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    Target Species: Ayu

    Family: Plecoglossidae

    Scientific names: Plecoglossus altivelis

    Common names: Ayu, sweetfish

    Chinese name: 香魚siang yu, jie yu

    Habitat: Rivers and streams from mountain headwaters to tidal estuaries.

    Size range: While it can grow to 70 cm, most specimens are much smaller.

    Distribution in Taiwan: Middle and northwest. See map.

    Roasted ayu. All that is missing is the beer.While a popular game and eating fish in Taiwan, the Ayu holds a special place in Japanese fishing lore. The story goes that a traditional form of fly fishing—known to today as Tenkara—developed in Japan more than four centuries ago as a recreational art practiced by the samurai. Later when the warrior class was forbidden to practice martial arts, samurai used this form of fishing to maintain balance and coordination, with the tenkara rod serving as a substitute for the sword. The favorite target of these warrior anglers wasthe ayu.

    Today the ayu is still prized as a game fish, not only in Japan, but Korea, China and Taiwan as well. Ayu can spend part of their life cycle in the sea, but are found mainly in rivers and mountain streams. A small fish, they rarely grow larger than the length of a hand, making them suitable for light tackle.

    Though Ayu feed mostly on algae, they are very territorial and will strike (bump) lure and take flies. A popular if somewhat odd way of catching Ayu plays off this territorial behavior. Anglers rig a live ayu with a hook that trails beneath the fish’s belly. Using a long pole, the “decoy” is fished over a bed ayu. When the decoy enters the imaginary five-foot circle that is the local fish’s territory, the local will attempt to bump the intruder in the belly. When the decoy tries to flee, it usually hooks the aggressor. The angler retrieves both fish and replaces the decoy with the freshly caught ayu.

    Rigged "intruder" ayu. This method plays off the ayu's territorial behavior.Ayu are a popular eating fish for their tasty, slightly sweet flesh. Also known as sweetfish, their flavor is often compared to melon. Ayu are popular at barbecues where they are often skewered on sticks and lightly salted, then flame roasted and enjoyed with cold beer.

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