Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why Fish with Your Kids?

Fishing is a relatively inexpensive hobby that is easy to learn, can be practiced almost anywhere, and provides skills that can be used by youth of all ages. However, fishing is about more than just catching fish:
  • Fishing gets you and your children away from everyday distractions.
  • The relaxed atmosphere and quiet time can help open communications.
  • Fishing together creates common ground and shared experiences.
  • Fishing is an activity at which all kids can succeed at some level.
  • Fishing encourages problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Fishing links kids and the natural world in a way that can generate caring, responsibility and action.

Tips on fishing with kids

Relax! Leave problems behind, and take along a smile, an open mind, and a lot of patience.

Do the basics first. Simple equipment in good working order will help avoid frustration. An inexpensive rod and reel, with live bait and a bobber, will get you off to a good start.

Make it a shore thing. Fishing from shore allows kids to run and play when they need to, and gives them the option of fishing on their own or with friends as they get older.

Fish for little fish. Catching fish is important; the size of the fish isn’t. Sunfish and other pan-sized fish are often plentiful and easily caught by beginners.

Make it fun. A fun, safe time is more important than the size or number of fish caught. Praise children for their patience, their cooperation, and simply for trying.

Teach skills... patiently. One challenge of fishing is mastering skills. Help kids learn rather than do everything for them. As they develop skills, their self-esteem will increase.

Help solve problems. Lines tangle. Hooks get snagged. Fish stop biting. By working with you to identify and solve these problems, children will be learning what they can try in the future.

Be flexible. If your child is just too excited to sit still with a bobber and live bait, change tactics. Try a lure they can cast and retrieve. Move up and down the shore looking for good spots.

Be responsible. You are a role model, so set a good example.

Share an awareness of, and respect for, the environment, private property and other anglers.

  • Don’t litter – leave the area as clean or cleaner than you found it.
  • Discuss the rules and regulations with your child, and follow them.
  • Properly release fish you aren’t planning to keep, and make good use of those that you do keep.

Don’t stay too long. How much time you spend will depend on the age of your child and whether the fish are biting. Be alert to signs of restlessness and don’t be afraid to cut your trip short.

Don’t make the first trip your last. Plan another trip. Talk together about what was fun and rewarding, or bad and boring, so you can make the trip even better next time.

Keep those promises. A promise to take a child fishing is as important as any other commitment that you make. Keeping that promise will strengthen your relationship.

Each child is different, and will respond differently to the fishing experience. Keep an open mind, go with the flow and, above all, have a good time!

Sailfish Destination - Malaysia


The most magnificent sight to an angler must be a Sail Fish doing a tail walk. The majesty and raw power of the Sail Fish as it proudly struts across the shimmering surface of the water, displaying its full colors in the tropical sun. It is a sight that is forever etched in the minds of both the experienced and inexperienced angler. With every turn of its head, the colors on its body seem to change but always in spectacular form.

The Sail Fish has and always remain the dream of any angler. To successfully land one is prove of one's physical and mental strength. It is truly the epitome of one's angling experience.

Malaysia is truly blessed that such a magnificent fish has graced our waters with its presence. Each year, anglers converge onto Malaysia to realize their dream of catching a Sail Fish or Black Marlin.

Added on to this privilege of catching one on rod and line, we are granted a bonus of being able to catch them the whole year round, switching between the east coast and the west coast of Malaysia.

Distinctive Features

The Sail Fish is characterized by its enormous sail-like dorsal fin which is much taller than the width of its body, running almost the length of its body.

The Sail Fish's upper jaw extends into a long rounded bill which has a circular cross-section and is twice as long as the lower jaw. The Sail Fish has two keels at the caudal base and two anal and two dorsal fins with the second anal and the second dorsal fins being short and concave mirror images.

The Sail Fish's fins are generally black, but the anal fin base is white. The Sail Fish has long pectoral fins and extremely long pelvic fins that are twice as long as the pectoral fins. Its sides have 20 rows of vertical bars that are composed of light blue round spots. The lateral line is readily visible.


Body color is variable depending upon level of excitement. The body is dark blue dorsally and white with brown spots ventrally. About 20 bars, each consisting of many light blue dots, are present on each side. The fins are all generally blackish blue. The anal fin base is white. The first dorsal fin contains many small black dots, which are more common towards the anterior end of the fin.

