It was a few years ago when I lived in Hong Kong. I decided to move there after graduating from college. A good friend of mine was already working in Hong Kong and he convinced me to come and try to work there as well. So I packed my bags and headed to the “far east” to try something new. I started working as an English teacher. Life there was fast and exciting. The night life was amazing and I felt like I had landed on another planet! But soon I adapted to this exciting new lifestyle and it became a normal way of life for me. It was around this time that my inner urges and curiosity as a “born fisherman” forced me to wonder if Hong Kong’s busy harbor might have any fish worth chasing. I felt like I was ten years old again and wondering if Toronto Harbor had any fish to catch! I found out back then that there were fish there, “why can’t they be here too?” I wondered.
Finding information about fishing in Hong Kong was quite difficult at first due to the language barrier. I kept asking and finally talked to my barber and he told me to go to a nearby fishing shop and talk to them about the fishing possibilities. I was so excited at the time because I knew if there was a fish shop, there had to be some kind of fishing! So right after my haircut, I rushed to the local fish store! When I walked through the store doors there was a large board with fishing pictures on it. I scanned them all, I saw pictures of squid caught on rods and reels, pictures of GTs caught on oil rigs, snappers caught on tropical beaches and areas that looked like mangroves and then I saw a picture of something that looked more like my fingertips. I saw photos of this giant fish being caught at night on the lit shores of the urban city. It looked like a bass and had the spots of sea trout, the mouth of a large mouth, and the gleam of a steel head. All of these features were things that were equivalent to the fish that I must catch!
After seeing the fish he wanted to target, it was time to figure out what he was going to need to know to catch this fish. I started trying to talk to the guys who worked at the store, especially the guy I saw on the board with all those giant fish. I brought it up to the board and pointed to that amazing looking fish I was longing to get in contact with. Then he answered me in Cantonese “ahhh, lo yu”. So the fish on the board was called “lo yu”, but I soon found out that it was called Sea bass in English. I started trying to explain how I would love to catch this thing and asked where to go. The guy seemed a bit confused, but after a lot of broken English and Pictionary-style sign language, he started to catch on to me. He then took me to the wall of lures and pointed out a group of red head white body minnow baits. So I chose a few but then the guy took over and suggested a few. I gladly accepted his help and walked out with a variety of lures. The lures consisted of lipless and rattleless crank baits, sturdy pencils that barely broke the surface, and a variety of bait sizes for minnows from 2 to 6 inches in natural colors and red heads in floating and sinking models.
The next day I went back with some of my rod and reel equipment to see if I had the proper equipment to bring these things. I had a couple of calcuttas rolled with a 14 pound proof on a seven foot six and a half rod, both on medium stock. The guy looked at him and said, “Okay!” and he gave me the thumbs up! I asked him where I should go and he told me the port of “Wan Chai”. My bilingual friend who was with me at the time asked if he could come with him and his friends sometime and he said no problem come next week and we’ll be out of the store around 7pm. may. He said that we were going to use this money to rent a boat. Next week finally arrived and I was off to the shop to meet the local tackle shop guys! There were three boys waiting with the same excited anxiety that I had with their tackle on their backs and their rods in hand. We couldn’t speak the same language, but I had a good feeling that we could definitely bridge that gap through a love of fishing! So we all jumped into the taxi and took off for the port. When we got there, there was a man in a rice hat waiting in one of those junk boats you see in Bruce Lee movies. We all got into his boat and headed for the middle of Wan Chai Harbor. It took about ten minutes to get to some parked boats. The ships were well lit so there was a light to dark shadow line created by the light from the ships. The guys at the store pointed at me and told me to cast along the shadow line and between the docks and the boats. I was beginning to like what I was beginning to understand about these fish. It was becoming clear that these fish behave a bit like a big mouth. Before I made my first pitch, I was overwhelmed by the futuristic beauty around me! It was an awesome moment, I felt like I was fishing in the movie Blade runner! The Hong Kong skyline at night is a sight to see, especially when you’re fishing in the middle of the harbor and surrounded by everything! It’s so hard to put into words, but all I can say is that I will never forget that moment and it gives me chills as I write this very second.
After my exciting moment, I ran to the front of the boat and cast a cast next to a giant boat with a Yo-Zuri Red Live vibratory bait. I dragged it expecting a bite but got nothing. All the actors felt that they were going to bite me. Around my 10th pitch, I threw a beautiful pitch under a rope and between two boats where the lights from the boats fell on the water. As soon as I hooked up my reel, I felt a heavy thug on my rod. I got into it and the thing started creeping like a steelhead on steroids! After a strong and heavy run, an approximately 6 pound fish shot out of the water like a giant smallmouth! I couldn’t believe it was only 6lbs, the thing fought like you wouldn’t believe it! The local guys were quite impressed and surprised how I was able to get my casts in there like that, but they didn’t know how long I’ve been bass fishing in Canada. As the night progressed, the fishing continued to improve as the tide level began to recede. I later learned that when the water level in the harbor is at its highest and the tide starts to ebb, that’s when the fishing is best. So the new moon and full moon periods were the best. When the water and tide are calm, fishing these things is the worst, it’s like fishing in a severe cold front situation up here. From what I understand, I think the tide churns the water up and oxygenates it a lot and in turn creates fish activity.
Anyway, we must have caught about twenty of these crazy fish between 2 and 8 pounds. Although I did lose a giant (maybe 14lbs or so) in the 8lb test on medium light action spinning equipment. I couldn’t do anything with that light bar, the fish just took off and snapped me around a piling. I left that bar for the night and stuck with my heavy action bass rods. As we headed out for the night, we made one last stop on a boat that was a harborside restaurant. Light was coming out of this boat too, the guy at the shop threw a pencil bait next to the boat and nailed a nicer one about ten pounds! The people eating on the boat were cheering, it was hilarious! We didn’t catch anything after that and the tide was pretty calm at the time so we decided to turn back. Boy oh boy was I happy, that was the best 25 bucks I’ve ever spent!
As for the rest of my days in Hong Kong, I discovered that there were plenty of other places to fish.
shore at night. Any well lit part of the harbor front that also had shade was becoming obvious to me that the fish might be holding on. I fished all over town and caught a lot of giants in the twenty pound range! To my surprise, very few people were fishing for these beautiful creatures, I know that in Japan fishermen would have taken advantage of this opportunity. When I met other fishermen, they were only fishing for food and not so much for sport. I was surprised that most of them didn’t believe in lures and I was surprised when I caught one with something artificial. It is still a mystery how big the population of Hong Kong is and how small the population that actually goes fishing is. They do not know what they lose! Bass continues to be one of my favorite fish to catch. Who wouldn’t want to catch a fish that acts like a big mouth, fights like a steel head on steroids, and jumps like a small mouth! I can’t wait to go to other cities around the world to find out what other urban gems are hiding below the surface!