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Saturday, 27 May 2017

Lombok Fishing Adventure


It all started with a casual conversation with my friend Sahil in December on Facebook. He was telling me about how his friend, who is a spear fishermen from a remote village had been constantly telling him about GTs that he spotted, while he was hunting demersal reef species for food. As the conversation wore on, the excitement began to build in both of us and so we decided to make an exploratory trip to this location and see if we could encounter these Indonesian GTs.

Preparations took some time, as Sahil had to fix up his old boat. And by the time it was ready, it was almost the end of the monsoon. It was a typical Indo styled fishing boat that had out-riggers for stability and a 40hp outboard motor. He spent the next few weeks taking the boat for day trips to make sure it was sea-worthy.

Boat Half Way Done
First Full Test
Two weeks before i was supposed to fly up, he had the opportunity to take a Taiwanese client to some of the locations we were going to fish. In fact they covered almost a third of our planned route and had to sleep in the boat for 2 days due to limited landing areas and resources available. The trip was some what a success with some good sized specimens being landed and lost on poppers. However, he mentioned that the fishing conditions were very favourable and that they did not face strong winds and big waves. There was some concern about this, but we decided to take a gamble and risk it as the allure of getting a strike on topwater was too tempting.

GT of the Trip!

Even when the water was calm, they had no qualms smashing poppers.

We arrived in Lombok without much incident and were picked up by Herry, who is Sahil's partner. He told us that there had been in a change in the logistics plan as the speed boat we had booked to take us to Maluk had become unavailable because the mining company that operates on the island had chartered it for the whole day to send it's employees back to site. This meant that we had to make a 2 hour drive to a ferry terminal, spend 2 hours in a ferry and drive another 2 hours just to get to our Hotel. The speed boat would have reduced the travel time significantly. We were bummed out because this meant we would actually lose a day of fishing so that we can get back in time on the eve of the day of our return flight. We arrived at Maluk late in the evening and had a quick dinner before we prepared our tackle for the next day.


At Lombok airport with Herry

The next morning we drove to the beach and boarded the boat. We realised that there would be an additional person travelling with us. He was to be our Captain. We made our way to the first location and were drenched by the time we reached it. The wind was strong and the sea was choppy. It took some time for me to get adjusted to the boat and how it moved with the waves. It was a little unnerving as there were no railings in the narrow bow. It was a little more than a meter in width and extremely unstable in the waves.

Typical fishing area
The Captain, was a bottom and trolling type of fisherman and he didn't understand the type of positioning required for popping and often went too close to the target area. Sometimes barely 10 meters to the spot! Language was also a barrier and i had to use Sahil to translate and eventually he understood what we required and adjusted accordingly. By now it was noon, we broke for lunch. A delicious meal cooked up by Sahil's friend's wife. Nothing like home cooked food!

That homemade sambal was so tasty
My companion for the trip was Jith and it was his first popping trip. He gave up rather too easily when the conditions got tough and began goofing around with a light casting outfit. He and Herry hooked on to some juvenile Queenfish but that was about it. The wind really picked up in the afternoon so we had to shelter nearby some islands. This area was suitable for light jigging and we spent some time trying to catch some fish for dinner. We had a little dogtooth and a coronation trout on some 40g jigs.

As the wind got stronger we decided to head back. It took us twice the time to get back then we arrived. A meal of grilled fish and rice for dinner on the beach gave us some much needed boost.
We were told that we would be heading directly to the fishing village the next day so we can have one full day of popping at the remote area. We assumed that we'd be fishing along the way. But we were mistaken.

Grilled Coronation Trout

The sun rises pretty early here
After a sleepless night, we set off early in the morning after a quick breakfast. we just spent some time taking in the scenery along the way and somewhere around the 2 hour mark we saw a pod of dolphins. A couple of hours later and we ran into a feeding frenzy. However,  Captain's positioning meant that only Herry who was at the back of the boat could cast. He nearly connected with a Yellow Fin that fancied his popper. The next thing we knew the birds were trying to attack the popper! But as soon as the Captain gunned the engine to reposition the boat, the fish went below and we could not spot them after that.

One of many islands we passed on the way to our fishing grounds
Coincidently, we were passing by one of Sahil's jigging locations. We stopped to jig. The rest guys were all doing vertical jigging. I decided to go slow. Turned out to be a good decision. I had a hit in the first drift. It wasn't very big but it fought all the way up as i slowly reeled it in. It was my first Coronation Trout!

We were jigging in about 80m of water
I was using a Palms Metal Witch Quest #4 Slow & Fall rod with my Shimano Ocea Jigger 2000NRHG reel that was loaded with PE3 Duel X-Wire connected to 40lb YGK Fluorocarbon leader. A Xesta Slow Emotion Flap 200g jig rigged with the new Mustad slow jigging hooks enticed the fish.

On the second drift, I had another hit. Same fish same outfit. At the same time Jith had a massive hit on his ATC Chaser Jig. His Shimano Ocea Jigger 3000HG reel was peeling line and his ATC Vulcan #3.5 rod was wickedly bent. But alas, mid-way through the run the fish managed to dislodge the hook. I hit a third Coronation Trout and we had to leave after that, otherwise we would not reach the village before nightfall.

Amazing colours.
We finally arrived at the village after almost 10 hours after we departed Maluk. We couldn't go ashore as the tide had gone out and the area in front of the village was littered with rocks and coral. This was common along the entire journey. All the islands did not have a suitable landing area and were not inhabited. We had to wait for the villagers to come get us in an inflatable raft and manoeuvre us through the rocks and onto the beach.

