) get to sit back in comfort and enjoy the whole adventure as well. Where else can I NOT catch a sailfish but get a photo with one?
I want to do this again in the near future — but the next time, I plan to actually try battling and reeling in a sailfish of my own.
(the season runs from May/June to September):-
Tel: 016-222 8831 (Juan)
*She Walks the World went on the sailfish expedition with Sea Urchin Charters as a guest. As always, all opinions stated here are my own.