When you think about sports, it’s almost always about the ball game, whether it’s shooting hoops or whacking a tennis ball back and forth across an open field. Sure—some people run, some people bowl, and some people swim. But how often will someone tell you that he ties up some galunggong onto a hook, throws it into the water, and engages in an epic struggle between man and the deep blue sea? This is the thrill of fishing as a hobby, and yes, it’s one of the most exhilarating emerging sports today.
Recreational fishing or sport fishing has always been the passion of 36-year old Richard Chiong, who discovered his appetite for adventure while watching NatGeo fishing shows five years ago. “I was imagining that it would be interesting to do that in real life. Those featurettes and documentaries really piqued my interest, so I asked my friend West about how and where to start fishing,” he says. “We found a good fishing community to join in, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
What it’s like out there
Like any true sport, it takes training and effort to be good at catching fish. Isn’t that what anything worthwhile is all about? “On my very first try, I came up empty-handed,” Richard recalls. Pundaquit, Zambales was the venue of his first foray into the sport, and it was an exasperating four-hour travel. Then, after a whole day out in the water, he caught nothing.
Of course, not being able to catch any fish is a probability that any aspiring angler should learn to accept with graceful dignity. Instead of being discouraged, Richard believes that catching nothing is a challenge that he is willing to come back and overcome. It’s really all about having the proper mindset. “I just don’t believe that there aren’t any fish in the water. All I know is that I’ll be back and I’ll be better than ever,” he says.
That kind of positive attitude is what spurred him on for the next five years. He’s been to quite a number of locations on their fishing trips, including Calatagan and Laiya in Batangas, Cabangan in Zambales, Pulilan, Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija, Calayan in Babuyan island, and Santa Ana in Cagayan. “My most memorable catch was in Santa Ana, Cagayan,” Richard says. “The goal has always been to catch sailfish in the area, and on my first year there, I got a bite that unfortunately got away.” It took quite a few tries and a great deal of effort, until finally, in the middle of May back in 2014, he struck gold. The whopping 50kg sailfish he caught that day struggled with him for an hour before it finally gave in. Once the catch was in his hands, all the difficulties of the struggle just faded away, leaving only the sweet reward of being victorious. The well-deserved triumph is already recompense in itself. Sure, there was a monetary prize for the tournament, but what truly mattered was reaping the emotional reward of the catch—fought, caught, and brought in. The fish, of course, was distributed among friends and the local community over a joyous celebration, and according to Richard, “There’s nothing like it.”
Tips and tricks for the beginner
Determination and a great deal of patience—these are just two of the traits that you need to cultivate in order to succeed in the rod-and-reel sport. Most of all, it’s your drive for your target fish that will push you forward, even on days when you feel frustrated without hauling anything in. “We all have a bucket list of our target fish. Blue and black marlins, big tunas, bluefin tunas—these are just some of the fish that you might want to aim for at least once in your life. But marlins, as an example, aren’t as accessible as other kinds of fish, so you have to be driven enough to want to catch that,” says Richard. He even says that the fighting strength and power of some marlins are stronger than that of man, and it doesn’t help that these fish have the strategic advantage of being in their home turf, either. If you’re lucky enough, you might chance upon one—a friend of theirs even took 14 years before he ever got a catch.
Fishing can also be physically draining, and the whole endeavor will take up most of your whole weekend. If you’re preparing to fish in a new place, your preparation time takes even longer, so you have to be able to invest your time properly. “What’s most important is that you learn from the locals, wherever you may be,” says Richard. “Pay attention to everything—from their strategies out in the water to their preferred choice of baits.”
There are various kinds of lures, and the fresh bait includes squids, flying fish, and shrimp. Using shrimps as bait is especially problematic, as you have to make sure that they’re alive and kicking when you use them as lures. Preserving the life of the shrimp as you travel from place to place is not an easy feat at all. Depending on the fish, however, you can sometimes use artificial lures. These can be a tad bit harder to find as some of them need to be imported from abroad, but the advantage here is that artificial lures are definitely less messy than the live ones.
The future of recreational fishing
Despite the many challenges that come with the activity, there’s no greater feeling than experiencing the power of the fish that’s pulling at your gears. According to Richard, it’s tiring and draining, yes, but seeing the fish breaking through to the surface of the water from afar, the adrenaline rush, and the excitement of wondering what kind of fish you’ve caught—these make everything worth it.
While the fishing community is constantly growing each year, Richard hopes to spread more awareness about the sport. Local tourism boards and offices often invite them to fish in certain areas, taking pictures and hosting buffets to help foster the tourism efforts in that area. Even more crucial is the advocacy of helping local fishermen gain access to the knowledge of practicing ethical standards when it comes to fishing. “The problem is when local fishermen themselves resort to dynamite fishing,” he says. “This kind of improper practice not only harms the environment but destroys the coral reefs that the fish call their home. With the fish gone, recreational divers and sport fishers are driven away, too—and that’s bad news for our local tourism.”
It’s important to be aware of the widespread and negative effects of improper fishing methods for the betterment of the thriving fishing community. And for anyone who’s curious enough to give the sport a shot, the Silver Jack Anglers Club (SJAC) of which Richard is the VP is always open for new hopefuls. Established in 1976, the SJAC has fishing trips almost every weekend, depending on the season, location, and weather forecast. Once a year, the group goes on a weeklong big game fishing tournament with three whole days of fishing. For this year, the group is hoping to reach a new destination in Aurora for some marlins and tuna. If you’d like to know more about the club and their activities, and would like to participate in future events, simply inquire from the Facebook page and look for the Club Secretary here: https://www.facebook.com/silverjack1976
What began as an eager curiosity from watching NatGeo shows turned into a burning passion for this humble entrepreneur. In the same way, Richard hopes to inspire newbies and provide them with much-needed encouragement and support. But when he’s not out promoting sport fishing, this eligible bachelor and car enthusiast spends his time enjoying the outdoor Manila breeze while running, and indulging in the simple joys of having coffee with good friends. “Anyone can get into the sport—it’s only a matter of whether or not you love what you do. After all, that’s what truly matters in the end, right?”
Yes, we can’t agree more.
*Photos are original.