Tack­ling sail­fish a chal­leng­ing pas­time for an­glers off Rompin

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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

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