Miri’s prominence as a deep sea fishing hub is undeniable. For 2 days and 1 night beginning July 26, BorneoTalk joined 13 others from Sarawak Tourism Board and MaticTV on a seafaring adventure to catch some big fish around Batu Mat – Suai area. And for 2 days and 1 night, the mighty recreational fishing vessel Seamax Explorers was home for me.
Having ridden express boats, sampans (traditional long boat) and speedboats in the past, I assumed riding a recreational fishing boat would be similar. Turned out I was wrong. The four-hour one-way journey was so rocky and windy that despite the seasickness pills everyone took before the journey, we eventually succumbed to seasickness. According to Captain Tan Siew Hock, with the strong winds on that day, not even the most experienced seafarer could ride it through without getting seasick. To counter this, the boat’s cook gave us lime to bite into, which of course worked!
Four hours later, we reached Batu Mat – Suai area, a place well known for deep-sea fishing. Just minutes after casting off, one of us managed to reel in an ebek fish. With its silver scales so shiny that it reflected the sunlight, it radiated like a prized trophy.
Captain Tan sounded the horn soon after, telling us to call it in so the boat could move to the next fishing spot. We only had 10-20 minutes to fish at each location.
Of all the fish we caught, the alu-alu fish or barracuda grabbed my attention most. Its mouth lined with sharp teeth, one needs plenty of stamina and experience in jigging – fishing technique that uses jerky vertical motion – to catch one of these bad boys. Apparently barracudas can even bite through fishing lines if they’re not sturdy enough.
As the sun began its retreat into the calm waters, it was time for dinner on the boat. Being together, exchanging laughter while eating on a boat with the sunset hues reflecting in the background are memories that will remain with me forever.
Fishing resumed after, where a kayu fish (Cobra) was almost caught but managed to escape after an in-tense four-minute battle. It caused a huge commotion, with everyone moving to the right side of the boat to make sure the Cobra would not escape. Yet with fishing net ready and baits all cast, the cobra still managed to escape after snacking off three of the fishing rods. Despite the escape, a primal sense of camaraderie was definitely felt when everyone worked together to catch the Cobra. Fish of different types and sizes pose different challenges. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to fishing. Nonetheless, losing bait and possible catches are part and parcel of fishing.
In the Captain’s helm, my interest was piqued when I saw two screens – Sonar system and GPS navigation – that were vital in helping the captain navigate the seas. The Sonar (Sound Navigation Ranging) transmitted and received pulses of sound, translating the echoes into colourful waveforms indicating seafloor depth (red in colour) and presence of fish (yellowish-green dots). The GPS displayed a list of fishing locations in code names. By selecting a code, the boat manoeuvred to the designated fishing spot and showed the ETA (estimated time of arrival). During the whole trip, we were at a maximum 60m deep.
After a tiring day of fishing, watching the dusk turn into night and witnessing the blue ocean illuminated through the pitch dark of night underneath the dazzling stars was simply magical. No camera could capture that which only the eyes could see. We even saw a water snake slithering past that night.
The next morning, we woke up to a view of oil rigs. Seeing them up close was just surreal and got me thinking how far we were from land. After breakfast, we continued fishing until it was time to head back at noon. By the end of our trip, we caught 10 fish totalling 10kg in weight. Our catch – kaci, ebek (diamond trevally), belokok (giant trevally), santak, kerisi (snapper), gelonggong, berahan bintik, kerapu (grouper) and alu-alu – were brought back to Yi Hah Hai restaurant in Miri, where they were cooked into a delicious dinner for us.
Ultimately, this trip was a beginning of many firsts for me – being in the middle of the ocean, sleeping out at sea, fishing and seeing an oil rig up-close. Deep-sea fishing is not for the faint-hearted, but for those seeking challenge and adventure. Once you land a catch, the feeling of satisfaction trumps all else.
By Farihah Fuaad