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Great fishing, great country- Malaysia

Friday, July 31st, 2009

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Now that is a great advertisement for your country. My hats off to you Tourism Board of Malaysia. The brochure “caught” me (get it – caught – fishing – Steve). Fishing people throughout the world are rolling at that one.

I’m back in Malaysia. Yup, just like that your reading about me sitting on a concrete wall in Thailand and then bam I’m in Malaysia where I hear there is great fishing because it is a great country. (More laughing.)

Fishing hit a rough patch and things came to a decided halt. I am hoping it was the dead moon that caused the drop off in catching and not the inserting of me into the fishing scene that threw off the delicate balance of fish versus fisherman in Songkhla (as world wide it is known that my fishing abilities equate out to roughly a fleet of long liner boats- mad skills I say.) In general, I was getting my ass handed to me. The fish catches decidedly dropped, but where others might have dropped fifty percent, I was at a point where I was thinking about just keeping the shrimp and not wasting them by throwing them into an empty ocean. I mean a kilo of fresh (still hopping) shrimp versus long hours in the sun going through the motions. Anyways, things were bad so I decided to make a visa run early as I need to get moving to the north. I cannot be out on the road for a year six. I just can’t.

So off I went back through the war zone to my old fishing hole, Narathiwat. Even though there was Pattani, the layover town where I stopped on the way up, I was chugging along pretty well and I knew there really wasn’t anything there to see. In Narathiwat I had a date with the fishing shop. I am in the mood for a new toy and I remember they had a step up version of the telescoping pole that I had but decided against it because the handle section was a few inches longer than my current model. Now, with me wanting to switch to a bait caster, those few inches would work out perfectly. The shop in Narathiwat was the only place where I have seen a carbon fiber heavy duty telescoping pole. Everywhere else had the really thin walled poles which I had already snapped once. The other hope was that they had the Penn reel that I was looking for but was out of stock in all the places in Songkhla. So, five hours on Amo got me to Narathiwat and back to my old stomping zone.

Not much had changed in the three weeks that I had been gone. The owners were still there, the young girl up front was gone however, my harem was still pretty much the same, and my old friend was still shacked up in his room. The new faces were a couple of tourists with one having set roots (a german journalist) and another (French guy riding around on a kids bike). Other than that, Narathiwat was the same old home away from home. The German guy had taken up my old fishing room and in actuality I had gotten the last top floor room available. I am not sure what I would have done if the place was full. Stepping out on the balcony was like a breath of fresh air. It is amazing how much of a calming effect the balcony can make. You just step out, grab hold of the worn out wooden railing and just gaze out at the tranquil scenery. The world just stops and there is peace.

Once on a mission, I am pretty much totally focused so after dropping my bags I was back out on the road heading to my favorite little shop. Actually I stopped off at the closer shop first just to see but he didn’t carry any bait casters, so it was down the road to see my doctors of fish. The pretty wife came out and we talked for a bit about where I had been and her surprise to see me again. I got a hold of the husband and we searched through his stock of about twenty baitcasters but we were unable to find the model I wanted. He got on the phone and he said he would be able to get one shipped down for 1800B. That was 100B more than the guy in Songkhla could get it for, but I trusted this guy more as he actually talked to someone on the phone and verified stock. I also took a look at the upsized pole but realized it was larger but considerably longer as well which I did not want. I was actually looking for shorter but sturdier. My hopes were dashed on that idea as well and ended up leaving empty handed. I figured an alternative would be to come back if I could not find anything and order the reel there as Narathiwat is still a nice place to wait it out (five days).

Being on a mission, I was gone the first thing the next morning, after visiting my Roti guy at the market of course. The tip I got from Inouye about the Malaysian tax free zone and a well stocked fishing area made me determined to get a move on. It was only a quick 70 kms to the shady border town of Sungai Golok which is known for its large population of over the border sex seekers from Malaysia and Singapore and of course fishermen. I had a plan and it was a bit risky, however were talking fishing so one must break a few International laws and risk being sent to a foreign prison for life. I used my trustworthy www.travelfish.org website to locate a good cheap hotel where I promptly dumped my bags, put on my long sleeve shirt, and took off to the border checkpoint.

