Sep 30, 2009

Best Fishing Rivers in India

The north of India has the largest rivers, the ones that flow out from the mighty Himalaya, and these usually get most of the attention from anglers. I will therefore buck the trend and start down south.

Down South: The Kauveri River

At quick glance at an Atlas is unlikely to give you much indication of the great fishing prospects to be had in southern India. It seems like there are a few artificial lakes, a few rolling hills and lots of cities. Not the usual territory for big and exciting fish. The Deccan Plateau however, holds a world-class surprise in the Kauveri River (Previously more familiar as the Cauvery River).

Stretching across the State of Karnataka and finally exiting to the sea on the Coromandal Coast the Kauveri River is home to the Humpback Mahseer (Tor Mussulah). These can reach 150 centimeters in length and an amazing 90 kilograms. They are renowned for the fighting power and even smaller specimens can bust tackle designed for deep-sea anglers. Another species, the Deccan Mahseer (Tor Khudree), is much smaller but a full-grown adult of 50 centimeters and perhaps 3 kilograms can still put up a good fight.

Several sections of the river are noted for their beats but the section South-west of Bangaluru (previously Bangalore) and East of Mysuru (previously Mysore) would be as good as any to try for a first visit. Fishing is best in the mornings and evenings, either from the shore or from a local coracle. There are established fishing camps and fishing guides to make a fishing holiday that more convenient.

Up North: The Ramganga and Kosi Rivers

Corbett National Park is situated to the North and East of New Delhi. This wilderness is more famous for its wildlife, especially its tigers, but deserves to be noted for one of Jim Corbett's other passions, fishing.

The Ramganga River is the largest permanent water source in the Jim Corbett National Park and hosts a wide range of wildlife. Anglers will be most interested in the Mahseer and Goonch (a type of catfish ... more about them later.)

The Kosi River forms a section of the Eastern border of the park. It holds its fair share of decent size Mahseer and is well worth checking out if in the vicinity.

The park can be reached quite easily by private car and has lots of comfortable accommodation. Fishing trips are best arranged through an agency as it is necessary to have the correct permits.

To the North-east: The Brahmaputra River

The mighty Brahmaputra should need little introduction. As one of the world's largest rivers, its name and general location should be familiar to most.

The Brahmaputra can be fished along much of its length in India. Mahseer are available in the upper reaches and fast-flowing tributaries. Giant catfish are known to exist but these are only likely to be taken by those with an abundance of patience and skill.

Choosing a section to fish along such a long river is difficult. The section between Gauhati (alternatively Guwahati) and Jorhat is relatively convenient and produces reliable catches. Further north, the section beyond Pasighat is more remote and would suit the truly adventurous angler looking for excitement and a challenge.

To the North-west: The Beas River

The Kullu Valley is a major tourist destination in Himachal Pradesh. The Beas River and its tributaries (particularly the Tirthan River and the Baspa River in the Sangla Valley) contain a variety of trout (more properly, snow trout) that give the game angler an opportunity to practice their sport in gorgeous mountain terrain.

Kullu has an airport which saves a long and sometimes frightening road experience. Travel around is best arranged in private vehicles for convenience. There are good guesthouse options in the area, some specifically catering for anglers. You may need to book well in advance for the more popular ones.

One more, for the Catfish fanatics: The Kali River

The Kali River has become infamous as the home of giant species of catfish that has allegedly taken to eating human flesh. These Goonch grow large enough to believe that they may occasionally take a piece of corpse cast into this holy river after a traditional cremation - but I am still not convinced that they are big enough or even inclined to take live human bait as the one story has it. Whatever the truth of that matter, the Kali River is an exciting venue for the catfish angler after an exotic fishing holiday abroad.

Sep 29, 2009

Sungai Petang Kelah sanctuary

The Sungai Petang Kelah sanctuary is located rather deep inside the huge Tasik Kenyir lake. To find out more about my adventures at Tasik Kenyir, click on the Kenyir ‘label’ on the right hand side of the page. From the Pengkalan Gawi jetty, one would have to take a speed boat ride to Sungai Petang. It takes about an hour or more to get there. At the rivermouth (Sungai Petang and the lake), there is a ranger’s floating office where visitors are required to register themselves. Note…if you decide to visit this Kelah sanctuary, you are actually required to obtain written permission from the Ketengah office. Ketengah’s office address and contact numbers can be obtained at the bottom of this entry.

The park ranger’s floating post

The visitor’s log book

After putting your name into the great book of visitors, you will then proceed upstream on a speedboat. Depending on the water level, the boat will stop as soon as the water becomes to shallow for it to go any further. You will then have to walk further upstream to the actual Kelah sanctuary spot. I was lucky that during my visit, the water level was quite high and the boat manages to get quite deep upstream. We only had to walk less than 30 minutes. If the water level is low, treks can often take up to an hour!

Work was on the way to upgrade the walking paths. Some areas were rather narrow and prone to corrosion. So, its good to watch out where you are stepping on.

You can never imagine how exciting and thrilling it is to witness the Sungai Petang Kelah Sanctuary. The moment we arrive at the ‘lubok’, the water was already churning up waves. The guides that brought us in carried with them bags of fish food. With one cast of a handful of fish food, the water immediately turns into a feeding frenzy of thousands of Kelah. And believe me…its by the thousands. The water literally bubbled with the Kelah’s mouth bobbing up and down swallowing gulps of the fish pallets. It’s simply amazing.

The water starts to boil with Kelah

Malaysian Mahseer everywhere! The fishes were so used to human that you can literally pick on up (not too long though) and feed them from your hands. Some of the fish pallets that dropped off from our hands and rolled off the rocks didn’t get the chance to hit the water as there were already some of the Kelah that pushed themselves out from the water trying to get to the pallets! Its simply amazing!

However, I was unable to see the really huge Kelah. The guide informed me that the Kelah are very shy fishes and the big ones tend to dwell a little bit deeper away from the humans. Once the Kelah hits a certain size, they will then make it down stream where they will roam the waters of Tasik Kenyir.

Some of us during this trip braved to put our feet at the water edge. Some of the Kelah nibbled on our feet, it was ticklish but the scary thought of a big fish giving us a nasty bite was enough to keep some of us well away from the water.

Kelah Sanctuary

The facilities prepared for the kelah at our purpose-built Kelah Sanctuary gives due recognition to the features and characteristics of the kelah.

The kelah is known to grow up to 27 to 35 kilograms. It is sleek, well-muscled and armoured with large golden scales and well suited for fast flowing water. It has a powerful large head, strong mouth and has great swimming strength.

The general characteristics of kelah can be compared to the golden arowana or 'kelisa' which are generally ornamental fish and tastes similar to the meat of the local 'ikan terubuk', except it has less fine bones. The main value of this fish is derived from its taste which needs to be acquired as the texture of the meat is fine and almost "melts in the mouth".

With the above in mind, the facilities prepared at our Kelah Sanctuary closely simulate its natural habitat in order to preserve its unique and natural characteristics.

Large ponds create a condusive environment for the kelah to swim freely, minimise stress and encourage their healthy physical development. Extra care is given to maintain the quality of the water and any ailing kelah is immediately isolated for treatment.

Sep 28, 2009

Mahseer, Stracheyi

Common Name Mahseer, Stracheyi
Local Name Pla Puang
Scientific Name Neolissochilus stracheyi
Family Cyprinidae - Minnows or carps
Max. Size 60.0 cm SL.
Current IGFA
World Record
2.13 kg / Jean-Francois Helias, Thailand
Jan. 10, 2009, Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Fishing Season All Year Long

Sep 27, 2009

Angling in Himachal Pradesh

Angling is a fast developing sport in India, and the northern state of Himachal Pradesh at the foothills of the Himalayas, is fast emerging as the prime angling destination in the country.

