Malaysia Fishing Guide
(best spots, information & tips)
The country is rich with fish fauna. There are over 700 species of sea fishes whilst our rivers and lakes provide 360 species. Development and industrialisation has depleted many of these freshwater fishes, although most of those affected are of the aquarium variety. There are still 60 species of fish that can be caught on rod and line. Please refer to the Freshwater Fishes section for listings.
Many of the fishes are of the carp family, the largest being the rare temoleh (Probarbus jullieni), a striped carp that can grow to 50 kg. (110 lb.). It can be found only in two rivers (the Perak and Pahang). In fact, other than a river in Thailand, these are the only homes for the fish in the world.
The sebarau (Hampala macrolepidota) is a popular carp among river anglers. Erroneously referred to as Malaysian Jungle Perch, it is a roving piscivore that readily takes lures. It can grow beyond 15 kg. (33 lb.0 although average sizes are between 1 to 3 kg.
Another popular sportfish family are the snakeheads (Channa spp.). The haruan (C. striatus), bujuk (C. lucius), jalai (C. marulloides) and toman (C. micropeltes). The toman is an especially ferocious fighter, able to tear even Rapala plugs to shreds and break your wire leader. It can grow to about 30 kg. (66 lb.), but average sizes are between 3 to 10 kg. Ample stocks can be found in the hydro lakes like Kenyir and Temengor.
The ultimate quarry for upstream rivers are the fishes from the mahseer family: the kelah (Tor tambroides) and the tengas (Acrossocheilus hexagonolepsis). The kelah is also called Greater Brook Carp, or Malaysian Red Mahseer. It represents the greatest challenge for the river angler: locating the fish, tempting it to take your bait and finally fighting and landing it, involves the utmost care and preparation. Many a time, all you have to show for your efforts is a broken line or a sunburn! There are kelah fishermen, and others for whom fishing is merely a hobby!
The catfishes are also popular targets. The tapah (Wallago attu) reaches 100 kg. (220 lb.),though most specimens are around 35 to 50 kg. (110 lb.). They inhabit the deep pools of large rivers. The patin (Pangasius pangasius) is smaller (3 to 10 kg.) but more gregarious.
The Malaysian Fisheries Dept people have succeeded to breed many of the local species. This is good news considering the ever depleting stocks of wild fish. Many fisheries have sprouted all across the country, and you can fish for most of these species, with the exception of the kelah, tengas and large tapah.
FISHING DESTINATIONS IN MALAYSIA
Malaysia has numerous rivers, lakes, mining lakes, canals and commercial fisheries that are accessible for the angler. There are the well known big waters like Lake Kenyir, Lake Temengor, The National Park at Kuala Tahan and the Endau-Rompin Park in Johor. On the other hand, some disused mining lakes in Perak and Selangor have produced some record fish. Long-forgotten canals that criss-cross the paddy regions of North Perak, Kedah and Perlis can provide great sport with the haruan (Striated Snakehead). Meanwhile, there are many secluded small river mouths along the Terengganu and Kelantan coastline that are good for brackish water fish like the siakap (barramundi) and kakap merah (mangrove jack).
Less exotic but none the less popular are the commercial fisheries that have mushroomed across the land. Don’t be surprised to find even saltwater ponds in the middle of Kuala Lumpur!
Many of these waters are not registered in the tourism publications. What I’m trying to do here is to list down the whole spectrum of fishing destinations; from the popular and well known tourist waters to remote locations to the little-known backwaters, hopefully to cater for the wide range of tastes, opportunities and depth of pockets!
Source: Fishing Directory
The locations discussed below are depicted in the general sense. Further information like contact numbers and addresses are given in the Fishing Directory, where available. I will try to embellish this over time.
