Expedition fails to track down big beasts in the South China Sea

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 July, 2008, 12:00am

Our party of five sailed out on a fishing excursion near Hong Kong full of hope for a bountiful catch.

Expedition leader Bart Kimman, executive director of Asia Yacht Services, told us big-game fishing was a growing sport in Hong Kong and summer was the best time. 'In Hong Kong, you can just motor for 35 miles [56km] and get some pretty good catches. We have a new generation of Hong Kong people who like to do such things,' he said.

So, enthused with dreams of chasing tuna and grappling with marlin, we headed 11/2 hours from the Gold Coast and into the South China Sea.

Gold Coast Yacht and Country Club manager David Bowdler said the key to deep-water fishing was to look for the blue-water line, the divide between turbid coastal waters and oceanic blue.

Predator fish feed along the line and the veteran angler said dorado, tuna, marlin and wahoo mackerel were once plentiful in the region. On a lucky day, he said, it was possible to reel in 15 dorados.

We scanned the abyss but came up with nothing. After an hour, the waves grew choppy and storm clouds gathered so we left. Being a first-time angler, I got seasick. Mr Kimman said Typhoon Kalmaegi in Taiwan was possibly scaring the fish off. We decided to head back to the Sokos Islands, south of Lantau, to try bottom fishing instead. We waited for another hour, empty-handed and now increasingly demoralised. Game fish had dwindled, Mr Bowdler said, probably due to intensive commercial fishing.

We were about to head back when a cry of 'pink dolphins!' went up and I looked out into the setting sun and saw three flashes of gleaming pink, slipping in and out of the water. 'We should have turned this into a dolphin-watching tour instead,' a fellow angler suggested.