While guiding clients interested in the Mekong Giant Catfish I often wet a line apart of their fishing spot for Siamese Giant Carps or Pla Caho (Catlocarpio siamensis). As you certainly know it is a rare and unique species of carp that only exists in Thai waters. It has also the particularity to be the the “mother of all carps,” being the world’s biggest carp species. Exceptional specimens in the wild can reach weights of 100 kg.
Any local angler will tell you that this fish is the most shy and cautious from all the Thai fish species. That is the reason why just a few guys here are targeting that giant carp. To be a caho angler, you must have more patience than any other angler fishing worldwide for any other species of carp. You must be ready to accept to “waste time” in front of your rod, sometimes for weeks, months or even years. It is known that one can angle for that fish daily for months without getting a single bite. I know plenty of Thai friends who have never hooked one caho in years – even they still try and dream of it.
Last August, after my catch of a 46 kg Siamese Giant Carp I wrote a newsletter to angling friends from various countries saying: “It is a shame that the Catlocarpio siamensis had never made it so far in the IGFA record list! Here is the biggest carp in the world and yet, it has never been recorded by any angler!”
Fearing it could die for being kept too long on land we lost the IGFA World Record with this 46 kg specimen.
That splendid 46 kg Catlocarpio was really worth an All Tackle World Record. Fearing that fragile fish species could eventually die being kept too long out of the water, I took the decision to release that lovely Siamese carp fast without proceeding properly to the weighting and measurements required by the IGFA. And of course as a dedicated defender of catch and release I lost that day a potential All Tackle world record. No big deal to me! I was happy enough anyways to have hooked, fought and landed that 46 kg Catlocarpio, still my biggest catch so far in that particular species. I knew I would catch another one someday. It was just a matter of time!
My English friend Bruce Dale holding the estimated 45 kg Caho he caught with us last August at Bung Sam Lan Lake
Since August, some of our visiting anglers and myself landed more carps. But none of these catches were big size enough to be recorded. Beginning of October, my UK friend and angling client Bruce Dale landed a good size one. He already had 3 bites on the same day during his first stay with us, landing a 20 kg carp and losing unhooked 2 bigger fish. For the very same reason than I did, Bruce decided to release the fish promptly too. To act fast for the release we didn’t even weigh the catch. By experience we estimated the specimen weighing around 45 kg. So we lost that day another opportunity to make the Catlocarpio siamensis entering the IGFA record list.
On the 4th November, we could have done it at last with a hell of a great catch. We were guiding that day a Singaporean angler named Kelvin Lim who wanted to experience the Mekong Cat. One of my Fishing Adventures team guide and my fishing soulmate, Kik, brought a rod with him. Something he usually never do. I asked him : “Hey luk pee wan nee koon yak tok pla la ?” (Hey brother, are you going to fish today?). He gave me a big smile and said: “Kap! Pom may day tok pla caho nan ” (Yes ! I haven’t done Siamese carp fishing for a long time). And smiling even more: “Wan nee pom tja dai toa yai ” (Today I’m going to get a big one).
So we casted one rod each apart of the Mekong Cat spot and took care of our guest who was having a ball fighting the Cats. Then in the afternoon Kik got a bite. He used a custom built rod of 7 ft he built himself to fish for Snakeheads with surface lures. His small reel was loaded with 20 lb braided line. I wish you could have witnessed the fight that followed. On the first rush the carp was already far away on the other side of the lake. When the fish got closer to our pontoon after 20 long minutes and came up for the first time to the surface level in a giant boil we knew immediately that fish was a “monster”. Once it was netted, every one of us on the pontoon saw a giant Catlocarpio siamensis. Hon, a close friend of us and employee at the lake was there. He has seen it all in 17 years working there and can guess quite accurately without using scales the weight of any fish. He looked at the fish and said it was over 85 kg but couldn’t be 90 kg.
Fishing Adventures’ pro guide & fishing soulmate Kik posing with his catch, an estimated >80 kg Giant Siamese Carp. We decided to give that carp an estimated weight of 80 kg plus. That was the biggest carp caught at the lake during the past 2 years, and one of the very best catches over the past 17 years.
Unfortunately we didn’t have any scales with us that day except for my 50 kg portable scales. I purchased in April expensive 100 kg portable scales from England. But I had difficulties here to get them certified. The institute where I brought all of my various portable scales in the past to get the required certificate of calibration had only machines to test scales to 60 kg maximum. Being too busy guiding daily, we had no time at all to look for an institute able to certify these brand new 100 kg scales. Finally a friend found recently for us a company having bigger test machines. Good news and bad news! On the day of that great catch, we didn’t have with us those scales. We already brought them to be certified and we had to wait one week before to get them back. Unlucky again! I would have loved getting that world record for Kik, my team guide and fishing soulmate who is like a kind of young brother to me.
After missing the record three times, I was starting to think we were having a kind of jinx and that we would never be able to set an IGFA record for that species before any other foreign angler. Finally, on the 12th November we got lucky at last. Very lucky! One of my Fishing Adventures guides got the 100 kg Waymaster portable scales back with the certificate of calibration in the morning. Only a few hours before I was going to land in the beginning of the afternoon the 4th potential record carp since May 2001, since we started to be seriously interested in the Siamese Giant Carp fishing.
We were guiding that day 4 good nature Singaporean anglers who enjoyed with us witnessing the catch of that fish. I knew while fighting the carp it was also another “nice size” one. So I took my time, let the fish leading the fight, playing it gently and smoothly on 20 lb line, monitoring only the carp moves every time it played dirty trying to snag me in the obstacles close to our fishing pontoon. I was very relaxed thinking at the same time: “That one will be the one to enter the IGFA list. There is no way I am going to let that potential record go away this time!
At last the “mother of all carps”, the Catlocarpio siamensis, is going to enter the IGFA record list with this 45 kg specimen. Prior to net the carp, I asked everyone to be ready to help with the camera, scales and meter, to proceed as fast as possible to the required weighting and measurements. This time it had to be done on land. The 6 witnesses were all willing to help. The fish was weighted exactly at 45 kg. It had a total length of 117 cm, a length from its mouth to the beginning of its tail of 99 cm, and a girth of 96 cm.
Since we started last May to angle on a regular basis for the pla caho, using our brilliant and effective bait formula instead of the usual rice based bait favored by local anglers, we have landed up to today a total of 22 Siamese carps. And we lost unhooked or being snagged about 30 carps, some of them being real big ones. The 2 best local carp experts and close friends, Lung Dam and Pi Poot, who are fishing around 200 days every year for the Siamese Giant Carp catch less than 20 specimens per year. Humbly but proud of it, we can say it is therefore a brilliant score for our Fishing Adventures pro guide team than no other angler in Thailand has ever accomplished so far in such a short period of time. We know exactly where are the right fishing spots to be angled and we have the knowledge too of the proper rig and the bait formula. Now we have only to go on fishing for those magnificent creatures and try to do better. And eventually landing, sooner or later, a much bigger one again!