Tenderfoot anglers can have a tough time finding chances to learn.
Let’s say you are new to fishing and befriend a seasoned angler, and you ask this person to take you fishing someday. One of two things is likely to happen: you’ll get a flat no, or that “someday”, which never comes.
Most seasoned anglers, given a choice, avoid having novices on fishing trips because those trips inevitably become drawn-out coaching sessions for said beginners.
Since these aspirants can’t possibly know what they are doing, their seniors become socially obliged to tie their rigs, bait their hooks, and unhook their landed fish – practically becoming the caddy while the mentees struggle with the basics of handling rod and line.
Bear in mind that seasoned anglers want to catch fish, too, and will be deprived of the chance when they spend time helping white-belt anglers.
That being the case, how and where will junior anglers then ever find good chances to practise?
To get through this learning curve without imposing on their betters, they need “payponds”.
“Nearly every angler I know started out at payponds. You can spend every day tying knots and rigs at home, but without a fish at the other end of the line, there is little chance to really learn how to fish,” said angler KL Ng, 45, who has been angling for over 20 years.
Ng said he would still occasionally drop by a saltwater paypond in Teluk Panglima Garang, Selangor, to practise fighting fish above 30kg, such as groupers.
“You have to spend time angling and making tonnes of mistakes to learn, develop the needed hand-eye coordination, and clock in enough repetitions (casting the lure or bait thousands of times) for muscle memory to form.
“How to cast without whipping the rod so hard that the bait rips clean off the hook? Which angle in the arc of the cast to release the line to get the optimal distance? How to fight a hooked fish by applying side-strain to stop it from veering left and right?
“Just like how golfers regularly go to the driving range to practise their swings, anglers who treat their passion as a sport also need to regularly practise. An actual fishing trip can be seriously expensive, so a paypond is more viable in the name of practice,” Ng said.
The word is not in the dictionary, but search for “paypond” on the internet, and you will find them all over the country. Another way to find them is to search for “kolam bayar” or “kolam pancing”.
Simply put, you pay for the right to fish in these ponds stocked with fish.
Payponds are where you can make a fool of yourself. See for yourself how fish can pull hard enough to unravel a lousily tied knot. Feel how, because you tighten the fishing reel’s drag too much, a strong fish can snap your line.
“I hear, and I know. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand. That’s how you learn angling,” stressed Ng.
In a paypond, you can realistically expect to set the hook on at least one large fish, even as a total newbie. By “large”, that will be between 5kg and 30kg, if not larger.
It will be a tough fight. Your rod will bend to such an extreme curve that you face the real prospect of helplessly holding on as your rod breaks with a sickening “PIAKKK!”.
In Kamunting, Perak, the owner of two large payponds, Teoh Bee Khoon, asserts that he has released more than 40 tonnes of specimen-size fish into his ponds over the last 10 years, and the largest ever hauled up from his ponds was a giant Mekong catfish weighing over 40kg.
“There are fish deaths, but we don’t keep track of exactly how many fish are in the ponds,” he said.
Not just any fish. Teoh stocks his ponds with giant Mekong catfish, Asian and Amazon redtail catfish, Siamese carp, temoleh (Julien’s golden carp), pacu, giant toman, freshwater barramundi and patin catfish.
These are hard-fighting game fish from around the world, and some of them are non-native species which must not be allowed into Malaysia’s public waterways.
Teoh said Fisheries Department officers visited his ponds more than once to make sure there was no chance of the fish escaping.
“The officers reminded us that if we ever cease operations, we must contact them to make arrangements for the fish to be moved to a new, safe location under their care,” Teoh said.
Some payponds, especially those near the sea, are stocked with mostly farmed golden snappers (jenahak) and mangrove jacks (siakap merah) of about 1kg which anglers are allowed to bag; these ponds charge a premium fishing fee since the objective is for you to have your fishing fun and eat the fish too.
But the fish in Teoh’s payponds and in other payponds of similar styles are not for sale.
You cannot bag your catches to eat or rear them at home because these ponds have a strict catch-and-release policy.
“This is where you practise fishing, not catch fish to bring home,” said Teoh, adding that he puts helpers around the pond to help anglers net their catches and unhook them with minimal harm to the fish.
A few rules usually apply at payponds.
For starters, those using fishing lures must not have the typical treble (three-pronged) hooks on their lures; those must be swapped with single hooks.
“The fish population in these ponds is so high that you have a high likelihood of accidentally hooking the fish on their bodies with treble hooks. That will injure the fish and cause infections,” Teoh explained.
As bait, animal organ meats like liver or intestines are not allowed because these rot quickly and cause nasty bacteria to spread easily in the ponds.
Particular ponds may set extra rules, and it is best to adhere to them to avoid being shooed away.
It is also wise to use fishing line weighing 30 to 80lb.
On actual fishing trips, some anglers favour lighter, thinner lines because they cast further and are less visible underwater.
But using light lines in a paypond means a big fish will be able to swim all over the place when it is hooked. There are many other anglers fishing, and if the fish you are fighting swims everywhere and snags up all the other anglers’ lines, you are going to be shouted at.
So use a strong line, rod and reel to quickly bring your fish under control.