SLAP CR: Lucornia / Dogtooth Reef by Gamefish
Now before you start reading, we suggest that you print this CR and take a break - it's gonna be a long one. Attached are some pics from my digicam - will leave it to the rest who went to flood a little more!
Sunrise Monday, 27th March 2006: Second spot
The sun rose at Warhead and everyone started jigging (me included). The echo sounder showed lots of activity, but again â€¦ jigging was a futile effort. As the morning progressed, my arms were aching, the sun was merciless and no results.
David Phan decided to change tactics and managed to land the first fish of considerable size â€“ a nice Japanese Red (approx. 3 kg) for our lunch. I decided to follow Davidâ€™s lead and managed to land Kerisi Bali and other bottom dwellers of various sizes and things were looking pretty good.
By 1030 hrs, most of us were bottom bashing and the results were far better than jigging. The jiggers did manage to land some fishes, but nothing really spectacular â€“ just the plain old Kerisi Bali.
At approximately 1115 hrs, I caught Leslie in the corner of my eye rigging up a huge live Scad as bait. Oh well, what the heck? Might as well try the same thing. Before I could reel up my line and make my way to the bait-well â€¦ my man Leslie was on! Something huge had taken his bait and he was practically running from portside to the aft in order to control his fish. He stepped up on the platform and the custom made Riptide rod paired with the Accurate 665 was simply working overtime.
Most of us made our way to Leslie to encourage (and tease) him and after fifteen minutes of backbreaking action, Leslie decided to let me have a go. Yep! I stepped up â€¦ oh mother of all that is good and pure - whatever was attached to the hooked was a real brute. Line was peeling out in short strong bursts and the fish was fighting hard for its life.
I could not recall how long the tug-of-war was played out, but it felt like forever. At one point of time, I considered giving the rod back to Leslie â€“ but I told myself that I wanted to be rewarded with that cold Tiger Beer in the cooler! Then came a glint of white and silverâ€¦. A good-sized Amberjack that had swam all over the place and entangled itself with five other sinkers (each sinker was 900 gms). One can do the math â€“ 18 kg Amberjack, depth 140 meters, strong current and 6 sinkers attached. Now give me my Tiger Beer! Cheers Les! Objective number one â€“ Assault on an Amberjack achieved.
1500 hrs Monday, 27th March 2006: Third spot
We arrived at Merpati and everyone got into the â€œWill Smith Modeâ€ by getting jiggy-with-it. Our good friend Lod (of the Split Rings) from Indonesia managed to haul up an Amberjack and Ah Lim bagged a 7.0 kg Grouper.
Lod ... of the split rings
As the sun went down, we switched to bottom bashing â€“ as soon as the baits hit bottom, the bite rate picked up. We were in Amberjack territory! Jimmy engaged another brute and the action on the rod was really sweet. All through Jimmy's fight, I was humming Daniel Powter's song ... 'Jimmy gets higgggghhhhh tonight ...'
Jimmy in action
The final tally of Amberjack at Merpati: -
Jimmy Lim: 12.5 kg
Victor Sim: 11.0 kg
Lod (of the Split Rings): 8.0 kg
Harold: 12.0 kg
Ah Man: 7.5 kg
Ah Man (again): 6.5 kg
Edy Lie: 11.5 kg
Chris Lim: 7.0 kg
David Phan and Siong: 6.5 kg
Lai Chun Lang: 5.0 kg
Thatâ€™s 87.5 kilograms of Amberjack in a span of 2 hours and we released all of them to fight another day.
Now hereâ€™s a spot that some of us (especially me) were afraid to drop our lines. The fear of being whacked out of shape again by an Amberjack was that bad and I wanted to conserve some energy for the Red Ruby (positive thinking huh?) later that night. The brutes (Amberjack) were taking big baits so I decided to use a small hook (size 4) with a small strip of squid. Attached that to a 50 lb FC leader and dropped my line.
Thinking that the Amberjacks will not pay any attention to my kucing kurap (unworthy) presentation, I cranked up a little as soon as the sinker hit bottom. Boom! No such luck. Oh my goodness, another brute. Line was peeling out from the Torium 30 and the first mate declared proudly â€˜Ah abang another Amberjackâ€™. Yeah Thanks! Fought the fish for a good 5-8 minutes and the FC leader surrendered (phew!). A burst leader and a lost fish, but whoâ€™s complaining? Not me.