Geographical Distribution

The Sail Fish is distributed from approximately 40° N to 40° S in the western Atlantic Ocean and from 50° N to 32° S in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. It has been taken in the Mediterranean Sea, although few records exist for this region. In the western Atlantic Ocean, its highest abundance is in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic coast of Florida, and the Caribbean Sea. In this region, distribution is apparently influenced by wind conditions as well as water temperature. In the northern and southern extremes of its distribution, sailfish appear during warm seasons. These seasonal changes in distribution may be directly linked to prey movement. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, there is an aggregation off the coast of West Africa.

In the Pacific Ocean, the sailfish is widely distributed in temperate and tropical regions. It resides in waters from 45° to 50° N to 35° S in the western Pacific and from 35° N to 35° S in the eastern Pacific. Sail Fish are especially abundant off Papua New Guinea and the Philippines as well as from Tahiti to the Marquesas and off Hawaii. This species may also be found in the Indian Ocean to approximately 35 to 45° S latitude.

In Malaysia, it is found on both the west and east coast of the Peninsular and off Labuan in the island of Borneo.


The Sail Fish is a tropical and temperate water species normally found above the thermal incline in the first 100 feet of the water column in both oceanic and inshore waters. It prefers water temperatures of 21 to 28 degrees Centigrade. The females release 4.5 million eggs annually. The Sail Fish feeds on ballyhoo, mackerel, mullet, needlefish, small tuna, and crustaceans. The Sail Fish is not easy to confuse with other species due to its enormous dorsal fin. The Sail Fish is a highly prized targeted species of sport anglers.

Popular Sail Fish Angling Destinations in Malaysia

In Malaysia, the Sail Fish is found on both the west and east coast. In the west coast, they are generally found around Pulau Jarak off the state of Perak. The Sail Fish on the west coast are generally larger than those found on the east coast.

Pulau Jarak or Jarak island is an uninhabited island situated off the coast of the state of Perak Angling charter boats are available for hire from Bagan Dato, Hutan Melintang, Sungei Besar and Lumut.

The angling charter boats are usually made of wood with inboard engines, equipped with gps, sonar, galley, bunks and head. Designed and constructed for longer fishing sessions, it is practically a boathouse with all the amenities of home.

The charters could be for a day's fishing or for a duration of 3 days 2 nights fishing depending on the targeted species.

A sight to behold; pure acrobatics and agility

In the east coast, the Sail Fish is found in the waters stretching from the state of Terengganu in the north to Johor in the south. However, they are more abundant off the coast of the state of Pahang; particularly off the town of Kuala Rompin.

The town of Kuala Rompin; situated on the southern tip of Pahang remains the Sail Fish capital of Malaysia. Anglers from all over the world converge here to fish for the magnificent Sail Fish and the occasional Black Marlin.

Here, angling charters are readily available with fiberglass boats of double digits specifications fitted with twin 90 hp outboards; equipped with gps, sonars and guide. The charters are usually for day trips only operating from 0800 hrs to 1700 hrs.

The beautiful Pulau Aur and Pulau Tioman or Aur Island and Tioman island, is home to the bigger species of Sail Fishes and Black Marlins. Although the marlins rarely exceed 100 kg in this area, they can be great fun on lighter tackle. However, larger specimens are occasionally recorded. Accommodation and angling charters are readily available for hire on the picturesque islands themselves.

Not forgetting the Spratlys; located off the coast of Sabah. With a collection of coral atolls rising from depths of 1000 meters, it's Malaysia's premier saltwater game fishing destination. This is the home of the giant Black Marlin and a host of other gargantuan species.

It is also the venue of the Rolex-IGFA Labuan International Offshore Qualifying Event, held annually, is now part of the International Angling Circuit culminating in the world championship each year

Most Productive Fishing Periods

Malaysia, being a peninsular surrounded by the Straits of Melaka on the west and the South China Seas on the east is subjected to the onslaught of monsoons.

Angling is available all year round, depending on the respective monsoon season on both the west and east coast. Early correspondence with local fishing organizations is necessary to prepare a suitable schedule to cater to your targeted species.

Fishing for Sail fish at Pulau Jarak is most productive from the month of November to February.

The most productive Sail Fish angling periods in the east coast would be from the month of July to October registering the highest number of hook ups and strikes. During peak season, one boat could very well register 30 plus hook-ups!

Recently, at the Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge, a total of 87 Sail Fishes were successfully Caught, Tagged and Released within a two day period of fishing.

