For a fish that gave me an identity in the Malaysian fishing community, the Milkfish will always remain a favourite on light tackle for not just my husband and I, but majority of anglers as well.
The town of Bedong in Kedah has been on our list of places to visit due to its popularity of having a paid fishing pond famous not only for its good sized Barramundi but also for its Milkfish, amongst many other species. Therefore, when the opportunity arose for a two day fishing trip to Thye Fishing Village, we jumped at the chance.
Who did we travel with?
Norullah Razak – Fishyology
It was from an invitation posted on the Facebook wall of Fishyology.com to join Noru and a friend to Thye Fishing Village that got the ball rolling. Noru is someone we have been acquainted with due to his blog post that opened the doors for Jigging in Port Dickson with famous boatman, Apek. He runs Fishyology.com on his own, an informative site and blog from a local’s perspective suitable for an international crowd.
Andrew Griffin – Andrew Griffin Game Fishing
Andrew Griffin is a fellow blogger known for his deep sea trips around the world, especially Rompin. A detailed blog with useful information suitable for international anglers who lack the knowledge or are skeptical about the local fishing scene. Let Andrew’s blog make you feel right at home, from the deep sea to the game fishing ponds, within Malaysia and beyond.
Our trip began at the home of Andrew over a cuppa, breaking the ice and getting acquainted. When anglers come together, getting along for the sole purpose of fishing comes naturally- as if there was a hidden understanding that we are all in this to catch fish, have a good time and head back home safely, hopefully with an additional baggage of accomplishment as a souvenir.
The journey to Thye Fishing Village (TFV) in Bedong took a little over 3 hours, non stop, inclusive of a few wrong turns. With the location being obscure, we finally arrived to a large gate, away from civilization (just a few minutes really) and what lies behind it tickled our imagination. As the gates opened, we were impressed at how they managed to somehow retain a naturally wild atmosphere despite having a restaurant and chalet welcoming us right smack in the middle, unmissable with its light orange hue and blue zinc roof.
We wasted no time, with Noru’s pre-arranged accommodation for us at the chalet sorted out, we changed and rushed back down for a quick lunch to begin fishing. Unfortunately, the restaurant in Thye Fishing Village serves non-Halal meals, however… The staff was not about to make the experience inconvenient for us.
Having opted to stay at the chalet meant eliminating the need to travel out for a meal or any basic daily needs with hopes of maximizing fishing hours and the staff of TFV stays true to that by kindly accommodating to our needs. A staff went out to get Halal Chicken Rice for us as we went ahead to fish, waiting for his return.
Fret not fellow Muslim anglers! The drinks and snacks counter which is open 24 hours has a selection of halal tidbits, even Maggi cup noodles and of course, hot and cold drinks. I must say, that is far more useful especially when hunger doesn’t strike when the fish does.
We took the spot where Noru caught his Milkfish last and was told, that very pond has the most amount of Milkfish in it compared to the rest. TFV has 3 different ponds of different sizes, all of which has similar species and the fish sizes vary in accordance with the size of the pond. The smallest pond, shaded and an extension of the restaurant/chalet has fishes of smaller sizes in comparison to the biggest pond where we have decided to begin at. The pond in between the two is easily accessible regardless of which pond you choose, merely a matter of turning around and casting the other way if you’re standing right by. Species available in TFV are Barramundi, Milkfish, Lady Fish, Tarpon and Grouper, as we were told that day.
As we were setting up, Noru, like Flash, started casting out his popper and before I could complete the knot on my hook, he was on to a fish! Welcome to Thye Fishing Village and Hello adrenaline! He lands a beautiful Barramundi on a Yo-Zuri 3DB popper. After a quick photo session, we were all raring to go! We were pumped!
Naweshad and I decided to try out some grub we had with us as we did not bring along our lures on this trip. He went for his favorite red and white and I had on an all white for myself. Before I could complete hooking on my grub, Noru had ANOTHER take!