FISHING DESTINATIONS BY STATE IN MALAYSIA
Perak is a state steeped in history. Rivalry among a few influential clans have resulted in a unique sultanate system where four families take turns assuming the sultan’s throne. The dominance of the British and influx of the Chinese in the 19th Century have opened up large tracts of land for tin mining activities. Perak is now studded with countless disused lakes. From the air, the land is like a giant face riddled with blue and green pimples.
These lakes have now become attractions for fishermen. One golf resort – the Clearwater Lakes Sanctuary near Ipoh – is built around a set of these lakes, and provide excellent fishing for the casual angler.
Another dominating factor for the Perak fisherman is the Perak River, the second longest river in the Peninsula. This waterway is also steeped in history, with many important landmarks like Teluk Intan, Pasir Salak, Bota, Kuala Kangsar and Cenderoh. There is also a wide of fishing activities for the angler. Several impoundments upriver have also created fishing havens.
Temenggor Lake and Banding Island Resort
Temenggor is named after a small river which once flowed into the Upper Perak River. Sometime in 1980, a huge dam was built at the confluence. An extensive and deep lake (down to 450 feet) was created, The indigenous fish thrived both in quantity and size. Monster toman (giant snakehead) to about 7 feet long; kalui (giant goramy) up to 15 kg., and large stocks of sebarau (Malaysian jungle perch) could be landed.
Now, over-fishing has reduced the stocks, but there is still sport to be had, with some local guidance. Toman to about 5 kg. and sebarau of 1 to 2 kg. can still be found in the coves and stream inlets. You would need a boat for mobility, for the lake is almost totally jungle-lined. Lure casting is the way to go. The crankbaits like Rapala Countdowns and Shad Raps are good for both toman and sebarau. The former normally prefer larger lures (CD11, CD14 or equivalent), while the sebarau would go for the size of the CD9. Red or orange mixed with white or silver seem to be favourite colours.
The best access to Temenggor Lake is Banding Island, created after the dam project. The East-West Highway (Jeli in Kelantan State to Gerik in Perak State) cuts through this island. The Banding Island Resort provides decent accomodation, with nearby amenities. Guided fishing can be arranged.
Cenderoh is one of our oldest lakes, created in 1929 to provide electricity for the region. It is relatively shallow (60 feet at the deepest: the original Perak River bed). The plus side is that is has almost been ‘naturalised’: the dead tree stumps are almost all gone. There are picturesque coves of the flaming red lotus, and fish abound in the form of kalui, lampam (Puntius schwanenfeldii), sebarau and toman.
The sebarau is especially interesting. You need to paddle your boat or canoe near the lotus beds and wait for the rises. You then cast to the school, hoping for that brutal strike. Mind you, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Stealth is needed, for sure. The current record for sebarau here is 2.8 kg.
(For a clearer account of Cenderoh, refer to Chapter 2 of my book, Fishing Forays)
Other species worth chasing for are the snakeheads like toman, haruan and bujuk. Belida can also be had in the main lake, over the old river bed. Invariably, livebaits like small belantok (Oxyleotris marmorata) and prawns are used.
Cenderoh can be accessed via Raban or Kampung Jenalik on the Lenggong – Sauk road. Tanjung Harapan Resort is a good place to stay. It can be reached via Kampung Changkat Duku, near Sauk.
Bukit Merah Lake and Laketown Resort
In the 1950’s, The colonial British built a small barrage at Bukit Merah to help the irrigation of the downstream paddy fields of Krian. A shallow lake (about 20 feet deep) was created. It is now home to fishes like sebarau, kalui, toman, toman bunga (Channa marruloides), lampam and the rare kelisa merah (Red Golden Arowana, Scleropages formosus).
The opening of the Laketown Resort on the banks of the lake has given great opportunity for the angler to chase these fishes. Guided fishing is available here. You can stay in the hotel, and there are amenities and activities for the whole family there, while you go fishing in peace! Contact Mr. Lawrence Tan, the Fishing Manager, drop my name and (hopefully!) he make good arrangements for a trip. If possible, get the guide named Johar: he’ll bring you to the good sebarau and toman spots.