Sail Fish Angling Methods in Malaysia

The most common and productive angling methods for Sail Fish in Malaysia are;

a. Trolling with artificial lures

Depending on the time of the day, trolling with mid water or surface lures contributes to the degree of productivity. The use of teasers also contributes to the success rate.

b. Trolling with live baits.

Live bait fishes collected from Fish Attracting Devices are trolled over prospective Sail Fish hunting grounds but the chance of other pelagic fishes attacking the bait is equally high. Fishes like Barracuda, Spanish Mackerel and other pelagics are commonly attracted to this method of fishing.

However, live bait is not easily available at Pulau Jarak or Jarak Island on the west coat as there are no FADs. Early arrangements for live bait with the boatman is essential here.

c. Popping with artificial lures

This method is employed only when the Sail Fishes are sighted and refuse to attack the bait presented. Chances of a successful hook up are low as the fish would turn back after a follow up to the boat.

d. Float with live bait

Drifting live bait rigged with a circle hook on the line with a balloon as a float is the preferred angling method in Malaysia for Sail Fish.

e. Fly Fishing

For fly fishing enthusiasts, the use of teasers and bait and switch method has proven effective.

Conservation Programme

Persatuan Memancing Malaysia or the Malaysian Angling Association is currently engaged in a conservation programme to encourage Catch, Tag and Release of all Billfishes. This programme is endorsed by The Billfish Foundation and is officially recognized by the International Game Fish Association.

It's objective is to;

a. promote fishery conservation
b. encourage anglers to get involved in conservation
c. set the angling ethics and educate anglers
d. encourage good management of Malaysian fishery resources

This programme also sets out to educate the commercial fishermen and anglers on the importance of the Sail Fish and its economic value.
From its inception in year 2000, we have been slowly but surely changing the mindset of the anglers and commercial fishermen to release all Sail Fish caught.

The Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge was the first international angling event in Malaysia where the Sail Fishes were Caught, Photographed, Tagged and Released.

Not a single Sail Fish was killed and brought back for display. All fishes landed were measured, recorded, revived and subsequently released back into the water.

The data obtained through the tagging process would be utilized to determine movement, distribution and growth patterns of these marvelous creatures which have chosen to call Malaysia home.

Reviving a Sailfish after tagging

Malaysia the next Angling Paradise

The tropical seas of Malaysia, holds most of the main target species of tropical game fish including the Black Marlin, Blue Marlin and more commonly the Indo-Pacific Sail Fish.

Tuna, Yellowfin, Bigeye and Dogtooth are found in the deep water areas around atolls and drop offs. Wahoo, Giant Trevally, Cobia, Narrowbarred Mackerel, Dorado, Barracuda, Escolar, Rainbow Runner, Greater Amberjack and big Sharks add to the variety of game fishes to be found.

The sheer fact of being able to catch fish in their natural habitat means that your angling dreams could become reality in Malaysia. Coupled with the potential of world record catches, an excellent climate and a wealth of diverse cultures, Malaysia provides an angling avenue 'par excellence'.

Invasive Alien Species - The Peacock Bass in Malaysia

The Peacock bass in Malaysia has been documented as highly destructive to the local eco-system. How so?

Well, Peacock Bass is a ferocious alien predator that would decimate any other fish species in the waters. As fingerlings, they hunt in packs devouring all other species like the local seluangs, shrimps, tiger barbs, haruans, tomans, etc.
Being cichlids, they breed prolifically to ensure survival of the species. Their population would ensure total colonisation of the pond.

You might argue that there are already Tomans and Haruans in your pond but consider this scenario. The PB's devour all the Toman and Haruan fries in the pond. The aging mama Tomans and Haruans fry production slows down due to age and eventually dies. All the while, the PB's are breeding like rabbits and feeding on other species.

In the end, you'll end up with a pond of Peacock bass only. Not even guppies aka "longkang fish" would survive. This is exactly how most of the ponds and lakes in the Kinta valley became what it is today.

It is with the introduction of the Peacock Bass and other imported alien species like the Flower Horn, Red Emperor, Tiger cichlid, Jaguar cichlids, etc.; either by "fish dumping" by pet owners bored of their pets or some anglers introducing it to the lakes in the name of good sports fishing!

You can also argue that pond is isolated and the Pb's stays where it is or that PB's do not breed in fast moving waters. Well, we have seen too many cases of ponds being inundated during thunderstorms or flash floods. They overflow and all the fishes are "spread" to other lakes and bodies of water.

