This article features a short review of the best fishing spots I have had the pleasure to visit during my travels through the Island of Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. I have seen many changes related to tourism on the Island and felt like sharing this aspect as well. I will briefly point out the travel conditions including the level of infrastructure and accessibility at the fishing locations.
Lombok is an island rich in culture and stories. It was only a matter of time before tourism would set foot on the Island. The fast paced tourism development has reached a level at which Lombok can be considered a good alternative for escaping the increasingly congested island of Bali. Nevertheless, as a maritime tourism destination, Lombok still has many virgin and unspoiled beaches waiting for both beach-lovers and anglers seeking quietness and natural beach settings. Indeed when travelling the east and south coasts of Lombok, seclusion and silence dominate the atmosphere. And it’s exactly this remoteness that renders the journey interesting to me.
But let’s not discuss the tourism development of these two Islands. Let’s talk about fishing! Travellers in search for cultural authenticity, still relatively unchanged by tourism and time, will find plenty of joy in Lombok. Anglers keen on exploring not only Lombok’s fishing spots but also its people, landscapes and the underwater world will be more than pleased.
I have been fishing several times in the east and south coast of Lombok, every time coming back with a wonderful memory. Many sports fisher companions ask me when I will be back to fish with them in Lombok or shoot a documentary project. I never know when that will be, but I know I will be back for sure. The fishing ground of Lombok is always on my mind and I am longing to once more live a colourful fishing story looking for predatory fish in their sea.
The Eastern Fishing Grounds of Lombok
I will start this review from the eastern tip of Lombok, precisely around Pink Beach and Tanjung Rengit. The Eastern end of Lombok is relatively far from the main traffic routes. I explored the area about two years ago and to reach both points we drove around two to three hours from Mataram, the capital city. The last half hour, the road conditions are quite bumpy and damaged, so a strong vehicle is a must, especially during rainy season. That goes especially during the rainy season as the vehicle can easily become trapped in the muddy ground.
Overlooking the distant Island of Sumbawa, both Pink Beach and Tanjung Rengit offer a spectacular view and have an extraordinary charm. As the name suggests, the sand is coloured in pink tones. A typical phenomenon resulting from millions of tiny broken corals crushed by the waves and washed up to the mainland. Steep cliffs towering above the sea compose the west side of Tanjung Rengit. For anglers, these formations invite a sense of excitement as it offers amazing popping conditions for throwing and playing our baits continuously.
Having been to this spot a few times, I have to honestly say the expected strikes were not always in line with the energy and effort we spent. Arguably this is a symptom of over fishing. Especially at night, many large ships operate in the area and the use of environmentally damaging fishing methods result in shrunken fish populations. At times I felt disappointed. I had spent a full day combing the cliffs in the west of Tanjung Rengit but got no strike from the giant trevally monster I was hoping for. During my last fishing trip there, I did not want to regret a prolonged stay and decided to direct my fishing journey to the South coast of Lombok, precisely to the area of Sekotong, located at about one and a half hours from Mataram city.
The Southern Fishing Grounds of Lombok
The first time I went to Sekotong, the road conditions were less than favourable and in general, the area was considered remote. Nowadays, the roads connecting Mataram and Lembar to Sekotong are intact and quite smooth. From Lembar, even the east end of the area, for example, Bangko-Bangko, is now easily accessible. Despite its narrow width and occasionally sharp turns, the road is in good conditions. The coastal area of Sekotong has recently been targeted from local and international tourists and has prepared adequate infrastructure to receive them. On the way, you can find many small and large inns. Various warungs/ food stalls can be spotted along the way although restaurants are not on the list. Diving and snorkelling operators have emerged in the area and private cottages along the coast and on the small islands have been built. During my journey someone told me the area was once known as “The Gulf of Loneliness”, but I guess that belongs to the past. Sekotong and its surroundings have ben set to become a new maritime tourist destination.
In my opinion, the waters around the Bay of Sepi, better known by Sekotong, are a complete fishing ground offering various different fishing spots. For popping techniques, we can find steep cliffs at the eastern end of Sekotong and Tanjugan Berarus, around Tanjung Gendang and Bango-Bangko. Surrounded by many small islands (Gili) with wide reefs and drop offs the central part of Sekotong is most entertaining for sports fisher. Many of those reefs are relatively hidden and remain quiet from the diving and snorkelling crowds. With the right currents and a little bit of luck, quick strikes are guaranteed. And the best part: no competition – the ocean is ours, only small local fisher boats come to fish in this area. Nevertheless, we must carefully calculate the best timing for the trip.
