Battle on Light Gear
Just for a change, my fishing buddy and I booked Captain Deang's boat for a fishing trip out of Bali Hai. The previous day, Scott's guys had a banner day with 15 queen fish (bpla chilip) ranging from 1.5 kg to 6 kg. It does not guarantee that we would do the same. In fact, the first place Deang went to about one mile west off Koh Luam (close to Koh Pai), which turned out to be too rough to anchor up. We went south about two miles and ended up one mile east of Koh Man Wichai.
With the wind and waves coming from the south and a the tide coming from the north, it was a bit lumpy [Ed note: Brit speak for very rough]. In fact, after 30 minutes, Deang moved the boat and shorten the anchor rope because the wind and waves had pushed the boat away from his mark. That proved to me that Deang is a good captain—a subtle, short move that got results. There were two of us aboard and Frank got a 2 kg queen fish on one of the back rods. That's where Daeng does his stuff, and we put our light rigs off the side. With just two fishermen, we were each able to put a bottom rig and a big fish rig down off the side.
Frank suddenly shouted, "Roger, the rod!" I looked at Captain Daeng, thinking one of the back rods had a fish on and he looked back at me. It was my light rig! a 6-15 lb ugly stick with 20 lb braid, a 6 ft fluorocarbon 25 lb trace to a short wire with two hooks in a live red fish (bpla si deang) and only 2 ozs (60 g) of lead.
I grabbed the rod and struck. The fish ran, and then all went light. Damn! I continued to reel in, then he was back on again. Not really—queen fish normally swim up to the surface and then jumps a few times, but in the heat of the moment you forget these things. He jumped and we had a good look at him, Frank said he was over 30 inches long and looked about 4 kg or more. Then the fish headed up towards the front of the boat, taking line, he turned and went back towards the rear. Frantic moments passed as I moved the rod along the side of the boat until I got to the back end. All the time, I was either letting him take line or reeling in. Finally, I was at the back of the boat when he jumps high and breaks the line. I pounded the deck with my fist and swore repeatedly. Then I was better—a great fight on light gear. It made my day, even though the fish had got away, and I knew that the rest of the day was going to pure gravy after that. No sooner I had put the rod down than Daeng handed me one of the back rods and I brought in a 3 kg queen fish. The fishing gods taketh and giveth!
When I looked at the line on my light rig, I saw that the fish had bitten through the line which, with queen fish, is unusual as they do not have sharp teeth like barracuda. They are more like graters. I just had the fish on too long! What a great problem to have! When we gutted and cleaned the catch of ten queen fish, I noticed they all had small fish in their stomachs and only one had squid. I think that live squid will get a reluctant, shy fish to bite.
I tried keeping bait fish alive on my boat when it was dried out on the sand for four hours during midday. I had put the bungs in, filled the tank to the brim and put a battery-powered aerator in. Of the 28 small bait fish, only eight survived; the sea water had become too hot. I am back to putting a medium-sized dust bin with holes in it in deeper water when my boat dries out. The trouble with this is that the bins go missing. I do not know if someone is taking them or if a boat is snagging the float line, so I will be putting a large marker with heavier rope and a huge concrete weight on the next bin. Also, I will put it in a quiet location, as there is too much boat traffic around the dock at Naban.