Fishing

Fishing with kids

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I am the father of a wonderful four year old boy, and this past Sunday a few friends , brought our little ones along to Pilot 111 for a half day fishing.

Fishing with kids has several challenges. Not the least of which is the fact that they have an attention spam approximately equal to your target species.

This means that its important to be sure that they are always doing something. This is why lure fishing is, in my opinion the very best way to get them started.

At first we removed all of the hooks from their lures, and set the kids a challenge with the reward being to attach real lures, with hooks and the possibility to catch a fish!!

The challenge sounded simple enough: ” Cast the dummy lure far out straight ahead, three times in a row”.

So for the first half of the morning we found a quiet pond at Pilot 111 and got to work to teaching the little one’s the finer art of casting. We chose the Asian redtail catfish pond, which also happens home to some rogue barramudi and striped snakeheads. The fact that it doesn’t have any overhead cables, very few obstacles and is rarely fished played a big part in that decision.

It was great fun to see confident kids boasting about their casting prowess (before they had ever actually tried) meet reality, and then watching as they went from over confident, to humbly dropping the lure behind their backs, and asking for or just accepting assistance.

After a few helping words, it was wonderful to see huge smiles from their sense of achievement as they made their first ever good cast, or even just managed to cast the lure into the water.

After a few hours most of the kids succeeded in their challenge and were rewarded with a nice shiny lure with real sharp and pointy hooks, which all were keen to explore. Thankfully none of them stabbed themselves, but more than a few shirts got hooked!

My little one took a little while longer to get the hang of casting, at just 4 he was the youngest of the group, who were at least 7 years old and up.

I equipped my boy with a rod rated for 5-10 lb line and a Shakespeare E-Z cast spincaster reel preloaded with 8lb line to which I attached a Texas-rigged Berkerley Powerbait plastic worm, of the stinkiest variety I could find, in this case one meant for salt water fishing.

I did this because it enabled him to be fishing even after he wandered away as he left his lure out, so he could still effectively be ‘dead-sticking’. Which is exactly what happened.

We got a bite, and moments later my boy was desperately trying to reel in a fish. But it soon became very apparent that he wasn’t going to manage to bring this one in on his own, it was as you might be able to appreciate from the pic below, simply far too strong for him.

After an electric fight that seemed to take forever, with several dashing runs, (and next to no drag on his reel!) the end result was an 8lb Asian redtail catfish.

Soon afterwards, now excited with “having caught a fish” my son’s attention returned and he set about casting again. Then one final time he cast his lure and as he reeled it back in, yet another 8lb redtail catfish took the bait and screamed off.

This time he had cast the lure, reeled it in and set the hook. I still had to land it as it too was making the same scintillating runs that made suspect it may have been the same fish. But for me and in my mind it was this second redtail that counted as his first, and will do so until the day that he can reel one in and land one himself.

I can honestly say that catching these redtails with my son, on this light tackle was just about the most fun I have ever had fishing.

At the end of the morning our group caught lots of fish (redtails, barramundi and a few giant snakeheads) and proved to the kids that fishing games on the iPad are not nearly as much fun as doing it for real, and we dads got to spend some real fun quality time with our kids. (Both boys and girls I hasten to add)

Fishing with kids is rewarding for all involved. The children learned new skills, which they applied to challenges that they met head on, and achieved their goals, and all whilst having great fun, outdoors.

Patience is certainly needed to teach them, and they need constant supervision at the water’s edge. But remember this is not your fishing trip, its theirs. But the time you get to spend with them and the joy you get from sharing in the pride they take from their achievements is worth every moment untangling lines, removing hooks from clothing, etc. (just about!)

Fishing the Gulf of Thailand, part 1

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As I have mentioned before sea fishing  is in my blood. I love the feeling of developing my sea legs, the smell and taste of the salt in the air.

The serenity of a still ocean  and the power the sea holds when she turns against you, it demands respect, but is awesome in its beauty.

However, I think there is something besides that romantic claptrap that more gifted people than I have written about endlessly before.

To me its about being with friends and making new friends, sharing stories and laughs. The fishing as always is almost secondary to the whole experience.

The boats I charter  on the East coast of Gulf of Thailand typically set off from one of two spots, Pattaya’s Bali Hai Pier or Bang Sare. In the past we have also had speedboats pick us up  at the beach and take us out to our boat in the Gulf, in the area marked ‘fishing zone’ in the pic above.

