By Jonas Nyqvist & Neil Robinson.
Stefan Sjoqvist and his son chartered "Gecko" for a live aboard trip to Koh Rok.
Unfortunately the weather had taken a turn for the worse, so it was decided
that it would be a better option to fish the waters around Racha,
because as well as being much closer to Phuket, the two islands
offered more protection from the rougher than usual seas at this time of year.
Many Tuna were present at Racha, and the first morning produced more than 40 fish.
Some of these were later to be used as "belly-strips" for the Sailfish.
The following day at the northern point of Racha Noi, a shoal of Sailfish
appeared amongst the lures and proceeded to attack the hook-less teasers
being trolled behind the boat to attract Sailfish.
The "deckie" quickly retrieved the teasers and the "Sails" moved over
to attacking the "belly-strips".
An amazing double hook-up followed, and both father and son
were soon fighting their first Sailfish ever, both at the same time!
Sjoqvist junior was first to get his fish to the back of the boat,
a nice 25-27 kilo fish which was released after a quick photo.
His fatherís fish jumped a few times close to the transom, shaking its head furiously,
but devastatingly for Stefan, somehow managed to spit the hook very close to the boat.
The next day they had 3 strikes came from Sailfish during the afternoon,
on the lee side of the island, but very frustratingly no hook-up occurred.
The last day was spent at the drop-off west of Racha Island trolling for Marlin.
Unfortunately we didn´t see any Marlin, but still managed to catch lots of Tuna
and a nice Rainbow Runner, which I had the good fortune to eat
on my trip to Cheow Lan, very nice it was too!
Michael had a good days work at Bungsam Lan when he guided American angler
Roger Stevens at the prolific big fish venue.
Roger had been out with Michael on "Gecko" over to Racha Islands previously.
They had caught many Tuna that day, but although many Sailfish were spotted,
they refused to feed. Michael suggested that a trip to Bungsam Lan
might make up for things because the huge "Cats" in this lake
almost always want to feed!
It didn´t take long to be proved right...
Roger wanted to weigh all the fish to make sure that he landed over 100 Kg.
After only 1 hour and 55 minutes this had been achieved!
They fished only from 11:00 AM until just after 6:00 PM, and they both estimated
that the total weight of the days catch was somewhere between 300-350 Kg!!!
We have had a couple of trips up at Cheow Lan during July,
the first of which consisted of myself, Jonas and the three Swedish anglers
who last month fished on "Gecko" and also spent a couple of days
at Bungsam Lan, Hugo Langen, his brother Ludwig and their friend Thomas.
As predicted after our last trip to Cheow Lan when the Giant Snakeheads
were spawning, the sport was really good, with the protective parent fish
behaving very aggressively in defense of their fry.
We all enjoyed lots of strikes on the first day, with everyone catching fish,
but it wasn´t until day two when Ludwig landed his best fish of the trip,
with a Giant Snakehead of just under 4 Kg.
The water level was very high and there was also still a lot of water coming into the lake
from the many rivers and streams that are a feature in this area of the lake.
Some of these can provide awesome action with the Hampala Barb
and Thai Mahseer that inhabit them, and one or two sessions
provided over 20 fish released, caught using light spinning gear.
On one trip 500 meters into the jungle along one of the rivers, we came across
many Hampala Barb spawning in a pool of slow moving water.
Here Jonas was very unlucky to lose a 4 Kg specimen right at the net.
We haven´t tried it yet, but a fly rod in the right hands, I´m sure
would also prove deadly for these tough fighting fish.
When we fish these rivers and streams, we take the boat up as far as we can,
then walk and wade in the shallow clean water, the beauty of which
has to be seen to be believed. Also the animal tracks that can be spotted
at the river bank are pretty amazing too. On this trip we saw prints from Wild Pigs,
Elephants, Barking Dear, some sort of large cat and also Buffalo prints!
About one kilometer from our floating bungalows base camp,
a young lone male elephant approximately 2-3 years old,
was spotted close to the shore of the lake.
You can take a look at his picture here.
Thomas was very lucky to land this very rare Cobra Snakehead,
(sometimes referred to as a Great Snakehead).
It´s a very beautiful fish with distinctive snake-skin like markings
dotted along the length of its body.
The trip also produced two very nice Striped Snakeheads,
one for myself, and one for Ludwig.
The afternoon sessions seemed to be the most productive on this trip
for the Giant Snakeheads, and one afternoon was especially good for me,
when I shared the boat with Ludwig. We had spotted a shoal of Giant Snakehead fry
close to the bank in a corner of the lake. We started to "bombard" the fry
with surface lures, and after a few casts, the mother revealed her presence
when she struck at one of the lures. We didn´t hook the fish this time,
but knowing she was definitely there, we continued with the "bombardment".
