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    Entries in inshore fishing (4)


    Species Profile: Seer fish, Spanish Mackerels and King Mackerel

    Looking for some hot inshore action in Taiwan? Consult a seer.

    Within the family of mackerels, bonitos and tunas known as Scombridae, the genus Scomberomorus includes a wide range of species commonly known as seer fish (sometimes seerfish), Spanish mackerels or king mackerels depending on geography and specific species. Taiwan’s waters are home to five varieties of seer fish—a term I’ll use generically for the genus.

    Seer fish are among the more commonly caught near shore game fish on the island, and can be fished both from shore and boat. Fast and aggressive, they are both challenge and a delight on light tackle, whether one is throwing lures or fishing with bait. Seer fish can be found from inshore waters to the continental shelf including coastal reefs, bays, estuaries and lagoons.

    Here is a quick breakdown of the common local species:

    Scientific name: Scomberomorus commersonScomberomorus commerson

    Common names: narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, barred Spanish mackerel

    Chinese names: 康氏馬鮫, 土魠, 馬加, 馬鮫, 梭齒, 頭魠, 鰆

    Size range: Up to 240 cm.



    Scientific name: Scomberomorus guttatusScomberomorus guttatus

    Common names: spotted seer fish, spotted seer, spotted Spanish mackerel, Indo-Pacific king mackerel, Indian Spanish mackerel, Indo-Pacific Spanish mackerel

    Chinese names: 斑點馬鮫, 白北, 白腹仔

    Size range: Up to 76 cm



    Scientific name: Scomberomorus koreanusScomberomorus koreanus

    Common names: Korean seer fish, Korean mackerel

    Chinese names: 朝鮮馬鮫, 破北, 闊北, 闊腹仔 

    Size range: Up to 150 cm



    Scientific name: Scomberomorus niphoniusScomberomorus niphonius

    Common names: spotted Spanish mackerel, Japanese Spanish mackerel, Japanese seer fish

    Chinese names: 藍點馬鮫, 正馬加, 尖頭馬加, 馬嘉

    Size range: Up to 100 cm



    Scientific name: Scomberomorus sinensisScomberomorus sinensis

    Common names: Chinese seer fish 

    Chinese names: 中華馬鮫, 馬加, 大耳, 西達, 中華鰆 

    Size range: Up to 218 cm



    A wide variety of techniques can be used for catching seer fish, kings and Spanish mackerels. In Taiwan, most are caught on lures and jigs fished both from shore and boats. Trolling is also productive, though not as popular on the Island. Bait, both live and dead, can be used as well. Our friends over at Sport Fishin’ Asia have a nice write-up on rigging live bait for Spanish Mackerel.

    Lure anglers prefer bright flashy jigs, spoons (particularly Clark spoons) and plugs that can be worked quickly through the water, whether vertically or near the surface. One may be tempted to rig a wire leader—these species do have notoriously sharp teeth—but keep in mind that these large mackerels have equally sharp eyesight and may shy from heavy wire. It’s a choice between more hookups vs. fewer strikes but more hooked fish landed.


    Target Species: Striped Bonito

    Family: Scombridae

    Scientific name: Sarda orientalis

    Common names: striped bonito, oriental bonito, Mexican bonito

    Chinese names: 齒鰆 (chih chun), 东方狐鲣, (dōngfāng hú jiān)

    Habitat: Bonito usually congregate in schools close to coastal areas, over reefs and near islands.

    Size range: While they have been recorded up to 102 cm, specimens in the 50 cm range are much more common.

    Fast, aggressive, compact and wily — everything about the striped bonito says “fun” for the light tackle saltwater angler. They are like the guest you hope shows up at a drab party who can dj, dance and tell hilarious jokes, all while mixing cocktails. In other words, they are always welcome.Striped Bonito (Photo by Chinese Academy of Fisheries Sciences)

    On a size scale, bonitos occupy a space between mackerels and tunas. Don’t let their compact size fool you; they pack a lot of punch in their little bodies. The striped bonito can be distinguished from its slightly larger cousins the Pacific (Sarda chiliensis lineolata) and Australian (Sarda australis) by the greater concentration of vertical stripes running head to tail down the upper portion of its body. 