The Gulf of Thailand is fairly shallow, with much of it being not more than 20-50 metres (wikipedia has the mean depth as 45m which is about right).  As such the many species of fish found here don’t tend to grow very large.  I believe that its shallow warm waters could serve as a nursery for some pelagic species because I have hooked small dorado (3-10kgs) , blue marlin (30-100kgs)  and sailfish (20-80kgs) here, which get larger the further out you go.

Sport is excellent though with the following species usually showing up for a fight (we catch and release all bill fish, the rest we eat), what follows is a selection of species caught on my last trip out back in April :

King Mackerel (tastes great!)

King Mackerel and Pompano

Pompano

The skipper described this as a Jack fish.. not sure myself

Barracuda

Charter boat prices in the Gulf of Thailand  usually cost in the region of THB 10,000 – 20,000 a day. Various  listings can be found at http://www.siamfishing.com/boat (its in Thai, so open it in google chrome if you are not a Thai reader for a semi usable translation ).

Suggested fishing tackle: most boats will provide what you need, so you will not need to bring anything, unless you really want to.

Personally, I use a 15Kg class roller tipped boat rod (Shimano and a sturdy spinning rod (both are less than 6ft long). My reels are loaded with about 300 yards of 65lb braided line to 10m of clear monofilament leader on spinning reel (Shimano Baitrunner 6500B) and 550yards of 65lb braid with 20m of 80lb mono on my Shimano Tiagra 16 which is probably over kill (unless we luck out with a sailfish or small marlin, in which case we stand a chance of bringing it along side the boat!)

I have used 30lbs monofilament before and you would probably be okay with 25lbs. Basically anything that you’d use for taking catfish at Bung Samran should serve you fine at sea, but note that rods longer than 7ft can be cumbersome to use on a boat (especially if you have a fish try go directly under the boat. Most of the time we’ll be fishing live squid off the surface, so no need to worry about lures etc. I have a few though, but most rigs will be very simple, a weight leader, swivel and hook, and sometimes just straight to the hook or lure. Regarding hooks, I have gone for live bait hooks, of sizes about 1/0 – 4/0 .

In addition to my tackle, I’ll be bringing along the following:

  • One short-sleeved and one long-sleeved (light weight) T-shirt (the latter in case of too much sun)
  • A good sun hat can not be overstated (My hat in these pics is a Tilley and I love it, I can not recommend these hats enough)
  • Sunglasses – polarising lenses are good for fishing live baits to Dorado and active King Mackerels
  • Sandals / flip-flops  (the decking can get seriously hot under bare feet in the midday sun)
  • A towel and toiletries (most have a shower on board)
  • Leave your swimmers at home! The current’s dangerously strong where we go fishing.
  • Water resistant sunblock [SPF 50]
  • MP3 player / playing cards [Top Trumps !] (for the downtime when we travel between spots, I will bring a book too, but sometimes I can find reading at sea to bring on nausea so audiobooks are good)

On that subject, seasickness. I don’t usually have any problems but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

For details on how to prevent it I suggest checking out these sites  http://www.seasickness.co.uk/ http://fishinkona.com/seasick.htm

Take sea sickness pills at least one hour before you step on the boat, preferably earlier, most manufacturers suggests one hour but if you get ill the pills may be the first to go, so I’ll take one just after lunchtime on the day I leave.

If you are out there and already feel bad and need relief ginger works well (take it in any form, but candied maybe the easiest)

That’s it for tonight, look out for a new post which will delve a little deeper into tactics, seasons and baits for Charter boat fishing in the Gulf of Thailand.

Kanchanaburi hooked my soul

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Fishing places like Bueng Samran certainly offers plenty of action, but as any angler worth their salt will tell you catching fish is only half of the experience.

It’s about getting in touch with nature and for that man-made stocked lakes for me have their place, they are great fun, but they do fall a little short.

When I got back into fishing in Thailand, about 10 ish years ago, it was at stocked fishing parks, but after the bug came back and bit me hard I realised I was looking to recapture the feelings of those mist laden mornings at the lakes on the St Germans Estate near Liskeard in Cornwall or PADCAC’s private lake at Cadover Bridge on Dartmoor.

So I took it upon myself to buy and attempt to read Thai fishing magazines, to find some more natural spots, and it was in one of those magazines that I heard about the fishing to be had in Kanchanaburi, specifically on the Srinakarin Dam.