Once more on the Yo-Zuri 3DB popper. Not once has my Yo-Zuri 3DB Popper caught me a fish and the one place it could, all I had was white grub! Lo’ and behold! Noru landed another beautiful specimen, this time with a photograph to justify the popper power!
Alright. It’s time to cast and retrieve.
I have never been a fan of artificial lures. Thankfully, Noru had a cooler box filled with Sardines as dead bait for everyone. Whilst contemplating hooking dead bait on my other rod, Naweshad who has been persevering despite unsuccessful takes initially on his grub finally hooks onto a fish… His Shakespeare travel mate reel screaming away as the rod bends mercilessly from the pulls of the Barramundi at the end of the line. A strong take, perfectly understood as Noru assists in netting the sizable Barramundi, a beauty for the first fish of the trip for my husband. I am almost jealous.
Next up on the first fish list was Andrew, on a Berkley white grub, he carefully nets his Barramundi and strikes a pose that compliments the powerful take of that species. Quick catch, quick release and casting resumes.
I had on a white grub too. It wasn’t a Berkley though. A pack for RM5 that I bought eons ago, I can’t even recall where from. In the wise words of Barbara Streisand and Donna Summer, enough is enough! I had zero confidence in a grub and I need to follow my gut. Off I went to cut me an inch of Sardine, size as advised by Noru and on both my rods I casted dead bait and it felt good. It felt right. It felt organic. I heard my reel scream.
There goes my Penn Fierce roaring away and this time, with one tug, I knew it was hooked and hooked well. Emerging from the deep is a… tiny Barramundi.
Hey. A tiny fish is better than no fish at all! A fish that compliments the size of the angler is a match made in fishing heaven. Unfortunately, the hook was caught in the gullet but thankfully, with our trusty 1950 Baker Hookout tool and my husband’s skills, we managed to remove it and release it safely. I opted not to take a photo with my first fish in order to release it as soon as the hook came out and not long after the next cast, I was on another fish, of just about the same size. Hooked beautifully on the side, I managed a photo this time before releasing it back.
Cue redemption song!
The events that unfolded after clouded my mind and had me occupied so much so I was not physically aware of what was going on with everyone else around me. As I casted my line out again and was about to put my rod down, I had an immediate take, strong and a runner at the end of my line. It put me up for a strong fight and this time, what emerged was the biggest Barramundi I have ever caught thus far, a whopping 8lb of fat and muscle in my hands. I was in awe.
I slowly returned to position, baited my hook with dead bait and casted my line out again. My arms were aching but of the good kind. I figured, I’ll cast one line out and sit back to regain my energy.
Boy was I wrong.
My reel started screaming and this time, the fish at the end of my line refused to stop running despite my efforts of tightening my drag. It kept going and I hung on for dear life without wanting to lose my rod. Instantly, Noru and I thought it was a Milkfish, the distance and speed in the water was unbelievable. With a 10lb mono line and 15lb fluorocarbon leader, I could not exert force on the situation and if it truly was a Milkfish, I knew I had to take my time.
All of a sudden, I reeled back nothing… It was evident that my line was stuck and there was no sign of a fish any longer. I was not disappointed though I should have been, the stress on my muscles were taking over and my arms were royally aching, not of the good kind anymore. The lack of sleep was starting to take a toll as well.
Naweshad kindly took my rod to assist in releasing it from the snag, I was stretching my arms with hopes of reducing the ache when he exclaimed excitedly…
“You still have a fish on your line!!”
I skipped hopped towards him as he passed over my rod in time for the fish to take another run. What could this be?! Five minutes more of strain and pulls, I landed another Barramundi, breaking the personal record I made a few minutes ago, this time, with a weight of 10lbs. I am drenched in the mother of all sweat, horribly in pain and exhausted beyond words. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson. After releasing the 10 pounder, I headed back to my spot, with the exact mentality of just casting my line and relaxing.