Angling is a form of fishing which is often used synonymously with terms like ‘sport fishing’ and ‘recreational fishing’. Angling in Himachal Pradesh can be nothing short of superb!

The streams of Himachal Pradesh can be categorized as General-Water streams and Trout-Water streams. The main fishes that are available in these streams include Trout and Mahseer, besides some other varieties like Nemacheilus spp, Barilus sp, Schizothoracids Crossocheilus sp, Glyptothorax spp. Etc.

Angling in Himachal Pradesh

One of the major activities, which is favorite among the visitors, is the angling in Himachal Pradesh. Over the years, angling has become a fast developing sport in India, particularly in the northern states of India. Himachal Pradesh is one of the prime angling destinations in India. It is basically a kind of fishing, more of a recreational fishing or sport fishing.

There are numerous small streams and lake that provide superb venue for angling in Himachal Pradesh. These streams can be categorized under General-Water streams and Trout-Water streams, based on the types of fishes found on the stream. The various types of fishes, which are available on the streams for angling, include trout, mahseer, nemacheilus, barilus, schizothoracids crossocheilus and glyptothorax. Brown and Rainblw trouts are the major fishes on the streams.

The state of Himachal Pradesh with numerous streams is a paradise for the anglers.

The streams of Himachal Pradesh teem with numerous fishes, which make it ideal for the anglers to try out their favorite sport. There are various resorts in Himachal Pradesh, which are ideally suitable for angling. The strategic spots for angling, Himachal Pradesh are Rohru, Chirgaon, Tattapani, Katrain, Largi, Banjar and Kasol for trout fishing. For the angling of Mahasheer, the favorite spots are Dehra, Nadaun, Pong Dam and Barot.

For a remarkable and memorable angling experience, you can reach up to the upper streams of Beas and Kullu Valley. Sarvari, Parbati, Sainj, Hurla and Tirthan offers excellent prospect for the angling lovers. There are reservoirs, which offer opportunities for angling in Himachal Pradesh. The major streams of the Himachal Pradesh state , which offers several angling opportunities are Beas, Sutlej, Ravi, Tirthan, Sainj, Uhl, Baspa, Pabar, Lambadug, Giri, Rana, Nugal Gai, Baner and Bata.

For angling in Himachal Pradesh, you need to pay a nominal amount. The best season for trout angling is between 31 March to 31 October. If you are in to Mahaseer angling, the best time for it are January, February, March, April, September, October, November and December.

You will definitely enjoy angling in Himachal Pradesh as there are numerous options for it. Next time, when you visit Himachal Pradesh make sure to try out angling in the streams. Other then angling, you can have various other things to do in Himachal Pradesh.

Sep 25, 2009

Tor khudree, Deccan mahseer

Tor khudree (Sykes, 1839)
Family: Cyprinidae
Order: Cypriniformes
MAX Size: > 100 cm
IGFA World Record: None

Matt Clarke looks at the Deccan mahseer, Tor khudree, a giant barb that can reach a metre in length and weigh as much as a small person.

Description :Body elongate, its depth equal to length of head. Eyes small, visible from underside of head. Mouth moderate; lips fleshy, the lower lip produced into a median lobe of varying length. Barbels - two equal pairs, slightly shorter than eye diameter in adults, equal to it in juveniles. Pectoral fins short. Scales large. Lateral sides of snout covered with a patch of small indistinct tubercles. Silvery background with the back and sides above the lateral line dark-bluish, flanks below the lateral line pale golden-yellow; the belly bluish-gray; head dark olive above and creamy yellowish-white below; bases of scales gray with their margins reddish-gray; eyes red. Fins bluish-gray, often tipped with yellowish pink.

Sep 24, 2009

Kuala Marong, Endau rompin Pahang

Kelah Sanctuary at Kuala Marong, Endau Rompin

If you ever get the chance to visit Endau Rompin National Park, try to make a detour to the Kuala Marong Kelah sanctuary. This is yet another wonderful place in tropical rainforest Malaysia where you can witness first hand the famed Malaysian Mahseer in its natural habitat.

Visited Kuala Marong during a trip to Endau Rompin organized by the Nature Guide SIG from the Malaysia Nature Society. Kuala Marong was part of the itinerary and its one of the highlights (for me at least) of the whole trip. I rarely miss the chance to see the Kelah, even if they are in fish tanks!

Unlike the Sungai Petang Kelah sanctuary that is rather heavily guarded by park rangers, Kuala Marong seems to be a bit ‘easy’ for people to access to. There were people camping just beside the river when I was there. There were also quite many people trying to ‘swim’ with the fishes.

I get to see them Kelah fishes from a specially built viewing platform. The water was crystal clear and the fishes can be seen gracefully swimming around waiting for food from human visitors. There wasn’t really that many Kelah but they were huge ones. I saw not only the Kelah but also Sebarau, Lampam and Tengas.

The fishes at Kuala Marong

Kuala Marong is a place where two rivers meet. Further down from where the fishes are is a place for visitors to swim. I didn’t hesitate of course. The place was teaming with fishes. No Kelah came near but there were definitely some curios Lampam and Sebarau. Some were even curious enough to nibble my toes! A few of my friends joined me in the water. They had some bread with them, which the fishes gladly ate up. I know it’s not a good thing to be feeding the fishes but sometimes people just can’t help it! Don’t blame them really.

The Kuala Marong Kelah sanctuary is most accessible via the eastern entrance to the park, often referred to as the Kampung Peta way. To enter via this entrance, it is best that you hire 4WD services from the Kahang town nearby. The access road is unpaved and winds through endless oil palm plantations.

Sep 23, 2009

Fly Fishing in Khao Sok National Park

Deep in our pristine jungle rivers swim a fish so majestic, so beautiful and so elusive, it has become a holy grail for anglers. The Thai Mahseer invariably represents the ultimate challenge for these sportsmen. To locate this fish is already a triumph. Then comes the challenge of enticing it to take a fly. Finally, the angler has to contend with its extreme strength and tenacity before it can be brought to the river bank, to be lovingly photographed and released, none the worse for wear. In fact, many a time it is the angler who is exhausted, albeit elated! Our guided fly fishing trips to the Khao Sok Rivers are multi-day trips due to the remote location of the rivers, a minimum 3 day trip is recommended for the best fishing result. All fly fishing equipment plus waders are included in our packages, but if you prefer to use your own equipment you are welcome to do so, we use class 5-7 rods and reels with floating lines and leaders with fluorocarbon tippets.

During the dry season a very healthy stock of fish up to 4 kg fish inhabits the pools we fish in and offers great action. The Thai Mahseer is not a fish suitable for human consumption and the area is a sport fishing area only, so the future of this fishing is secured. Thai Mahseer is easily spooked so a stealthy approach is very important. After a hooking a Thai Mahseer you will be amazed by the power of it’s first run. Trying to stop it normally means a broken leader, it is better to just let it run with not too much break on and run after it as fast as you can. When the fish slows down you start to apply power and with some luck you have caught your first Thai Mahseer on fly.