Srinakarin Dam

Srinakarin Dam is Thailand’s second largest body of freshwater spanning tens of thousands of rai. It is HUGE. Set amongst the Srinakain National Park it is home to a rich variety of wildlife, including wild elephants (roads actually have signs warning of wild elephant crossings!), and locals have told me that the National Park also forms part of the territory for some of Thailand’s wild tiger population.

A single story fishing hut on Srinakarin Dam

The reservoir’s sunken trees is home to a great many different species, but when I fish here I target two; the ferocious predator the ‘Snakehead’  (Pla Chadoh) and the Hampala Barb or Jungle Perch (Pla Chon).

Light spinning tackle is the name of the game, fishing entirely with artificial lures. The two species require a different approach, although in both cases  I have frankly had more success going after Jungle Perch who favour a silver or golden spoon fished mid-water, whereas the Snakehead is another beast altogether, and am yet to bring one of these to the bank.

Snakeheads are a highly aggressive predator, and have even been rumoured to attack swimmers who stray too close to the nest, whose tactics I will cover shortly.

Fishing Khouen Srinakarin  is an absolute pleasure for the senses. This is especially true during rainy season, when the surrounding mountains and forests are a wonderful deep, lush, emerald-green, and the rains wash bait off the steep banks and into the water.

My first trip here saw me and two friends (one of whom would later become my wife) hire a floating house… Yup, quite literally, a two-story house built on a raft, floating on the reservoir. Now, whilst the accommodation can only be described as basic, it was very comfortable, and what it lacked in luxury it more than made up for in novelty value.

On waking at the crack of dawn on our first morning, I can recall getting out the golden spoon out and started casting into the lake for a good few hours before my friends awoke.

This time in the morning , was incredible, the mist was rolling in off the surrounding mountains and was just hovering over the water in what was perhaps the most serene setting I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

As the sun rose higher and the temperature climbed (it can be quite chilly over night in Kanchanaburi)  the fish started to bite. It wasn’t long until I had hooked my first Jungle Perch of the trip, and woke everyone up! They are gorgeous creatures, a wily, fast, fish, who put up a decent scrap on light gear. Silver / gold scales with red fins they bear a close resemblance to a roach or rudd, although a fair bit bigger and a lot more predatory in nature.

But as time went on  the action died down,  we made breakfast and upped anchor towed the entire house to a different spot on the lake and  tried our luck at various locations throughout the day (the convenience of a floating house!)

Fishing at the Dam really only sees any good action for the two hours before and after dusk and dawn. So as the sun started to settle down, we left the house and opted for a small boat with a guide, who took us to various little nooks and crannies to try our luck at spinning again. Spoons saw yet more  action with Jungle Perch, but not satisfied with just Perch catches I decided to try for Snakehead.

Fishing is best two hours before and after dusk and dawn

Snakeheads give away their position with bubbles at the surface,  usually on the fringe or in a hole of a weed bed. To target them the locals use surface lures in the shape of a frog with a large propeller at the nose. They are designed to be retrieved a good speed where the prop creates lots of surface noise and disturbance which provokes an attack borne out of aggression from the fish instead of hunger.

Sadly, whilst we did get some incredible strikes we were not lucky enough to land any snakeheads, on this first trip, although one cruelly slipped the hook at the side of the boat.. but the one which got away though was not even of a size worth any more pixels or bandwidth..

I have been back and whilst I can usually get into Perch I have still not cracked the riddle of the snakehead but one day it will be mine!

I do however have a good cure for those who blank at these spots which i want to share with you all.

Heck even if you don’t blank, or don’t even fish on your trip back home from Kanchanaburi stop by at the Moo Baan Dek Village School, play with the kids, buy them some ice creams and leave a healthy donation, and walk away with your spirits lifted.

Here’s a few pics of my last trip there:-

Nothing quite as sad as a broken slide at an orphanage

The great thing about these kids is that fun is always around the corner

Find them Moo Baan Dek on Latya-Srisawat Rd., Kanchanaburi 71190 Siam (Thailand) and visit their website   http://www.ffc.or.th/mbd/ where you can also make a donation.



Here there be monsters!

