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March 06, 2009

Sea of Sailfish

Visit exotic Malaysia for world-class billfish action at bargain-basement prices

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Our frustration at the lack of sailfish action had started to boil over. "I don't understand where the sails are," grumbled my colleague and fellow light-tackle aficionado, Rob Sherman, as the Los Angeles-based angler scanned the mirror-calm waters of the South China Sea for sail sign.

To better appreciate the nature of our bellyaching, the situation begs for some context, so here you go: In three of four days fishing off eastern Malaysia, we had either a single or double hookup on Pacific sailfish   literally within five minutes of lines in and, when not hooked up, we still saw sailfish all over the place, often right around the boat.

Point being: It doesn't take long at all when sailfishing this exotic Asian coast to grow spoiled enough to throw expectations wildly out of reason.

And while we did pick up and move shortly thereafter to find the fish that morning - versus them finding us straightaway as on other mornings - we ended the day with many sails caught and still others hooked and lost, plus many seen tailing, feeding or free-jumping.

The next day proved more the norm, with our initial strike coming less than two minutes after the first live scad hit the water, and ending with a double-digit release total.

We'd come to Malaysia with high hopes after hearing reports of a world-class sailfish fishery almost wholly unknown in the Western world.

Those reports, I'm happy to say, are true.

Farm-Pond Fishing
Two years before this visit to Kuala Rompin on the shore of southeastern Malaysia, my antenna had gone way up as I read an e-mail from my  Danish friend, SF contributor and  outstanding photographer, Johnny Jensen ( Just back from Malaysia, he mentioned two small boats releasing 29 sailfish in one day. "It was really crazy!" Jensen wrote. "Besides the 29 to the boat, we lost about 15 or 20 more." The JPEG images he attached to his e-mail, showing sails flying high above the millpond sea, backed him up.

That started the wheels turning, and last fall, there I was!