Fishing For Hong Kong Sea Bass

It was a few years back when I was living in the Hong Kong. I decided to move there after I graduated from university. A good buddy of mine was already working in Hong Kong and convinced me to come try working over there too. So I packed my bags and off I went to the “far east” to try something new. I started working as an English teacher. The life there was fast paced and exciting. The nightlife was unbelievable and it felt like I had landed on another planet! But soon I adapted to this new exciting lifestyle and it became a normal way of life for me. It was around this time that my inner urges and my curiosity as a “born to fish angler” forced me to wonder if it was at all possible that the busy Hong Kong harbour had any fish in it worth chasing. I felt like I was ten years old again wondering if the Toronto Harbour had any fish to be caught! I found out back then that there were fish there, “why can’t they be here too?”, I asked myself.

Finding fishing information in Hong Kong was quite difficult initially because of the language barrier. I kept asking around and eventually I talked to my hair dresser and he told me to go to a nearby fishing shop and talk to them about fishing possibilities. I was so excited at that moment because I knew if there was a fishing shop, there had to be some sort of fishing to be had! So right after my haircut, I hurried over to the local fishing store! As I went through the doors of the shop there was a big board of fishing pictures. I scanned through all of them, I saw pictures of squid caught on rod and reels, pictures of GT’s caught off of oil rigs, snappers caught off of tropical beaches and mangrove looking areas and then I saw a picture of something that looked more like my fingertips. I saw pictures of a this one giant fish being caught at night off urban city lit shorelines. It sort of looked like a snook and kinda’ had spots of a sea trout, the mouth of a large mouth and the shine of a steel head. All these characteristics were things that equaled fish I must catch!

After seeing the fish that I wanted to target, it was time to figure out what I was gonna’ need to know to catch this fish. I started trying to talk to the guys that worked in the shop, especially the guy I saw on the board with all those giant fish. I brought him over to the board and pointed to that awesome looking fish that I was aching to come in contact with. He then replied to me in Cantonese “ahhh, lo yu”. So the fish on the board was called a “lo yu” but I soon figured out that it was called a Sea bass in English. I started to try to explain how I would love to catch this thing and asked where to go. The guy looked a little confused but after a lot of broken English and Pictionary style sign language he started to catch my drift. He then brought me to the wall of lures and pointed to a bunch of red head white body minnow baits. So picked a few but then the guy took over and suggested a few. I gladly excepted his help and walked out of there with a variety of lures. The lures were consisted of lipless crank baits without rattles, pencil stalwarts that barely broke the surface and an assortment of sizes from 2-6 inch minnow baits in natural and red head colours in floating and sinking models.

The next day I came back with a few of my rod and reel outfits to see if I had the gear suitable to bring these things in. I had a couple of calcuttas spooled with 14 pound test on a seven foot and six and half foot rod both in medium actions. The guy looked at it and said, “ok!” and gave me the thumbs up! I asked him where I should go and he said “Wan Chai” harbour. My bilingual friend that was with me at the time asked him if I could go with him and his friends some time and he said no problem come next week and we’ll leave from the shop around 7pm but bring about $100 hkd which was about $25 can. He said we were going to use this money to rent a boat. Next week finally came and I was off to the shop to meet the local guys from the tackle shop! There were three guys there waiting with the same excited anxiousness I had with their tackle on their backs and their rods in hand. We couldn’t speak the same language but I had a good feeling we could definitely bridge that gap through the love of fishing! We then all jumped in cab and took off for the harbour. When we got there, there was a man wearing a rice hat waiting in one of those junk boats you see in Bruce Lee movies. We all jumped in his boat and were off into the middle of Wan Chai Harbour. It took about a ten minutes to get out to some stationed ships. The ships were well lit so there was a shade line from light to dark created by the ships light. The guys from the shop pointed and told me to cast along the shade line and in between the docks and the boats. I was starting to like what I was beginning to understand about these fish. It was becoming clear that these fish behave a little like large mouth. Before I made my first cast I was overwhelmed by the futuristic beauty that surrounded me! It was a breathtaking moment, it felt as if I was fishing in the movie Blade runner!! The Hong Kong skyline at night is something to see, especially when you’re fishing in the middle of the harbour and you’re surrounded by it all! Its really hard to put into words but all I can say is I’ll never forget that moment and that I’m getting chills as I write at this very second.

After my exhilarating moment I rushed to the front of the boat and hurled a cast along side a giant ship with a Yo-Zuri Red Live vibration bait. I pulled it along waiting for a bite but didn’t get anything. Every cast felt like I was going to get bit. Around my tenth cast, I pitched a beauty cast underneath a rope and in between two boats where the lights from the boats was pouring down on the water. As soon as I engaged my spooled I felt a heavy thug on my rod. I swept into it and the thing started stripping drag like a steelhead on steroids!! After a sharp and heavy run a fish about 6lbs shot out of the water like a giant smallmouth! I couldn’t believe it was only 6lbs, the thing fought like you wouldn’t believe.! The local guys were pretty impressed and were surprised how I could get my casts in there like that but little did they know how long I have been bass fishing back in Canada. As the night progressed, the fishing kept getting better and better as the tide level started to drop. I later learned that when the harbor water level is at its highest and the tide starts to drop is when the fishing is best. So new moon and full moon periods were best. When the water and tide is still, fishing for these things are the worst, its like fishing in a severe cold front situation up here. From my understanding I think the tide stirs up the water and oxygenates it greatly and in turn creates fish activity.

Anywayzzz, we must have caught about twenty or so of these crazy fish between 2-8lbs. Although I lost a giant (maybe 14 lbs or so) on 8lb test on a medium light action spinning outfit. I couldn’t do anything with that light rod, the fish just took off and broke me off around a piling. I put that rod down for the night and stuck with my heavier action bass rods. As we headed in for the night, we did one last stop along a boat that was a restaurant park on the harbor shore. The light was pouring off of this boat as well, the guy from the shop launched a pencil bait alongside the boat and nailed one more nice one about ten pounds! The people on the boat eating were cheering, it was hilarious! We didn’t catch anything after that and the tide was pretty still by that time so we decided to head back in. Boy oh boy was I happy, that was the best 25 bucks I’ve ever spent!

As for the rest of my days in Hong Kong, I discovered that there were tons of other places to fish from

shore at night. Any well lit piece of harbour front that had shade as well was becoming obvious to me that fish could be holding. I fished all over the city and caught many giants in the twenty pound range!!! To my surprise very few people were fishing for these beautiful creatures, I know in Japan the anglers would have been all over this opportunity. When I did bump into other anglers they were just fishing really for food and not for the sport as much. I was surprised that most of them didn’t believe in lures and seemed amazed when I reeled one in on something artificial. It still remains a mystery on how big the population of Hong Kong is and how small the population that actually gets out fishing. They don’t know what they’re missing! Sea bass still remains one of my very favourite fish to catch. Who wouldn’t want to catch a fish that acts like a large mouth, fights like a steel head on steroids and jumps like a small mouth! I can’t wait to go to other cities around the world to find out what other urban gems lurk beneath the surface!

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