Kuala Trong Estuary Fishing
By: Amirul Irfan
When it comes to estuary fishing in Peninsular Malaysia, Kuala Trong is a place on my bucket list. Kuala Trong is well known for its mangrove systems which are home to top predatory species such as the barramundi and mangrove jack. Back in April I managed to organize a day trip there despite a few problems during planning. Unfavourable conditions made me postpone the trip to 24th April, where tide conditions were said to be perfect.
[ Unfortunately the water was murkier and higher than usual which would be a challenge for our fishing… ]
Members of the trip were Hafiz, Alif, and I; and we drove 4 hours from Batang Kali. The jetty where boats in Kuala Trong launch from is easy to find. Look out for the Forest Ranger Office of Kuala Trong on Google Maps and the jetty will be at the end of the road. We arrived at 4a.m and had a quick nap on some sofas and chairs at the jetty. Heavy rain poured down but it slowed down at dawn. A breakfast stall opened up nearby and the stall had quite a selection for breakfast. Over breakfast we met our guide, Aizam along with other anglers and guides.
Kuala Trong (K. Terong) is just a few minutes from the Changkat Jering Exit of the North-South Expressway.
By 8a.m we jumped into a boat powered by a 15hp engine. The boat was around 19ft which was pretty comfortable and stable to cast from. While loading the boats, the guides seemed a bit surprised by the water conditions that should have been perfect. Unfortunately the water was murkier and higher than usual which would be a challenge for our fishing. We pushed through and vowed to work hard in our pursuit of Kuala Trong’s predators.
After launching, the rain came back although not as heavy as the rain before dawn. We made a 15 minute run to a river intersection where our guide, Aizam evaluated the conditions. Aizam mentioned that the current was quite fast and the water conditions weren’t the best, but there’s always a chance if we persisted. The fast current swept away our lures as we began fishing along a row of fallen trees at a main section of the river.
Loading before launching.Other anglers and boats also launched around 8a.m.
The water was choppy and Aizam decided to target smaller sections of the river to stay clear of the wind and fast currents. All the spots we fished were just minutes away from each other, so not much time was wasted in making runs between spots.
A 15 minute run to the first spot.
In smaller tributaries, conditions seemed much more promising. However, the current was still fast and we had no luck with mangrove jacks or barramundis. Due to the fact that we had zero action, we shifted our attention to schools of tarpon roaming around the tributaries we entered. We encountered over 10 schools but getting them to bite was a challenging task.
Smaller tributaries seemed much more promising.
Alif finally scored a tarpon on a small minnow after experimenting with various lures. First fish of the trip! The trick was to fish small minnows out from structure and allow it to get swept by the current where tarpon wait and ambush.
Alif’s opening tarpon.
After seeing how Alif did it, I switched to finesse gear and after a few misses, I scored my first fish from Trong. The ORCraft Baby Code armed with Ichikawa Kamakiri trebles was a good choice. The second the Baby Code fluttered down beside a structure, a pack of tarpons came for it and this unlucky fish was hooked, landed and released. Our continued efforts for tarpon went fruitless as we had a tough time getting bites, and fish we hooked managed to escape with their classic acrobatics skills.
Tarpon with the Ichikawa Kamakiri on the ORCraft Baby Code.
Tarpon action died down approaching noon, so we drifted down the river making a few casts before our lunch break. I finally hooked a small mangrove jack on the 3” Ripple Shad but it popped off in no time. After lunch we anchored at a river bend that seemed to have no structures. It didn’t feel right, as the usual mangrove approach is to fish lures tight to structures to entice predators out. Aizam then explained about a drop off on the inner side of the bend, where big barramundi would lie in wait. We began fishing a wide range of lures from topwaters to minnows across the drop off in hopes of a bite.
The inner bend of the river with a drop off – home of big barras.
As I fished my topwater pencil, a surface eruption occurred right behind it with a ‘boof’ sound – indicating it was a big barramundi. I thought I had a miss, but Hafiz yelled that he had a fish on followed by a fully loaded rod and screaming drag. His fish made a strong run upriver before heading towards the boat in an attempt to rub the line against the boat’s anchor rope. Another 2 boats were parked next to us, and Hafiz worked hard to stop the fish getting to the anchor lines of the other 2 boats. Aizam said that at times up to 5 boats would be parked here, and everyone had a chance to catch a big barramundi.
Hafiz in a tug of war with his first ever wild barramundi.
It was Hafiz’s first time fighting a wild barramundi, and the fish didn’t give him a chance. For 10 minutes Hafiz had to carefully counter each hard run. The sound of line getting peeled off his reel was beautiful. The barramundi eventually surfaced but landing it was a tough task as it dived back down each time. Aizam eventually managed to scoop the fish in his arms to secure Hafiz’s first ever wild barramundi.
As soon as the fish was landed, everyone was euphoric. Quite a way to catch a first. This beast was seduced by Hafiz’s 130mm minnow which was bought from another guide during breakfast. This barramundi proved to be the catch of a lifetime for Hafiz.
Catch of a lifetime.
Aizam opened up his box and showed us his main selection of lures for chasing big barramundi in Kuala Trong. 100-130mm minnows are a staple for fishing in Trong, as they imitate needlefish and halfbeak which are prey for barramundi. Big lure, big fish right? The main technique to fish these minnows are by retrieving them steadily followed by one or two twitches and a pause. That was how Hafiz scored his big bite. Different retrieves can be used to adapt to different moods of the fish. Once you get a bite, stick to that technique.
Aizam’s recommended lures – long, slim minnows to imitate needle fish and half beaks.
We continued fishing mangrove lines and fallen trees without any action despite the fact that we utilized all kinds of lures including soft plastics and crankbaits. Most areas in Kuala Trong are shallow, so diving baits will cause some trouble as they get snagged. As the tide got lower, Aizam made the call to end our day. It was tough, but hard work eventually paid off with a big barramundi. Other boats that went out on that day had disappointing results so we were grateful with how things turned out.
Hitting a few last spots before leaving.
We were pretty happy with our results on our first visit to Kuala Trong. At the jetty, Aizam told us that the sudden water condition change was most likely due to the heavy rain and some pond building activities somewhere along the river. Just like any day of fishing, nothing is in your control. All you can do is adapt and work with what you have. Kuala Trong partially showed what it had in store, and it was motivation to come back again one day. I would like to express my gratitude to Tessy Low of Pure Fishing Malaysia for sharing information which lead to the possibility of this trip.
If you’re interested in chasing barramundi and mangrove jacks in Kuala Trong, here are some numbers you can contact:
Bard – 012-5076585
Aizam Aziz – 017-6764295
Boat charges range from RM300-RM350 depending on engine size (15 & 30hp) including a boatman. The boat we used could fit 3 anglers and 1 boatman. Lifejackets are important but you have to bring your own if you decide to wear one in Kuala Trong.
Click for directions to Kuala Trong Jetty