Fly fishing in these rivers is very similar to fly fishing for Trout in rivers or streams, the Mahseer and the Barb takes streamers, wet flies, nymphs and big dry flies. Undeniably, the Mahseer is one of the fiercest fighting freshwater game fish in existence. Pound for pound it had unparalleled strength and endurance. The Thai Mahseer are hard-hitting, incredibly-strong fighters that attain weight in excess of 40 lbs. They are, in short, South East Asia's hyped-up version of a 'tropical trout'.

Sep 22, 2009

How to Choose a Fishing Reel

Fishing is a great way to spend time with friends and family or to just enjoy the water. To get started, you will need to have the right reel. Here are a few suggestions to help you choose the right reel for you:

Off -Shore Fishing Saltwater fishing, particularly off-shore fishing is very exciting. Depending on the type of fish you are targeting you want your reel to be able to handle it. For off-shore big game fish including Tuna and Shark, you may want to choose a 30- 80 lb class reel.

Tica Team Big Game Trolling reels are comparable to Penn or Shimano reels but considerably less expensive. Tica has top of the line 2-speed, dual drag aluminum frames with stainless bearings. They make a great trolling reel for offshore fishing. And, at a great price. Go Tica Team!

The Titus Gold Reel is one of Okuma's best. It's light and packed with power. This high speed, 2-speed reel is great. Okuma reels stainless gears and bearings, along with the ergo handle help to make it smooth and dependable for landing your fish.

In-Shore Fishing Spinning reels are very versatile and can be used for both freshwater and saltwater fishing.

Daiwa Black Gold reel has set the standard for spinning reels. It's a classic reel and very versatile. This reel consistantly performs and will stand up to the demands of fishing. These spinning reels have 3 ball-bearing, H/P drag with Teflon and stainless washers, and corrosion proof finish. Comfortable wooden grip with folding handle for storage. Dollar for dollar, you won't find anything better than the Daiwa Black Gold Spinning reel. Daiwa makes some of the highest quality reels.

US Reels also offers a great spinning reel. US Reel SuperCaster is a great spinning reel. The aluminum/carbon construction and wide spool reels make the Supercaster very light and structurally sound. The large diameter reel allows the line to explode off the spool with ease and greater casting distance. With up to 30% greater casting distance, US Reel SuperCaster will exceed all your expectations.

You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a great fishing reel. Reels are made to fit any budget. Be sure to select the fishing reel that meets your budget and meets your fishing needs. And, of course, have fun fishing.

Ragi - Top Bait For Mahseer Fishing in India

Ragi is a paste made from millet flour and water, and typically flavoured with yeast or cumin. That's the form eaten by the local humans anyway. The form used as a fishing bait has a different texture and a huge range of tastes.

A foodstuff becomes bait

Sometime in the fairly recent past someone decided that the Ragi eaten as a staple could serve as a fishing bait. Since it was too soft to stay on the hook for long it was boiled until rubbery. The resulting 'boilie' proved a useful bait and, as with all great innovations, has been taken from there into one of the top fishing baits used in India.

Most innovations revolve around the flavouring added to the basic paste to make the bait more attractive to fish.

Strong flavours are believed by many to pass through the water and attract fish. There are various scientific theories as to why this is. Since India is the home of spice there is no shortage of strong flavours, and most of these have been tried as Mahseer fishing bait at some point or other.

Curry powder, or more properly a masala (mix), can be mixed in before the boiling stage to create one strong flavour. Since few will actually know what spices have gone into the mix this is a bit of a haphazard approach - though, to be sure, it often works.

Garlic and ginger are both used regularly in curry recipes. Both have been tried and tested as mahseer fishing bait additives with some success. Some say that garlic salt works better than crushed garlic.

Some swear that the best of the best is fenugreek, easily found in a good cook shop and all over India.

There are various other commercial additives designed for carp fishing at home that would be worth taking along and investigating. Strong fishy smells should do the trick so anything from oily sea-fish has to be worth a shot.

It is difficult to be scientific about the flavourings thing. Every regular angler has their own favourite - and may hint at the contents but will keep the special components to themselves. Take the basic Ragi first time and then begin to experiment until you build up your own experience on the matter. Oh! and don't forget other methods too. Mahseer will take live and dead baits and lures - so you can have a great time experimenting with each of these too.

When Ragi is used as a Mahseer fishing bait, a piece, the size of which can be as large as a cricket ball, is wrapped around a large hook. In the past this would typically have been a 7/0 treble hook. Nowadays, as anglers become more aware of conservation measures, more and more choose to use a single large hook. Hooks have moved on too, and ones such as the Owner SSW Cutting Point series offer extra sharp points and carefully researched angles to make for easy penetration in better placements.

The right Ragi paste delivered in an appropriate size has proven highly successful for Mahseer fishing. The first time angler wanting to be sure of catching something can drop down to ping pong ball sized baits. Those seeking a specimen to test their mettle can go up to the cricket ball size and hope this dissuades all but the largest fish - assuming that there is at least one around big enough to do the business. Your local fishing guide should be able to advise - you just need to make sure you have a variety of good quality hooks, and the rest of the tackle to handle the battle that will follow a good take.

Sep 20, 2009

Artificial propagation of two indigenous mahseer species in Sarawak, Malaysia

The Project, 'Artificial propagation of empurau, Tor tambroides and semah, Tor douronensis, two species of commercial and conservation value to Sarawak, Malaysia', commenced in April 2001, and was successfully carried out over a four-year period. The Project accomplished the primary objectives. The most outstanding achievements were the success in the captive breeding of the semah and empurau, and the training of the Malaysian officers in adopting the techniques, as a routine, and the successes in the larval to fingerling rearing of the two species.

Although the captive breeding of these two valuable species have been achieved, as a first and an important step, there are many other research & development issues that have to be addressed, and tangible results obtained, prior to:

  • Commercialisation, and long-term sustainability, of the culture of these two valuable species.
  • Utilisation of captive-bred juveniles for replenishing the much-depleted wild stocks to ensure long-term conservation needs.
Stripping eggs from mahseer

In the above regard that it is proposed that the R&D activities on semah and empurau be further carried out, enabling the Government of Sarawak to popularise the aquaculture of these most invaluable species to the State of Sarawak. Also, it is equally importantly to enable the State to adopt a scientifically based, enhancement program of the already depleted wild stocks thereby ensuring the long-term conservation of the gene pools of the two species.

A consolidated R&D program on captive-breeding, associated with successful culture of the two species, combined with a conservation strategy through enhancement of the wild stocks, will be the first instance in Asia, for that matter in the world, where a such a combined strategy has been adopted with regard to indigenous species. A program that would shed light to other nations in the region, and indeed to the world, that aquaculture development could go hand in hand with conservation of biodiversity.

Sep 18, 2009

Basunti - fresh water game fish in India

Angling opportunities at Basunti are unparalleled. Overlooking Maharana Pratap Sagar, a vast 40 km long manmade wetland it provides almost all the year round opportunities to fish for the mighty Golden Mahseer, one of India's most celebrated freshwater game fish.

3.4 kg Golden Mahseer caught using a Silver Mepps Aglia

The mahseer at Pong Dam are canny but always good fun with catches of 2kg-5kg common and 8kg-10kg caught from time to time with the largest fish recorded locally in recent years at 14kg.

Besides mahseer, other fish caught at Pong Dam - as Maharana Pratap Sagar is also known - include malhi, soal, carp, shovell-headed catfish, bachwa, snakefish and singara. A total of 27 fish species belonging to five families have been recorded in the lake and the triubutaries of the Beas river, which feed it. The area also provides direct employment to about 1,500 local fishermen.

