Giant Snakehead (Pla Chado - ปลาชะโด)
Identification: The Giant Snakehead is a perfectly evolved predator characterized by a streamlined eel-like body and a small snake-like head with a big mouth containing rows of sharp teeth. The dorsal fin is long and stretches along the length of the back. The adult Giant Snakehead has a broad, dark, longitudinal stripe and a distinctive silvery black/dark grey and white/green pattern on the upper body; a perfect camouflage for when lying in ambush amongst the weeds. Very young fish have two black longitudinal stripes with a bright orange intermediate area.
Other Information: The species has the ability to crawl onto land and breathe air, although they are only able to do this in muddy or swampy areas, hence the nickname “mudfish”. Its ability to breathe air using a primitive lung located just behind the gills allows it to survive in stagnant water where oxygen levels are low, by coming to the surface and taking a small gulp of air. It also enables the snakehead to travel short distances on land.
Giant snakeheads can get up to well over a metre long and 20Kg in weight. They are the most aggressive of the 30 species of snakeheads. It is a powerful fish with extremely sharp teeth and a reputation for extreme aggression when attacking its prey – or your lure!
Many of the fishing parks, lakes and reservoirs in Thailand have been stocked with Snakeheads where they provide exhilarating lure fishing. Mae Ngat Dam, within Sri Lanna National Park, is a popular snakehead fishing destination within easy reach of Chiang Mai.
The adult Giant Snakehead feeds primarily by hunting fish and will also happily take small mammals such as frogs and rats. They feed during the day and are usually most active early morning and evening. An artificial frog skipped along the water surface can be a very successful way to catch snakeheads.
The strike from a Giant Snakehead is unlike any other fish. Its first strike is designed to debilitate its prey – and often bites it in half. You will become aware of a strike not only visually but by the clapping sound as the snakehead’s powerful jaws snap shut around your lure. Catching the Giant Snakehead on top water lures is an exciting fishing technique; when the fish takes your day changes from quiet serenity to a sudden explosive battle with a vicious and voracious predator. Stunning!
When using a top water lure for snakeheads it is important to cast and then immediately begin to wind. It is important to be ready as soon as the lure hits the water, as many times the “take” will be immediate.
Giant snakeheads tend to be found in weeded and snaggy areas where they find cover for their ambushing tactics. Snakehead fishing is not easy, with the need for constant casting into tricky areas amongst submerged trees and patches of weed – you will need to develop accurate casting or lose lots of tackle and catch nothing. These are wary fish and poorly delivered lures will be sure to spook them. They are not easy to cast and one or two fish caught in a session is seen as a good result.
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