The challenge was that the border market area is on the Malaysian side. Not much of an issue going between the two countries as visas are handed out while you wait. What I was not interested in doing was wading through all the paperwork and lines four times as well as using up valuable pages in my passport. The police in general turn a blind eye to the black market runners who shuttle merchandise between the two countries with most of it being transported on scooters. My plan was to be just like the runners and keep the head down and driving through all the check points. On my first attempt I made it through the Thai side with no issue but got caught in a long line of scooters as the Malay side was stopping and checking Id’s. I slowly let the guys behind me go and then quickly did a u-turn which got me a few glances thrown my way from the Thai guys. I zipped back to Thailand and headed back towards the hotel. I pulled over and thought about it a bit and figured why not try the old plan B, the stupid tourist. The stupid tourist involved me going to the tourist police station at the Immigration office and asking them if it was necessary to stamp in and out of the countries if I was only wanting to take a quick look at the fishing stuff in the market as I would be actually entering into Malay legally the next day as I already had a hotel room and did not want to have to go shopping with all my bags the next day. The guy said it was fine with him but that I should ask the Malay guys. Green light Thailand. With a little backing in case I ran into trouble “the tourist police officer told me to” I headed for the Malay side to try the same thing. This time the line for motorcycles had cleared and I remember my entry when I had come into Thailand the month before. Head down and don’t stop. There was actually nobody even paying attention anyways so I just kept on going. It took a while to actually find the market as it was actually right next door to the Immigration office but you can’t really see it because it is behind the Immigration complex. On the way back after driving around for an hour did I finally figure it out. Long story short, Inouye is pretty old and so is his information. The market isn’t quite booming anymore and the fishing area is just one shop. Now, it is a pretty well stocked place, but they only carried current models which were a bit pricey so the whole thing turned into a bust. I headed back to Thailand for a deserved rest and a roti (then don’t have them in Songkhla – stupid Buddhists.)

38 Kilometers and I was back in Kota Bahru. As soon as I started going, I started getting those negative feelings that I had about Malaysia the last time I was here. The road conditions for bikers is shit. Fast cars and no shoulders or shoulders with potholes, parked cars, and sewer grates. That in itself started me off on the wrong foot. I didn’t really like the backpacker where I stayed the time before not so much because it was bad, it was in fact an excellent place with great owners, but because it was a bit out of the way and I preferred to be a little closer to town. I checked out some of the regular hotels and they were all very expensive or expensive and shit. That is still one thing I dislike about Malaysia, the standards are very poor unless you pay good money. I ended up at another backpacker in town which was a lot more low key with a nice room with a balcony. Once I got settled, I felt a little bit better, but still I was looking forward to getting back to Thailand.

The owner was very helpful in that he told me that I was still able to take my passport down to the Thai Consulate between 2-2:30pm and that it would be available the next morning. Sweet. I could be back in Thailand in one day. He also put me onto a fishing shop a few kilometers away. It was turning out to be not so bad after all.

I made a quick run to see where the Embassy was and the owner was spot on, they opened between 2-3:30pm for visas as well as in the morning. I had time so I decided to check on the fishing shop. I found it easy enough and it was a well stocked albeit overstocked little shop full of fishing shops. It was pretty slammed with customers so that was a good sign. I popped in and asked if they had the reel I wanted. The guy scratched his head and snapped his fingers and said I’ve got one of those. He dug through some boxes under the back counter and pulled out a new but worn out box with the model I wanted. He had the reel. Since I hadn’t actually got to try one out on my own I spent a little time acquainting myself with all the little knobs and switches. It seemed all there and then I started taking a look at the box. Something wasn’t right as I couldn’t find the made in the USA logo on the reel or the box. I asked if this was a Chinese copy and the guy said that it was made in China. I asked him the price as the box had 190R (1900B) on the box. He came back and said 140R. I checked it out some more and we compared it with the new models that replaced it but were three times the price. Same basic construction with a few cosmetic changes. I wanted to take a look around at some other stores first so before I left I asked what was the best price he could give me and he came back with 130R (1300B). Not a bad price as they were wanting 1800B in Thailand. So off I went back to the hotel to get my passport. The visa run was pretty easy and to my happy surprise they had extended or re-run the two month free visa promotion so I was set.