The lures used here are comparatively smaller: small Shad Raps (silver is good), silver spoons, Cicadas are the typical stuff. Fly fishing is also an alternative, although it’s a challenge to land fish amidst the tree stumps and aquatic vegetation!
Perak River Upper reaches: Kuala Kangsar to Cenderoh Dam
The Perak River here is wide, mainly shallow and fairly fast flowing. Upstream activities like sand pumping and the clearing of jungle had rendered the water perpetually murky, but it still provides many fishes and the occasional monster.
This stretch of river is home to the rare temoleh (Probarbus jullieni). Specimens of up to 50 kg. have been caught, and many have been lost. This is specialised fishing. You need lines of about 30 lb. test, on ample multipliers. You fish from a boat, since you may need to follow the fish: fights of up to 2 hours are not unheard of! Baits used are young banana pieces, the ara fruit, young papaya or chicken pieces mixed with dough.
These days, however, it is increasingly difficult to hook a temoleh, so do not set your hopes too high!
There are other species to be caught. Casual fishing can be done below the Rest House of Kuala Kangsar, catching lampam and other species on bread. If you can get access to a boat, the upstream waters can provide sebarau up to 4 kg. Try lures like the CD9 or equivalent.
Perak River: Lower reaches: Teluk Intan
This is a mighty river. It drains almost the whole state. Its banks are studded with historical landmarks. The Perak River has played a major role as a communication and transportation route, in the process of shaping the state and country.
The lower reaches of the river is decidedly muddy, hence most of the fishing will naturally involve using some bait or other. The commonly targeted species are the catfishes like baung (Mystus nemurus), patin (Pangasius pangasius), tapah (giant catfish, Wallago attu), the snakeheads like haruan, and toman, and the odd sebarau. Baits will range from live small fish, worms, various grubs (lundi), and freshwater prawns.
One unique form of fishing involves catching river lobsters (called udang galah) on rod and line. Worms or small prawns are used on small sharp hooks on light lines.
Guided fishing is hard to come by here, so you need to be adventurous, asking around at the local jetties. Try making enquiries at the local tackle shop in Teluk Intan.
Krian District: The paddy region
The area downstream of the Bukit Merah Lake is one huge network of paddy fields. Several large canals with clear running water service this area, with connecting networks of channels. You can try your luck here catching the snakeheads like haruan and bujuk (Channa lucius). The main canals may have the odd sebarau.
Frog baits are usually used to good effect. A more convenient alternative are small spinnerbaits or weedless spoons and plugs. The snakeheads can usually be located among the weeds. They are air-breathing fish, so if you are stealthy enough, you can spot their customary rises. Early mornings or late afternoons are the best times.
Kenering and Bersia Lakes
These are lesser-known hydro-electric lakes situated below the immense Temenggor Dam. Bersia is about 120 feet deep, and is directly below Temengor and close to the town of Gerik. Further downstream is Kenering, having roughly the same depth but with a bigger spread.
Both lakes contain fishes like belida (giant featherback, Notopterus chitala), haruan, toman, kalui, sebarau and lampam. The record belida of 27 kg. was landed in Kenering.
Bersia can be reached via Kampung Bersia on the Gerik – Banding highway, whilst Kenering can be accessed via the village of Air Ganda, south of Gerik. There are no proper fishing services available, but be adventurous and ask around the roadside cafes, and you may get someone with a boat.
The usual game plan once you are on the water is to search the coves with lures. Toman can be spotted by their sinuous rises, while schooling sebarau will rise like staccato shots of a machine gun. Belida can only be fished with live baits – small fishes or prawns – in late afternoons and into the night.
Lumut area: estuaries
The Dindings region around the port of Lumut is a myriad of mangrove channels. Here you will find the estuarine species like the kakap merah (mangrove jack, Lutjanus spp.), siakap (barramundi, Lates calcarifer) and small ikan bulan (tarpon). These fishes are game for the plugs like the Nilsmaster, Halco and spoons like the Abu Toby.