The only way a pond once colonised could be cleared of such species would be by draining and poisoning. After poisoning, it takes a minimum of 6 months before fish fries can be introduced to the pond again. Even at that, there have been cases of PB fries being found alive after the pond had been restocked. Apparently, these fries have survived the long period of drought when the pond was drained.

Another thing you should know regarding the Peacock Bass. There are 4 main species of it and NOT all of them grow to be giants like those you see in fishing videos in the Amazon!
There is only one species that grows huge but takes a long time to do so. Most if not all the PB's found in Malaysian pet shops is NOT that species. Those sold in Malaysia as pets do not grow over 3 kgs if ever they survive cannibalism among their own species when there is no food left in the pond.

If you are a keen angler and have been actively fishing, you would know that the local species like the Toman, Haruans, Bujuks, Sebaraus, Gahak, Kenderap, Belida all take lures as well as live bait. And they provide a better fight then any Peacock bass! Even anglers from Western countries are amazed by the raw power of the Tomans here!

Be a responsible and wise Malaysian angler and prevent the further colonisation of our waters by these invasive alien species. If it is not agaisn't your principles, practice culling of all invasive alien species.

Save Our Species from further destruction to allow future generations to enjoy fishing them as we do now! That includes your future generation!

Save Our Tomans(Channa Micropeltes)

Of late, we have been seeing a steep climb in the invasive alien fish population in Malaysia. I do not wish to go into the specifics on how it got there but our eco-system seem to be changing due to the prolific reproduction of these species. What once was only the Peacock Bass, Jaguar Cichlids, Tiger Cichlids, Red Emperor and Flower Horn ; we now have Large mouth bass, Arapaima, Tiger Fish and other "exotics".

It has come to a point that their dominance in our local waters cannot be curtailed. With their huge population and their ability to adapt and dominate, our local species do not stand a chance to survive.

Make an observation in any lakes that have these invasive species and you will discover that the local species that used to thrive there are slowly but surely being replaced. Locals like the seluang or even the freshwater shrimps are being decimated at an alarming rate.
Even our Toman aka Giant Snakehead which was dubbed Fishzilla by the Americans is being edged out of its perch as the top of the food chain!

As anglers, you have to ask yourselves if this is the scenario that you wish for in the next couple of years; landing nothing but these so called exotic species. It would be a real shame if that was allowed to happen.
Anyone that has ever had a Toman on his line can testify that it is pound for pound more aggressive and exciting then any of the alien species. No deadweight but a thinking and crafty fish exploiting all avenues of escape from your lures. It is truly a Malaysian sports angler's gamefish.

It is however sad to say that our Toman is under pressure to survive as it is under attack from many quarters. It has to deal with lost of habitat due to development, competition for food with the introduced alien species, netters and last but not least from anglers not unlike ourselves.

We might not be able to change the lost of habitat nor turn back the clock on the initial introduction of the first alien species but we can help raise the Toman's chances of survivability.
I appeal to all anglers to release all Tomans caught especially the adults as there are the bearers of future generations of this marvelous fish. Take your picture if you must but please do not take its life! If indeed you wish to taste Toman meat, there are commercially farmed ones available at Tesco; sold at around RM 13/- per kg.

We have to realize that anglers pay top dollar to fish a gamefish like the Toman. Anglers would fly over continents just to have a chance to hook one up and yet release it to fight another day. If foreigners can do that, why must we destroy our God given heritage?
The Toman is even listed as a gamefish in the International Game Fishing Association! Doesn't that elevate its credibility from mere food to something more precious and worth protecting?

I must admit that a few of us have been releasing adult Tomans into the "wild"(read unattended lakes around the city) the last couple of years to help control the alien fish population and it seems to be working quite well.
However, things seem to be changing as anglers have been targeting them not for sport but for harvest. We have actually witness anglers embedding their parangs into the Toman as soon as it is landed. You can imagine our horror and heartache when we saw this but since he has the parang; who are we to question?

I wish to make an impassionate plea to all anglers to please, please release all Tomans caught. That fish is worth much more alive then dead. If you still do not see my point of view; here is another scenario that you might consider.

Many years down the line when the local Toman population has been wiped out and your children ask about the Toman, you will have to show them a picture of it in the library or perhaps make a trip to the nearest museum!
If you wish to fish for one, you will have to fork out top ringgit to have the opportunity at some payponds.

To put it in a nutshell, since Malaysia is already blessed with this magnificent fish, we should have the far sight to cherish and protect it for future generations.