Volume 1: March 2001, Fishing Trip to Louisa & Royal Charlotte Reefs

We arrived from Muara to the Waterfront Hotel in Labuan at 7:15AM and loaded all our stuff into the Jolly King, a tug boat we chartered from Patrick Song of Labuan. Patrick Song is the president of the Labuan Fishing Association and is an avid sportsfisherman.
After loading ice, bait, food and other supplies by the crew onto the boat, we left Victoria Harbour, Labuan for Louisa reef about 160 Miles northwards. By the time we hit open water near the Semarang Oil Rigs the waves was reaching up to 3 metres turning the boat ride from laid back and leisurely into a roller coaster ride. Travelling between 6-7 knots, we arrived at the Louisa Reefs the next morning, 22 hours later.

Louisa Reefs
It was 8AM when we arrived. We wasted no time immediately fishing the bottom after anchoring. Hardcore Tan hook on to a nice 2kg grouper as soon as his rig touched bottom.
I kept getting Ikan Sulit of 500-700gms size. I didn't take a 20+ hour boat ride all the way to Louisa Reefs just to catch Ikan Sulit so I changed into heavier gear and bigger hook. Within 10 minutes , I got a strong pull, ripping lines off my reel. I reel up the fish from 250ft down and it was a 4.5 ft long Moray eel with horrendous teeth. Definitely not my favourite fish but the crew loves it and said it is very tasty. Within the next hour, I caught another Moray eel of about the same size. But in between, there were plenty of action with fish up to 5Kg.
By then Hardcore Tan put down his Tiagra 50 and reverted to his trusty hand line. Diehard Tan also put away his Penn International 50 and started using handline. I, however stuck to rod and reel. Instead of using fish fillet, I changed to a live bait rig with the 700gms Ikan Sulit we caught earlier as live bait. Within 15 minutes I hook onto a big fish. The pull was fantastic with the 80lb braided line shooting off my Tiagra 50. But unfortunately a few minutes later the line gave way. Upon inspection, I found the 100lb mono leader line badly abraded. So I believe it must have been a large shark whose sandpaper body must have caused the line to break. I increased the wire leader to 4ft and withing 30minutes hook on to another fish. This fish swam very differently from the previous fish, this fish kept diving instead of swimming sideways and took lots of line of my reel. I increased the drag to the "strike" position on my reel and managed to regain some line. Much to my dismay, under high tension the main line rubbed against the side of the tug boat as the fish swam under the boat and broke the line off.

I had enough bottom fishing and took off on the Boston Whaler trolling along the dropoff. I trolled two lines with Yozuri Bonita Lure and within half an hour I caught a huge 5.5Kg Red Bass. It was extremely strong for it size. It tore lines of my Tiagra 50 as if it was something larger.
I continued trolling and not long after, my other rod clicker went off like crazy and this fish is just as powerful as the previous fish. I was testing the Okuma TG30 2-speed reel. It drag proof to be smooth and it works wonderfully. The fish turn out to be a Dogtooth Tuna of about 4Kg.

Trolling at Louisa was quite productive, I had a few strikes every 15-30 minutes.
While I was trolling, Hardcore Tan and Diehard Tan stayed on the tug boat and continue fishing bottom.
Hardcore Tan caught a nice 7.5Kg Ruby Snapper. His brother caught a nice 4Kg Red Bass along with many other less significant fish such as sharks.
Up front of the tug boat, the crew used their homemade Magic PVC lure and caught about 8 2-3Kg Tunas.
The presentation of the lure is very important according to the crew otherwise you catch nothing. So I got the crew to teach me the technique. It involves releasing the line to the bottom followed by pulling in the handline in a jerky manner all the way to the surface.

Royal Charlotte Reefs
By midnight, the Captain started the diesel engine and sailed on to the Royal Charlotte Reefs.
The journey there was just as gruelsome with the rough sea rocking the boat making sleep difficult. Luckily, we were all worned out from the day fishing so we got some sleep.
We arrived at the Royal Charlotte by 7:30AM and anchored in a sheltered area away from the big sea.
We started the day bottom fishing like we did at Louisa but the fishing here was slower. We caught fish but nothing significant. After a morning of slow bottom fishing, I decided to go trolling. After trolling for about 30 minutes the line started spooling off like crazy and I could see a Barracuda leaping out of the water in the distance. Barracudas do not have good stamina so within a few minutes, it become exhausted and I reeled it in. It was only about 5kg. For the next hour, I received only one other strike so I removed the Yozuri and changed to my home made flies. This was definitely a lot more productive. With the files, I caught many 1-1.5Kg Rainbow runner , a 2Kg Dogtooth and a small GT.
One very unfortunate thing on this trip was the uncooperating weather. It limited our fishing to the sheltered side of both the Louisa and Royal Charlotte reefs leaving many areas unexplored. I am very sure the Big Ones lurks at the other side.

After an early lunch the next day, we started sailing the 170 Miles route for Labuan. The North East monsoon was definitely not over yet and we have to endure the wrath of it on the way back. We could see the 17ft Boston Whaler riding down the 5 metre waves like a surfboard and then tossed around like a cork. Only having recently watched the movie "Perfect Storm" recently, it adds to the excitement.

Text by Alfred Yong

Coming up in April - Ardasier Banks Spratly's Fishing Trip