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A Fishing Trip to Mengalum Island

Written By: jipp - Jun• 03•16

So I went to a fishing trip in what was intended to be part of my bucket list. I first heard about ‘mencandat sotong’ when I went to Kelantan about 5 years ago. It is some kind of fishing activity in Terengganu – except that it aims to catch squid instead of fish. I was told that it has its own season which runs from April to June. It is when squid are most plentiful.

They are said come near to the boats in hordes because they are attracted to the lights – which makes catching them very much easy. So, I started to come up with a plan with a group of friends – mostly my colleagues – but then there would always be a problem that forced us to abandon our plan every time. A few years on and there was still no mencandat sotong trip.

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At Kota Kinabalu wet market in the wee hours to buy fishing baits

When I expressed my frustration to a group of Sabahan friends who are mostly fishing enthusiasts, they laughed out loud saying that this mencandat sotong is not exclusive to Terengganu alone – but it can also be done in many parts of Malaysia including Sabah – “except we don’t call it mencandat here. We simply call it memancing sotong said one of the friends. “In fact, we can easily get a big bucket of squid almost in no time before we move on to doing what we are there to do which is to fish. Sometimes we want the challenges. When you are there during the season, catching the squid will be too easy it actually bores you because there are just too many of them!” he exclaimed.

And before I knew, we already came up with a plan. The date was set – and I soon found myself getting on board of as fishing boat at Kota Kinabalu harbor together with a dozen others. It was my first time getting beyond the islands of Taman Tunku Abdul Rahman – namely Manukan, Mamutik and Gaya – and it really felt great to see the islands from the other side. I even saw a light house on the far corner of Gaya Island – something that I didn’t know existed. And of course – over there across the distance is the towering Mount Kinabalu – a constant reminder that I was there in my own homeland. Heh.

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It took us about 3 hours to go to the intended destination – nearby an isolated island called Mengalum – before the boat shuddered to a stop and the guys began to cast their baits into the emerald sea water. 3 hours into the open sea – and I felt like I was totally in the middle of nowhere. Without any mobile phone coverage, I felt totally disconnected from the outside world – something that I had wanted to be in for quite a long time anyway.

To tell the truth, I didn’t do any fishing. I only wanted to be there as part of the hilarity – to see how these guys do what they had paid some RM250 each for. It puzzles me how some people would spend quite a big chuck of their fortune to pay for fishing boats – and spend quite a lot of their time to do fishing – when they can easily buy fish at any of the wet markets. What puzzles me most is the fact that they wouldn’t really get many fishes – in fact some of them would go home empty-handed even after spending the whole day fishing. And even more puzzling is that – they’d keep doing it. People keep comparing fishing with golfing. These two activities are known to be very addictive to some people. Heh.

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What worried me most when I was about to get on board was the possibility of a seasickness – something that I knew I would most likely experience. I’ve been to a boat trip quite several times – especially when I was based in Sandakan when I had to go to remote islands to check out what I was paid to check out. I’d spend many hours on the boat but then being on a moving boat might be different from on a stalled one – or so I was told. So, as precautionary, I took in an anti-seasick pill a couple of hours before getting on board. Then I took in a few more when we were already in the sea.

But then, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I really enjoyed my time in the middle of the sea, to watch the sun come up from one side til it disappears on the other. It really is therapeutic. Sometimes the sea became quite turbulent so the boat rocked more violently than usual – but then it was part of the fun. It was quite a challenge to move around especially if I wanted to move from one end to the other. My balancing skill was put to the test. LOL.

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My biggest challenge was probably the smell. Since it was a fishing boat, the smell wasn’t really a surprise but still it was quite unbearable. It also came from the fishes that they sliced up to be made as baits. Somehow they rotten up faster in the sea and you know how smelly rotten fishes can be. But I got used to it after a while.

Then the sun. Somehow it felt closer to the world when you are in the middle of the sea. It’s so hot and I can only be thankful that the bedroom with triple-decker beds was air-conditioned. Getting a nap wasn’t difficult at all despite the constant motion. I felt like a baby in a hanging cradle or something. Up and down I go – up and down I go. It was lullbying really.

Then the food. I was expecting that eating would be a problem when was in the middle of the sea. I mean, I was so worried that the motion sickness would take it all away from me including my appetite for food.  But it turned out that food never felt so tasty. It almost as good as eating in the middle of a forest when everything feels so delicious. But then, I was told that we need to be constantly full in the stomach to minimize the risk of getting sick. When they made the Sabahan traditional food called Hinava out of a very fresh Tuna, I swear to God I ate as much as 10 people could eat. It was so delicious!

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We’d move from one spot to another – mostly further and further into the sea that we had to travel 5 hours on our way back to KK. I was told that the lack of fish was mainly due to over-fishing and that the biggest culprit of all was the fish bombing activities that were quite prevalent in the past. I really think that every ocean is very much part of nature and you all know how nature works. If you treat her gently, she will give back generously but if you treat her badly, she’ll hold back and give you less. We humans will still be the losers.

One of the highlights was probably the sighting of dolphins. There were a group of them – moving around our boat and for a moment they kept ‘hovering around’ as if enjoying the attention and fascination towards them. Dolphins are certainly one of the most amazing creatures – not to mention the most intelligent as proven by many scientific researches. It really was a privilege to see them in the wild.

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But then – if there was one thing that quite disappointed me most was that – the squid did not turn up. I was told that the recent El-nino was probably the culprit. They did manage to catch a couple of squids but that was it. They ended up being used as baits as well. But then, to be fair, I did have loads of fun. I was there with friends – in the middle of nowhere – totally disconnected from the outside world. It gave us the rare opportunity to really be in that moment without being distracted by all the tele gadgets that for some time had been threatening to ‘take over’ our lives.

But then, I had long noticed that fishing is not really my thing. I am not quite fond of the idea of waiting through hours after hours just to get a handful of fishes – if any. But then, the idea of being afloat in the middle of the sea was quite something to me. It was very refreshing and therapeutic. It’s like being in a tub where you want to be with yourself – to be oblivious of the surrounding and forgetting everything that is happening out there – to be fully submerged to your own thoughts and mind – until the cold kicks in and you suddenly feel the rush to get out of there and return to reality.

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That was how I felt when I was there. The cold did kick in after awhile – and I knew I had to get out of there and return to the shores to face the reality – the reality of life. Heh.

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2 Comments

  1. Murphy says:

    I always want to join deep sea fishing, but I’m prone to seasick. >.<

  2. thomas lee says:

    looks like a nice boating trip minus the fishing part

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