With Basunti's own shikari, who has fished these waters for the last 20 years, guests can fish from the shore, take boat trips to Ranseer island or go upstream to several chosen marks known to the locals. Early morning and late afternoon to dusk make the best times to fish. The mahseer hunt chilwa (baitfish) just under the surface but will hook on spinners much of the time. However when all else fails fresh livebait, caught by our shikari, does the job.

With distant views of the Himalayan foothills, the area is an angler's paradise and besides the fishing on Basunti's doortsep some of the finest trout streams in India - abounding in both brown and rainbow trout - are within a day's reach.

Angling rules are liberal and the fee for the licence, which we obtain on guest's behalf, is nominal.

Sep 17, 2009

Mahseer is a potential aquaculture

Mahseer is distributed in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Srilanka, Afghanistan, and Burma. It inhabits different rivers throughout the length & breadth of India.

Different species occupy different ecosystems ranging from tropical waters (35°C) to sub-Himalayan regions (6°C). Occur in streams hardly above sea level & 2000 m above sea level. T. putitora is commonly distributed at an altitude from 70-1891 m and Tor tor from 135-1891 m. Occurrence and distribution is controlled by water temperature. The seven species seen in India are:

  • Tor putitora (Golden mahseer), Tor tor (Tor mahseer)

  • Tor khudree (Deccan mahseer)

  • Tor mussullah (Humpback mahseer)

  • Tor kulkarnii (Dwarf mahseer)

  • Tor progeneius (Assamese mahseer)

  • Tor mosal (Copper mahseer).


Mahseer is a freshwater fish and it inhabits hill streams and fast flowing rivers. It is omnivorous, opportunistic feeder and feeds on green filamentous algae, aquatic insects, small fish, weeds and mollusks. Feed choice changes with age and size. Hatchlings have higher inclination towards planktonic food and fingerlings and growers prefer animal origin food. Mahseer migrate upstream, from the main river into the rivulets mainly during the southwest monsoon (July through September) for the purpose of spawning, this is when they ascend to substantial heights up to 2500 ft. Migration process is due to the reproductive biology of the fish and also in search of fresh feeding grounds.


Most of female mahseer mature above 390 mm in length and spawn from May to September. Breeding season of most mahseer species extends from July to September with a peak in July – August.

Most mahseer species are known to have very similar spawning behavior and breeding habits. Natural spawning habitats usually comprise the marginal lake areas. In addition to well-oxygenated water, water temperature from 21°C to 26°C proves to be effective for final maturation of eggs. The average fecundity is about 3100 eggs/kg body weight of the female. The fertilized eggs are demersal, lemon yellow or brownish golden in color and measure 2.8 to 3.2 mm in diameter.


Hatching time depends upon the water temperature and takes 60-96 hours at 20-28°C and more than 96 hrs at temperatures less than 20°C. Reliable method to obtain fry and fingerlings is to grow mahseer juveniles in ponds and breed the adults using hormones. Intramuscular administration of ovaprim @ 0.20 ml/kg bw is given to the females.

Stripping is done 12 hours after administrating the second dose pituitary extract to female, the male requiring only one dose. For artificial fertilization, eggs are mixed with milt by dry method. Fertilization rate is 70-80% and hatching rate is 60-65%. The early hatchlings of mahseer are golden yellow and pass through a semi-quiescent stage during which they remain huddled in corners and crevices with their heads tucked away from light. In this condition, they are exposed to heavy predation. This lasts for about six days and forms the most critical period of its early life cycle. Mahseer growth response increase with increasing water temperature and it grows well in warmer place than in colder place. Mahseer can attain sizes upto 5.5 ft and weigh over 50 kgs.


Mahseer is a highly valued indigenous species. It is an outstanding game & food fish. As a sport fish, it provides unparalleled recreation to anglers from all over the world. It supports a substantial natural fishery in the major riverine ecosystems of India. Mahseer is a highly esteemed food fish & fetches high market price in north & northeast India. It is a potential species for aquaculture and there is an increasing interest for aquarium trade


Mahseer is a potential aquaculture species. The old practice has been to rear wild mahseer in captivity. Brood fish grown in captivity can produce the required quantity of seed. Mahseer is suitable for both composite fish culture and monoculture. Hatchlings, fry, fingerlings and growers of mahseer accept pelleted feed and is capable of efficient utilization. Based on growth performance and feed utilization a 40% protein content in the feed is optimal. Mahseer grown on pelletized feed develops into excellent broodstock for induced breeding. Commercial culture is possible in warmer areas. In most cases, mahseer fry are raised to fingerlings and stocked in reservoirs and rivers.

Rearing of fry and fingerlings of mahseer were undertaken in cages in reservoirs. This would enable production of stocking material in reservoir without additional land space. In experimental cage culture carried out at Walwan reservoir, Mahseer stocked in nylon cages at a depth of 2 m. After 150 days of culture, average weight of Tor khudree was 35-106 g and that of Tor putitora was 15- 52 g. Survival rate was 98%. Cage culture with low-cost supplemental feeding is gaining popularity in the country.

Pen and cage culture can be extended to hilly rivers & creeks.

In properly managed ponds, an average weight of 175 g can be reached in 1 year.

Mahseer fingerlings can be reared on pelletized feed made of rice bran, groundnut cake and fishmeal (30:30:40).

Experiments conducted on the culture of khudree have indicated that mahseer fingerlings could be grown to 110-120 g in monocultures at a stocking density of 11000/ha in 8 months.

The Kelah Action Group of Malaysia

Scientific name Tor tambroides; Tor tambra
English name Malaysian Red Mahseer; Thai Red Mahseer; Greater Brook Carp
Local names Kelah (Peninsular Malaysia), Empurau/Semah (Sarawak), Pelian (Sabah)
Salient features Large strong head, thick lips with median lobe lower lip. Body cylindrical with slight compression; large scales. Colour ranges from pale to bright red. Fins range from pink to red to blue. Large forked tail and rudder-like anal fin.
Distribution Indian, Myanmar, Thailand, Borneo, Sumatra.
Habitat Medium to large rivers with rocky, sandy and leafy bottom. Prefers highly oxygenated water and dark environment.
Habits Stations itself in prime lies where its needs of security, shelter and food it readily served. May forage in shallow areas or close to rapids when it is assured of security. A very shy fish.
Diet Jungle fruits, insects, crustaceans. When mature, it may forage on small baitfish.

Deep in our pristine jungle rivers swim a fish so majestic, so beautiful and so elusive, it has become a holy grail for Malaysian and international anglers. The kelah invariably represents the ultimate challenge for these sportsmen. To locate this fish is already a triumph. Then comes the challenge of enticing it to take a bait, lure or fly. Finally, the angler has to contend with its extreme strength and tenacity before it can be brought to the sandy river bank, to be lovingly photographed and released, none the worse for wear. In fact, many a time it’s the angler who is exhausted, albeit elated!

The kelah is one of Malaysia’s precious ecological heritage; a fish that is unique to the region. It is of very high economic value too. Anglers and eco-tourists are willing to pay significant sums of money to meet this fish! The kelah is essentially a carp, placed in the order of Cypriniformes, although it is loosely related to the European barbel (Barbus barbus).. It’s closer relatives are the mahseer species of India (Tor spp.) and several other countries in Asia. You could say that kelah is amember of Asia’s prime sport fishes.

