Sunday, January 10, 2010

Saturday 9 January 2010

I went sea fishing yesterday. It had been 6 weeks since I was in a boat on the in-shore waters off Singapore and I was looking forward to the respite from work. However, my enthusiasm was largely tempered by the adverse reports that I had been getting.

Just a week ago, the local Straits Times newspaper had a report of dead fish being washed up on the beach. These fish had been raised in holding nets in the sea of Singapore The cause of the deaths was “red tide”. Heavy rains followed by sunshine had caused the plankton to bloom explosively to the extent that the sea was tinged a light red. The plankton had depleted the oxygen in the surrounding sea and this had caused the fish to die.

The problem seemed to be confined to the east coast. I would be fishing at the other end of Singapore where there were no reports of any red tide.

The reports of the results of fishing trips during the week had also not been encouraging. My friend, Kirby, had gone fishing with our boatman, Ah Poh, on Wednesday. He had not had a single nibble from the type of fishes I hoped to catch – groupers, snappers and other bottom fish. Ah Poh had also gone fishing on Thursday with the same result. A trip 2 days later was unlikely to prove worthwhile.

Nevertheless, as the saying goes, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast” and no one has more hope than a dyed in the wool fisherman. As and on and off fisherman over many decades, I had hope, lots of hope but the expectations were low when my son, my law partner, KK, and I boarded the boat at a little after 8 in the morning.

The live prawns that we had bought for bait were poured into the bait-well and we were off. After a while, KK had a bite and pulled up a small snapper of about 300 grams. The mood in the boat immediately improved. At least the fish were biting. This indicated that the water quality was sufficiently OK for the fish to want to feed. Our hopes increased and so did our expectations.

The next fish that came to the boat was a snapper caught by Ah Poh. It was about 1.3 kilos and the mood on the boat further brightened. Perhaps the day would not be a waste after all.

I then had a good bite on my line and the fish fought to the surface where it jumped in a flash of silver and threw the hook. It was probably a Queen fish or a Silver Thread Fin Salmon. My son then caught a good sized Snapper. It was later weighed on baking scales at 2.7 kilos – a very good catch in Singapore in-shore waters.

A little later, he had another bite. I watched his rod to see from its arc that it made if the fish was large and would require me to bring in my line. He didn’t seem to be having much difficulty so I left my bait in the water. Whump, my rod tip went down and I was on to a good size fish. The first few seconds are critical. The fish needs to be lifted from the bottom quickly to prevent it from going into a hole or entangling itself on something. After an enjoyable fight it was netted. It weighted exactly 2.55 kilos. Below is a photo of the 2 best fish of the trip:

A little later I felt a bite. I guessed it was a snapper but not as big as the earlier one. Nevertheless it was fighting well. Suddenly, it stopped fighting. I reeled it to the boat and we saw why. Only the top half of the snapper was left. Something had almost surgically cut the fish in half. This is no mean feat. We estimate the complete fish would have weighed about 1.2 kilos and for the attacker to wrap its jaws around such a fish and cut it neatly in half with one bite could only mean that it was a pretty large predator. No doubt it was a barracuda. We speculated on the size and agreed that it had to be about 10 kilos or more and 4’ to 5’ in length. Now, you wouldn’t expect a fish like that in Singapore in-shore waters would you?

We turned the boat for home at 5 pm as both my son and KK had separate wedding dinners to attend to last night. Everyone on the boat had caught something worthwhile. The final tally is shown in the photograph below:

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