Giant Mekong Catfish (Pla Beuk – ปลาบึก)
Identification: Grey through white in colour, with a complete lack of barbels. It has a huge gaping mouth, very large tail and large sharp and bony pectoral fins (beware of these when handling – they hurt). The eyes are set slightly lower in the head than the more common, and smaller, Striped Catfish (Sawai) and it also lacks the silvery lateral line stripe of the Sawai.
Additional Information: Giant Mekong catfish can be found to well over 100Kg in some Bangkok lakes (at Shadow Lake and Bungsamlan), and up to a maximum of around 50Kg in the Chiang Mai Region (at Bo Sang). In the wild they are endangered but can be found in most of Thailand’s fishing lakes. It is an extremely powerful fish and is rightly famous for its hard fighting; rated by many as one of the hardest fighting freshwater fish in the world.
In the wild the Giant Mekong Catfish feeds on plants, algae and insects. It does not feed on other fish unless starved of its natural food sources.
Most people fish for these using the standard bread bait paired with a feeder packed with rice bran/chopped bread, with or without flavouring additives (largely unnecessary, but I have had good success with sweet “creamy” additives on occasion…).
Giant Mekong catfish can be caught at a range of depths, depending on prevailing conditions (water temperature, ph, wind, buddha knows what…). This can be acheived by using a float and feeder setup to suspend the bait at the desired depth. Giant Mekong catfish tend to feed uniformly at a given depth on a particular day. This may be right close to the surface, or deeper down closer to the lake bed; your task is to work out where they are on the day that you are fishing. Good luck!
Top tips for success in catching Giant Mekong Catfish:
- Use the Right Tackle: Very strong rods and reels (quality imported tackle is needed here), line of at least 20Kg breaking strain, and a strong forged hook.
- Tie the Right Knots, Properly: Well tied knots maintain the integrity of your line and your braid. You will need to know at least two knots (one for line, and one for braid).
- Vary the Hook Depth: If fishing with a partner choose a different depth each to fish at, until you “find” the fish. This will be different each time you fish and is dependent on prevailing conditions. I tend to start at from towards the surface and work my way down. If working with a partner they can start from a greater depth and work their way up.
- Accurate Casting: This is important because each time you are casting your large feeder packed with bait it is dispersing where it lands – hit the same place every time and you are baiting up your own swim, not dispersing the fish all over the place.
Work for it: If you really want to catch fish you should be recasting every 15 minutes. This baits your swim and ensures that you always have bait on your hook. This can be hard work and if you would rather sit back and have a beer then that’s fine too. Just don’t expect to catch as many fish as the workers…
- Steer the Fish: If you have the right tackle you should be able to “steer” the fish away from known snags, or at least influence its direction! Be prepared for a long hard fight if you have a “big ‘un”. Think about swapping arms, using your legs, back, and all – if you don’t you will be in pain the next day.
These are, apparently, good tasting fish, but they are also endangered – so don’t go eating them…
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