Fish for Giant Freshwater Stingray in Thailand
So you want to fish for Giant Freshwater Stingray in Thailand? The giant freshwater stingray (Himantura Chaophraya) is found in various river systems throughout Thailand and South East Asia. This mythical creature reaches weights exceeding 1,000 lb (450kg+) and is arguably the largest true freshwater fish on the planet!
The Giant freshwater Stingray (GFS) is a highly adept predatory fish easily identifiable by its huge disc-like body and long whip-like tail with larger sized specimens reaching over 4m in width.
The Giant Freshwater Stingray has a pronounced ‘snout’ at the front of its disc-like body and displays a brown to grey colouration throughout the top of its body on its thick highly abrasive skin which has a texture similar to that of sand paper.
The main organs of the fish are located in the centre of its disc-like frame housed inside a pronounced body section. Many specimens clearly display the shape of the creature’s endo-skeleton through the skin on this central body section giving an almost extra-terrestrial appearance to the fish. Extremely small eyes are located at the front of this central body section in front of a large nasal cavity (spiracles). With such small eyes the giant freshwater stingray is clearly not a sight feeder relying on in-built electro-receptors similar to those of a shark to seek out its chosen prey. The giant freshwater stingray feeds on a variety of aquatic food items including small fish, crustaceans and molluscs.
The Himantura Chaophraya is the ultimate freshwater predator silently gliding across the bottom devouring all manner of prey items with its cavernous mouth located on its underside. The giant freshwater stingray has an extremely soft underside displaying a white colouration throughout with a grey to brown colouration on the edges of its disc-shaped belly. Positioned near the base of the creature’s whip-like tail are two highly venomous barbs containing toxic venom which can cause great harm and discomfort. Determining the gender of these fish is a relatively easy exercise with the male of the species clearly displaying genitalia at the base of its tail called claspers, the female having a distinct lack of genitalia in this region.
These prehistoric predatory fish with ancestory dating way back before the time of man live in some of the wildest and most remote river systems in South East Asia. This highly elusive and mysterious creature is the ultimate freshwater predator and thoroughly deserving of the title ‘The world’s largest freshwater fish’. The GFS is a highly understudied creature with very few documented captures and is classed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red list.
THE BAN PAKONG RIVER CHACHOENGSAO PROVINCE
The mighty Ban Pakong River lays 80 kms east of the sprawling metropolis of Bangkok deep in the province of Chachoengsao and is located in a low river basin making the surrounding area rich in rice fields and mango orchards. The Ban Pakong River is also known as the’ River of the Dragon’ and is a place of immense natural beauty and host to a myriad of wildlife. In the tidal lower reaches depth and flow change considerably with tidal influxes from the nearby ‘Gulf of Thailand’ pushing large amounts of saltwater into the river system making the water brackish in content.
The Ban Pakong River originates at the confluence of two other great rivers of Thailand the Nakon Nayok and Prachin Buri before slowly winding its way through Chachoengsao province finally emptying into the ‘Gulf of Thailand’ some 150km from its source.
The Ban Pakong River is an extremely large and daunting location to fish with depths ranging down to 20m and a width of nearly a mile at parts. Situated on a low flood plain alongside is the town of Chachoengsao more commonly known as ‘Paet Rui’ amongst the locals. The name ‘Paet Rui’ has reference to the large catches of fish from the area caught in ancient times by the local inhabitants.
The Ban Pakong River is one of Thailand’s five holy rivers which were traditionally used to mark the kings ascension to the throne, its banks are lined by hundreds of sacred Buddhist temples of great religious and cultural importance some dating back to the Ayutthaya period.
The Ban Pakong River benefits the local inhabitants in various ways including prawn and fish farming, transport and tourism and is an important resource for the local community.
The Ban Pakong River is one of the most awe inspiring and atmospheric fishing locations on earth and is home to possibly the largest freshwater fish on the planet. In its muddy waters lurk unseen prehistoric predators of a mythical size and a real sense of the unknown.
TACKLING THE MIGHTY RIVER OF THE DRAGON
Fishing for GFS on a massive tidal river such as the Ban Pakong in Thailand is a daunting prospect. The sheer volume of water the angler is faced with coupled by the ever changing conditions caused by the invading tidal movements from the ‘Gulf of Thailand’ make the Ban Pakong River a truly wild and untamed water.
Fishing for giant freshwater stingray (Himantura Chaophraya) in a large and remote river system such as the Ban Pakong is a highly adventurous and demanding task requiring the strongest of tackle and the most determined of anglers. It is essential that only the strongest of equipment is used in order to target GFS.
Extremely strong and robust 5ft-6ft stand up rods such as Penn Tuna Sticks coupled with large and reliable multipliers such as Shimano TLD 30’s are essential to stand even a chance of landing one of these prehistoric predators!
Heavy braided mainlines of at least 100lb are attached to long 130lb fluorocarbon shockleaders of a minimum of 10m’s in length and then secured to 2m hooklengths of 180-250lb wire in an attempt to tame the mighty giant freshwater stingray!
Large 7/ 0 Mustad hooks are then securely crimped onto the wire trace.
With the powerful flow that pushes through the river it is advisable to use weights of 200g + to hold bottom out in the middle reaches of the tidal river. Weights are attached either ‘bungee-fashion’ by way of elastic bands onto the leader or with a free running set-up incorporating a free running ring placed onto the mainline to which the weight is attached. The use of a boat is crucial for the placement of baits at distances up to 300m and is essential in the extraction of a fish once hooked in mid-river. Locally procured livebaits are mounted onto the hook by passing the hook through the baits tail before nicking the hook under the dorsal fin leaving the hook proud for maximum hooking potential!
Local knowledge is essential if you intend to target these underwater giants in the Ban Pakong River. We have spent many long hours on exploratory trips in search of this highly secretive and nomadic species, searching out potential holding areas and fishing at various locations throughout the river systems of Thailand. All of our captures of this mighty species can be attributed to the hard work of the highly skilled local members of team fishsiam.com whose knowledge has been invaluable in the pursuit of these ancient monsters of the deep!
In Part Two, first fishing encounters with the mythical giant freshwater stingray….