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    Species Profile: Tilapia

    A fly rod is a great way to pursue this widespread cichlid, but you have to get up early. Photo: Michael Rupert HayesFamily: Cichlidae

    Scientific names: (three primary species in Taiwan, though most “wild” specimens are hybrids. Oreochromis mossambicus, Oreochromis niloticus, Oreochromis aureus, Tilapia zillii

    Common names: (respectively) Mozambique tilapia, Nile tilapia, blue tilapia, red-bellied tilapia

    Habitat: Slow moving rivers and canals, ponds, lakes and swamps. Can tolerate low oxygen levels and high pollution.  Prefers areas of heavy aquatic vegetation, its main food source.  Prefers warm water and is sensitive to drops in temperature.

    Size range: Large specimens can reach 40-60 cm, depending on species. Individuals under 1 kg. are more common. Typically, tilapia size is determined by competition for food. Larger population concentrations result in smaller fish.

    Angling tactics: Most local anglers fish with prepared baits or worms. Flies can be productive depending on time of day. Large specimens have been known to strike top-water lures when spawning/brooding.

    Love them or hate them, tilapia are one of the most commonly pursued freshwater fishes in Taiwan. This is mostly due to their ubiquitous nature and ability to flourish nearly everywhere warm fresh water can be found. Urban rivers, canals, farm ponds and swamps are all likely places to find tilapia. Their prevalence leads some “serious” anglers to turn their noses up at this fascinating import that has played a key role in the island’s aquaculture industry.

    Widespread though they may be, tilapia can be fun and challenging to catch, particularly on artificials. They are omnivores, but vegetation makes up the largest part of their diet.  Many anglers swear by prepared baits, corn or bread. Worms can also work. Before dawn and just around dusk, tilapia will often begin feeding on insects and this is the best time to get out the fly rod.  

    Tilapia are generally considered good eating and have a mild flavor, but be mindful of the water quality in the area you are fishing. Most tilapia sold commercially or in local restaurants are farm-raised.

    Tilapia are rapid breeders (individuals spawn several times a year), invasive and can push out more sensitive native species, so catch-and-release is not necessary and in some cases may even be discouraged.

    Tilapia fight hard once hooked and are a particularly fun fish to catch on light tackle. Their ease in locating makes them an excellent choice for introducing young anglers to the passtime.

    Further reading:

    Taiwan Tilapia-- The Fish That Became a National Treasure



    Time to Fish or Cut Bait

    After 11 years living as an expat in Taiwan I have finally returned to my favorite hobby--fishing. I have no idea why I have waited so long to explore the local waters. I have fished all my life, from my earliest memories of childhood right through to adulthood. However, it has been an activity that I have mostly restricted to my native California. Even after moving to Taiwan in 1999, most of my subsequent angling adventures have taken place on return trips to the U.S.

    It is difficult to explain why I have waited so long to wet a line in my adopted home. Perhaps it is because the local aproach to recreational fishing seemed so, for lack of a better word, foreign to me at first. The equipment and tackle was often unfamiliar, as were most the target species.

    I have since learned that many of my prejudices were either unfounded, irrelevant or inconsequential. Initial investigation has revealed that familiar "western-style" equipment and tackle is available and more local anglers are beginning to explore "foreign" fishing techniques. There is even a growing fly fishing community taking hold.

    Some famiar species like largemouth bass can be found with a little effort, while exotic and local species offer new challenges to the expat angler. A wide and varied array of fish habit can be found on the island, from bays and harbors to large rivers and tidal estuaries, urban canals and pristine mountain streams.

    So begins a second grand experiment in blogging and hopefully one that generate more personal interest than my  business related site.This site is by no means about sharing learned wisdom of an expert angler; I am a journeyman at best. It is a log of my attempt to understand and enjoy what Taiwan has to offer the anglers of ever skill level and degree of devotion. I am just getting started and hopefully my discoveries as well as my missteps and failures will help guide others.

    I will also be posting as much information that I can glean from other sources about the local angling scene, target fish species and how and where to catch them.  I have found that there is very limited information specifically pertaining to fishing in Taiwan available on the web in English and most of it is spread around thinly. Hopefully I can bring some of it together under one roof.

    Tight lines and happy fishing!

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