    Bonito feed primarily a marine crustaceans, small fish and squid. Wherever one finds large schools of baitfish near the surface in Taiwan, the striped bonitos are usually not far off. They are found along every coastal area of Taiwan and the outlying islands.  

    A wide variety of tactics and tackle options are open to bonito anglers. Trolling spoons and feathered lures works well. In Taiwan, where trolling isn’t always an option for the average angler, still fishing from a boat or shore with metal jigs, stick lures, spoons and anything that imitates an injured baitfish should result in interest if bonito are in the vicinity.

    Interest doesn’t always guarantee a hookup or even a strike, however. Aggressive hunters they may be, but striped bonito can be crafty as well, and get skittish once one of their fellow schoolmates is hooked. Individual fish will sometimes pursue, even bump a lure before breaking off the attack at the last second if something doesn’t look right. Low visibility leaders are recommended, and be prepared to change lure color, retrieve speed and depth to find what the bonito are responding to given the immediate conditions.

    Of course, all their clever caution goes out the window when a school goes into a feeding frenzy, and then the fish will seem to strike at anything thrown their way. Once hooked, especially on a lighter rod, get ready for a an exciting little tussle.

    As an eating fish, bonito sometimes don’t get the respect they are due, especially in western regions where some find them too strong tasting. Smoked or barbecued, they can be delicious. Better yet, try some bonito sashimi. If you prefer milder flavor, just cut away the darker red flesh.


    Fishing Report: Keelung Overnight Hairtail Trip

    One of the many hairtails caught on our overnight trip off Keelung.A steamy, sticky mid-July weekend in northern Taiwan, there is no better time or place to leave the land behind and take to the water for an all-night fishing adventure. With this in mind, coworker and de facto fishing partner Patrick and I hooked up with Edward Lee from Jigging Master and made our way to Shenao Harbor just southeast of Keelung for some light inshore jigging action. Our main target for this trip was hairtail — aka cutlass fish, saber fish or bai dai yu (白帶魚) in Chinese.

    We met up at the Jigging Master shop in Nangang and organized our gear for the night. Since at this point all my tackle in Taiwan is for freshwater angling, we opted to rent a pair of lightweight jigging rods, perfect for hairtail or most any other inshore species we happened upon. We also purchased a couple of jigs and rigging for bait fishing (those jigging arms do get tired).

    At about 4:30 p.m., we piled into Edward’s van and headed out to harbor with a quick stop along the way for B&B – bait and beer. Soon we were rolling up to our vessel. Now I’m familiar with the term “party boat” as it is applied in my native California to any large group or charter vessel 20 to 40 or so anglers. Here they seem to take the term a bit more literally. Along with our Jigging Master group of ten plus anglers, there were another eight or so individuals who seemed to be well into their cups long before the lines were cast off, including several scantily clad ladies in their best high-seas high heels and halter tops, who were singing bawdy drinking songs and whooping it up in general.Jigging Master team rig up.

    Soon enough, we were putting out to sea and making the 10 minute run to the fishing grounds. Hairtail are found close to shore and it was apparent where the fish were congregating from the line of other fishing vessels situated a mile or so off Keelung Harbor. Within no time, we were drifting among the other boats, dropping and flipping jigs over the side in search of a hook up. Cutlass fish can be found anywhere in the near-shore water column from around 500 meters right up on the surface. We started off vertical jigging various depths, working the jigs back up to the surface waiting for the unmistakable strike.

    It wasn’t long until we were into the fish. Not the strongest saltwater species, cutlass fish still put up a respectable fight, particularly the larger ones. They will occasionally swim toward the boat, leading you to think you’ve lost your fish, only to change direction and renew the battle. Most of the fish were in the two-foot range with a few pushing a meter. They are truly a strange and beautiful species with their scaless metallic skin, eel-like bodies and needle-sharp teeth.

    It wasn’t long before the sea around us was alive with creatures of all shapes and sizes drawn in by the boat’s bright lights. Tiny crabs and other crustaceans flitted about and large balls of baitfish swarmed just below the surface. Small groups of trumpet fish and flying fish cruised about hoping for an easy meal. Opportunistic mackerel and their larger cousins the striped bonito soon followed. 