Again, the angling scene is not organised here. Try the tackle shops for information and the chance of boat services.
This muddy river is known for its udang galah, plus the odd baung and the interesting cangka lulang (Mystus wyckii), a beautiful catfish with yellow and black/violet colours.
One odd thing about the fishing: do not use monofilament line. There thousands of buntal (puffer fish) which will bite and cut your line just below the surface. Apparently, they are attracted by the sparkle of the line. You must thus use braided line, which is impervious to their small teeth.
Taman Negara (National Park) at Kuala Tahan: Tembeling, Tahan & Keniam Rivers.
The National Park at Kuala Tahan is the oldest Park in the country. Seemingly, the jungle here is also reputed to be the oldest in the world. Established in the early 1900’s, it was initially named King George V National Park. The foresight of the British must be lauded: the park is now a preciously conserved pristine area of jungle, a last vestige of a fast-disappearing eco-system.
The Keniam and Tahan Rivers, tributaries of the Tembeling, are about the only rivers in the country truly gazetted for angling, for no other forms of fishing (nets etc.) are allowed here. The waters are pristine, with all sorts of aquarium-quality fish. The main quarry for anglers, however, are the kelah (Malaysian red mahseer, greater brook carp, Tor tambroides) and sebarau (Malaysian jungle perch, Hampala macrolepidota).
This is the pinnacle of Malaysian river fishing: the rivers are shaded by giant hardwoods, and has the usual deep pools interspersed with fast rapids. Lures are good for the sebarau: try silver spoons and plugs in the CD9 size. Tough lines are needed; there is ample snags and rocks in the rivers.
Kuala Tahan is at the confluence of the Tembeling and Tahan rivers. It is accessible by road, via the Mentakab – Maran road. A more scenic option is to get to Kuala Tembeling and then travel up the Tembeling by longboat.
For details of fishing the two rivers, contact the Taman Negara Resort of Kuala Tahan.
Cini is a network of shallow swampy lakes (12 to 20 feet deep), accessible from the Muazzam Shah – Keratong road or from Kampung Belimbing on the banks of the Pahang river. The Lake drains into the small Cini River and on into the Pahang, the Peninsula’s largest waterway.
It is an eco-tourist’s haven. There is a myriad of flora and fauna to be found here, made unique by the surrounding swamp forest.
There are a few dozen fish species here, but the dominant ones are toman, kalui, baung, haruan and belida. Due to the dense vegetation, weedless lures like spinnerbaits are recommended. If you are after toman – they grow to about 8 kg. – the best method is by livebaiting. The preferred bait is small keli (walking catfish, Clarias batrachus).
Float fishing for kalui can be done, using baits like crickets or small prawns.
The Cini Resort on the banks of Laut Gumum (the largest lake) can arrange for you a fishing outing, using one of the local fibreglass boats. Laut Melai and Jerangking are good choices for toman.
This is another swampy lake, situated near the town of Triang. The size of the lake varies drastically with the seasons; expanding into the forests during the months of heavy rains (November to February). The waters are similar to that of Cini, shallow, dark water fringed with the mengkuang (pandanus). Without a boat, it is literally impossible to fish these waters.
The main target species here are tengalan (Puntius bulu), sebarau, tapah and the rare kelisa (green variety). The tengalan are a favourite of the locals, due to its culinary quality, while the tapah is the ultimate predator. Locals catch it by trolling large plugs like the Rapala CD14.
There is a resort here ( ) which provides full-board accomodation, plus fishing services.
If you drive along the Raub – Kuala Lipis road, you will see a large river alongside it. This is the Lipis, a winding, murky river with some deep pools. Invariably, the tracks to the river from the road are steep, but you can follow the beaten paths to the waterside.
