May 26, 2024

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Malaysia Fishing – The Complete Guide

Reading Time: 10 minutes

When discussing premier fishing destinations, classic spots often overshadow fresh gems. However, fishing in Malaysia has long been on many global anglers’ radars. This nation, rich in culture and landscapes, with its rivers, lakes, and extensive coastlines, lures anglers from far and wide.

Malaysia is split by the South China Sea into Peninsular Malaysia and a section of the island of Borneo, known as East Malaysia. As you venture into Malaysia’s fishing scene, you’ll encounter everything from the tenacious Giant Snakehead to the coveted Malaysian Mahseer, Tuna, and even various types of Billfish. As you might have already guessed, fishing in Malaysia is pretty eclectic.

Beyond just locations, this guide offers a tour into time-tested local techniques and insights into the prime angling seasons. And that’s not to mention the crème de la crème of the fishing menu. So, without further ado…

Top Malaysia Fish Species

What can you catch while fishing in Malaysia? Well, he country boasts over 300 freshwater species alone. At the same time, its coastal waters promise epic battles with sought-after saltwater giants. Let’s delve deeper.


The Strait of Malacca’s shallow waters, reefs, and wrecks lie to the west of Malaysia. Here, you can battle fierce species like Amberjack and Giant Trevally, as well as Barracuda and Mackerel. For those preferring a different pace, the seabed offers Snappers and Groupers. On the eastern coast, the generous South China Sea attracts bait fish and, in turn, larger predators. Here are the stars of the show:

Giant Trevally

A man in sunglasses standing on a boat in Malaysia at sunset on a clear day, holding a Giant Trevally in front of his waist , with the roof above the console of the boat and waters visible behind him
Photo courtesy of Pulau Jarak Boat Charter

Among the apex predators roaming Malaysia’s coastal waters are Giant Trevally, commonly referred to as “GT.” These monsters are often the highlight of any saltwater trips, given their reputation for raw power and aggressive behavior.

Size is one of the GT’s defining attributes. While the average catch ranges from 10 to 80 pounds, they can reach up to 170 pounds. And the techniques have been refined over the years. Popping and stick baiting are the most popular methods, given the fact that GTs love surface action. These methods require a combination of the right equipment, physical strength, and persistence.

Kuala Rompin and Penang are top spots for GT fishing in Malaysia. These areas provide the right environment – a mix of reefs, atolls, and drop-offs – where GTs often hunt in packs.


Three anglers sat on the edge of the deck of a fishing boat in Malaysia on a sunny day, with two Sailfish spread across their laps, as the man in the middle holds his fingers up making a peace sign with both hands
Photo courtesy of Fishyology – Kuala Rompin

The allure of Malaysia’s deep blue is often encapsulated in one name: Billfish. Black Marlin are the stars of Kuala Rompin offshore charters. But this area is also renowned for its Sailfish population.

When targeting Billfish, your equipment must be strong and top-notch. Trolling is the most common method, employing either artificial lures or live baits. This is a game of patience. The thrill lies in the strike – that sudden tug, followed by the line screaming of the reel as the fish makes its first run.

Once hooked, both Sailfish and Marlin fight until the end, forcing you to constantly adjust to the fish’s moves. Who could resist such a challenge?

Yellowfin Tuna

A man in a sleeveless vest and baseball cap sitting on a fishing charter on a cloudy day and smiling as he holds a Yellowfin Tuna across his knees

Yellowfin Tuna, recognized by their distinctive bodies and bright yellow dorsal fins, are among the most sought-after game fish in the region. Native to warm oceanic waters, they hang out in the depths of Malaysia’s offshore grounds, especially around the Riau Islands.

While many catches range between 30–150 pounds, true giants can exceed 400 pounds. Their impressive size is complemented by raw power and endurance. Once hooked, Yellow2fins are known for their initial speed bursts, often taking hundreds of meters of line in seconds.

