Tackling sailfish a challenging pastime for anglers off Rompin
KUALA ROMPIN: The waters off Rompin district in southern Pahang is an exciting ‘ playground’ for local and international anglers seeking an adrenaline rush whilst reeling in a fish or two.
Known for its reservoir of sailfish, the sea off the Rompin coastline has even been described as one of the top destinations for sailfishing in the world.
The flesh of the sailfish is not particularly tasty and neither does it fetch a good price in the market but the fish is still hunted down by serious anglers who love the challenge of catching one.
The sailfish ( scientific name, Istiophorus platypterus) is among the predatory billfish species that have the characteristic spear-like rostrum or ‘ bill’ with which they attack their prey.
Catching one is not an easy feat for an angler as he will not only have to contend with its strong fighting spirit but will also have to tackle its spectacular high leaps and somersaults, thus adding more thrill to this game fishing activity.
Depending on the angler’s skill and physical strength, it usually takes about 30 minutes to two hours to overpower a sailfish struggling to free itself from the hook. Just one wrong move can cause the fishing rod to break and the angler can bid goodbye to his prized catch.
To cash in on Rompin’s abundance of sailfish, the Pahang office of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has been organising the annual Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge ( RPBIC), in collaboration with the Malaysian Angling Association, since 2004.
The event is part of the International Game Fishing Association circuit and this year’s edition was held from Sept 14 to 16. Antics Avid sailfishing enthusiast Mohd Khairulnizam Abdul Rahim, 36, who participated in the recent RPBIC and succeeded in catching the highest number of sailfish, said sailfishing has its own devotees who were willing to spend a large sum of money on the sport just to enjoy the satisfaction of subduing the rather ferocious fish.
“People say that one must have the luck to land a catch but in the sailfish competition, one must also have the right ( fishing) tools and skills because this particular fish has its own way of behaving and it’s difficult to predict what it will do next,” he told Bernama, here.
To lure the sailfish, anglers use their favourite food such as live ‘ ikan kembong’, ‘ lolong’, ‘selar kunyit’ and ‘ tamban’ as bait, Mohd Khairulnizam said, adding that a great deal of patience and concentration was also required as it was hard to ascertain their swimming formations.
Another sailfishing enthusiast Kamarul Asri Kamal, 29, said it was the dream of every avid angler to catch a billfish species as it was a benchmark for their skills.
Every angler has his own goals and it is considered a big achievement if they manage to catch a sailfish, he said, pointing out that the billfish species can swim at a speed exceeding 110 kilometres per hour.
“The feat is hugely satisfying because we have to use all of our strength and energy to tackle the sailfish. One minute you will see it jumping above the surface of the water and, suddenly, the next minute it will dive back into the sea and glide away abruptly,” h added.
Rompin’s economy gets a boost
Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Pahang office director Datuk Edros Yahaya said the annual RPBIC event has helped Rompin to become one of the top destinations for sailfishing in the world.
“Besides our country’s waters, sailfish and other billfish species like marlin can also be found in abundance in the Indian and Pacific oceans and in parts of the tropical seas,” he said, adding that the sailfish was named as such because of the large and colourful dorsal fin on the top part of its body that resembled the sail of a boat.
The sailfishing season in the waters off Rompin is from April to September each year, attracting anglers and tourists from different parts of the world.
According to Edros, it has helped to boost the Rompin district’s tourism sector and benefited the local hotel, boat, homestay and restaurant operators, as well as the local community operating their own small businesses.
“Statistics show that Rompin has been generating about RM15 million to RM20 million a year from its tourism sector after it became a sailfishing attraction and became the venue for competitions,” he added. — Bernama
A participant lands a sailfish during the annual Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge.
Pahang Tengku Mahkota Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah (fourth right) starting off the Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge di Kuala Rompin.
A sailfish jumps out of the water trying to free itself from an angler’s hook. — Bernama photos