This is pot luck fishing, depending on where you decide to stop and fish. Use the ‘smelly’ baits like worms, grubs, crickets, chicken intestine etc. There are baung, patin, even the odd jelawat (sultan fish, Leptobarbus hoevenii) to be caught. I would recommend strong lines (say 15 lb. test) and heavy sinkers: the Lipis water is turbulent, and there are snags about.
Jelai River: Kuala Tembeling to Kuala Lipis to Kuala Medang
The Lipis River drains into the Jelai, one of the main tributaries of the Pahang. It is a decidedly murky river at best. The expected species are the omnipresent baung, patin, jelawat, the odd kerai (Puntius daruphani), temoleh and kelulah (cangka lulang, Mystus wyckii).
For fishing services, try the asking at the jetty in Kuala Lipis, or the Rest House.
Kenong Park: Kenong River
This is a lesser-known park situated between Kuala Lipis and Kuala Tembeling. The Kenong River drains into the Jelai. The park is more for the trekkers and caving guys, but there are sebarau and such fish in the streams. So, if you happen to visit this park, do bring along a light spinning outfit (6 to 10 lb. test).
Enquiries on the Kenong Park can be made at the Kuala Lipis Rest House.
Pahang River: Kuala Tembeling to Pekan
At the small town of Kuala Tembeling, the Tembeling and Jelai rivers meet to make the mighty Pahang River. The Pahang averages about 400 to 500 metres wide, is mostly shallow with the occasional deep run. Common species here are the catfishes (baung, patin, keli, tapah), carps like the lampam and tengalan, the weird looking kenderap (Bagarius bagarius), udang galah and the rare temoleh. Even freshwater sting rays and soles have been caught in the river! Oh yes, there are also a few crocodiles thrown into the bargain, so do be careful!
Mostly, the fishing is a hit-and-miss affair, and there are scarce fishing services to rely on. Try Kampung Belimbing, near Maran. This village on the banks of the Pahang is a jump-off point to Cini Lake. However, you can get a boat here to fish the Pahang River itself.
Paya Bungor Lake
Paya Bungor is a small swampy lake beside the main Maran – Kuantan road. Decades ago, it was home to a myriad of rare and exotic fishes. Sadly, the clearing of nearby forest has resulted in severe siltation. I wouldn’t recommend targeting this water as your sole fishing destination. However, if you happen to be there, try float fishing with baits like worms and crickets for the small cyprinids like the lampam and terbol (Osteochilus hasselti). If you are extremely lucky, you may catch the kelisa or toman bunga (Channa marruloides).
Tanum River at Cegar Perah
This is a wild jungle river that originates from Gunung Tahan itself, then flows underneath the Kuala Lipis – Gua Musang road near the village of Cegar Perah. Upstream of the bridge, the river is actually out of bounds: it is under the jurisdiction of the National Park. However, you can fish the stretch downstream of the bridge.
There are tracks that follow the river,and there are a few nice pools that harbour fish like the kelah, kalui, sebarau, kerai, lampam and kelulah (cangka lulang). However, since this area is still virgin jungle mixed with oil palm groves, it is advisable not to fish alone.
Baits like the oil palm fruit can be used for the kelah and kalui, whilst the sebarau will go for the usual lures. Be careful during the rainy season: the slopes can be treacherously slippery.
Taman Negara at Merapuh
About halfway on the Kuala Lipis – Gua Musang road is the district of Merapuh. Soon – in about a year, we hope – the Merapuh Camp of the National Park will be opened. Fishing may be possible at a few rivers, on of which is the Upper Tanum River.
All this is in the future, but I thought it good to give you advanced notice! Will keep you posted, of course.
Estuary fishing: Kuantan, Pahang & Cerating rivers.
One nice way of killing time while searching for new fishing spots is to take a slow drive from Kuantan northwards, along the coast. You will come across many rivers big and small, laced with mangrove. Many of the rivers are still nice and clean, with their resident fish like the siakap, kakap merah, even the small tarpon and the powerful kurau (threadfin salmon)
Fishing is a rambling affair. If you have a gut feel about a particular river, just slow down, stop and talk to the locals. Usually, they are very friendly, pointing you in the right direction, be it a good fishing spot or the chance of getting a boat.
