Red-Tail Catfish (Pla Meaw Haang Daeng – ปลาแมวหางแดง)
Identification: The Red-Tail Catfish has a very distinctive appearance, with a bright red/orange tail fin, and a body colour that has a clearly defined white/cream coloured lower half and a grey/brown upper half (with a spotted pattern not unlike salmon on the top of the head and forward body portion). It also has dark patches on the underbody and an impressively long set of prey sensing whiskers.
The red-tailed catfish described here, and found in many Thai fishing lake, is a non-native species imported from South America and should not be confused with the native Asian Redtail Catfish (Pla Kot Khang – ปลากดคัง) that is quite different in appearance. Both have red tails but the body colouring of the native species is much more like that of the grey and cream Mekong Catfish, without the mottled appearance and distinctive separation between the upper and lower body halves that characterize the imported species.
Additional information: The Red-Tail Catfish is a powerfully built and voracious predator that can be found in Thailand to weights exceeding 40Kg, although in the Chiang Mai region there are no specimens approaching this size. It is an imported species that thrives in the lakes of Thailand, gaining weight rapidly, and also gaining a reputation as an excellent sporting quarry.
The red-tail is a beautiful and hard-fighting fish that will make a series of hugely powerful high speed runs once hooked. With larger specimens the angler can expect an extended battle, lasting half an hour or more. It has been described as the bulldog of the catfish family.
It uses it’s highly sensitive whiskers to seek out it’s prey, both in the muddy lake bottom and within the upper levels. It is an aggressive predator that can consume large volumes of food. Standard live or dead baiting tactics can work well when targeting these predators, but red-tails are scavengers and can be caught using almost anything: fish (chopped mackerel is a good choice), squid, shrimp, other meats, worms, bread, and even fruit and vegetables. As they are a predator they can also be caught with fish-like lures.
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Not to be confused with the native Asian Redtail Catfish (Pla Kot Khang – ปลากดคัง):