Kelah can be found in the mighty rivers of our country: Sg Pahang and its tributaries (Tembeling, Jelai, Tanum, Tahan, Keniam, Sat etc), S. Perak and its tributaries (Kejar, Chiong, Singor, Temengor), Sg. Muda and its tributaries (Teliang, Gawi), the rivers feeding Lake Kenyir (Petuang, Cacing, Terenggan, Tembat), Sg. Kelantan and its tributaries (Galas, nenggiri, Lebir, Aring, Pertang), The Endau-Rompin rivers (Endau, Kincin, Kemapan, Jasin, Mas, Lemakuh), and the Batang Rajang and Sg Kinabatangan systems. In fact, almost all the major rivers in the country – with the exception of Perlis – used to have stocks of this beautiful fish.

However, factors like polluiton, river degradation due to silting, the straightening of rivers and deforestation have combined to destroy the habitat of this fish. Further aggravating the problem is the unscrupulous fishing activities like illegal netting, bombing, poisoning and electro-fishing that have severely decimated the stocks of kelah.

If you were to be a kelah today, these are the probable scenarios you would have to face in your now-shortened life:
Your home of deep, dark pool laced with rocks and sunken timber would now be covered with a thick layer of silt, since the clearing of vast tracts of forest would have resulted run-off due to rains.
Your spawned eggs would not hatch. The eggs would be smothered by the silt, depriving them of the much-needed oxygen.
You face on a daily basis a plethora of nets and humans with bombs, poisons, harpoons, and electrodes in their quest for a nice supper or a fast buck.
You choke on the chemicals from remote factories and run-offs from agricultural activities.
Your river gets straightened, the river becomes too fast and too shallow for you to survive. It’s like living on a walkalator.

With these scenarios, the kelah and other prime fishes like the temoleh, kelesa, kerai and tengas are doomed and heading for extinction. Ethical anglers were the first group to realise this issue. As fishermen, they are in a unique position to be able to see first hand what is happening in our rivers. Many have started the self-imposed practice of ‘catch-and-release’, preferring to go home with a cherished photo rather than a dead fish. Now, a group of concerned citizens have got together to help the authorities and the angling fraternity to conserve this precious fish. Eventually, it is hoped that it will be for the good of all – the eco-tourism industry, the recreational fishing groups, the country, and most importantly, the fish!

They call themselves KAGUM (The Kelah Action Group of Malaysia). Their activities will take a multi-pronged approach:

Building awareness of the plight of our rivers, their fishes and especially the kelah
Coordinating and participating in conservation activities eg. community-based fish conservation, river restoration
Promoting conservation-centric involvement among corporations and relevant organisations in Malaysia
Supporting the river- and fish-conservation programs spearheaded by the authorities
Establishing a knowledge portal for the community on the kelah, Malaysian fishes and rivers.

Sep 16, 2009

Golden Mahseer - River Carp With a Hint of Spice

Fishing in India is hotting up. Once the reserve of officer/gentlemen the sport is now beginning to reach the local masses and adventurous anglers from abroad. For many, the most sought after prize is a Golden Mahseer.

Tor putitora, better known as Golden or Common Himalayan Mahseer, though also by a myriad other names, are a member of the Carp family, Cyprinidae. They are quite closely related to barbel. Apart from the distinctive scales on the side, the carp family tie is not immediately obvious. Golden Mahseer are a graceful and attractive fish with more resemblance to a salmon than the stocky carp specimens so sought after in European waters.

This species can be found in streams and rivers all over India but they favour fast-flowing rocky waters. The best sport is found up in the Himalayan foothills and down on the Deccan Plateau around Bangaluru (previously known as Bangalore).

The best fishing is when water levels are low. This means the months of October through to December and February through to the closed season at the end of June.

Like all species of Mahseer found in India, the days of true giants are long past. A fish of 50 kilograms is now considered a rarity with the average being more in the 5 to 10 kilogram range. Unfortunately, poachers have found Mahseer catches to be lucrative and many of the best fish end up in their traps and nets rather than on an angler's line.

With large fins and a tendency to fight with rather than against the current gives Golden Mahseer the reputation of being amongst the most powerful freshwater fish. There are many stories of anglers being taken by surprise and ending up in the water with their rod, or only just saved by an attentive local guide. Other stories suggest that one of the best tactics for coping with the fishes initial run is to sprint downstream rod in hand. Good luck to you.

Golden Mahseer are omnivorous, feeding on plant matter and insects as juveniles and becoming more predatory as they get larger. Anglers will find a live or dead bait or a lure delivered in the bottom half of the water to work the best. Where possible, fishing from a boat is recommended as the biggest fish stay out where the current is strong. A boat also allows for a stretch of river to be covered easily - a big issue up in the mountains where the riverbanks may be very difficult to traverse.

Other fish in these same rivers provide worthwhile sport and, now that long haul flight to India can be had at reasonable cost, fishing in India becomes a viable option even for a short break. Whatever you regular style of fishing at home, catching a Golden Mahseer would certainly spice up a fishing holiday. Now all you have to do is find the time to get away.

Sep 15, 2009


The mahseer, Queen of the River, is indeed royalty in the world of sports fishing. A fish that was capable of making an Englishman regard the "lordly salmon's sporting qualities as inferior, in comparison" is certainly high praise from Mr. H. S. Thomas in the year 1873 – the Isaac Walton of Indian angling literature.

In 1903 the term "Mighty Mahseer" appeared for the first time, incorporated in the title of a book on Angling in India by a man, who used the nom-de-plume "Skene Dhu" – but even generations before this, the mahseer found its place as a highly treasured game fish, because of its superb fighting qualities.

One of the first recorded biggies was caught in 1870, a fish of 110 lbs, caught on hand-line by G. P. Sanderson in the Kabini River, as tributary to the Kaveri River. The first mahseer to enter the book of records of fish caught on rod and reel, was caught in the Kaveri River near Srirangapatnam in 1906 by Mr. C. E. Murray Aynsley. This mahseer weighed 104 lbs, and a commemorative stone was reportedly erected on the bank of the river, where the fish was landed.

In the following 40 years, up to 1947, more than 10 fish over 100 lbs were recorded from the Kabini-Kaveri system. One of the most famous catches was by Major J. S. Rivett-Carnac in 1919 in the Kaveri River, with a mahseer weighing 119 lbs. This fish headed the record list for more than 25 years, until J. Dewet van Ingen beat it by only 1 lb. 120 lbs of sheer dynamite – a record, which still stands today. Since then, there has been only one record of mahseer over 100 lbs, but the locals have landed giants of 100-112 lbs on hand-lines.

Before the ABU team in 1978 "refound" the mighty mahseer, the fishing had declined rapidly, when the British left India in 1947. But after these three anglers adventurous story, more French, British and Germs got their appetite for mahseer wetted, and suddenly the mahseer was found in many sports fishing magazines after having been virtually forgotten for 30 years.
Even though there has been only the one 100 pounder during the last 50 years, several fishermen have had wonderful catches; for example, John Wilson who had the distinction of catching a 92 and an 81 pounder on the same day. Other known British adventure anglers have conquered the big mahseer, namely Paul Boote with 75 lb, Jeremy Wade with a 95½ lb, John Watson with an 88 lb, and Andy Davison with a 95 and an 88 lbs.

Mahseer biology
The humpback mahseer, being closely related to barbel in the big family of cyprinids, is scientifically named Tor musullah. The name mahseer, itself, is not without relevance, as it roughly translated means "great mouth" (maha meaning great, hence Maharaja). The huge protrudable, vacuum-cleaner like mouth is an impressive instrument, and equipped with closely packed pharyngal teeth, it is able to crush water-snails, crabs and other crustaceans, aswell as most of the hardware from an anglers tackle box. The mouth is also muscular and very powerful, the lips resembling hard rubber, and with this device the mahseer is capable of killing fairly large fish by sheer compression. Still, the lips are extremely sensitive, and the mahseer can actually pick up single rice grains, and that at an incredible speed. The mahseer looks much like a huge cross between a roach and a barbel.