The Right Season for Fishing in Southern Lombok
In regards to the best season for fishing on the southern coast of Lombok Island, I always refer to the sea guidance of the tribe of Bajo, a tribe of sailors who live scattered throughout Indonesia including the coastal areas of Lombok.
The West wind blows between November and April. In this season the currents tend to be strong and the swell high. This is perfect for popping but we should understand the situation, meaning we can’t fish all day because sometimes the wind changes make the sea surface choppy, and therefore unfit for popping. From May to September the east wind blows accompanied by strong winds and very strong currents. While the turquoise waters may seem safe, be warned that there are very strong currents flowing between the islands and underestimating their power can become dangerous. My advice for this season: Fish from the beach, look out for rabbit fish (Haha). September and October are the best season for fishing in Lombok. The Bajo tribe call this season simbar tangga (transition). The wind is very calm and the currents are good for fishing.
Other than choosing the right season we have to look out for the calendar month. My advice is not to fish when the moon brights up the sky (full moon). Understanding the weather conditions about monsoons and knowledge about the lunar calendar greatly help us achieve the best results and stay safe during the trip.
The Adequate Gear
For the choice of tackle and lures for the best popping experience in Lombok, I recommend the 10’000 high gear ratio and heavy-duty reel. Rod class between PE 5 to PE 8 is the most appropriate choice. There is no need for a PE 12 rod tackle when fishing in Southern Lombok. I do not say this because I doubt the physical strength of the angler, but because in fact, the size of giant trevally in these waters ranges from about 10 to 25kg. Therefore it only becomes physically draining to use very heavy duty. For the leaders, we can use the power of 150 – 180 lbs. When I fish in Lombok, I often use a leader with a strength of only 150 lbs regular soft leader line rather than a stiff shock leader.
For the choice of the lure, there are a ton of options out there. Personally, for this region, I had the best results using Batanta Pink Lady 80g. With this lure, I got strikes from Bluefin trevally, black tip sharks and some nice giant trevally. If we are talking about size, for the largest GT I ever caught in Lombok I used Batanta Island popper 100g. For me, catch-and-release is how I practice angling. I am a sports angler, not a fisherman. Whatever species you catch in this region, especially species protected by law such as the black tip sharks and others, release them back to the sea. The region, even though rich in sea life, is suffering due to overfishing and bombing.
Boats in Southern Lombok
What boats are concerned, the southern coast of Lombok offers quite a choice of fishing boats, all owned by the communities. The average engine capacity is 40 PK, but speedboats with 150 PK engine capacity or even more can also be found. Diving operators usually run these speedboats and therefore they are not free for rental. The most likely option is to rent a boat owned by fishermen. The fishermen in Lombok usually have some experience and prepare the boats to be fit for a fishing tour. The boats are safe and clean and the owners knowledgeable. When practising popping on these small fishing boats, not more than two anglers can throw their baits together. So if there are more than two anglers on the boat we have to switch turns to throw our baits. Even so, for me, these small fishing boats are the best choice, because the fishermen understand about sports fishing and its characters. Their knowledge about the spots and the southern sea of Lombok enlarge our possibilities of success.
In conclusion – Why southern Lombok
Interestingly, when we talk about fishing at Sepi Bay, a one to two days trip here will bring great satisfaction in terms of the variety of spots to explore and expected catch results. Not to mention the bonus of the beautiful region and landscape. What I mean is, if we get tired of fishing, we can easily dock at the small islands (Gili) and enjoy the beautiful white sandy beaches. Parts of these islands are still pristine while others have been transformed into touristy islands. Despite this, they maintain their peaceful charm of tropical small islands surrounded by turquoise waters. In conclusion, I have to say, for me personally, the south of Lombok always makes me long to throw my Batanta popper and tempt the giant trevally to bite. I have explored the Island and Lombok’s fishing spots several times and can guide anglers to the most promising fishing grounds to experience the sensation of fishing in this amazing region. One life some big fish!(Michael Risdianto)