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These days when you speak to most foreign anglers about fishing in Thailand you’ll likely think of the Bangpakong River, home to the almighty  freshwater stingray. I haven’t tried for one myself but I have seen these things on TV.  Check one out here:

Now whilst I have not been fishing for Stingrays (yet), I have fished what is probably the best known angling spot in Thailand, and one of the most famous fishing parks in the world, Bueng Samran.

This man made stocked lake on Navamin Soi 42 was established in March 1983. Its come a long way since then but  is still nothing very pretty to look at, its rectangular surrounded by huts which are available for rent (highly recommended due to the electric fans!!) but its not its scenery that made this place famous. The fact that they serve you beer, and food to your hut / spot is great, but still doesn’t justify its fame (although the  Naam Tok Moo is highly recommended!)

Its certainly not the vicinity, as its located in the heart of a nice yet decidedly fringe residential area approximately 30-45 mins to the North East of the city centre. (The map is on their website below)

No, what made this little pond famous, is what lurks beneath the surface.

In fishing circles you see, the name “Bueng Samran” has become synonymous with monsters (and arm ache). Its home to over 10 IGFA world records. Its stocked with Giant Mehkong Catfish to over 200 KGS (yes that is not a typo  KGs not Lbs!), Araiparma Giga to similar weights and over 9 ft in length, and Giant Siamese carp all amongst a population of over 50 different species.

The fish density here is such that you are guaranteed to catch a fish (you quite literally get your money back if you dont!) and its entirely feasible that you’ll bring in say 4-5 Pla Sawaii in a day almost all of which will be over 15-20Kgs , although much, much, bigger is very, very possible.

So how to catch em?

Your's truly, battling a Pla Sawaii at Bueng Samran

If you are on a day trip here I’d suggest homing in on the catfish (Pla Sawaii).  It should go without saying that you’ll need strong tackle, 30-50lb class rods, seriously dont go too much lighter than this if you like your rods..

As for line I suggest a minimum 25lb mono-filament although I throw on 65lb braided line on mine. On the subject of reels for casting I prefer fixed spool reels and have a pair of Shimano Baitrunner 6500B’s (which are superb) one loaded up with 65lb braid and one with 25lb mono. I know many prefer to use multipliers but I have never got used to distance casting with them, use whatever works for you, just so long as its got some guts.

An average sized Pla Sawaii

So how about bait? I hear you cry.. well the best bait is… bread.  Yup these enormous fish eat bread crusts. Put some crust on your hook and serve it up in a softball sized breadflake  baitball. Be sure to add some coconut milk and groundbait mix to it and get it into a doughy malleable consistency, not too wet though otherwise it will just fall off.

A tiddler

These bait balls are packed on to a spring like coil which sits just below your float, fished at about 1-2m depth. You cast the whole lot out to the middle, sit back and wait. But be sure to keep your rod within arms reach and set the drag to allow the fish to run as you may not need to wait for long!

If  this all sounds a bit daunting, please don’t be put off. I have personally never used a fishing guide. When I started fishing here 7+ years ago it was relatively unknown in farang circles, and there were no English language reference sources so I learned how to catch from the staff at the lake.

They are very friendly and very helpful, they will help to mix up the groundbait, bait your hook and heck some will  even try and cast it for you. (but thats not fishing you have to get your hands dirty!)

There is tackle for hire at the lake which costs  THB 1000 to hire, but now we get on to the sticky bit.

There is double pricing in force at this lake, yup we lucky foreigners get to pay more than the locals, for both rod and hut hire.

Personally I could care less, I’m prepared to pay what I think its worth. This place is unique. What would you pay for a shot at a world record? Plus I have seen the amount of investment that they have put back into the lake from when I first fished it some 7 plus years ago, and it really has transformed itself.

My friend's sons caught their first fish that day

For more information on this incredible place, visit their website at http://bungsamran.com/en/

Also if the thought of doing this alone puts you off, and your pockets are deep enough check out guides such as the following:

http://www.anglingthailand.com/

http://www.fishsiam.com/fishing-holidays/fishing-for-chaophraya-catfish-bungsamran-lake-6.html

http://www.megafishingthailand.com/content/view/85/95/

Also feel free to ask questions below and I’ll try and answer the best I can, have fun and tight lines.

Next time: I’ll be discussing some more natural freshwater spots, where the only guarantee you’ll get from me is great scenery.

