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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Kelong Acheh

Resuming the cancelled trip, we set off at an ungodly hour for woodlands checkpoint at 5am. Being our first time there, I wasn't too sure of the route and wanted to buffer for any time for getting lost, and a breakfast break. I told the lady that our ETA was 10am. The journey there was beyond the usual Leman stop, and my only clue was that I had to turn at the road marker to kuantan at the 181 mark. Another clue was that it was only 14 km from the Mersing town itself.

Road to Jetty

Holy cows


The only problem with the drive up was that due to the early timing, the road was pitch dark. Driving visibility was quite short and most cars had their high beam on, making driving a very tiresome affair. But we were compensated with having less cars on the road. The drive there itself was quite pleasant and we reached Mersing town at around 7.30am, with lots of time to spare. We had a hearty breakfast of Mersing prata. Continuing the trip, it was just another short drive from Mersing, and after the turning, it led into a very nice and scenic road with lots of animals. From my count, there were at least an assortment of about 6-7 farm animals just along that 20 mins drive. We had sheeps, buffalos, cow, horse, monkeys, goat, chickens.....we were really in Animal Land.

Kia outing?

Small carpark

View of the Jetty

Jumahat group at the small kopi shop

Right side of beach

Waiting at the Jetty. Jumahat, Din and Chin.

Boat collecting fishes from net

To the jetty

The Kelong

Small Jetty village

Our ride

We reached the place at around 8.30am, very much earlier than what I had told the Kelong lady. The end of the road was a small open space carpark (no parking fee required). To our surprise, there was a Singapore Red plate Kia Carven in the car park, obviously belonging to some Singaporeans going to the kelong too. We met them at the small canteen near to the jetty, and they turned out to be Jumahat, Din and Chin. Very friendly and jovial bunch. I didn't talk to them much first, but we became better acquainted at the kelong itself, exchanging fishing stories and what nots. I found out that this was their first time here and we had the same mission, that was to check out the kelong itself.

The boat ride was in fact a very short one, around 10 mins. The kelong itself was a distance from the jetty, but near to an island (quite like the Sibu ones). On the boat, it was just the five of us. Not much of a crowd.

Reaching the Kelong, we had to do everything ourselves to load up our things. Strange that they didn't have helpers to do that. But, since there wasn't many of us, it was not a problem. Landing on the Kelong, first impression was that it was indeed nice and big. Very neat and tidy layout, as well as the unique feature of having 2nd story sort of "apartments". Unlike the ones in Sibu, we all stayed in small rooms that could fit up a 8 people. But I later find the nice features of the many shelters and roofs for shade, actually made fishing quite difficult, due to the constant obstruction to casting. There was quite a big landing area for casting purposes, but that was quite taken up by another group and also quite far from our room, making the monitoring of the rods difficult.

First Action

Flat fish

Upon arrival, as we were milling around the help counter waiting for the assignments of rooms, someone got a bend on his rod. From the looks, quite a biggie. But I could see that he was disappointed as the fish surfaced. It was a flat head, and the biggest I had seen. What a way to start the stay for us to view some action upon arrival. The helpers themselves were not conversant in English and it made telling them what we want difficult. However, they were quite friendly and tried to accomodate us with our requests. This kelong also had the unique feature of having a bait well that the net would haul up everyday. But the fishes in the bait well didn't look was filled with the "orange" fish. Catching them with a net proved challenging and I thought I could get them faster with the tamban jig.

Is this a golden trevally?

Yellow Tail

Needless to say, we settled our things and started fishing. At that particular time, the tambans and bait fishes came in a wave and we had an initial fruitful catches of some decent fishes like Yellow Tails, Tambans and Selars. We also saw a huge fish swiming below. I didn't have a good look, but it was sharklike and grayish. Might be a Cobia. The tamban wave only lasted about an hour and they all disappeared for the rest of the day. We started getting the pesky "orange" fishes (actually, they are snappers, but very small ones, and not good eating for other fishes, as they were quite spikey). So, bait became very scarce and soon, I had no choice but to use the orange fishes as bait. But there were no results due to the poor bait choice for floating or bottom.

The sun in the afternoon was very hot, but I didn't thought it was a matter of concern at first. I was too lazy to reach into my bag to get the suntan lotion, but I had to pay the price soon as it was apparent that we were getting microwaved, and we all turned a dark lobster red. My arms and my neck were worst hit and starting to smart as I was writing this.

Sunken treasure

The fishing in the afternoon became quite uneventful and fruitless. I had a chat with the chinese helper there, and he informed me that the water was too clear, and the current not strong. Hence, the fishing wouldn't be good. I moved my fishing to the landing area for more space. I had an accident and the jigging rod slipped from my oily hands. Though I was fast enough to catch the rod, I only managed to grab the top end of the 2 piece rod. Due to the heavier bottom, the joint came loose and the whole bottom half with my reel plunged into the seawater! I was shocked for awhile, but remebered that the line was still attached to the spool at the end. Stripping up the lines, I finally got to the end of the line and lifted the bottom half from the sea. By then, it was soaking wet, and reel must no doubt be logged with seawater. But still, I was lucky to get my trusty rod back. :P. What's more, I even managed to recover most of the lines.