With that done I had the evening free so I figured I would do some more reel shopping and if I was able to wrap that up I could leave for Thailand the next day after I picked up my Visa. My first plan was to get a map. I figured I could drop by the Tourist office and not only get a map but also ask them if they knew of any places. That is when things got much better.

They have a nice tourist center in the middle of town and when I went in there were some young guys hovering around the tourist desk playing on the computer (never a good sign for helpfulness unless you are a young female tourist in a mini-skirt). I barely got a few grunts and giggles from them when I asked for fishing info and quickly got the idea that these boys were not your outdoorsy types. One of them thankfully went off and retrieved someone truly helpful. I don’t know her name but she was very cute, very friendly, and extremely helpful. She was probably in her early twenties super cute in her proper but modern Muslim wear, and with a bubbly personality you would find on a Disneyland commercial. She got me sorted by asking all the people if they knew of any shops, mapping out how to get there and then writing questions in Malay that I would be able to give to people to help me. She even went and got me the pictured above pamphlet about fishing in Malaysia. That was over the top. I gave her my website so she could check it out and left feeling a lot better about Malaysia.

Back at the hotel I noticed they had a special whereby you paid 5R for unlimited usage of their wifi for as long as you stayed. I got set up and I have excellent wifi right in my room. A great deal. With the wifi I was able to do some research and learned that Penn had actually been bought out in 2006 and all their reels under 150 dollars were now made in China with the others still being made in the US. I also learned that the Chinese built models were actually better in that the prior problem areas were resolved when they re-tooled in China so that people were recommending the newer Chinese built models. Excellent. I think the guy at the shop was underpricing as we were both under the impression that it was a cheap copy of the US model when in fact that was the current model.

I hit a couple of more shops in the afternoon, both of which were in shopping mall department stores and were strictly weekend cheapy rigs, but when I went river trolling (cruising the river roads looking for boating/fishing shops) I stumbled on Riverside Angler Enterprises. Wow, what a shop. This place even makes the fancy boy shops in the states look backwards ass. All tiled and shiny with expensive poles lining the walls. This was a designer shop in the middle of nowhere. I met the owner who was an avid sports fisherman and we talked shop a while and he gave me a quick tour as well as showing me his picture wall. Great fishing, great country. He said his dream fishing was to go after the Silver King (Tarpon). I told him that I lived in the Keys for a while and caught a ton of Tarpon right off the shore. I think he was more interested in spending a grand a day fly fishing for them off a flats boat, but whatever. He gave me the low down on the fishing (the river is too muddy around Kota Bharu and you needed to go a ways up river for better fishing. Down on the coast line there are a few of the man made rock jetties where people do a lot of fishing. He gave me the directions for a couple that were nearby. He and his friends do oil rig runs which I would love to try, but they were only possible with a group and it takes a while to do a trip. He also mapped out the other few shops in the area so now I had a map of where to go and something to do the following day.

Since I had the morning free, I took the map and started fishing shop hopping checking out the list the guy had given me. Although they were well stocked shops, none of them really carried much stock of bait casters. So when the time came for me to pick up the passport I was done with the list and sold on the reel from the first shop.

My passport was supposed to be ready at 11am but when I went down the office was closed up. I told the security guard that the lady told me to be here at 11am so here I am. He was nice enough to go in and bring out my passport. Strange that she would tell me to come when they were closed. Anyways, with my chores done, I headed back to the guest house for a deserved nap. I woke up around 3:30 and figured I would head down to the bank to change money and then head over to the fishing place to pick up my reel. When I got to the bank it was all locked up. What the hell, it was only 4pm and they were supposed to be open until five. I asked the security guard and he said the banks close at five and I was too late. What? I looked at my watch again and it said 4pm. Then it donned on me, Malaysia is one hour ahead. That is why all this confusion, stupid tourist. I shook my head at myself and went back to the hotel. With the evening free, I decided to make a quick run down to the jetty to check out the fishing spots.

