Trip report: Saltwater fishing in the Gulf of Thailand

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48 nautical miles to the South of Pattaya lie the wrecks of six boats, once used by the Royal Thai Navy as target practice. Now submerged they provide shelter for all manner of fish, many of which taste great and put up a great fight for the intrepid angler.

On our recent trip we set off from Bali Hai Pier in Pattaya at 6pm on a Friday night, and thankfully the skipper has previously caught lots of live squid so we made straight for our destination, some 7 hours into the night. It was a full moon so it never got pitch black, and to my surprise that night I found out that the Captain doesn’t like full moons.

Contrary to what I had always heard  apparently its much harder to catch squid during a full moon. The reason is that the boats use strong lights to attract the bait fish that squid feed on, during a  full moon the light (and so the bait fish) is dispersed over a wider area.

This probably explained why thecaptain had caufght plenty of squid beforehand, just as well too as when we arrived we started fishing and not long after I was able to christen my new Shimano Tiagra 16 and get the first fish of the trip, a hefty barracuda

Shortly afterwards we got into another fish, this timer my father was up, and he promptly reeled in the first of many Russell’s Snappers. Satisfied I hit the hay at about 3am and woke to find that my compatriots had been bringing in fish all night including a very respectable 6kg snapper brought in by dad who had been most prolific when the rest of us had faded and been to sleep. The fun though didn’t end there.

Shortly after sunrise a new species of fish started to take an interest in our live bait.

Day time is when the African Pompano prefers to feed, not only can they turn their body, presenting their large flanks and thus lots of drag against the direction they are being pulled, the African Pompano is also capable of some pretty good runs and a large specimen will prove a good test for the casual angler.

They continued to bite hard throughout the day, eventually leading to the capture of 18 pompano, an especially good tasting fish.

We also managed to get into a few more snapper and even the dearly prized grouper, but it wasn’t until night fell again that we were able to get into a new species.

Known in the UK as a Ling, or Lemonfish or even the Black Salmon, the Cobia is always a welcome encounter.

They put up short powerful runs and are great fun, the poor picture above was taken shortly after I brought in what turned out to be the biggest fish of the trip, a 15KGs cobia. We ended up with 7 in total, and brought in a great deal more snapper and barracuda that night and even a couple of juvenile sharks.

As always however what stands out to me about these trips is not the electric thrill of the catch but its the memories of the downtime, chatting and joking with friends over more than a few beers, cold glasses of white wine and a naughty cognac or two!

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