The Fish

Mekong Giant Catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) Thai – Pla Buk

The Mekong Giant Catfish is possibly the largest freshwater fish in the world, with reports of it growing to 600 lbs plus. They are herbivores, primarily feeding on algae and other small waterborne food items. These fish are under threat in their natural environment but seem to thrive in the better managed fisheries, reaching truly monstrous proportions. Although algae is their main natural diet, they can be caught using cage feeder methods, loaded with specially formulated rice bran mixtures.

Mekongs are generally light grey in colour with white underbellies. They have large, toothless mouths, downward facing eyes and extremely large tails. These fish have been nicknamed ‘underwater steam trains’ because of the awesome power and stamina they possess.

 

Mekong Giant Catfish Caught at Bungsamran Mekong Giant Catfish (Pangasianodon gigas)

Siamese Giant Carp (Catlocarpio siamensis) Thai – Pla Kaho

The Siamese giant carp or giant barb is the largest species of cyprinid in the world. They naturally occur in the Mae Khlong, Mekong and Chao Praya river basins in Thailand but they are under significant threat due to loss of habitat, pollution and overfishing. As with many other fish species in Thailand, they are primarily herbivorous, feeding on algae, phytoplankton and plants. The rod and line world record is estimated at 265 lbs but they are believed to reach sizes in excess of 600 lbs.
Their typical physical characteristics are a very large head to body ratio, dark brown to black colouration with white ringed eyes. The size and incredible power of Siamese carp make them one of the top target species for anglers, but they are not easily caught and have to be tricked into taking buoyant hooks.

Siamese Giant Carp Caught Bangkok, Thailand Siamese Giant Carp
(Catlocarpio siamensis)

Redtail Catfish  (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus)   Thai – Pla Redtail Amazon

The Redtail catfish originates from the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in South America where they are known as pirarara or cajaro and are pimelodid, (long whiskered catfish). Over recent years they have been introduced into many fishing parks and lakes in Thailand where they are a highly regarded sports fish. These beautiful fish have dark, mottled upper bodies with whitish underbellies and as their name suggests red to orange caudal fins. The Redtail freely hybridises with other similar species, producing what is known as Tiger Retails.

The current world record for a Redtail catfish stands at 123 lbs, (caught in Brazil) and they regularly reach weights approaching 90 lbs in Thailand. These fish are predators and feed on live and dead fish and meat. Standard dead baiting tactics can work very well when targeting these hunters.

   
Redtail Catfish Phractocephalus hemioliopterus

Giant Snakehead (Channa micropeltes) Thai – Pla Chado

The Giant snakehead or Giant mudfish are of the family Channidae and are widely distributed throughout South East Asia. They are the largest of the genus and are capable of growing to more than 1 metre and weighing in excess of 40 lbs. It has been reported that they may reach up to 6 feet in length and weigh up to 66 lbs.

Giant snakeheads are voracious predators and are the most aggressive of the 30 species. As adults, their natural diet consists of live fish, frogs and small mammals. Many of the fishing parks and lakes in Thailand have been stocked with Snakeheads where they provide exhilarating lure fishing. A Snakehead can often be provoked into a lightning take with an artificial frog skipped along the water surface.

Snakehead Caught at Bang Pakong, Thailand The Business End of a Snakehead

Chao Praya Catfish (Pangasius sanitwongsei) Thai – Pla Tepa

The Chao Praya or Giant pangasius is a freshwater fish of the shark catfish family, order of Siluriformes and is native to the Chao Praya and Mekong river basins of southeast Asia. As with many other S.E. Asian species, their conservation status is listed as critically endangered, primarily due to over fishing and loss of habitat.

The Giant pangasius is a beautiful, streamlined predator with scale less skin and extremely large dorsal, pectoral and tail fins. They can often be seen cruising the surface of the water with their dorsal fins on full display. These hunters can be caught on a wide variety of baits but live baiting; usually with Tilapia is the most productive tactic. They have been given the nick name of Dog Eating Catfish and can reach lengths of up to 3 metres and weights exceeding 600 lbs.