The place is located about 14 kms from town past the airport. It is right by a little fishing village. It took a while to find a route to get to the jetty, but after parking a bit a ways off and a long walk through the mud flats I was able to get there. It turned out to be kind of a lackluster looking place. The river like all the rivers that I had passed were extremely muddy. The jetty sides were rather short and barely extended past the beach. With all that muddy water, the ocean didn’t clear up until quite a ways out. It was kind of a let down. I did notice that because of the muddy enriched water, there were tons of baitfish swimming through the shallow side which I was on. I could see schools of mullet and sardines schooling through the riffles. I did notice a long dark shadow chasing after a school so there were some barracudas around. Also, I noticed that the deeper part of the channel ran along the other side of the river as the boats were sticking pretty close to the other wall. In all, I rated it as fishable but not nearly as good a set up as in Narithiwat (although I saw no fish) or Song. I knew right off that if I was going to fish it, I would use my sabiki rig to catch or snag some of the bait fish, hook one on and cast out at the end either free lining or on a float. Maybe do some cut bait and casting as far as I could out into the open water. It was just a long and hectic drive to get to this spot so I was still undecided if I were going to try it. I noticed a few signs for homestays (rent a room in a house and experience real life) so I factored in I could stay in the fishing village and do some fishing there. Still undecided.

With that I went back to town and with a visit to the world renowned night market for some finger licking good chicken in gravy, I was done for the night.

Today, I headed over to the bank and the fishing shop to find them both closed for the morning as it is Friday which is the Muslim Sunday. Back to the hotel for some internetting and then around noon I had my reel and was playing with it back in the hotel.

And that is where I am now. Have new reel but no second pole with no idea what I am going to do tomorrow. My three options are to go back to the fishing village with all my stuff and see if I can score a place to stay while I fish, second, stopping at the border town by the ocean on the Malay side (I used GoogleEarth to spot another rock jetty) and check out that spot, or three head straight across the border and not stopping until I get to Narithiwat. I’ll have that worked out when I wake up tomorrow. And with that, good night.

Fishing photos: Songkhla

Friday, July 24th, 2009

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Pretty little Squirrel fish.

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The fishing hole. This is from the end on the water facing shore. The far right where the rocks stick out from the shore line is the little eddy where the Mullet are targetted by the cast net guys. On the other side (left) is where the people hunt for Mussels and the big net guys work. A quarter of the way is the vent where I bait fish. At the end and behind where the photo is taken is where I fish.

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A box puffer fish. The body is square and solid as a rock. You can kick these things a mile (kidding). No eating or bait value but put on a quick strong battle.

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We catch a lot of octopus especially when using dead bait and letting it sit in one place for too long.

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My fishing buddy Inouye. He comes he sits and he catches fish, like a machine. I am still young enough where I am bouncing all over the place. It seems whenever I catch a fish and strutting back to put it into his cooler he already has a fish in his hand. Forty years of fishing this spot will do that I guess.

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Me in my sun protection fishing outfit.

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This is the captain of the netting boat that I went out on. Cigarettes and beer just like regular fishing. Good humored bunch of guys.

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The first mate, just like first mates all around the world they are the ones who do all the work while the captain stands there looking stoic and yelling at the first mate.

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Me along for the ride.

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Ha Ha look at those losers fishing on that sea wall. 10 hours later thats where I was.

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The owner and the captain feeding out the nets. We did one long one for fish and three for crabs.

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Pulling in the nets after a three hour soak. The crab nets soaked for the night and then we pulled them up the next day. Blue crabs.

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One of my catches. A couple of good snappers and a Grouper. The hotel lady was happy with this load.

