Do you dream of one day catching a carp so big it defies imagination?
Or a catfish so huge it makes every other fish you’ve ever caught look like a tiddler? And how about the legendary Arapaima, the ultimate freshwater predator and one of the biggest freshwater fish on the planet? Why not make your day dreams a reality with the angling trip of a lifetime?
We’re talking about Thailand – so pack your carp fishing gear, here’s our brief guide to this stunning tropical destination, home to some of the most monstrous freshwater fish in the world.
The only country in South East Asia never to have been colonised, in the days of Empire, Thailand formed a buffer zone between the competing great powers of Britain and France. A constitutional monarchy, Thailand’s head of state, King Bhumibol has reigned since 9th June 1946, making him the longest serving monarch in the world.
Travel to Thailand and you’ll be treated to a welcome that’s hard to beat; it’s not for nothing that Thailand is called, the “land of smiles”. There you’ll find exquisite white sand beaches, teeming cities, a kaleidoscope of exotic street food, and most importantly, some of the best fishing in the world.
But do check the latest Foreign Office travel advice before you go. Attacks on tourists are rare but they do happen. In May this year, the Royal Thai military seized power and imposed martial law. Planned and spontaneous political protests in Bangkok and other major cities have turned violent. Tourists are currently advised to stay away from the South of the country as well some parts of the Eastern border with Cambodia – but if you heed advice, your trip should be a happy and trouble free experience.
Where should I go?
Jungle fishing, river fishing, lake fishing – Thailand has it all. If you’re not ready to go it alone, you’ll find a plethora of fishing guides advertising their services online and many reputable companies that can lead you to the best fishing spots.
But do bear in mind that for all the majesty of its inland waters, Thailand’s rivers and lakes are seriously threatened by poor fishing practises, overfishing and pollution. Subsistence fishing is a necessity for many Thai families but large scale netting has greatly reduced fish populations in some areas. Fishing tourism provides a valuable income for local people and when fished responsibly, aquatic ecosystems may even benefit from the increased economic value your custom brings to the waters.
Keen to fit a fishing trip into a busy family holiday? You’re in luck. With over 300 fisheries within easy reach of the capital city, Bangkok, you’ll be spoilt for choice. But the quality of the experience does vary, with some fisheries being little more than fish farms that let you cast a line for a fee. Word of mouth is invaluable, and online you’ll find forums full of feedback on other people’s Thai carp fishing experiences. The message here is simple? Do your homework before you go.
What can I catch?
Now for the good bit! Thailand might be a longhaul flight away, but your first giant fish will more than make up for the 12 hours or more you spent sitting on a plane.
Thailand offers a multitude of species well worth catching, here are just a few of the biggest…
Giant Siamese carp
The national fish of Thailand, the giant siamese carp is listed as critically endangered in the wild, but fishing parks are well stocked with captive fish. Don’t expect giant Siamese carp to give themselves up easily – you’ll need every bit of cunning to trap one of these monsters. And monstrous it really is – the biggest species of carp on the planet, the biggest ever recorded specimen was netted in the wild at a reported 300 kg or 661 lbs. While you probably won’t catch one of those proportions, 30 – 50 kgs is doable and some fishing parks contain fish closer to the 100 kg mark, but they are fiendishly difficult to catch.
Giant Mekong Catfish
Critically endangered, it’s illegal to fish for giant mekong catfish in the wild without special permits. Giant Mekong catfish is perhaps the biggest freshwater fish in the world – in 2005, one was netted by local fishermen at 646 lbs and sold – as a requirement of the village fishing association’s permit – to the Thai department of fisheries. The eggs were harvested but the fish died before it could be returned to the water, and was given back to the villagers to eat. Thanks to the government sponsored breeding program, many lakes in Thailand stock giant Mekong catfish, although sadly, the fish doesn’t breed in ponds. In captivity, a catch of 100lb would still be an experience to treasure for a lifetime.
Native to the Amazon basin, Arapaima is revered as one of the biggest and most ferocious freshwater fish on the planet. The record for the biggest ever caught goes to a specimen landed in South America and stands at a colossal 339 lbs. Successfully introduced to the lakes and fishing parks of Thailand, they are notoriously fussy eaters. If you’re lucky enough to hook one, you’ll be in for one heck of a fight from what is one of the most wiley, aggressive fish out there. Good luck – you’ll need it!
Razor sharp teeth, speed and aggression make this freshwater predator a pretty special catch for anglers visiting Thailand. Giant snake head grow up to about 30kg and because the fish favours underwater snags and sunken tree branches as the perfect place from which to ambush its prey, you’ll have to practise patience as well as accurate casting if you’re to get into one.