Trip Log: Fast Water, Fast Fish
When fishing out in the open sea, anglers usually prefer milder currents in order that they may get their rigs to the seabed more easily. In strong currents, it is not uncommon to have to resort to the use of extremely heavy sinkers and jigs, which can quickly tire out even the most seasoned offshore anglers. On the other hand, as the current picks up, so too does the activity of most pelagic fish. This can make for some very exciting moments, as we are about to see...
Bright and early on the morning of the trip, Artemis was once again being prepared for the hunt. A crew of excited anglers arrived early, hungry with anticipation and raring to go. Boarding was swiftly completed and we were soon underway, heading out towards our latest adventure. The tide was expected to turn within the next couple of hours, and the strength of the current to steadily increase into the afternoon. The plan for the day was therefore to bottom-fish for some tasty demersal species in the morning, before moving off to search for the schools of speedy pelagics after the change of tide.
At the first spot, the anglers quickly rigged up with live prawns and lowered them down into the sparkling turquoise water. The hungry underwater community willingly obliged, with action from numerous reef dwellers like this brace of plump blue-lined hinds.
It is often the case when fishing from a boat (or indeed fishing in general) that the first bait (or lure) to reach the fish stands a far better chance of getting bit. In this particular instance, our captain had just re-positioned the boat to begin another drift, when a quick angler who had wasted no time in dropping his jig registered a hit as soon as it touched the seabed. After an exciting tussle on light tackle, this healthy coral trout was brought to the surface for a photo and released...into the ice box. (Click on the photo for a link to a Facebook video of the fight!)
Having caught her fill of food fish, Artemis set off with the rising tide in search of the schooling pelagics. Sure enough, as we approached the area where our Captain expected to find the schools, the screen of the fish-finder filled up with specks indicating the presence of numerous fish throughout the water column. It seemed that the usual suspects were about, as the first drop of a jig yielded the first of many torpedo scads.
Rarely are the schools of pelagics comprised of only a single species. It is usually impossible to precisely identify the type of fish from a single signature on the fish-finder, and most times we anglers will never know what swims directly below our feet. At times when fishing from a school angler will experience a slightly different take, or a faster or more powerful opponent at the end of the line, and it may be possible to guess at the identity of the unseen creatures out there. In this case, a long-finned trevally was kind enough to save us the guesswork after a short battle to the boat.
As the current continued to pick up, so too did the activity of our swift silver quarry. The scads and trevallies were responding well to small jigs presented quickly, and the ferocity with which they hit the artificials provided exciting hits for the anglers. In the midst of the action, a sleek black shadow was spotted streaking through the water just off the bow. Our Captain immediately tossed his jig into its vicinity, and received a strike that wrenched his rod tip viciously downwards as the hooked predator set off on the first of a few screaming runs.
The atmosphere on board was tense with anticipation as everyone waited to catch a glimpse of the mysterious beast that was putting up such a spirited fight. Slowly but surely, it began to tire, and the duel neared its conclusion. As the Captain retrieved the last few rods-lengths of line, a shimmering bar of silver surfaced and was guided into the landing net. There was a collective gasp as we beheld a fine specimen of a species not often encountered in Singapore's waters: the spotted mackerel.
It must be a special fish indeed that can draw the normally elusive Captain Q out in front of the camera lens. Catches like these don't occur often, but they remind us that we cannot be certain what is out there, and to therefore expect the unexpected. While fishing can often live up to its reputation as a test of one's patience, it is an equally sure bet that the reward for passing the test is well worth the effort. So keep casting, for you never know what the next cast may bring!