Chaopraya Catfish
Chao Praya Catfish caught at Bungsamram fishing park             Chaopraya Catfish

Barramundi     (Lates calcarifer)    Thai – Pla Kapong

Barramundi, also known as the Asian sea bass is a member of the family Latidae of order Perciformes, (Perchlike). They are widely distributed throughout S.E. Asia, through to Northern Australia and are becoming one of the most popular sports fish with lure anglers. Many fishing parks in Thailand have stocked Barramundi, which seem to thrive in the Thai climate, they are also very popular in Thai cuisine. Barra can grow in excess of 1 metre and weigh more than 95 lbs.

Barramundi Barramundi caught at Ban Pakong

Alligator Gar     (Atractosteus spatula)    Thai – Pla Gar

The Alligator gar is of the family Lepisosteidae and is a primitive ray-finned fish with an appearance that resembles an alligators head with the body of a large pike. These toothy predators are beautifully camouflaged and attack their prey with lightning speed.

Their natural environment is the river basins of the Southern United States but they have been successfully introduced into many Thai fishing parks where they seem to thrive; feeding on any fish they can fit into their tooth laden mouths. Alligator gar are the largest species of Gar and can reach lengths in excess of 2.4 metres and weigh as much as 300 lbs Dead baiting is the most productive tactic for catching these true river monsters.

 Alligator Gar
Alligator Gar caught at Bungsamran fishing park  Alligator Gar from IT Lake Monsters

Striped Catfish     (Pangasius Hypopthalmus)        Thai – Pla Sawai

The striped catfish or iridescent shark are not true sharks but are members of the shark catfish family (Pangasiidae). They originate from the Mekong and Chao Praya river basins of Southeast Asia and are now widely cultivated for food throughout the region. They are a hardy fish that can be found in small ponds, lakes and rivers and under ideal conditions they can reach up to four feet in length and 95 pounds in weight.
Striped catfish are true omnivores, naturally feeding on a wide variety of aquatic plants and organisms but bread is undoubtedly the best fishing bait, presented high up in open water or on the bottom in the quieter margins.

Striped Catfish  
Striped Catfish caught at Bungsamran   A rare Albino Striped Catfish

Pacu                           (Order Characiformes)        Thai – Pla Jaramet

Pacu are a South American freshwater fish, native to the Amazon and Orinoco river basins and they are closely related to the piranha. As with many other Amazonian fish species, they have been successfully introduced into many fishing parks in Thailand where they provide great angling sport. They are also widely cultivated throughout the country as a popular food fish.
Pacu is a common name given to several piranha like species. The main differences between the two are size and teeth. Pacu grow much larger and have almost human like teeth that give them an extremely high bite force to enable them to deal with hard nuts and seeds. Pacu are true omnivores and can be caught on a wide variety of baits including sticky rice, sweetcorn, chicken and fish deadbaits.
The two main species of pacu found in Thailand are Black Pacu, (Jaramet Dam) and Red Bellied Pacu, (Jaramet Dang). They belong to the species Colossoma macropomum and Piaractus brachypomus respectively. The larger Black Pacu are known to reach weights exceeding 40 kg.

Pacu from IT Lake Monsters  Pacu
Pacu From IT Lake Monsters                    Pacu

Arapaima Arapaima gigas Thai – Pla Chon Amazon

The Arapaima, also known as Pirarucu is an ancient species native to the South American continent river basins and along with many other Amazonian species has been successfully introduced into many Thai fishing parks. They can grow to enormous proportions, with reports of weights exceeding 650 lbs.

Arapaima are one of the most striking fish in the world; their hard, bony like scales have an iridescent red flash which can often be seen as they chase prey fish or surface for air.

Although described as a “living fossil” with armour plating, Arapaima require considerable care when caught. They have a large blood vessel that runs down their spines that has been known to rupture when lifting them clear of the water. When taking that “fish of a lifetime” photo we keep the fish close to the water, fully supported along its length to ensure a safe return to fight another day.

Arapaima Gigas
One of the biggest Arapaima ever caught. Arapaima, Bungsamran Fishing Park

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