To tackle Yellowfins, trolling with skirted lures, cedar plugs, or live bait is most effective. Anglers often use heavy-duty reels and strong line, anticipating the fight of their lives. The key is to maintain steady pressure and exhaust your Tuna.


The country’s rivers and lakes, often located in dense jungles, are home to numerous predatory giants and exotic species. Meanwhile, the man-made fishing ponds provide opportunities to hook species that have been introduced such as Peacock Bass. Here’s our top pick:

Giant Snakehead

A man sitting on a river fishing boat in front of some mangroves in Malaysia on a cloudy day, while holding a Snakehead fish in front of his face
Photo courtesy of Lunkerlink Fishing Guide – Snakehead Fishing

Malaysia boasts the notorious Giant Snakehead. Often referred to as “Toman,” these fish are as aggressive as they come. Toman are known for their voracious appetites and aggressive territorial behavior.

Most Giant Snakeheads range from 3 to 20 pounds. However, in the right conditions and location, they can grow up to 40 pounds. Casting near structures or potential hiding spots is key, as Snakehead often lurk in the shadows, ready to ambush prey. The thrill is visual – watching as the water erupts when a Snakehead strikes is something you don’t want to miss.

Malaysian Mahseer

A man in a hat and sunglasses looking expressionless aboardf a river fishing boat in Malaysia on a cloudy day, as he holds a Mahseer fish
Photo courtesy of Lunkerlink Fishing Guide – Snakehead Fishing

Malaysian Mahseer are locally known as “Kelah.” With their bronze-gold hue and robust build, these fish are freshwater royalty. Typical catches in Malaysia range between 2–10 pounds, but the waters hold bigger treasures, with some catches exceeding 50 pounds.

Malaysia’s mountainous terrains, with clear, fast-flowing rivers, are prime habitats for the Mahseer. Techniques vary, but fly fishing definitely stands out. Anglers also use traditional bait fishing methods, with local fruits or even crustaceans as bait. Due to the Kelah’s finicky nature, bait choice and presentation become essential aspects of the hunt.

Peacock Bass

A man in a baseball cap and sunglasses sitting on a river fishing boat in Malaysia on a cloudy day and proudly displaying a Peacock Bass to the camera
Photo courtesy of Lunkerlink Fishing Guide

Peacock Bass are an exotic introduction to Malaysia’s freshwater scene. Originally from South America, these fish were introduced into the local waters in the late 20th century. Places like the Rawang and Semenyih Reservoirs are now recognized hotspots.

It’s not just their appearance that lures anglers. Peacock Bass are known for their aggressive strikes and spirited fights. Typically, they range between 1–5 pounds, but larger fish weighing over 10 pounds are not unheard of. Given the fish’s aggressive nature, surface lures, crankbaits, and jigs prove to be pretty effective.

How to Go Fishing in Malaysia

In order to navigate the diverse fishing landscapes of Malaysia, you need to understand various methods and spots specific to the region. Here’s a deep dive into the different ways to fish in Malaysia:

Malaysia Shore Fishing

A view from behind of two anglers sitting on a dock in Dickson Bay, Malaysia, fishing into the nearshore waters with the sun setting in the distance

While often overlooked by tourists, shore fishing, holds its own charm in Malaysia. The long coastlines, with sandy beaches, rocky outcrops, and estuaries, are ideal for targeting Groupers, Snappers, and the occasional Barramundi.

Techniques for shore fishing in Malaysia vary with the location. Anglers often go for bottom fishing using baits like shrimp, squid, or cut fish, especially in sandy or muddy areas. Rockier areas might see more lure fishing.

Pro tip: timing is crucial. Early mornings and late evenings are typically the best times, aligned with tidal movements.

