Catch report by David Sonnenburg on behalf of his & Mike Humma's Thailand fishing holiday.
Our trip began on 10 December, 2012 with a 20 hour flight itinerary from Portland Oregon on the US west coast to Bangkok, Thailand. The difference in temperatures between the two locales was a shock! Back home we were accustomed to temperatures closer to the point of freezing – Bangkok on the other hand, was hotter by about 70 degrees Fahrenheit! Clearing customs at the airport was a breeze and a Fish Thailand representative met us and took us to our Sukhumvit area hotel. We rested the remainder of the day and explored a bit around our hotel.
When arranging our trip, we told Eddie that we wanted to fish a variety of venues, see the country and maximize on our opportunities to catch a wide variety of fish. Top on our lists were Arapaima, Mekong Catfish and Siamese Carp. Also on the list were South American and Asian Redtailed Catfish, Tiger Catfish, Pacu and Giant Snakehead.
Day one started the trip off in good fashion. We fished at Bungsamran Lake in Bangkok for Mekong Catfish. My first fish of the day proved to be the most grueling of the trip! I foul hooked a mid-sized mekong (bad idea) that decided to take a tour of the lake! It felt like a 100 pounder! After a long and punishing fight, I was beginning to wonder if I would be up for a full week of this treatment! Truth be told, I was a bit surprised when I saw the hook hanging from the thirty pounder's tail fin! Oh well! Through the rest of the day, Mike and I traded off, reeling in a total of 24 mekongs ranging between 20 and 50 pounds. These big fish were great fighters. Often at times, the big cats retreated under the docks, making for exciting and challenging conditions! Eddie and his crew of experts went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and assist whenever a catch was in jeopardy. From then on, we knew we were in good hands!
Day two found us heading further out of Bangkok to Boon Mar Ponds and a day of lure fishing for Barramundi. Mike and I had fished for Barra's before in Australia but were looking for some high volume action! Barramundi have become one of my favorite game fish and Boon Mar supported my need to give them another try. Fishing for the acrobatic barramundi proved to be very challenging. For every fish caught, three times that many were lost as they shook their heads, while doing out of the water aerial displays to spit out the hooks! Our fishing guide for the week was Golf. He coached us through the learning curve and proved himself to be a great angler. Surface poppers turned out to be the most productive lures and at times, it seemed like there was a strike with every cast! In the end, the afternoon heat got the best of us but not before landing 20 fish in the 8-15 pound range. My barramundi fix was sated.
On day three we took a day off to rest sore arms (the mekongs had taken their toll) and tour the Thai countryside. Again, Eddie was instrumental in helping us out. He arranged for a local driver to take us to see the sights. Through the day, we played the part of the “first time tourist”, by seeing the floating market, riding elephants and touring the Royal Palace. The palace, by the way, was spectacular and is a “must see” for anyone visiting Bangkok!
Day four began what was to be the highlight of our trip. This was the start of two days of fishing at IT Lake Monsters. It's hard to describe how productive this fishery is! The action began with our first casts as Mike and I each scored on the first of many South American Redtailed Catfish. That first day at IT, Mike caught 26 of these hard fighting fish with both live and dead baits. Also on Mike's line that day was a nice Alligator Gar! My catch for the day included a little more variety. Along with numerous South American Redtails, I caught an Asian Redtail, Pacu, Giant Gourami, Tiger Catfish and two Arapaimas! The first Arapaima was hooked with Golf's assistance as he showed me how and where to fish. It weighed about 40 kilos (88 lbs) and put up a fanatic fight. My second Arapaima was a bit smaller but was 100% all mine from the bite to the net! Toward the end of the day, I hooked into yet another Arapaima. I handed the pole over to Mike in hopes that he could mark this great fish off of his “wish list”. Sadly, five minutes into the fight, the big fish spat the hook and with a splash of his tail, he was gone.
Day five began much the same with more of the beautiful IT Redtails. If only they were a little rarer, I think these fish would be the number-one trophy in all of Thailand! Typical of a Redtail bite is a long run to the far side of the lake, followed by a rod bending fight all the way to the net! Through the day, we caught a host of other species. Pacu, Tiger Catfish, Asian Redtails, Alligator Gar and a Redtail/Tiger hybrid made for a great day's fishing. Toward the end of the day, my rod began to twitch as a big fish took the bait. Carefully, I gave the fish a little line before reeling down and setting the hook. The “tug” was unmistakable. Arapaima #3 was on the line! Quickly, I handed the pole off to Mike in hopes that he could fulfill his goal. Ten minutes later, his dream was realized as he reeled in the trophy of a lifetime. Mike's Arapaima proved to be the largest of the trip, a full six feet long and weighing in at 60 kilos (132 lbs)! We were all smiles as we climbed into the water for a group photo of that beautiful fish! Our total for our two days at IT Lake netted us exactly 100 fish, 80% of which were Redtails. Amazing!
Days six and seven took us to the coastal community of Cha Am and the most scenic venue of the trip – Jurassic Fishing Park. Again, we hoped to fish for Arapaima as well as two new species, Siamese Carp and Indian Carp. The action started off right away with big carp on the line. These great fish hit the bait hard and stripped off line with gusto! Often, when we thought the fight was done, the Carp would catch a glimpse of the net and make another reel burning run! The overwhelming majority of my fish were the smaller Indian Carp. Strangely, Mike's experience was just the opposite with his bag being mostly Siamese Carp. We fished with two poles each, one being rigged for carp on the surface while the other was set with live bait for the big predators. Arapaima rolled on the surface throughout each day but in the end, none of them took the bait. Mike was fortunate to catch a Giant Snakehead on the live bait setup and we both added a few more redtails to the tally. By the end of our time at Jurassic, another 56 fish were in the net! This was a fantastic new venue that is still in development. Any angler who is looking to add trophy carp to their collection should give Jurassic some serious consideration!
Our final day of fishing – day eight – was spent back in Bangkok at Bungsamran Lake. For this final day, we planned to target larger Mekong’s and Siamese Carp. A change of bungalows put us in reach of two new species as well, Chao Phraya Catfish and Striped Catfish. We caught a number of the striped cats and I was thrilled to score on a nice Chao Phraya. We also caught a number of mekongs but the big ones failed to bite. Targeting bigger fish meant less volume. That said, we still landed 11 fish.
During my life, I've been fortunate to be able to fish on five continents. Thailand stands as the most productive destination I've ever visited. In seven days of fishing, we were successful in catching every species that we set out for – 214 fish, a total of 14 species, over 4400 lbs in weight – 2 metric tons! I can't say enough good things about our host, Eddie Mounce and our guide, Golf. Together, they made our fishing safari the trip of a lifetime. We enjoyed first class gear, great accommodations and an attention to detail that exceeded every expectation. Most importantly, friendships were forged that will not soon be forgotten. We hope to return one day for Stingray and another crack at those big Arapaima!
Written By David Sonnenburg.