Fishing in the South China Sea
Enthusiasts embark on luxury vessel to fuel fishing passion
It is not hard to see why Mr Tan Cheng Hong and his friends are willing to fork out $5,000 for a three-day fishing trip - they caught 125 fish on one such outing.
Mr Tan cottoned on to the idea of hiring a luxury fishing vessel two years ago, after traffic jams on the Causeway put paid to his regular trips by car to southern Pahang to fish.
The 22m-long vessel is manned by a six-man crew, which includes a cook. It has fully air-conditioned cabins, and two lounges with TV sets and karaoke facilities.
Fitted with 19 bunk beds, three toilets, and two open areas on its decks, it also has a seawater reverse osmosis processor, so there is no need to limit water usage. Most importantly, it has an ice-maker to keep the catch fresh.
Mr Tan told The New Paper: "This time, we managed to get 17 anglers to join, so the cost for each person was lower."
Fellow enthusiast Daniel Xue, 54, a chef, added: "These trips are very popular. Booking is sometimes filled up two years in advance."
TNP joined them on one such trip last month.
We set off from Punggol Marina Country Club at noon, and made a quick stopover at a fish farm on Pulau Ubin to buy live prawns for bait. We then sailed towards the South China Sea, stopping about 140km north-east of the Horsburgh Lighthouse.
So where is the best spot to try your luck?
Boat captain Saverianus Medi, 34, who is from Tanjung Pinang in Indonesia, admitted to having a little help, saying: "There are more than 200 fishing spots.
"I use GPS (Global Positioning System) to locate a suitable position, then I tell the anglers to drop the lines.
"Normally, we would stay for about half an hour before moving on to another spot."
FISHING FUN: A couple had help after their fishing rod snapped trying to lift a 6.3kg red snapper.
On the decks, the anglers were busy casting their lines. And once in a while, there would be cries of success.
The crew was on standby to transfer the catch - which included parrotfish, stingray, red snapper, grouper and diamond trevally - into insulated ice boxes.
Even at night, Mr Tan, and other anglers Long Chee Kiong, 52, a contract project manager, and Ye Sing Yong, 52, who works in sewage construction, continued to try their luck.
Mr Long said it was worth losingsleep over, as the fish caught at night are usually bigger. He was proven right at about 3am, when he reeled in an 18kg shovel nose shark - the biggest catch of the trip.
"It took me more than 35 minutes to pull the shark out of the water. I was really exhausted, but that's the thrill of fishing," said Mr Long.
FRESH CATCH: The crew descaling and cutting all the fish that were caught, before dividing them equally for the anglers.
Newcomers like Ms Jolie Sia and her husband Ong Zhen Yuan, who are both 36 and self-employed, had fun too.
Ms Sia, who had never been on a fishing trip, said: "On the first day, I saw how everyone was busy with the fish they had caught, but I didn't catch a single thing.
"I tried again the next morning. Within two minutes of casting my line, I pulled out a huge red snapper.
"I had a tough time reeling it in, and the rod even snapped. Luckily, Captain Medi quickly took over to help me. The fish weighed 6.3kg."
The hardest part was getting used to the rough and choppy waves. It felt like the entire boat would tip over sometimes, especially when it sailed past containers ships.
Some took pills to battle the nausea, and even the seasoned anglers were not immune.
Mr Long said: "I can't stand the waves and threw up twice on this trip."
The total catch of 125 fish was laid out for a group photo with our reporter.
The best part of each day was when we got to sample our hard work for the day.
Mr Xue taught the on-board cook how to prepare some dishes, while he prepared sushi.
On the morning of the third day, as the boat was heading back to Singapore, the crew members laid out the trip's entire catch for a group photo.
The group had a fair share policy. Regardless of how many fishone caught, everyone got an equal share.
After the crew descaled the fish, cut them into pieces, and portioned them out into bags, each passenger drew a number to determine which bag they would get.
Mr Tan Sze Wah, 43, the managing director of a petroleum company, said: "It is great way of relaxing, especially with old friends, and we're doing what we really love.
"It also helps us de-stress from the daily pressures of work."
It took me more than 35 minutes to pull the shark out of the water. I was really exhausted, but that's the thrill of fishing.
- Mr Long Chee Kiong, one of the anglers on the fishing trip