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My first big fish off the wall. I caught a Sardine and then used that on a floating rig. These are small ones that followed the mud line in and were feeding on the schools of baitfish. They catch much bigger ones and Barracuda as well. I saw a pretty big yellow finned Jack caught as well early in the morning on a Mullet.

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Abalone/Mussel guy.

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The Mullet/Barracuda guys.

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Fried Snapper made by the hotel owner for me. She also gives me soy bean drinks, fruit, and a Durian (stink fruit).

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The live shrimp container. In transit I run the little blue aerator. When at the fishing spot I tie the rope to the wall and the shrimp happily swim in the fresh seawater.

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The cooler live well. The aerator clips on to the rubber strap and velcro strip. This I use to keep my baitfish alive and active. Other times fill it with ice and it keeps the deab bait fresh. I will use this to carry all my fishing gear and bike tools when I travel.

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The shrimp guy bringing in his catch from the night.

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They bring it in by the laundry basket full and then dump it on the tile floor. From there it gets separated.

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The ladies sorting the different sizes of fish and bycatch. People stop by to pick up very fresh seafood and she sells it right there on the spot. Some crazy farang guy comes every morning to pick up new pets.

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Ever since I poked my hand on something while digging through the pile I have been pooping out these same strange toothy things. I wonder if I should go to the doctor. Nah, maybe I will just wait until I get back to America and then they will be released into the environment and they will grow massive and lay eggs and Sigourney Weaver will have to come out of retirement with a big flame thrower and….

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By catch. Nothing is wasted.

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A snowcap (not the real name).

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Mit, Niran (Ni), and Stephan, the French Thai kids who I taught how to fish. I am really impressed as a week later they are still coming and getting better each time. I am going to give my bait pole to the little guy when I leave as I will be picking up a new big dog stick soon.

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My home made float.

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With all this time fishing in the sun I have gotten really dark. It was comforting for Niron that being dark was normal. My abs are coming along nicely with all the fish workouts. Grouper are a really good fish as they give your abs a pounding.

Fishing friends.

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
steve.jpg It kind of donned on me when I was helping those kids get started that fishing kind of correlated with my constantly on the move life style. While I was working I ... [Continue reading this entry]

Fishing Songkhla.

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
Songkhla is a mecca for the shore fisherman. I figure it is about the same same by boat as it is your usual layout of sandy beaches and bays with offshore islands. When you have a boat your ... [Continue reading this entry]

Fishing Narithiwat.

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
There are quite a few places to fish around and in Narithiwat as the town is on a river and runs right next to the ocean. The places I targeted were Ao Manoa Beach, which I didn’t actually fish, ... [Continue reading this entry]

Fishing info… You wanted it, boy your going to get it. (Steve W.)

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
I will preface this in the beginning, if you are not interested in fishing, you can definitely skip this post. I just might put this warning on some of my all fishing posts to help save some time. ... [Continue reading this entry]

24 hours in Songkhla.

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
00:00-06:30 Exhausted sleep takes over as I am wiped out from the prior days events. 06:30-07:00 Wake up raring to get out on the water. I throw together my fishing bag, add a new bottle of water and I ... [Continue reading this entry]

I have a date with an angel.

Monday, July 6th, 2009
angel.jpg Well, not exactly an angel but a griselled old man who invited me to go fishing with him. I arrived at Songkhan, which was another 100kms north of Pattani, with much lowered ... [Continue reading this entry]

Ahhhh crap!!! I got a ticket. Not so bad after all.

Monday, July 6th, 2009
ticket.jpg I plead innocent due to alternating standards. Okay, on paper it’s not good. I had just come out of the market having purchased a new fishing hat (all the hardcore guys ... [Continue reading this entry]

Happy Fourth Year (not to be confused with Happy Fourth of July although just as celebratorious).

Monday, July 6th, 2009
I kind of forgot again so happy four years and one month of Steveislost. Yea, pretty crazy. Getting kind of repetitious so I will just leave it at it had to be a good year because I have ... [Continue reading this entry]