Sep 14, 2009

Hope for 'kelah' as history is made

:::... The first batch of 250 Malaysian Masheer hatchlings or the majestic ikan kelah was bred in captivity ...:::

RAUB: History was made at the RM3.7 million hatchery at Kampung Ulu Sungai here when the first batch of 250 Malayan Masheer hatching (Tor tambriodes) or ikan kelah was bred in captivity. At 60 days old, the fry are reported to be in good health and growing under a controlled environment.

The result came from the research and work by agriculturist Ng Chee Kiat, who published a book on the freshwater species titled King of the Rivers three years ago.

The 46-year-old said his project was self-funded and took shape last December.

:::... The RM3.7 million hatchery is modelled on those in India, Thailand and the Netherlands ...:::

To enable captive breeding of the Malayan Masheer, Ng had sourced for a large quantity of brood stock across Peninsular Malaysia.

"I built a hatchery complex to house mature fish stock aged one and above because these are fish that have reached maturity and are the right age for their reproduction cycle. I acquired more than 200 specimens."

For location, Kampung Ulu Sungai was the first choice for its good quality water.

Ng modelled the hatchery on facilities he had visited in India, Thailand and the Netherlands.

"India has been successful in breeding the Indian Masheer.

"And much of the technical aspect of my hatchery was adapted from the Netherlands where technology is incorporated into breeding species like the trout."

He said the adult fishes (70 per cent of his brood stock are female) were ready for breeding in March.

To harvest the eggs, he used a synthetic hormone and milked the sperm from the male Masheer to carry out artificial fertilization.

Larvae development takes shape in 72 hours. But his first attempt to breed it ended in failure. In his second attempt, he came close to accomplishing his goal, but the hatchlings turned out to be deformed.

According to him, the paired brood stock had not reached its mature age. And instead of destroying the deformed fry, he kept six surviving hatchlings.

In September, the fish larvaes hatched with a clean bill of health.

"It was just a matter of time. I am happy with the results and, with this achievement, we can now breed the Masheer at any time."

He said since the species was also a biological indicator of the health of the country's rivers, it was imperative that efforts be made to conserve the fish.

The Masheer, which is found in Indonesia, Thailand and Indochina, can only survive in water that is high in dissolved oxygen.

"Ikan kelah needs fast-flowing water. It will die if there is insufficient oxygen and if the water quality is poor. On the average, the species spawns only twice a year. One flaw in this fish breed is its slow growth rate and reproduction cycle."

The Masheer is also threatened by the decline of its natural habitat and overfishing due to the demand for premium freshwater fish at restaurants.

Ng cited one example in Sarawak where a large specimen was landed and sold for more than RM9,000. Such demand has also threatened ikan kelah, which can fetch up to RM450 per kg.

"It is no secret that large quantities of the Masheer were harvested from the wild and ended up on dining tables. And if no one puts a stop to this, the species is doomed."

Captive breeding of the Masheer, he said, provided a chance to restock the species in the wild. He said he hoped that in five years, his hatchery could produce enough hatchlings for conservation.

He said there were efforts to save the Masheer.

At Kem Melantai in Taman Negara, a part of Sungai Tahan has been closed to fishing to breed the Masheer in its natural habitat.

"With a stable brood stock and a well-conditioned number of fishes, I can breed the Masheer all year round. This means that their fry can be made available on demand. Rivers can be restocked faster than the fish's reproductive cycle."

He said the Masheer was not an easy fish to breed in captivity due to its slower larvae development period.

An average commercial freshwater fish like the tilapia or grass carp takes fewer than 24 hours to hatch after fertilisation.

"The fish thrives in cooler temperature and in conditions where water quality is rich with dissolved oxygen. One of the drawbacks of the young hatchlings is that their parents are not around to care for them."

The omnivorous Masheer feeds on aquatic plant and fruits and has a life expectancy of 30 years.

Asked what he planned to do with the first batch of hatchlings, he said the fry would be kept under close watch.

"Now that I have stabilised the first generation of captive-bred Masheer, my goal is to condition them for spawning and hopefully, we will have a steady supply in the future."

Sep 13, 2009

Mahseer species in the Corbett Tiger, Bhutan

Monarch of Himalayan waters. The undisputed lord of Himalayan rivers is the handsome golden-scaled highlander. Undeniably, the mahseer is one of the fiercest fighting freshwater game fish that exists. Pound for pound it had unparalleled strength and endurance. Mahseer does have a transitory likeness to the carp and the barbell of the English waters, but as they say, the similarity soon ends in the turbid waters of the Himalayan foothills.

The mahseer shows more sport for its size then a salmon and therefore considered the best sportfish in the world....this is what snobs (??) of the Raj era had to say. Mahseer have overjoyed generations of anglers and time after time lived up to being called the "Mighty Mahseer".

A Legend: One of the fascinating narrations of Jim Corbett in his book "Man-eater of Kumaon" is about his fishing for mahseer in a river that flowed for some 60 km through a beautiful valley teeming with wildlife. The chapter titled 'Fish of my dreams' narrates how the air then was filled with the fragrance of flower and the spring songs of a multitude of birds. Corbett exclaimed that angling for mahseer in a sub-montane river in that atmosphere was a sport fit for the kings!

While Corbett felt that the 50 lb mahseer he had caught could be forgotten, what would remain etched in his mind was the sublime surroundings in which he had caught the fish. His description of the river and surroundings seem to bring to life the Ramganga valley of the Corbett Tiger Reserve which is till one of the few strong holds of mahseer in India.

A Brief: The Mahseer is a freshwater fish that can attain a huge size. A 70-80 kg catch has not been uncommon in this area which boasts fish which can grow to weights exceeding 100 kg.

Most mahseer take the bait quite avidly which perhaps has helped cultivate an erroneous impression of it being carnivorous and rapacious by nature. Studies have proven that mahseer are omnivorous and take almost anything-weeds, snails, crabs and live fish. The etymology of 'mahseer' throws up interesting clues. The word could mean a fish with 'Lion's gameness', 'large-scaled fish', 'large-headed fish' or 'fish par excellence'!

Distribution: Mahseer inhabit most river and reservoirs of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka. Mahseer experts have recognized six to eight different species in India but no detailed information on the present status and distribution of each of these species is available. Different species of mahseer inhabit different habitats ranging from tropical water where the temperature in summer goes up to 35°C to sub-Himalayan waters where the winter water temperature drops close to 0°C. Mahseer can be found in streams a few metres above sea level and also in fast moving waters at altitudes of 2,000 m or more.

Ramganga: The mahseer species found in the Corbett Tiger Reserve is the golden variety (Tor putitora), graces the Ramganga river and weights up to 25 kgs. The biggest caught, weighed and photographed on the Vanghat beat was a 68 pounder in April 2004 by Mark Fielden from UK. Another Mahseer almost caught by Vish Satappam and George Fanthom, presumed to be over 70 lbs, literally dragged the rod away (which was later retrieved) and escaped.

Endangered mahseer: Accurate data on the catches of mahseer from different parts of the country is woefully lacking, however compression of figures from a few isolated surveys as well as observations of anglers and biologists indicate that there is a serious decline in the mahseer numbers in the country.