If memory serves me correctly, it was this point in time when I exchanged looks with Chris who was fishing next to me. We silently agreed to put our rods down for a while and rest. No words were spoken; just an exchange of looks and itâ€™s true that great minds think alike.
Fishing Amberjack at Merpati â€“ excellent but it can be pretty scary. Now whereâ€™s my friend RK a.k.a. Amberjack Hunter? Hereâ€™s a spot dedicated to you buddy!
Throughout the trip - Les and myself agreed that after our Amberjack encounter .. even a 2 kg Kerisi Bali looked tiny. And what was considered big by Sedili standards did not even register here.
After lunch, Chun Lian and Ah Man managed to catch and release two Amberjacks weighing 5.0 kg & 7.0 kg respectively. Another 7.0 kg (by Ah Man again) was put into the icebox and contributed to our lunch / dinner. More yummy food from the Chef coming up! Yeah!
It was also here that David managed to snag a 6.5 kg (approx.) Amberjack on an Apollo rig. Whoâ€™s the wise guy who said that a leader must be at least two meters in length when the current is moving? Mate, no hard and fast rule in this game called fishing.
Sunset Tuesday, 28th March 2006: Sixth spot
Chris Lim sums it up the best â€¦ â€˜this reef is just too friendlyâ€™. Besides a 3kg Big-eye Trevally jigged by Victor, the rest of us practically hit zero in the first two hours.
There was a bit of excitement when Amir engaged himself with an Escolar (approx. 15 kg), but the action died out soon after and the sleep bug hit most of the anglers.
Slow hit rate throughout the night, until Amir landed a big ugly Barracouta. This is one fish whose teeth you donâ€™t want to mess with. Edy Lie suggested that I use its meat as bait. Edy told me to fillet a large chunk (about 1.5 feet in length) and sink two hooks with a wire trace. I told Edy that if I got a shark, I was going to pass the rod over to him.
Le fillet de Barracouta went down and Edy told me to crank it up 16-18 times. Like a good boy, I did as I was told and sat down to share some instant noodles with Leslie.
Into my second spoonful of noodles, the tip of the rod twitched. Fish you got to be kidding! Itâ€™s a large piece of Barracouta as bait. Then came the confirmation â€“ bent rod and I ran for it. Slipped, fell on my backside but managed to set the hooks.
After a few cautious minutes â€“ up came a Red Ruby (approx. 3.0 kg). This surprised everyone. The size of the bait compared to the fish did not tally at all! However, who cares? My personal objective number two â€“ Rumble with a Red Ruby was achieved!
Worth the slip and polishing the deck with my backside!
Seeing that fillet-a-la-Barracouta was the order of the day. Down went the baits. Siong managed to haul up a big Red Ruby himself and so did Chris Lim. But soon after that, the action went to sleep and so did we. I retired and got up around 8.30 am and was pleased to hear that the jiggers landed the following: -
Ah Man: 5.0 kg Yellow fin Tuna
Chun Lian: 19.0 kg Amberjack
Victor Sim: 30.0 kg Thresher Shark
Kicked myself in the behind for missing the action! But the Yellow Fin sashimi prepared by the Chef made up for it.
1000hrs Wednesday, 29th March 2006: Final Spot
After breakfast, we set out for our final destination â€“ Dogtooth Reef. Now this is what we came here for. We will stay here till it was time to head back to Miri. Arrived in the afternoon and the jigging started.
While jigging, Ah Man hit an 18 kg Dogtooth Tuna that did not survive the ordeal. My first time seeing a live Dogtooth and what a sight it was. Both angler and fish put up a respectable performance.
Throughout the afternoon, almost everyone managed to land a fish while jigging. Leslie and myself were still firing blanks when it came to this aspect of fishing. Then like an answered prayer, something took my jig â€¦â€¦ yes hookup! Leslie was next to me and was about to give up when his jig was whacked. Double hook-up for Les and myself!