Fishing in Thailand part 1

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I’m not going to write an exhaustive post on every conceivable place to fish in Thailand because quite frankly I have no idea what those guys use to catch fish in the khlong on Sathorn Road or how they plan to land their catch from 20m above the Chaophraya River on Taksin Bridge, without a drop net…the mind boggles…

Rather, I will focus my efforts over the next few posts on my favourite places to fish in Thailand. Including the now, world famous Bung Samran (home to several world records of mind blowing proportions), the tranquil Srinakarin Dam (pictured above), and my particular passion, charter boat fishing off the Gulf of Thailand.

I will also share some tips on how to make the most of your trips,  but anglers beware (and the rest rejoice) for these will not always be fishing centric, but on occasion they will be good for the soul.

“I have laid aside business, and gone a-fishing.”

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Now I imagine that by now the majority of the very few visitors who ever see this site have already opened a new tab and are well on their way to reading about the latest scientific discovery or sharing a new LOLcat, but if you have managed to keep reading this long, then I’m going to assume that you are at least curious and as such will now unleash a full-on fishing nerd, nostalgia-trip, salvo! You’ve been warned run run run whilst you can!!!’

Izaak Walton (9 August 1593 – 15 December 1683)*

So then… how better to start than with Izaac Walton? OK well yes there probably are quite a few better ways but this’ll have to do. Walton is regarded by many, as the godfather of modern fishing, he was amongst the first to transcribe his angling techniques for pursuing different species in his much celebrated book “The Compleat Angler”, which was first written back in 1653 but he kept on adding to it for the next 50 years of his life.*

"Rivers and the inhabitants of the watery element are made for wise men to contemplate, and for fools to pass by without consideration."*

Many of his techniques are still applicable today, well OK not all of them in Thailand (more on that later) but its still relevant if you happen to be pursuing grayling or barbel at dawn on a winding misty English river.. ahh sigh… which with quite a bit of sadness I have never really got to do.

But Im not looking for sympathy, you see I had the good fortune to grow up by the sea in Plymouth, so it was inevitable that my first taste of fishing (at about 12 years old) would be at the seaside and more specifically on Plymouth Hoe (thats not a funky street jive name for something else, its a place, no really I kid you not!).

Plymouth Hoe, sunset over Drake’s Island

My next door neighbour’s daughter’s boyfriend was obviously out to make a keen impression on her and was exceptionally good to me, and in all seriousness I truly appreciate what he did. He was also a keen angler and whilst i never got to go he noticed my interest in his fishing trips. One summer day, out of the blue he gave me an old 6ft red spinning rod, reel, and a whats more a tackle box of floats weights hooks and trace etc.  From that moment on  I spent every possible spare moment fishing for mackerel, gar, pollock and wrasse off the rocks and at my then favourite place , West Hoe Pier. (when I wasn’t untangling line and hooking myself that is)

From those great days of sitting on rocks in the rain, my ambitions of catching the big one grew and that meant that I had to look further afield from that little pier, and so I upped the ante and began to fish out at sea in Plymouth Sound. It was such a small boat that if it rolled in the waves and you looked straight down towards your feet you could see the bow of the boat! My how I was seasick the first few times! But I got past that and my sealegs did my proud. Never really did catch any monsters though! 😦

I also never really stopped fishing my favourite spots, but as travel opened up to me I did come  to appreciate fishing in all it forms, and whilst I have never yet made barbel or even a chubb my quarry, I did spend time on English lakes after the elusive carp and hard fighting tench. Coarse fishing to me was a wonderful change, and was so much more about the experience of being surrounded by nature, I enjoyed the solitude.

Me 16, on the bank of the River Plym

Izaak Walton once  remarked on why he kept adding to his book “Angling may be said to be so like the mathematics that it can never be fully learned.”  and how right he was, because nothing in all of my experiences had prepared me for fishing in Thailand, it is a truly a world away.

But I think I’ll save my impressions on fishing in Thailand, as well as my favourite spots, tips and tricks for my next post. For now I’ll leave you with a few choice quotes from Mr Walton

As no man is born an artist, so no man is born an angler.

Doubt not but angling will prove to be so pleasant that it will prove to be, like virtue, a reward to itself

Rivers and the inhabitants of the watery element are made for wise men to contemplate, and for fools to pass by without consideration

You will find angling to be like the virtue of humility, which has a calmness of spirit and a world of other blessings attending upon it.

No man can lose what he never had.

(*thank you wikipedia)