Fishing in wild country
Celebes Sea is one of the last fishing frontiers for sportsfishing, especially bluefin trevally
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BLUEFIN trevally is a type of sportfish commonly sought by local anglers who are willing to travel some distance for the thrill and excitement of pulling it up.
This species used to be found in abundance in the Straits of Malacca, particularly around rocky Pulau Sembilan, Pulau Perak and the East Coast, especially among shallow reefs.
Unfortunately, bluefin trevally can rarely be found in our waters. Even if it is caught on the rod and line today, the size is much smaller, mostly less than 1kg, a far cry from those caught a decade ago.
Its population has dwindled, caused by heavy fishing, where the species are netted and sold commercially in wet markets where it is made into curry.
What’s really special about bluefin trevally is that it is a great fighter with luminous electric blue spots and lines along its tail, upper fin and back body. The fish glows when it is under stress or shock after a long fight and when it is removed from the water.
Today, to catch a bluefin trevally, one has to travel for miles to hunt it down.
One place where it is still found in abundance is on the east coast of Sabah and Kalimantan. The uncharted Celebes Sea, where commercial fishing has yet to catch up as the shallow reefs prevent fishing crafts from assessing the location, has kept this place in pristine condition.
This has helped to preserve the fish here and many bluefins caught from this place, particularly on the Kalimantan side, average between 3kg and 6kg.
The 2kg and 3kg bluefins are a common sight here and can be caught by simply casting the line out from the beaches of Sambit, Mataha, Bilang-Bilangan and Balikukup islands.
During one such trip organised by East Borneo Sportfishing (EBSF), a professional fishing charter run by two Malaysian anglers, a team of hardcore anglers headed to the destination.
I am told the many bluefins found here live among the giant trevallies and vice versa.
Catching the bluefin requires a bit of skill. They are normally done with casting. While bottom fishing could land this species, it is less challenging and thrilling.
It is obviously fun to catch the bluefin using light tackle, especially on a 20lb or 30lb line and fitted to a small reel that can be spooled up to about 200m of line.
Despite smaller in size, if compared with the giant trevally, the bluefin can be a strong and aggressive fighter because of its body shape, where it can “slice” the water easily. Its tail is also powerful, enabling it to propel forward quickly, with a kick to flee.
As such, the fast take-off can spool out the line quickly, taking between 30m and 50m of line in no time on its first run when hooked.
The bluefin is a great fighter. It can make a few dashes during a fight, providing an adrenaline kick to the anglers who take on the tug-of-war challenge.
The bluefin takes lures and bait. However, it is best to catch on spoon and poppers.
Live baits such as scads, squid and shrimps could be used to catch this species but the landing rate could be on a much slower pace.From my experience, different sizes and colours of poppers can be used to fish bluefins as it takes anything that moves on the surface. And of course, the catch-and-release method is recommended for this type of fishing for conservation purpose.