Frankly speaking, between Leslie and myself - we did not care what was attached to our jigs. We just wanted to land a fish with them. After a few strong runs and powerful bursts, we saw our fishes â€¦ and it surpassed our expectations. Yellow Fin Tuna baby! Yeah baby yeah! These were smaller specimens. But who cares? To experience Yellow Fin Tuna as our first fish on jigsâ€¦. I shall cherish that memory forever.
Sunset Wednesday, 29th March 2006: Final Spot
Jigging here at Dogtooth Reef was the most productive and besides Barracouta landed by all anglers, we managed to get the following: -
Edy Lie: Big-Eye Trevally
David Phan: Rainbow Runner
Chun Lang: 16.0 kg Escolar
Chris Lim: His first ever Dogtooth Tuna
Yours truly: Juvenile Wahoo
The fishes were even taking â€œstationary jigsâ€!
Bottom bashing produced Flame Tail Ruby Snapper. Two of the biggest belong to Jimmy Lim and Edy Lie. After the Flame Tails, came the plague of Barracouta that massacred our lines.
Edy prepared a whole Dogtooth Tuna (2-3 kg) as bait only for his line to get cut. David Phan took half an hour to rig up his Rainbow Runner (2.5 kg) and as soon as his bait hit the bottom â€¦ bye bye braided line.
Dogtooth Tuna .... as BAIT!
Rainbow Runner .... BAIT again!
Credit must be given to Siong for landing the most Barracouta while jigging. All anglers heading up to Dogtooth Reef in the near future must pay homage to Siong for helping us get rid of the Barracouta population! I think he had close to 18 Barracoutas in a span of two hours. And who could forget the sexy moves by Edy Lie when jigging? Man! That is to die for! Please lookout for the video, coming your way soon!
With the relentless assault on our lines courtesy of Barracouta Inc. (collectively we lost approx. 1000 plus meters of braided lines), we retired and called it a day.
Dawn Thursday, 30th March 2006: Final Day
Jigging at daybreak produced two 7.0 kg Gill Fish by Lod and Victor respectively.
The day progressed with nothing really spectacular. Just the usual hot day with Grouper and Coral Trout by the Lian Sin lads, Flame Tail by David and Kerisi Bali for the rest of us - till something took hold of Jimmyâ€™s line.
At first we thought that it was stuck onto a rock, but the line was peeling out of the Shimano Torsa in a completely different direction. We then realized that something HUGE had taken the bait. I had the opportunity to hold on to the rod for Jimmy while he strapped on the gimbal and gloves. This fish was just swimming; it didnâ€™t even feel the drag. The suspect? A big Marlin â€“ who else has the audacity to swim off in such an arrogant and cool manner after consuming your bait. Grrrrr! And I bet it was saying bad things about my momma!
Since Jimmy was targeting smaller fishes, the terminal tackle consisted of an 80lb leader, 60 lb wire trace and size 5 hook. The odds were against him. The reel was almost empty and when the fish decided to go for it, so did the wire trace. Lesson learnt â€¦ expect the unexpected.
So much for our final day and we set off for Miri at about 6.30 pm.
0930 hrs Friday, 31st March 2006
After sorting out our catches and the customary picture taking. Our expedition came to an end and we arrived safely in Miri.
Even though the anglers came from different countries, background, religion, beliefs and cultures â€“ there was no animosity. It was good to see cheers and encouragement whenever a fight was on.
The Kucing lads and your shouts of â€˜Lok Chiak! Lok Chiak!â€™ (One drop, one bite) whenever it was time to jig. Thanks guys, I will be saying the same thing whenever I am out at sea and you will definitely find a jig or two in my tackle box.
Kudos to Nelson Ng and Gamefish.ws for organizing this trip, I really enjoyed myself. And to the crew & Chef of Crystal Coral â€“ it would not have been possible without your hard work and great food!
On a personal level ending this report, I would say that the trip was an excellent one and surpassed all my expectations. Even though I set some objectives, I never expected them to be met. But in fishing, sometimes your dreams do come true.
Till we bash again.
Please note that this CR is based on my personal views as an angler. It should not be taken as a reference for future trips or advertisement/endorsement in any way.