Baby Barras on Jig

Someone had a strong take near the casting landing and I happened to be around. I shouted out to him and he dashed to take the rod. But after a few pulls, the line broke. This kind of set me thinking that it might have been a Barra. I had noted that some of the fishes on the jig were in fact small baras. Even some of the foot long bait fishes were Barras. My deduction was that this Kelong was a serious Barra nest. I also observed that Todaks were not around in great numbers, unlike the ones in Sibu.

Jumahat group was doing casting with long rods and doing mostly apollo with cut fish meat and sotong. They were not used to the idea of using tamban jig to catch bait fishes. When they saw me jigging up quite a fair bit of good fishes, I thought they were impressed with this simple method of a hook and some thread. I passed them one to have fun with. Jumahat was quite good in Grouper fishing and he did catch a few at the place near to the net with his handline. I also came across the other group with lots of grouper catches, but mostly palm size ones. It was like a bucket full.

Come here, fishy fishy...

3 other Barras followed this in.

Another small wave of Tamban came in around 5pm, and I rigged up my Ryobi/Record set with a leader with a wire and a small size 2 hook. On this, I had a small mackeral. I cast it out and thought nothing of it and got back to jigging. As I was jigging, my Ryobi set slided down from the wooden fence. I placed it back standing and went back to my jigging. Again, about a minute later, it again slided down the fence. Strange...and again, I uprighted it again. But then, the third time, the pull was much stronger and the rod dropped on the floor. I heard the line spooling out and I quickly grabbed it. The fish was still there and I tighted the line and gave a strong strike. With some sweet luck, the fish was still solidly hooked and I tried to bring it up to the surface. But it dashed a few times into the sea and dragged out my lines. But soon, it tired out, and I managed to inch it up on the surface. And sweet goodness, there it was, the biggest Barra I had ever caught. Interestingly, there were 3 other similiar sized Barra swimming around him, as if to help the poor friend. I shouted out "Gaff! Gaff! Barra!". I knew my 10lbs wire leader wasn't going to hold much longer. It took awhile for the staff to respond to my call. But finally, someone came and took the gaff and had the barra gaffed in no time. It landed on the Kelong floor, and that Barra was mine.

Sweet success

What big teeth you have?

Not something you cuddle everyday.

The rest of the people were quite impressed, as it was quite a good sized one indeed. But I was ever wary of the razor teeth and had to constantly remind people not to get near. Having had my experience of the todak slicing my fingers, I wouldn't want this to happen to anyone. I let the Barra thrashed out the last bit of life, and took it for some pictures. TC had me holding it like a rifle for a good shot. It felt heavy and my initial estimate was around 4kg. Unfortunately, the kelong didn't have a weighing machine. (I think the correct weight is probably only 2-3kg) The shot turned out quite decent and a good collection to my fishing photos. Someone even asked to "borrow" the Barra for some photoshoot himself. :)

Thereafter, night came and the fishing came to a stall. There wasn't any bait fish to be gotten, not even the pesky "orange" ones. I tried squidding, with no luck. I rigged a parang rig, and again no luck too. So, the night was quite fruitless and we all slept quite early I think. I set my alarm for a 5am wakeup call, and did some more night fishing. But fishing was quite bad. I was luring and my Rapala got caught with some old jigging lines under the kelong. I had to spend about 20 mins of the magic fishing hour trying to recover my lure. But luckily, the old lines got loosen and I managed to pull up the lure and sniped away the tangle.

Catches when the wave came in

The morning sun broke, and around 7am, the tambans all came back. I jigged furiously and managed to get some nice catches of tambans, yellow tails, bream, selar fill my icebox. I rigged some of rod with the valuable bait fish and waited. There were some takes on Jumahat's friends rod, but the lines broke. I had one fiesty take on my floater that I had cast out for todaks. The line peeled out from the spool on loose drag and stop suddenly. I hadn't had wire leader for this and the leader was cut at the hook. I re-rigged this time with a leader. But from then, no more takes on the juicy looking tamban bait with my bottom nor floating setup.

Around 11am, we packed and prepared to leave for home. Unlike other kelongs, there was no lunch provided. Hence, after all the packing, the boat was ready to bring us home. While paying for the fee of RM150, we had a small chat with Farah, the owner of the kelong. She gave out some fishing calendar and advised us to return on the dates with the circle. No wonder about the poor fishing, yesterday was a non-circled date. :)

We had lunch with Jumahat group in Mersing and had a nice chat. Jumahat group vowed to return to Acheh with more preparations. Jumahat seemed quite experienced with fishing on other types of grounds, like shore and jetties. But this was the first time in a Kelong. They were quite fun group to be with, and we might fish together again.

This important contraption - a tap with freshwater!

2nd storey kelong

Nice pic of boat

Lots of plants here

Our bunk

Our beds



Kelong garden

Front view of the Kelong

Nice view of the island at the back of the kelong

Function Room

Fishing near the dining area (Spot where I got the Barra)

Casting area

Motorised Netting area

Net for filling the Bait Well

Bait well

Baits in the well. At this time, mostly the "orange" fish

Baby Barra

Bait Well

Spacious dining area

The lady boss

View of the back of the Kelong

Total haul (about 1/3 full)


Tengku Tengkujuh said...

How much you pay for 24 hours at kelong??

Princess said...

Yeah, am looking forward to our first trip to kelung acheh this Saturday. Thanks for sharing.