Kelong fishing is actually a very unique type of fishing found only in South-East Asia. To many people, the impression of a kelong is more of a resort for families than a place for fishing, as the catch is often not as good compared to boat fishing. To a certain extent itís true, as the fishing spots are determined by our casting distance around the perimeter of the kelong. But with the correct skills and techniques, the catch from a kelong can be comparable to a boat trip.
Now let us introduce a few techniques that can make your kelong fishing trip more fun and also more fruitful. Many types of fish can be found at a kelong, and they require different sets of skills and techniques to catch.
Bait: peel prawns or squid strips. Depth: Bottom Target fish: Emperor Snapper (Leng Chiam), Finger-mark Snapper (Ang Cho Kee), Sweet-lips (Kaci), Groupa (Gao He), Diamond Trevally (Chermins), Parrot fish (Eng Ko), Batfish. Method: Tie a paternoster rig with at least 2 hooks. Sink your rig all the way to the bottom and wait for the bite. There are lots of small fish at the bottom of the kelong as they are seeking shelter from the strong currents or predators. So after a while if there is no action, reel up and check your bait again. You have to be patient to get the fish you want as most of the time you will get fish like baby Indian Snapper (Huang Xiao Jie) or puffer. Just keep checking bait when the nibbles stop or try different spots around the kelong.
(Note: Though the small fish are in abundance, please release them back into the sea if you have no intention of consuming them.)
Bait: Live fish, live squid or fresh squid strips. Depth: bottom Target fish: Cobia, Stingray, Barracuda. Method: The above are the most common big fish that can be found at a kelong. As barracudas are quite common, it is advisable to use a short length of steel leader to prevent bite offs. The most difficult fish to handle is the cobia as they usually fight all the way from bottom to top, even after they have reached water surface. There is a risk of your leader being cut off by the kelong stilts if the cobia dashes under the kelong.
Bait: Live fish, live squid or fresh squid strips. Depth: bottom Target fish: Cobia, Stingray, Barracuda. Method: This method is actually similar to the above-mentioned Kelong rig, mostly targeting the big fish found at a kelong. This rig setup is more suitable when the current is not so strong.
Bait: Live fish or live squid Depth: Mid-water about 5-6m Target fish: Trevally, Queen-fish, Cobia Method: To use a float effectively, one must consider the current and the wind direction. As there will most probably be other anglers fishing, a float that drifts around will cause a lot of line entanglement. The best method will be floating out the bait far away from the kelong. Trevally and queen-fish can only be caught during day-time.
Bait: Live fish Depth: water surface Target fish: Needle fish (Todak) Method: Catching todak requires some experience and judgment. Todak has a very hard beak and it will release the bait when it feels some resistance from the bait. Therefore we need to release the line when the todak is taking the bait and only strike when it has almost swallowed the small fish. The hook size has to be small to make the swallowing of the fish easier for the todak.
Bait: prawn/squid cubes or bread Depth: water surface Target fish: Garfish Method: Garfish eat almost anything that can be digested. This makes them easier to catch. Strike only when the bait is almost entirely swallowed by the fish as itís beak is small and difficult to set hook.
Bait: Long thin squid strips or fly Depth: water surface Target fish: Selar, Big-eyed Jack, Baby Barracuda. Method: This method is actually simulating a small fish fry swimming at the surface of the water. The catch rate depends how skillful you are in simulating the fish fry and the right timing.
Bait: NA Depth: water surface 1-2m Target fish: Rabbit fish Method: You may have to bear with the unpleasant sight of leftover food mixture to do this effectively. Collect the leftover food from meals and use them to belay the rabbit fish. Lower your rig into the water first and then pour in a scoop of the leftovers. You will see that a huge number of rabbit fish will cluster around where you pour in the leftovers. Swing the rig up with a quick and swift action so that the treble hooks can pierce through the rabbit fish bodies. The bigger ones put up quite a good fight. This method can only be used during day time as you need to see where to shoot.
(Note: Beware of their spikes at the fins during de-hooking, they can cause extreme pain.
Depth: water surface 1-3m Target fish: Wolf herring (saitoh), Big-eyed Jack, Selar Method: Jigs (15-25g) can be very effective when the schools are around. Luminous jigs are very useful at night for Saitoh. Cast the jig out and retrieve it with jerking motions near the surface of the water. As for big-eyed jacks and selars, use a rubber squid as jig. Sink to bottom and work the squid jig all the way up.
Depth: mid-water (3m) to bottom Target fish: Trevally, Queen-fish, Mackerel (tenggirri) Method: You have to be patient with good stamina to do this. Cast the spoon (15-25g) out and let it sink all the way to the bottom, jerk your rod and at the same time reel in the excess line. Do it in a smooth motion to simulate an injured bait fish. Reel up the spoon to about 3m depth before releasing the line to let it sink to the bottom again.
There are fish all year round at a kelong but the best time of the year for Sibu kelong is during the NE monsoon (usually from Nov-Feb). Large numbers of bait fish e.g. selars will swim nearer inland to seek shelter from the rough seas and bringing along with them their predators. Shovelnose, sailfish and giant stingrays were caught before at a kelong, so be ready for them when they come.
Other than fishing, you can also try eging. Squids can be found all year round the kelong but they are in most abundance during June to September for Sibu. Please refer to our eging section for tips on catching those yummy squids.
We believe that there are always fish around the kelong, it is just whether you can get them to open their mouths. If one method is not producing results, change to another and keep on trying different methods at different times of the day. Remember, a hardworking angler will always be rewarded.