Carp fishing in Thailand usually brings to mind the monster Siamese Carp that are eagerly sought by record-breaking anglers. In the main, the opportunities are limited to pond-reared fish in the euphemistally named “fishing parks” adjacent to major urban areas.
However there is more, much more, to carp fishing in Thailand. Unknown to many are the various Mahseer sports fish species – which are also members of the Carp family. These fish inhabit the fast-flowing, clear freshwater river tributaries of the Salween River. One of Asia’s longest rivers, the Salween flows some 2,800 kms from the Tibetan Plateau. It runs through China and Myanmar to the Andaman Sea. It forms the border between Thailand and Myanmer along the western edge of Mae Hong Son province.
- In habit and habitat, the larger Mahseer species behave just like Brown Trout…
- They take dry flies, nymphs and streamers aggressively
- They respond to the phases of a caddis or mayfly hatch in the same way that trout do
- They are recklessly fond of fat cicadas, just like the biggest brown trout
- They sit on the same lines; in front of or behind boulders
- They hover under the foam lines
- Mahseer are spooky, wary fish and always alert to danger
Despite the higher water temperatures that occur here in Thailand, and the consequently lower oxygen levels, the Mahseer are a very powerful fish. The largest of them put up a solid battle that, more often than not, they will win in fast water. Their total fin area is significantly larger than that of a trout of the same weight. Consequently, they generate sizzling acceleration when hooked!
Carp fishing is both a challenging and a growing sport in many countries, and Thailand offers both the biggest Carp species AND some of the best wild Carp sports fishing in a very unique environment.
Wild Carp Sports Fishing
There are a variety of watersheds in Mae Hong Son province in north-western Thailand, with rivers of varying sizes flowing through terrain that various from steep and mountainous to rolling lowland hills.
Most river valleys are inhabited by Karen people, with villages scattered on broader plains and river terraces where agriculture is possible. The Karen in Mae Sariang district of Mae Hong Son province are predominantly Christian. Local Karen villages are fully integrated into the Thai legal, educational, medical, political and judicial systems.
The Karen have a tradition of resource conservation. They also have a firm village leadership format that is supported by Thai government agencies and the various NGO groups that operate in the region. As well as being farmers, the Karen are skilled boatmen. Many villages are only accessible by boat in Wet Season (June-October). Whilst dirt roads may be shown on maps, once the monsoon rains start, they quickly become impassable.
River Protection Zones
Rivers provide fish for many communities. Due to previous overfishing in many rivers, a system of Protection Zones was introduced, enforced by village elders, headmen and councils. They ensure that no fish are harvested with those zones. In the best example of this conservation ethic, one of the larger but least accessible valleys has 15 kms of protected water in a 70km navigable length. That ensures intermediate zones are replenished, and provides species sustainability in flood events. Stocks may be displaced in floods, but sufficient wild carp species will survive to re-stock the rivers.
Fly Fishing Only “Catch & Release” Carp Fishing in Thailand
We’ve provided a means for remote riverside Karen villages to harness their fisheries resources in a sustainable manner. At the same time, generate some tourism revenue for the villages where fishing is good. Fly fishing only, catch and release may be an alien concept in S.E. Asia. However, the Karen people quickly grasped the value of it in terms of sustainable resource use.
We pay a Protection Zone access fee, and hiring villages guides and porters for the days that we fish. We also purchase meat and vegetables from the villages. All of which means we can make a meaningful contribution to annual village incomes…