    Few inshore species can match bonito for light tackle fun and we were quickly tossing jigs, hoping to entice these wily-yet-aggressive predators to bite. A few did and rewarded us with short frenetic battles.Edward with a freshly caught bonito.

    As our jigging arms tired, we switched to bait rigs consisting of a large lead drop sinker on wire leader with a perpendicular wire rigged with a rubber octopus skirt and four close-set  1/0 bait holder hooks.  We had purchased what resembled a pizza box packed with four-inch strips of fish earlier on the way to the boat. A single strip could be strung onto all four hooks. While the bait proved to be as productive as the jigs, it seemed everthing was now homing in on our lines, including packs of voracious and ultimately useless pufferfish. At one point I managed to hook three of these swimming pincushions at once and spent a good 15 minutes attempting to gingerly extricated the tangle of hooks from their flopping bodies.

    Looking for a change of pace, I switched rigs again, this time to a dropper rig with four flies hoping to entice a few mackerel onto my line. I didn’t have to wait long before I was hooking one, two, three and finally four fish at a time.

    I finished the evening with another nice bonito just as the sun was rising over the Taiwan Strait. Patrick had long since found a bunk below to grab a quick nap. Soon we were heading back to port with an ice chest packed with cutlass fish, mackerel, one tiger fish and a trio of bonito (eaten as sashimi later Sunday night).

    Our haul for the evening.Cost for the trip: NT$1,500 for boat (noodle dinner with fresh fish and squid included), NT$300 for rod and reel rental, NT$500 for jig, flies, weights and bait rig, and NT$200 for box of frozen bait. So, the total came to about NT$2,500 per person. Not bad for a night of fishing, and of course it would have been cheaper if I had my own saltwater tackle and rods with me.

    Jigging Master arranges these sorts of trips throughout the summer, as well as seasonal offshore trips for bigger species like amberjack, tuna and dorado.


    Species Profile: Japanese Sea Bass or Suzuki

    Family: Percichthyidae

    Scientific names: Lateolabrax japonicus

    Common names: Japanese sea bass, sea bass, Suzuki, (Chinese) rih ben jhen lu

    Habitat: Bays, lagoons, surf, near-shore reefs, harbors and estuaries.

    Size range: Can grow to over a meter, but more commonly found in the 50-70 cm range.

    Angling tactics: Similar to those for barramundi. Live baits and lures fished near the surface alongside structure seem to work best. Many anglers favor lighter saltwater rods (or medium to heavy freshwater) rigged with 12 to 16-pound line. 

    From Tokyo Bay to Hong Kong Harbor, the Japanese sea bass or suzuki is one of the most popular inshore fishing targets in East Asia. Part of the reason for its popularity is ease of access, since it is as at home congregating around man-made structures such as piers and jetties it can easily be fished from shore. Hong Kong anglers often go out at night in small boats at the peak of the flood tide and cast lures into the shadow of moored container ships for trophy sized sea bass.

    Sea bass are usually found near the surface, making them prime targets for plugs, poppers and saltwater flies. Many of the tactics used in North America for striped bass seem to work well for suzuki, and the two species are comparable in other respects, such as migrating from brackish estuaries and bays to deeper water to spawn. Striped bass and Japanese sea bass are similar enough in flavor and texture that farmed U.S. hybrid striped bass has been introduced into Asian markets as a suzuki substitute.

    Individuals of the one or two kilogram size are frequently found in estuaries, but larger specimens in the 10 kg range are not unheard of in harbors and river mouths.

    In Taiwan sea bass are often found alongside barramundi on the island’s west coast, but the bass are somewhat more tolerant of cooler water and therefore range further north into the Danshui and Keelung Harbor areas. Also like barramundi, sea bass are farmed extensively in Taiwan and can be fished for in commercial ponds.

    Though generally referred to as suzuki in Japanese sport fishing circles, that name actually applies one of five stages of the fishes development. Those stages and corresponding names are:

    l          under 30cm "Hanego"

    l          from 30 to 50cm "Seigo"

    l          from 50 to 70cm "Hukko"

    l          from 70 to 90cm "Suzuki"

    l          over 90cm "Nyudo"

    The Japanese consider suzuki to a harbinger of good luck and it is highly prized by sushi chefs for its delicate flavor.