Carry some lures with you: casting among the mangrove at high tide can give good results. Rebel plugs seem to work better than others.
Bukit Besi Lake
Estuary fishing: Dungun, Paka, Marang and Kerteh Rivers
Coastal swamps: Merang to Penarik; Ajil near Kemaman
Setiu River & Lagoon
Taman Negara at Kuala Koh: Lebir River
Felda Aring: Aring, Relau and Lebir Rivers
Galas River at Gua Musang
Timah Tasuh Lake
Perlis Plantation sugar cane fields: ponds.
Paddy irrigation canals
Pedu & Muda Lakes
Upper Muda: Muda & Teliang Rivers
Paddy irrigation canals
Lower Muda River
Kedah River: Alor Setar to Kuala Kedah
Kelang Gates Dam
Ulu Selangor (Upper Selangor River)
Pangsoon Lake, Ulu Langat
Semenyih area: fisheries
Kundang area: fisheries
Ampang Pecah: Pelasari Lake
Batang Berjuntai: old tin mines
Bernam River: the Gedangsa region
Jelebu area: Konkoi & Titi
Endau – Rompin Park at Kampung Peta
Muar River: Pagoh to Muar
Kluang – Kahang area: Kahang & Semberong Rivers
Estuaries: Endau, Rompin & Mersing Rivers
Tawau area: Kalabakan River
Rods: 7 – 9 ft. , 6 / 10 / 12 / 20/ 25 lb.
Reels: Spinning or baitcasting: Eg. Shimano Baitrunner 3500, Penn 4400,
5500, Shimano Calcutta 100, Abu 5600
Lines: Abrasion proof: snags in river / lake.
Leaders: Braided / wire.
Lures: Spoons (12 g. 18 g.; Abu Toby, Abu Atom); spinners; Rapala (Shad
Rap, Rattlin Rap, CD9 – 14); spinnerbait (Bushwhacker, Mini Whacker).
Fly tackle: #5 to #9, Floating & sinking WF line.
Flies : Lures: Streamers, Clousers, Pink Thing, Muddler, Dahlberg Diver,
Nymphs: Montana, Hare’s Ear, Shrimp, Damsel , Dragonfly
Dries: Winged Ant, Adams, Hopper
Others: Prawns, Golden Eye, Charlies.
Clothing: Beating the sun & rain
Shirts: Long-sleeved, light cotton or micromesh (quick-drying)
Pants: Khaki or durable cotton.
Hats: Wide-brimmed hats, or caps with rear flaps
Footwear: Sturdy sports sandals & hiking boots.
Others: Polaroids, suntan lotion, neck towel, leech-socks if possible,
Light rain jacket, anti-fungal cream, light rucksack.
Cost of living is low relative to standard of living.
Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (RM)
Major credit cards and travellers’ cheques accepted is most cities and
towns. However, it is advisable to carry enough cash when going to the
provinces and the hinterland.
Current exchange rates (approximate):
USD : RM3.5
Pounds Sterling: RM6
Australian $: RM2.1
Petrol (litre): RM1.15
Cigarettes (20): RM4.50
Beer (250 ml): RM5.00
Bus fare (150 km): RM15.00
3 –star hotel : RM120.00
Glass of tea / coffee (local): RM1.00
Plate of fried rice: RM3.50
Main challenges: spicy food, sun, rain, humidity
Hygiene level: good
Transmittable diseases: Dengue fever (aedes mosquito).
If you expect to go into the jungle, I suggest you have these stuff:
Anti-septic or anti-fungal cream, anti-diarrhoea tablets, suntan lotion,
paracetamol, pseudo-antihistamine (eg. Sinusidin).
Fishing is Caring...