Malaysia Freshwater Fishing

An image taken from a wooden fishing boat on a river in a national park in Malaysia on a cloudy day with murky waters visible leading to lush green mountains

Before you think of the coast, Malaysia possesses a vibrant freshwater angling scene. From tranquil lakes to jungle streams, the country’s rivers and lakes are home to Giant Snakehead, Malaysian Mahseer, and Jungle Perch. Techniques here often involve casting lures or baits, as well as fly fishing.

You can check out Royal Belum State or Taman Negara, renowned for its age-old rainforests. Plus, Malaysian fishponds, man-made water bodies, are stocked with native species and offer a unique experience for beginners and families.

Malaysia Nearshore and Deep Sea Fishing

A view from behind of a shirtless man wearing a back-to-front baseball cap aboard a fishing charter on a sunny day, as he's fishing into deep waters
Photo courtesy of Fishyology – Port Dickson

The distinction between Malaysia’s nearshore and deep-sea fishing experiences is sharp and rewarding. Amberjack, Trevally, and Mackerel are frequent stars of Kuala Lumpur and Penang’s nearshore grounds. Tactics here lean towards light trolling and jigging, often with a combination of live and artificial baits.

In contrast, Malaysia’s deep sea fishing is concentrated on the eastern coastline. The depths of the South China Sea are home to Yellowfin Tuna, Marlin, and Sailfish. Here, trolling dominates, with equipment like downriggers for precise depth control. Extended multi-day trips are popular, offering anglers the time to explore more ground.

Malaysia Charter Fishing

A view across the water towards a modern boat full of anglers ready to go fishing on a cloudy day in Malaysia
Photo courtesy of Pulau Jarak Boat Charter

If you’re looking for a hassle-free experience, Malaysia charter fishing is an excellent choice. The advantage of booking a trip with a local captain is the versatility it offers, accommodating both beginners seeking their first catch and seasoned anglers chasing a record.

Captains often tailor trips based on client preferences, be it targeting a specific species or exploring particular spots. Techniques, bait, and gear are all provided, with crews often giving hands-on training and tips. Plus, fun is almost always guaranteed!

Malaysia Traditional Fishing Techniques

Trolling and bottom fishing aside, traditional fishing methods in Malaysia allow you a glimpse into the practices indigenous communities have employed for centuries. Here’s a few of those techniques:

  • Bubu. A fish trap typically made of bamboo or rattan. It’s crafted with an entrance that lets fish in but restricts their exit. These traps are set in rivers or coastal areas, especially overnight.
  • Pancing Tonda. This is a traditional way of lure fishing using a circular lure made of mother-of-pearl, which attracts fish when it reflects light underwater.
  • Jala or Menjala. Locals throw circular nets, which spread out mid-air before sinking and capturing fish in shallow waters.
  • Sumpit. Similar to a blowgun, this involves shooting a dart to catch smaller fish in shallow waters. Originally made from bamboo, the dart’s precision and the angler’s accuracy make it an effective technique, especially when sight fishing.

Where to Go Fishing in Malaysia

Malaysia is home to a perfect mix of ancient rainforests, bustling cities, and extensive coastlines. From the South China Sea’s blue waters to the tranquil freshwater ponds nestled inland, those fishing in Malaysia are spoilt for choice.

Malaysia Saltwater Fishing Spots

An aerial view of a bay in the Andaman Sea in Malaysia on a day with sunny intervals, with turquoise waters near the shore giving way to darker waters further out and lush green mountains visible in the distance

The Strait of Malacca, bridging the gap between the Andaman Sea and the South China Sea, serves as an important maritime passage. However, it also presents a realm of angling possibilities. Kuala Lumpur, beyond its skyscrapers and busy streets, serves as a starting point for many fishing charters thanks to its closeness to the coast.

Then, there’s Port Dickson with its abundant trophies, while Penang, known for its heritage and street food, also boasts promising fishing grounds. The waters to the north and west of the island are teeming with fish like Groupers, Snappers, and Trevally.