Again. Relaxing was just not an option at that moment. Once more, just as my dead bait hit the surface, splah & wham! A Barra takes it for another run. No! No! No! That was not in the plan! I could not reel this one in and I was not sure if it was a bigger Barra at the end of the line or if the exhaustion has got the better of me. I struggled, the heat was more evident than it has been the entire day. My husband stood by my side supporting my effort, cheering me on. My fingers were numbing and my shoulders began to tremble. That’s right, have you had a trembling shoulder? It was like shaking to the beat of non existent music and I could not get it to stop!
That 10 minutes felt like forever. Upon landing the Barra I realised it wasn’t my exhaustion weighing me down, it was the 12lbs in that fish. I broke the personal record I just made, once more. Naweshad got the camera ready and as I attempted to lift the fish for a quick snap before release, my entire arm froze and the pain was shooting through my ribs. We had to take a quick photo with it in the net and proceeded to release it with the help of Andrew.
I was done for the day. There is no way I am casting another line. I sat back to relax and as the sun sets, Naweshad and Andrew caught a couple more, video and photography was a lot less strenuous on the tired muscles, furthermore, there was something else to look forward to- Noru’s kind friends from gopancing.com who happened to be fishing as well invited us all to a wedding dinner just around the corner from the Pond, if you’ve been to Malaysia, you know a Malay wedding feast is something worth anticipating.
We got dressed and just as the pond was experiencing a short circuit, we headed out, ensured that electricity would be restored by the time we got back.
The wedding event was something that reminded me of how much I love being in Malaysia. They keep the tradition alive, a strong sense of camaraderie between neighbors and on top of that, as an angler, you appreciate the relationships you build with fellow anglers all around. We went to Bedong to fish, but got a lot more out of it than just breaking and making personal records. On top of all that, we just got done with the first day… Its another new day Fishing tomorrow. Thank you to Noru’s friend and his family for having us!
We arrived back to TFV with electricity restored and a strong need to crash in bed. We made solid plans to embark on an adventure the next day at a location just outside our balcony. Our very own Flash Noru and Andrew with the alarm set at 4 a.m.
My husband and I needed the extra two hour sleep, our alarm was set at 6 a.m.
25th October, 8 a.m on the clock, what happened to the alarm again?
My arms felt like it had weights strapped on to it and my legs were still asleep despite entirely being out of bed. My husband was feeling the strain too so we decided to take it slow. It was a beautiful morning in TFV, clear skies, the sun and the greens reflected on the pond, with slight winds rippling the image on the water, how can you not love fishing when the beauty of nature is part of that package?
Noru and Andrew headed out first whilst Naweshad and myself got dressed and headed down for our morning tea. We took our mugs and gear, along with some pellets for bait and headed off to join Noru and Andrew. I love my mornings therefore whilst the boys casted their dead baits waiting for bites, I was having biscuits and tea, contemplating my next move on the pond.
Andrew threw pellets right up front of the pond where we were seated and almost instantly they were taken with abrupt force, and by that we knew, the Barramundi’s breakfast of choice was regular fish food from the pond. Almost like cereal for us? My imagination got the better of me.
I was also reminded of my favourite and beloved angler, Robson Green (second to my husband of course). His episode when hunting the Milkfish gave me the idea of baiting my hook with a pellets and throwing out a few more around where my hook lands with hopes of tricking the Barra’s into taking my hook. I knew I needed my bait to float, therefore a smaller hook and without a weight, I needed to cast my line out far enough for the Barra’s to rise up without being spooked by my presence or visibility of my rod. Fishes are anything but dumb.
That is where everything I learnt in fly-fishing from Nick Ooi came to play. Without a weight, I needed to be able to whip my line out like one would a fly, but ever so gently without releasing the bait from my hook.