Pretty Simple Life
There were no toilets or bathrooms. I took a shower at the well and changed into some dry clothes. Dinner was simple. One grilled coronation trout each with some rice, noodles and eggs. It was delicious. We chatted about our fishing experience. The villagers were amused by my affection towards a dog which i fed from my share of food. I showed them pictures of my two dogs and before i knew it, there was a crowd wanting to see all their pictures and videos. They were lovely hosts. We spoke through Sahil and Herry and it was a truly enjoyable conversation. We went to bed at midnight, and dozed off almost instantly.

My rascals.
We were sound asleep but the chickens had other plans. I was awaken by the poultry symphony at 4am. Try as i did i could not fall back to sleep. I went outside and it was so quiet. I sat outside with my 4 legged friend and looked at the stars for a bit. Shortly after the villagers began getting up and going about their daily routine. A simple breakfast of some rice, noodles and eggs with black coffee put some fuel into our bellies. We headed out shortly after the sunrise.

Went to pee, and snapped a picture immediately after.

They don't have access to drinking water like we do.
Our Captain, stayed back at the island and our host who is the spear fisherman accompanied us on our trip. The conditions were friendlier and i had gotten accustomed to casting from the boat. We learned from the villager that there were caves below these rocks we were casting at and that it was along these caves where the GT were. I tried their method of casting to the rocks with poppers but i was not getting any action. I went with my gut and switched to my Stickbait setup. I made a long cast parallel to the cluster of rocks and began to work my lure back.

Then i spotted a silvery silhouette chasing down my lure. I kept calm and continued with my retrieve and BOOM!!! It hit my lure. I told Sahil to put the boat in reverse while i set the hook as the fish tried to dash back into the rocks. It did not seem like a big fish to me when i first saw it hit the lure, but it was putting up quite the fight. Using the current to it's advantage it circled the boat before we finally landed it. Finally, my first sizeable Indonesian GT! It measured in at 80cm and was released after taking a photo.

The only sizeable one

I was using a Carpenter Endless Passion 85/36 rod paired with a Shimano Stella SW14000XG loaded with Varivas PE6 line connected to a 200lb Fisherman shock leader. The lure used was a Shimano Ocea Pencil fitted with size #4/0 Mustad Kaiju Treble hooks.

While i took a water break, Herry hit one on a sinking pencil. Also similar in size to mine. Although i have caught GTs bigger than these two, i think the environmental conditions and currents allow these GTs to punch above their weight class. Herry brought it in after a couple of minutes and it was released following a photo.

The smile on his face says it all
As Jith was the only one who had not landed a GT, we shifted our focus to try to help him get one. He had decided before the trip that he wanted to land a GT on popper and he was sticking by his guns. However, as he had spent the last two days popping from the back of the boat which was more stable, he had some trouble adjusting to casting from the front. I decided to help him out by holding on to his fighting belt to give him a little more stability as he searched for his bite.

He had several small GTs chasing the popper but no takes. Herry got his light casting outfit out and threw out the Zerek Cavalla sinking minnow. He hooked up instantly. But the fish cut him by dashing back towards the structure. This continued until he ran out of Cavallas! Finally, he hooked up another one on his sinking pencil.

Another one for Herry
Jith in the mean time had not seen a hit. We moved on from one area to another as most rocks only held a fish or two. We arrived at a shallow reef like area with rocks sticking out at two points. It was here that we caught a glimpse of the potential brutes prowling these waters. As Jith worked my FEED Pin 150g popper, i spotted a large silhouette, riding the wave heading straight for the popper. As it drew near, we waited for the hit but due Jith's inexperience, his anxiety hit and he stopped working the popper just as the GT was about to hit the lure. The whole boat gasped in exasperation as the GT turned away! The cursing and swearing that followed would have probably scared off any other fish in the vicinity as we sat in utter disbelief.

As the next few casts yielded no hits, we stopped for lunch. That's when we were told that we had to catch our lunch. I was a bit skeptical but played along anyway. To my astonishment, we got a Coronation Trout on the first drop. Jith followed it up with a 2kg grouper and we were ready to cook.
Sahil whipped up a savoury fish stew with the freshly caught fish and momentarily our fishing took a back seat as we enjoyed a delicious lunch.

Happy Belly, Very Happy

We were determined to get a GT for Jith and combed area after area with potential. He had a couple more hits but was unable to connect with a solid hook up. At 4pm, we had to make our way back to the village. It took us close 3 hours to get back. Once again, the inflatable boat came out to get us so that we could reach the village. A quick shower at the well, followed by a simple dinner was much appreciated. We sat around with the villagers and talked a bit before calling it a night. It would be a long journey back to Maluk the next day.

Last night at the village
It was a tough but enjoyable trip. Given the scarcity of commercial fishing in the area, i feel that it holds good potential. With proper planning of the logistics and fishing dates, Lombok would be on my to visit list again in the near future. Much love and appreciation from the team at Lombok Fishing Adventures and the fishing village for their patience and hospitality.

Goodbye shot

My Tackle Info:

Stickbait Setup
Carpenter Endless Passion 85/36
Shimano Stella SW14000XG
Varivas #6 braided line
Fisherman 200lb shock leader
Shimano Ocea Pencil w/ Mustad Kaiju 4/0
Owner Heavy Duty Split Rings #9
Owner Heavy Duty Swivel #1/0

Popper Setup
Hammerhead Faube 78ML
Stella SW18000HG
Varivas #8
Fisherman 200lb shock leader
Feed Pin 150g w/ Gamakatsu GT Recorder 5/0
Owner Heavy Duty Split Rings #9
Owner Heavy Duty Swivel #1/0