Arapaima (Pla Tjon Amazon / Pla Araapaimaa - ปลาอะราไพม่า)
Identification: The Arapaima is a beautiful fish with colours from silver through olive green and with striking red edging on the scales. This is found in increasing amounts as the fish matures, and can often be seen as a red iridescent flash when the fish surface for air. It’s streamlined body resembles that of an enormous pike, but is covered with large armour-like scales – very different to the smooth body of a pike.
Other Information: Arapaima (or Pla Chon Amezon as it is often known in Thailand) is one of the largest freshwater fish in the world and seems to be one of the most desired fish of all to catch. It can reach lengths in excess of 3m and 200 kg here in Thailand where it seems to thrive in the tropical conditions. Unfortunately, as one of the most sought after food fish species in its home of South America, it is often captured for food, and, consequently, large Arapaima of more than 2 m are seldom found in the wild today. In the Chiang Mai region there are no 3m fish, but some very large fish, nonetheless.
Aside from its immense size, perhaps the most peculiar trait of the Arapaima is a fundamental dependence on surface air to breathe. In addition to gills, it has a modified and enlarged swim bladder, composed of lung-like tissue, which allows it to extract oxygen from the air. This is an adaptation to the often oxygen deficient conditions of the Amazon floodplains, and requires the Arapaima to surface for air every 5 to 15 minutes.
When fishing for Arapaima a strong line (30Kg +) is essential, coupled with an equally essential soft wire trace. The preferred bait is live or dead fish, although they can also be caught on lures or flies. A hooked Arapaima provides a spectacular fight; shaking it’s head violently and powerfully thrusting away – even throwing themselves clear of the water in their attempt to throw the hook. This is the sort of experience that can make fishing in Thailand truly memorable.
Arapaima require considerable care when caught. They are very hard-fighting and hugely powerful fish but also easily harmed and should therefore always be handled with care.They have a large blood vessel that runs down their spines that has been known to rupture when lifting them clear of the water. Ideally they should be unhooked and any photos taken with the fish still in the water. Wet clothing is not much of a price to pay for catching one of these true lake monsters!
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