The fishing I experienced in Thailand can also be effectively split into two parts.
The target (or bigger) species, and secondly: any smaller types of fish.
I am probably not going to say too much about the larger species (although that may change as I write), far too many others have extolled their virtues. I am certainly not going to list them, fish by fish, as I caught them. All are hard fighting fish, and as I said before, a main objective of the trip was to get into contact with some real scrappers, some large fish of exotic origins.
At least a dozen red tailed Amazonian catfish fell to my rod. Some good sized ones, none of record breaking proportions though. They were my favourites: beautiful spotty heads, with gaping mouths, long barbules and a skull you wouldn't easily dent with a large jack hammer. My first one took a deadbait, a small herring like fish, but I later found that even small baits were a suitable enticement for these cats. They seemed to prefer the marginal parts of the lake, but maybe that was because any unused fish baits were tipped into the lake by the ghillies each evening. Right into the shallows.
|Red Tailed Catfish|
The second species I caught were Siamese carp. Half a dozen or so. I didn't get the largest caught during the week, but had fish to maybe thirty five pounds. Apparently that is none too big for the species, but they all gave a good account of themselves.
|Small and Peaceful Siamese Carp|
The fish above is probably the smallest I caught and is a lot better looking than the bigger specimens were. Nice edging of red on some of the fins. The fish is being held by one of the ghillies. I wasn't about to get myself wet for the smaller fish. Some of the slightly larger fish were less than happy about my staying fairly dry:
|Larger and Stroppier Siamese Carp|
|Small Siamese, Big Gob.|
I foulhooked one carp, and it went rather ballistic, charging off at warp 6 speed. It was not long though, before the line went slack and the hook provided the evidence: a single scale was firmly attached, that to the best of my knowledge, was a scale from a Siamese carp.
Sizes mentioned here must be taken with a pinch of salt. That is not to say they have been exaggerated, rather the converse. I erred on the conservative. Weighing the fish would have been difficult at times, especially for some species, so sizes were estimated. One ghillie was on a work experience trip. Cheap labour maybe, but nevertheless, far better for him than selling fries in MacDonald's. I don't think he had much real angling experience. Got on well with him. He was almost as daft as I am. He tried hard but didn't quite make my grade of idiot. The other was a dyed in the wool carp angler, one who had stayed on at the lake, having bartered some extra fishing in exchange for work as a ghillie on site. He was OK, a good bloke but only the carp seemed to really matter to him, and he spent considerable time trying to get me to chase carp as my main quarry. He failed. So the two ghillies, I soon realised, were less experienced at estimating fish sizes that I was myself. And it had to be faced, fish of the sort of sizes caught in Thailand are rare in the UK, and no matter how much I measure the photos, and calculate lengths, girths and weights, there is always going to be a degree of guesswork involved, especially with the bigger fish. Which brings me on to the third target species: Arapaima.
Arapaima are another South American species, and one that grows very big indeed. They are a little different in that they breathe air, coming to the surface at intervals to take a breath. In Thailand they appear to be bred especially for fishing resorts ( but possibly also as a food source). The weather conditions and climate certainly suit them, and they probably have comparable growth rates to those in the Amazonian areas where they are normally found. I read that in South America, they are somewhat endangered, so perhaps breeding programmes in Thailand can only be a good thing. It would be sad to lose such a really large and spectacular fish species from the planet. Better to have some specimens outside of their usual haunts than to have none at all.
I landed three arapaima, all weighing into three figures, with the largest, best guess/estimate, being about 205 pounds. This took quite some time to land, with my legs actually turning to jelly part way through the fight. I sat down to complete the process. Now I don't think the fight should have taken anywhere near that long, but the lake's owners specified that they be played very lightly. I had to allow the ghillies to set my clutch. This setting was, I am sure, only about 3 or 4 pounds, to judge from the bend in the rod when the reel gave line. ( I may have sneaked the odd bit of finger onto the spool at times though). I was told that despite their size, arapaima are delicate fish, and would suffer if played too hard. My own thoughts on this differ: I feel that playing a fish for such a long time is bound to stress it more. I would rather have had the fish in the net in about twenty minutes, and I saw no reason why that would not have happened had the clutch been set differently.
|200 Pounds of Fish Makes Quite a Hole in the Lake, After Surfacing to Breathe During the Fight.|
|200 Pound Plus. Lovely Red Edging to Most of its Scales.|
Other occasional captures on my float gear were small Asian retail catfish. They were quite astonishing fish, with highly flexible whiskers almost as long as their bodies.
|Asian RedTailed Catfish|
Note the green perch bobber float. It was made by a guy called Mike Cootes, who calls himself the Purple Peanut...or maybe he just calls his website such. But he makes absolutely beautiful floats. So nice that I am almost reluctant to use them. But equally it would be such a shame not to use them. A bit like having a Ferrari that never leaves the garage. So I used them for catching small fish in the margins. I feel that I should now use the term "Peanutting" to describe the very action of messing around in the margins to catch tiddlers. The float worked well.
But this tackle did not just attract small fish. Three times that size 16 hook, carrying a minuscule bit of bait, less than half the size of a pea, hooked into something far bigger. Three times my precious peanutting float was dragged eighty, ninety, maybe a hundred yards down the lake. As the float became more distant, my fear of losing it increased in proportion, if not exponentially. In each case I fought back, bringing the fish most of the way back. But then the light line gave way. The fish had not broken the line, but had abraded it, reducing its strength. The last few inches of line felt rough to the touch when I reeled in after losing the fish. I suspect all three were good sized red tailed catfish, which had taken a tiny bait. The cats have abrasive pads just inside the mouth, very similar to a Wels catfish, but also that hard head might well have guaranteed the destruction of my line. Three exciting ten minute sessions. I should have liked to have landed one of them, and maybe I should have spent more time "Peanutting" for them, so that Mike could have had a more spectacular photo of his float and fish, but the five pound line was far from ideal, and my chances of success were reduced by it.
|OK I Cheated. I Caught this One in the Landing Net. Bye.|