Over on Borneo‘s northwest, the waters surrounding Sarawak are a deep sea fishing paradise. Anglers can pursue pelagic game and various reef dwellers, setting the stage for bottom fishing and trolling.

Further enhancing Malaysia’s fishing menu is the Kepulauan Riau archipelago. While closer to Indonesia, the islands of Batam and Bintan are popular spots for Malaysian anglers.

Malaysia Freshwater Fishing Spots

The interior of Malaysia provides freshwater enthusiasts with a myriad of opportunities. Here’s a list of spots for you to explore:

  • Taman Negara. One of the world’s oldest rainforests, this national park’s rivers are a sanctuary for species like the Malaysian Jungle Perch and Giant Snakehead. The untouched wilderness adds to the allure.
  • Royal Belum State Park. Nestled in the state of Perak, this ancient rainforest is dotted with lakes and rivers. Here, you can catch Catfish, Tilapia, and the Malaysian Mahseer.
  • Rawang. A short drive from Kuala Lumpur, the ponds in Rawang are stocked with species like Catfish, Tilapia, and Barb.
  • Shah Alam. Another easily accessible spot near Kuala Lumpur, these ponds cater to anglers looking for specific species. Plus, they also host fishing competitions.
  • Kinabatangan River. Flowing through Sabah, this river is home to unique species, making it a prime spot for freshwater fishing in Borneo.

When to Go Fishing in Malaysia

A view across the waters of Malaysia towards the setting sun in the distance, with blue skies on the right of the image and a storm coming in from the right
Photo courtesy of Blue Oceans Charters – Kuala Rompin

Fishing in Malaysia is good year-round. However, understanding the nuances of the country’s fishing calendar can turn a good trip into one you won’t soon forget.

Malaysia’s equatorial climate ensures warm waters. It’s drenched in sunlight for most of the year – a critical factor for active fish. The northeast monsoon from November to March might have heavy downpours, especially on the east coast. However, this also marks the Billfish season. Kuala Rompin, in particular, is the go-to spot for Sailfish during these months.

The west coast’s waters, including the Strait of Malacca, remain relatively calmer during the northeast monsoon. Places like Penang and Port Dickson are perfect if you’re after Trevally, Snappers, and Groupers.

Freshwater enthusiasts should take note of peak seasons, too. Giant Snakehead are most active at the start and end of the rainy season. Heading into the waters of Taman Negara or Royal Belum State Park around these times will reward you with these aggressive fighters at the end of your fishing line.

Malaysia Fishing Rules and Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of Malaysia followed by text that says "Malaysia Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know" along with the FishingBooker logo against a blue background

Fishing in Malaysia is a perfect mix of freedom and responsibility. No fishing license is required to cast a line in these waters. However, the freedom to fish comes with a few rules and regulations.

Catch and release isn’t just a trend. It’s a strongly advocated practice, backed by both local government and fishing communities. This is particularly emphasized for Coral Trout, Sharks, and Sailfish. The Strait of Malacca accounts for nearly half of Malaysia’s total fish harvest. Unfortunately, neighboring nations also heavily fish these waters. This has resulted in a significant strain on the marine ecosystem.

In addition, the Spratly Islands are a hotbed of geopolitical tensions with multiple nations. Make sure to explore these waters with caution.

Fishing in Malaysia: Where Rainforests Meet Reels

A view across the water of a coastal, mountainous region of Malaysia on a sunny day, with a few traditional boats visible in the foreground

Fishing in Malaysia offers an experience that’s simply unparalleled. From the tranquil backwaters in dense forests to the rod-bending action on the coasts, Malaysia has it all. Arm yourself with knowledge, book a trip with a local guide, and get ready for your next adventure in the heart of Southeast Asia!

Have you ever been fishing in Malaysia? Which part of the country is your favorite? Let us know in the comment below!

The post Malaysia Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: Malaysia Fishing: The Complete Guide
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Published Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2023 12:45:34 +0000

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