The middle pond being my choice to start my morning at, I opened up my bail and allowed some line out, just like fly-fishing, I lay the line neatly right by me at an angle as I would before lifting my fly rod. Closing my bail and having sufficient line out, I swiftly lift my rod and with the exact momentum of looping and casting, I quickly launched my bait out… in a straight line. I did it with an Ugly Stik. I was so proud of myself, i’d hand me my own medal.
I was admiring the presentation of my hook and bait as I threw out a few more pellets to cloud the Barra’s view. I see the water rippling from a few corners and knew they were approaching. A few top water “explosions” and with every one of it, a pellet would be missing. Everything was gone… But none took the pellet on my hook.
Then I experienced the most remarkable moment of my angling life thus far. A Barra approached my bait, hovers directly in front of it and lifted its head ever so slighty… Almost as though it was sniffing the pellet. The water was so clear and the Barra at the end of my fish-less line was huge. My heart started beating and my hands were ready to grab hold of my rod. I could hear the echoes of “take it, take it, take it” ringing in my head. Then, with one swift move… It turned away…
I took a deep breath and walked away. Maybe it saw me? Maybe it saw my hook? Maybe it sniffed the cheese biscuits I had this morning on the pellet? How can anyone OR FISH not like cheese?
My mind was racing with thoughts. I turned around and bzzzzzzzzzttttttt….
IT TOOK IT! Whatever it is! It took my bloody … I mean, cheesy bait! I grabbed my rod, set my hook and started reeling. Its a big one. It brought back the pains of yesterday, but I needed to land it and triumph just for myself. Maybe for Robson Green’s inspiration too.
During the fight we caught a few glimpse of the Barra surfacing, it looked like it could’ve been foul-hooked and that worried me however upon landing it we saw that the hook was caught nicely on the side of it’s lips… Unfortunately, the Barra had a deformed jaw. What a fight for an injured fish! Though its jaw looked like it was an injury sustained awhile back, we took a quick snap and released it back quickly. Andrew assisted in releasing the fish gently, eliminating any possibilities of injuring it further.
I shared my insight with Andrew who has been using pellets as bait too and upon giving my ideas a shot, being put through the same dilemma with fishes turning away… A very strong take on his rod assured me of my methods, albeit a small Barramundi, the fight they put up is contrary to their size.
Everyone continued catching, the fishes I landed after were on dead bait, leftovers from the day before, eventhough it was developing a stench signalling it has gone beyond just bad. Pellets were not as successful. We all tried out different methods before Naweshad and I decided to call it a day at the biggest pond. The afternoon sun greeted us a little early and having yet to recover from exhaustion of the first day, we decided to adjourn to the smallest pond where it was shaded, winding the day down comfortably was the plan.
As we were making our way to the other pond, a kind staff approached us to remind us about lunch. With all that fishing, we forgot about our meal! The offer was to drive us out for lunch or for them to pack some lunch for us… We opted for the latter of course.
They went on their way whilst Naweshad and I set up our rigs right by the beverage stall, ordering for ourselves yet another cup of tea each whilst we were at it. The shade, wooden bench and high table made the experience relaxing, ideas were flowing better and we were not straining ourselves in the merciless heat which only seemed that way due to the lack of sleep. We were aware, as told, that this pond had fishes of much smaller sizes, and size never mattered to my husband and I. Enjoying the trip and catching fish however does.
With a fresh bag of pellets, all lines were in, my husband and I brought with us two rods each. For variety, I opted to head back to the larger pond with a bag of ice to collect some dead bait for my husband and I. Whilst cutting up dead mushy bait, my husband calls to inform me that I have a fish on my line. With what few cuts I could put in the ice bag, I ran as quickly as my aching feet could take me towards the fish at the end of my line, my husband kindly setting the hook well for me as I chuck the bag of dead bait on the side.
Unfortunately, the fight was short lived as the Tarpon (yes, a Tarpon) flung out of my hook faster than I could blink upon landing it.
As I was trying to bait my hook once more with pellets, at the other end of the pond, my husband’s rod was shaking from what looked like a possible take from a fish. He runs and carefully inspects his rod, reeling in gently hoping to set the circle hook when very suddenly his reel started screaming with the line stripped to the left side by the F1 of fishes!