The decline is due to a combination of factors -unchecked and indiscriminate fishing, dynamiting and poisoning of rivers which destroys even the brood fish and juveniles, pollution and siltation of river bodies and construction of dams which has impeded the migration of mahseer, a factor crucial for its spawning. Unfortunately for mahseer, when compared to other commercial fish, it is more prone to depletion and extinction.

Spawning: A prime habitat requirement of the mahseer is clean water, which is fast becoming a scarcity. Favored mahseer spawning grounds are calm, well-oxygenated waters with a bed of sand or gravel. Journey to such grounds is fraught with risk and dangers. The fecundity of mahseer as compared to the commercially exploited species is very low. For example the Deccan or Khudree mahseer (Tor Khudree) has 6,000 eggs/kg body weight of rohu (Labeo Rohita) and 1,33,000 eggs/kg body weight of catla (Catla Catla).

The eggs of mahseer are demersal or capable of sinking to the river bed and therefore, mud instead of sand or gravel on the river bed can cause them to simply perish. The hatching period for Khudree mahseer is 60-80 hours while that of Golden or Himalayan mahseer is 80-96 hours as compared to the meagre18 hours for catla and rohu. Further, the semi-quiescent stage soon after hatching is three days for catla and rohu, while it is six days for Khudree mahseer. We can safely infer then that the mahseer is more vulnerable to all forms of decimation. If it is to survive throughout its range, there is an urgent need to plan and implement strict conservations measures.

Mahseer Haven: Ramganga river, where Corbett fished for his dinner, has over this century undergone a major change due to the construction of a dam at Kalagarh in the late 60's and early 70's. Consequently, the water in the reservoir encompasses an area of 60 sq km in summers and 80 sq km in the winter months. With the monsoons of July-August, areas around the 16 km of the river from Kalagarh to Dhikala stands inundated. Fortunately, the 32 km stretch of river a little upstream of Vanghat, (from where it enters the Corbett Tiger Reserve) right up to Dhikala, remains what it was a hundred year ago-a spectator to the abundant wildlife on both the banks. Mandal and Plain rivers, the upstream tributaries of the Ramganga, are vital spawning grounds for the Mahseer of the Tiger Reserve. Spawning usually occurs in the month of August.

Sep 11, 2009

Blue Mahseer

Superclass :Gnathostomata
Class :Actinopterygii
Division :Teleostei
Subdivision :Euteleostei
Superorder :Ostariophysi
Order :Cypriniformes
Family :Cyprinidae
Subfamily :Cyprininae
Tribe :Cyprinini
Subtribe :Tores
Genus :Tor Gray
Scientific name :Tor Neilli (Day)
English name :Blue mahseer
Kannada name :Bili meenu, Ellu
Distinguishing charecters :D - 13 (4/9), P - 15 (1/14), V - 10, A - 8 (1/7), C - 19, L.L. - 24-26, - 4 ½ / 4
Size attains :550 mm
Distribution :Krishna, Cauvery and West-flowing river drainages.

Description :Dorsal and abdominal profiles about equally convex. Inter-orbital space nearly flat. Snout conical with the upper jaw slightly the longer. Lower labial fold continuous. The rostral pair of barbels reach the front edge of the eye, the maxillary pair equal 1 ½ diameter of the orbit. Silvery above the lateral line with a tinge of yellow below it. Fins with a bluish tinge in some specimens, reddish in others. The young have a dark spot at the base of the caudal fin. Eyes golden.

Sep 10, 2009

Species Mahseer

Knowing more about an obsession helps us come to terms with it better. And what better an object of obsession than the golden mahseer? It reaches a gratifyingly large size, puts up a great fight and if it's obese cousin the carp can be called beautiful by some, the words for a mahseer's beauty are yet to be written.

'Mahseer' is the common name for several species of large scaled barbels (one of them not of the same genus) found in the subcontinent. The Barbus tor putitora is a coldwater cyprinid related to the European barbel (Barbus barbus) and carp (Cyprinus carpio carpio). Once found all along the Himalayan foothill rivers from West of Afghanistan to parts of South-East Asia, now the great mahseers are found only along the Indian Himalayas. It's South-Eastern cousin does not attain a size to be called 'great'.

As Thomas says - 'There be more than one Richmond in the field'. There are seven of them.
We consider the valid species to be:
Tor putitora- the Yellow-fin or Golden Mahseer
Tor tor- the Redfin Mahseer
Tor mosal- the Copper Mahseer
Neolissocheilus hexagonolepis- the Chocolate Mahseer
Tor progenius- the Jungha Mahseer
Tor mussullah- the Humpback Mahseer
Tor khudree- the Yellow or Deccan Mahseer

All except the last two are found in the Himalayan fisheries, former two being the bigger and more widespread, the latter three being commoner in the East Himalayas (Assam, Sikkim, Arunachal).
T. Mussullah and T. Khudree are found in Peninsular India of which the former runs big - a fish of this species constitutes the April 1947 record of 120 lbs. Our own waters up North have been producing 50kg plus fish but unfortunately, the best way to see these is in fish markets, produced by poachers.

The T. putitora is a totally different beast from the other versions. Elusive, finicky, moody and arguably the most beautiful fish in India, the Yellow-fin lives in big, fast water, grows bigger and takes with unmatched aggression when it does. It's fight in Himalayan waters is aided by the biggest fins and some of the biggest rivers. Most Yellow-fins tend to run downriver rather than up making good running shoes a necessity. It's possible to hook a record size Mahseer in some of the waters, but landing them is a story we'd like you to write.

In a somewhat perverse manner, if one looks purely at bags and tackle, the fishing doen't seem to have changed much really. Old time anglers used to moan about lack of fish or fishing being tough. If not that then '...several much larger ones got off...'. Well, the story is more or less the same. The biggest have been killed off and those that remain fall in the same size category. Whatever the cause, we still know places for fish worth writing home about. Just make sure you don't leave good luck behind.

Sep 9, 2009

Kelah: The "king" of fish

ikan kelahThe "king" of the river fish - the "kelah" or Golden Mahseer - takes three years to grow to a size of three kilogram! To grow to 8 kg would take some 40 years, depending on its environment and food sources.

The kelah (scientific name "Tor Tombroides") which is also known as the "empurau" in Sarawak and Mahseer in India, can be found in several main rivers in the country except Perlis.

The prize fish which can fetch RM100 per kg, is now scarce as its population has dwindled either because of over-fishing or destruction of its habitat brought about by erosion.

Anglers would have to persistent enough to trek into the upper reaches of the rivers to hunt for this game fish that foreigners call the "Malaysian Golden Mahseer".

Among the places where anglers still go for the thrill of landing the fish are certain pools in the rivers of Taman Negara near Jerantut, like Sungai Tahan, Sungai Kenyam and Sungai Tembeling.

Sungai Nenggiri in Gua Musang is also a haven for these much sought after freshwater fish that can fetch a good price at fine dining restaurants in the country.

Sadly these Malaysian masheer (or tambriodes) faces extinction and efforts are underway to protect this endangered species.

Among other rivers, the Sungai Tahan which flows for about 55 km from its source in Mount Tahan to meet with Sungai Tembeling in Kuala Tahan, is said to be the fish's main home.

With pools of five to 15 metres deep, its water darkish, swift and punctuated with waterfalls and rapids, the river is the natural habitat of this game fish which loves to hide and play among the many sunken logs and rocky banks.

To ensure that the species does not suffer the same fate as those in other areas, the authorities had since 2000 gazetted that river as a reserve where no fishing by whatever means is allowed.