After what seemed like around five minutes or so, she still hadn´t struck again,
so I changed to my "lucky" diving lure. I cast the lure as close to the bank as I could
so it landed behind the shoal of fry, and as soon as the lure dived, she hit it immediately!
After a tough struggle, with the fish repeatedly diving and trying
to get under the boat, we slipped the net under this awesome 5 Kg fish.
After releasing the fish back into the water to once again
guard her offspring from predators, we moved to a different area
of Cheow Lan where Ludwig had caught his best fish,
and also lost 3 or 4 other fish of a similar caliber.
In this area there is a swamp type area over to one side, and also
an area of slightly deeper water with lots of dead trees around.
We had only been in the area around 15 minutes when I hooked into
another really good fish from amongst the dead trees.
This fish put up one of the best fights I´ve ever had from a Giant Snakehead,
and although it was almost a kilo lighter than my previous fish,
it seemed to fight twice as hard.
I was mightily relieved when Ludwig finally netted this one,
and also felt quite lucky to have managed to keep the fish away
from all the snags and dead trees that were all around us.
We have discovered yet another "hotspot", and we witnessed
a small group of Thai anglers "take the place apart" with a massive catch
of many large Giant Snakeheads to 6 Kg, Huge Hampala Barb to 4 Kg
and also Thai Mahseer to 3 Kg. From the same area
we also caught this nice Hampala Barb, two River Catfish
and a good number of Giant Snakeheads around the 1-2 Kg size.
We also missed some very aggressive strikes
from some good Giant Snakeheads in this same area.
Incidentally, before going on this trip, Ludwig was a bit undecided
about whether to go on a safari to Africa, or fishing at Cheow Lan.
It appeared that he made the right choice going to Cheow Lan,
because he got to do both! He got to see at very close range,
Wild Elephants, Wild Pigs, Barking Dear, Buffaloes, Gibbons
and other species of Monkeys, many different species of birds,
including Kingfishers, Woodpeckers, Hornbills and spectacularly,
a large Fish Eating Eagle swoop down and take
a 1 Kg Hampala Barb only 50 meters from our boat!
During the trip we endured quite a lot of rain. This didn´t affect the fishing
too much, maybe even improved things, but unfortunately not all of the fish
on this trip could be photographed due to the wet conditions
and everyone only having digital cameras with them.
On the next trip to Cheow Lan, Jonas took charge of the guiding
with his old friend Paul Lamb, and his father Greg from Australia.
Although only 2 weeks had passed since he had been there before,
the water levels had increased dramatically, rising a further 1.5 meters!
The "hotspot" we had come across on our last visit had now increased enormously in size,
and many of the weed beds where we had had most of our strikes from,
had now completely disappeared. They stuck at it aiming at Giant Snakeheads,
but with very few strikes forthcoming, they switched their attention
to fishing for Hampala Barb and Thai Mahseer.
Greg is a very experienced Barramundi angler, and it didn´t take him long
to get to grips with the Barb in the many rivers and jungle streams,
catching first a nice Thai Mahseer and a few Hampala Barb before his son
Paul started to catch up with a few Hampala Barb of his own.
In one of the rivers they found a shoal of Hampala Barb spawning
under some surface debris of twigs and leaves.
The barb couldn´t resist the spoons and spinners that were thrown at them
and a good number of fish in the 1-2 Kg bracket were landed,
including a double hook-up.
Jonas also took care of the guiding at Par Lai Lake in Phuket
with a visiting US Navy sailor whilst I was at Bungsam Lan.
The lake hadn´t been fished for a while and the results were fantastic
with a very nice mixed bag of fish including 4 nice Giant Gourami,
a nice Striped Catfish, a Rohu, a few Tilapia and many good sized Pacu.
I had a nice day at Bungsam Lan with the Karlsson family from Sweden.
To begin with the fishing was really slow and it wasnít until mid afternoon
before the action really began to get going. Once it did though,
the action was almost non stop, up until then we had only caught
3 Giant Mekong, and around half a dozen Striped Catfish, but even so
this was a lot more than anyone else on the surrounding bungalows.
Noa has only just turned 9 years old, but his determination to land fish
was incredible and the look on his face in this photograph says it all!
With a little help from me and his father, he landed some nice
Giant Mekong Catfish to over 20 Kg, including one that was foul-hooked
and fought twice as hard as normal. Take a look at this fish here.
At Bungsam Lan, after the removal of the old bridge that divided the top end
of the lake, a brand new modern bungalow has been built.
This bungalow has the best facilities of all the other bungalows,
and is in arguably the best position on the lake.
It can comfortably fish 4-6 anglers no problem, plus plenty of room
and seating arrangements for non-fishing guests, not to mention a TV!
We can now offer this bungalow to all our customers for an extra charge
of just 1000 THB per fishing group. We highly recommend this bungalow
because it has lots of space all around it, giving you plenty of room
to land your fish without having to worry about the bungalow next door!
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