My adrenaline shot rocket high, instantly, without a doubt in my heart or soul, I knew that was a Milkfish. As if to assure us, it leaped out of the water, confirming my guess. I could tell my husband’s excitement was somehow hidden behind his focused desire to land the water torpedo, every leap, every run, every reel was weighted down by intense adrenaline and fear of loosing such a priced catch.
If we wanted to land this, we needed a net. I ran back as fast as I could, this time not bothered by the aches on my feet, asked permission to have the net and informed Andrew and Noru of Naweshad’s Milkfish.
Back with my husband, the fight continues. Force is not something that can be used on the Milkfish, their lips are soft and would tear easily, hurting the fish. Taking one’s time, tiring the fish (which is almost impossible!) is crucial.
Once more, speeding across the pond and fooosh! Out of the water it leapt and with a swift turn it dives back in. We held our breaths for that brief moment and sighed relief once more as it pulled more line out assuring that it is still hooked.
Twenty minutes of intense adrenaline pumping action and my husband finally lands the Milkfish.
After a quick photo, we left the fish in the water to calm down as the pond staff hauled a digital weighing scale our way, a quick lift to the scales and there you have it, a whopping 4.65kg’s (10.25lbs) of speed and muscle. The staff of the Pond were in awe that such a size was available in their ponds, the largest ever recorded landed, that they were aware of. A record breaking fish for the best man I know. I cannot be happier. The Milkfish Lady has found the Milkfish Man (once more!). Cue applause!
The day continued, with a hearty local lunch brought to us from the kind staff of TFV. Noru landed a Barramundi in the midst of having lunch, one of his biggest too regardless of this pond only having “smaller” fishes.
The high of triumph from the Milkfish was still lingering in the air for my husband and I (it stayed on for a couple of days!). Noru and Andrew were having a ball with live bait, reliving their Rompin adventures, succeeding in landing sizes of 8 – 12lbs back at the middle pond.
On our side, continuous catch and release of Barramundi’s kept us occupied physically though our minds and talks were still of the sizable Milkfish. It wasn’t until we heard a commotion that we turned in time to see a group of guys throwing a Milkfish in the air having it land abruptly in the water. Our hearts sank. We knew what such an action could do to such a fragile fish and our worst fears materialized when we saw the fins of the Milkfish merely floating with it barely able to move.
I ran towards the pond keeper and pointed out towards the fish, they were quick to react, extending a net out to bring in the Milkfish and with a few pieces of wood, they set up a little “recovery corner” to assist the Milkfish in regaining its energy, regulating enough oxygen and calming it down.
When there are individuals that are careless and lack the correct knowledge of handling different types of fishes, it poses a risk not only to the fish but the business of the pond itself. During the monsoon season, most anglers turn to these ponds to pacify the urge for action and if individuals fish irresponsibly, there will not be much of such ponds available to enjoy, especially with species that are not common everywhere else.
If you are fishing in a pond that has fish species you are not familiar with, ask the correct questions, it is useful not only for the fish but for you, in an event the fish has dangerous barbs or a bite that could royally hurt, knowing how to handle a fish foreign to you should be first on the list of a fishing trip even before the lines are casted out.
Being assured by the pond keeper that the Milkfish will be ok, we called it day, washed up and geared to head back to K.L.
We were all on a high, I was however trying very hard to keep my eyes open. The exhaustion kicked in, in a very good way. Noru stayed back in Kedah to be with his family and Andrew was kind to drive Naweshad and myself back before heading home.
A productive trip with great company and exciting stories to share, from all of us. If Bedong comes up as an option once more, I would take it up in a heartbeat… and so should you! In the meantime, enjoy the video of our trip below and directions to the pond can be found at the end of this post via Google Map.
Click on the Google Map below for directions to Thye Fishing Village.