With the ban, they are free and safe in Sungai Tahan. However, because its reproduction and growth rate is slow, the fish is said to be scarce and elusive.

As a result, the Wildlife Protection and National Park Department (Perhilitan) with the cooperation of Usains Holding Sdn Bhd, a research wing of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), had created an Ikan Kelah Sanctuary in Sungai Tahan.

Head of the project, Professor Dr Eddy Ta n, 57, said the idea of the sanctuary was mooted in early 1980s but they were able to realise it only in November 2001 after securing a RM5-million allocation under the 8th Malaysia Plan.

He said Sungai Tahan was chosen for the sanctuary because it is the natural spawning ground of the fish. Although fishing is outlawed for the whole river, the sanctuary project is confined to a pool area called "Lubuk Tenor", named after the Tenor river nearby.

Fringed by fruit trees such as guava, "neram", "temarih" and "ara" which are among the favourite food of the fish, the pool with a depth of four metres and the size of a badminton court, is about 40 minutes by boat from Kuala Tahan.

Dr Eddy said the research work was more of observation and study rather than scientific research because it did not disturb the fish.

"By this approach, we do not catch the fish by hooks or nets to gather data. Measurement of weight and size is through observation.

"Probably because we do not frighten them, the fishes in Lubuk Tenor appear to be more tame," he said.

Although men are their main enemy, the kelah in Lubuk Tenor are not exactly free from danger. "The kelah fry are food for another game fish, the `subarau' while those weighing one to two kg are the preys of "toman" (or the snakehead) and tapah," he said.

One of the research work is to "persuade" the fish in the upper and lower reaches of the river to make Lubuk Tenor their home.

Jamalluddin Hamzah, 59, a founding member and former head of the sanctuary project, has many interesting tales to tell not only about how they "persuade" the fish but also how they convinced the local people around Kuala Tahan to appreciate and help make the project a success.

"When we first started, several of us had to go to the pool three times a day to scatter the food pellets made of seeds - morning, noon and evening," he said.

Jamaluddin also sounded a bell to call the fish when they scattered the food. "At first, only the lampam fish were attracted to the pellets. But three months later, several kelah weighing between one to three kgs were seen rushing for the food," he said.

After a while, they stopped using the bell and the fish would rush for the pellets whenever they are thrown into the pool.

And their efforts seemed to work because they have seen 40 to 50 of the fish in the pool, each weighing from one to five kg.

Jamaluddin said the villagers initially thought they were mad, wasting government money by feeding the fish in the river.

Dr Eddy said without the cooperation of the villagers, it would be difficult for the project to succeed. In this connection, they held several talks with them on the importantance of preserving these national treasures.

Students from schools around Kuala Tahan were brought to Lubuk Tenor to see how the kelah can be tamed and fed.

"After seeing for themselves how the wild fish can be tamed like those in the aquariums, the local people now realise the importance of the sanctuary project," he added.

Apart from the villagers, the project also involved the Orang Asli of the Batek tribe who live in Taman Negara.

"Almost 25 percent of the workers at the sanctuary come from this tribe. Now, the villagers and the Batek are acting as the eyes and ears of Perhilita n in case anglers come to p oach in the prohibited area," he said, adding that there has been no cases of poaching so far.

The sanctuary project is now a tourist attraction in the national park which is helping the local economy. The number of visitors to the park has increased from 50,000 in the 1990s to 66,000 last year.

Lubuk Tenor itself receives an average of 100 visitors a month since 2002.

According to Dr Eddy, the kelah can live up to 100 years which means that they can be passed on from generation to generation.

Based on the experience at the sanctuary, he believes that the fish can be reared in aquariums and exported like other aquarium-reared fishes.

They had in fact reared the fish in glass tanks in another sanctuary in Sungai Relau in Gua Musang, Kelantan, where the fishes were successfully trained to suckle liquid food from a feeding bottle after six months.

For diehard anglers, they still have the chance to experience the fight of the game fish in another pool found recently by the management of Taman Negara and Unisains, that is, at Pos Melantai 2.

A five-day and four-night package costing RM1,000 per person is now available to anglers and they come with experienced guides, boat rides, food and lodging.

To get to Pos Melantai 2, the anglers would have to take a boat ride of about an hour from Kuala Tahan, before continuing their journey by canoe and trekking through jungle trails for another three and half hours.

Anglers however can only catch and tag the kelah before releasing the fish back into the pool.

Dr Eddy said from his observation, there are 40 to 50 of the fish in the Pos Melantai 2 pool and the biggest ever landed, weighed 8.7 kg.

Those interested in the fishing package can contact Anjung Kelah, Taman Negara at 09-2664527.

Meanwhile in Sungai Nenggiri, The Kelantan State Government has taken the lead and has agreed in principle to gazette a catchment area covering three river tributaries to establish a kelah conservation area. It covers 800ha and involves more than 20 villages along the Nenggiri, Puian and Perian rivers like Kampung Setar, an orang asli settlement in the area. The conservation project includes the forest and riverine resources that will be protected from external threats. However, local communities will be allowed to continue harvesting limited resources on a sustainable level.

One of those involved in the project is Shariffuddin Budin, 45, the managing director of Titiwangsa Heritage Sdn Bhd.

Titiwangsa Heritage was given a five-year concession (from November 2003) by the Kelantan State Government to develop the area for recreational fishing, to undertake conservation works and to assist in the promotion of the area’s eco-tourism.

Two years of perseverance paid off when a watershed along Sungai Nenggiri was declared a conservation centre for the fish by the State government with endorsement from the Fisheries Department. It is one of the State’s first centres for research and re-stocking of the species.

Titiwangsa Heritage has enlisted the help of Prof Dr Azmi Ambak, an expert in freshwater fish conservation at Kolej Universiti Sains dan Teknologi, Malaysia (Kustem), as well as University Putra Malaysia Resource and Environment Economic Valuation specialist Prof Dr Mohd Shawahid Othman.

Shariffuddin said although the fish can be found in a few other rivers, their sizes are smaller compared to those found in Sungai Nenggiri.

<>“We are especially keen on kelah as a source to attract anglers to boost tourism in Gua Musang,” he said, adding that world-class anglers paid thousands of dollars for the masheer in Cauvery River in India where the fish is dubbed the King of Himalayan River.

“The biggest catch recorded at Gua Musang was 27kg; the fish was released back into the water as part of conservation purposes,” said Shariffuddin who has 15 years experience in handling kelah.

Shariffuddin believes Sungai Nenggiri has the potential to become a world destination for anglers who want to land trophy-sized catches of more than 10kg.

As part of efforts to create awareness amongst anglers and to attract tourists to visit Sungai Nenggiri, Titiwangsa Heritage organised the “Catch-and-Release Kelah Challenge 2005” from April 24 to June 3 with the cooperation of Kustem and the Fisheries Department. Winners received cash prizes, trophies and certificates.

The challenge was limited to only nine groups with one group comprising six anglers per week taking part. Fish caught were tagged for research purposes and then released.

Sungai Nenggiri, which flows from Cameron Highlands in Pahang to the lower reaches of Sungai Bertam in southern Kelantan, also teems with other freshwater species such as the baung, temoleh and ornamental fish like the arowana as well as udang galah.

The quality of the river water has, over the years, gradually deteriorated. Uncontrolled deforestation due to land clearing and timber harvesting activities upriver threaten the habitat of these precious species. In addition to the threat from logging, poachers also resort to deadly methods of fish harvesting using bombs, poison and electrocution method. If these activities are not checked, we might as well just say goodbye to the kelah and all its cousins!