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    U.S. Lure Maker Takes the Leap to Snakehead Frogs

    Along with the Asian carp, the snakehead in recent years has become the favorite aquatic boogieman of the American media. Now that the “Fishzilla” hysteria has died down somewhat, U.S. anglers are learning what we here in Asia have known all along: snakeheads are fun to catch.

    U.S. tackle manufacturers are getting in on the action and marketing lures specifically designed for snakehead anglers. Snag Proof, an Ohio-based maker of bass lures, is one such company setting its sights on the snakehead market with the release of its Extreme Frog lure line.  

    Snag Proof’s specialty is topwater lures, so they understand the shapes and actions that entice predatory fish into surface strikes. As their name implies, they also design lures for throwing to and dragging through heavy cover, the kind of places both bass and snakehead love to hide and ambush prey.

    As anyone who has fished both species can tell you, there are differences in the way bass and snakeheads hit a bait. While bass will often inhale a lure into their mouths, snakeheads will snap and slash at it, particularly at any trailing bits like legs or skirts. Every snakehead angler has a collection of soft plastic “amputee” frogs in his tackle box that will attest to this.

    With the help of Japanese “snakehead expert’ Shinichi Morikawa of Green Diamond, the tackle company distributing the lures in Japan, Snag Proof have come up with a design they say is more snakehead centric than their other topwater lures, eliminating the skirts to avoid short strikes and make it less likely to hang up in heavy cover.

    Hopefully, we’ll be able to get our hands on a few of these and try them out locally. There’s no word as yet of whether they will be showing up in local shops, but Extreme Frogs can be found through both Snag Proof’s U.S. Web site and Green Diamonds Japan site.



    Kaoshiung Angler Ken Tsai Lands 113 kg. Marlin


    Mid-Autumn Toman

    I was recently reminded that it has been a while since I put up a new post. There are a few reasons/excuses for the lack of activity, but I won’t waste reader’s time detailing them here. The important fact is that I will be rectifying this situation with more posts in the near future. I am also happy to post photos and fishing reports from any reader’s fishing experiences here in Taiwan and will try to get them up in a timely fashion.Duane's catch of the day, a 2.5 kg toman.

    Now, on to the interesting stuff. During the recent Mid-Autumn Festival holiday weekend, I was able to escape the intermittent rain showers of northern Taiwan and head for parts south and a little toman fishing. Toman, or giant snakehead, is a species I have wanted to pursue for a while. Unfortunately, its local range is limited to the lakes and reservoirs of southern Taiwan. Unlike other species of snakehead found on the island, they are not native, but were imported here decades ago from Southeast Asia.

    While several reservoirs in Chiayi and Tainin counties hold these big predators, their popularity as one of Asia’s top freshwater lure fishing targets has brought increased pressure on local populations. For good reason, anglers guard the location of their favorite spots. Our destination was no different, and I agreed to keep its identity a secret.

    Hoping to outrun the approach of Typhoon Usagi, which was due to make landfall sometime Friday, or window of opportunity was limited to Thursday, the first day of the long holiday weekend. That meant getting on the road by 12 a.m. Thursday, driving three and a half hours to our rendezvous point in Tainan County, meeting up with our friend and local toman expert, Duane, and getting on the water by daybreak. No problem.

    Everything went more or less as planned. A pair of two-man inflatable rafts would get us to the prime fishing holes. Boats inflated and gear onboard, the four of us split into two pairs and headed out. Austin and I in one boat followed the shoreline from our launching point, while the second boat with Duane and GK struck out for the far side of the lake.

    As mentioned in other posts, toman enjoy hiding in heavy cover and feed on a variety of forage found along the shoreline, including other fish and amphibians. Rods and lines need to be on the heavy side to winch lures through thick weeds and submerged brush. A particularly wet summer had raised local lakes, including this one, to capacity. Usually high water levels are ideal because they offer toman plenty of shady spots to ambush prey near the surface. When water levels drop and expose bare shoreline, toman head for the security of deeper water where they feel less vulnerable.

    Even the little ones are fun to catch.On this particular weekend we faced too much of a good thing. Levels were so high as to submerge shoreline buildings, gatehouses and lampposts. Fields of brambles and brush poked out of the water providing plenty of cover, but also making it difficult to locate the larger fish.

    Or first action came early in the morning in one such area of submerged grass. Dragging soft plastic Stanley Ribbit frogs through a tangled maze of flooded thickets, Austin and I began getting repeated strikes from juvenile tomans. Unlike other species that might strike at the head of a bait, toman seem to try to incapacitate their targets by ripping at the trailing legs. Consequently, hook sets can be tricky and missed strikes are common, as are ruined baits after a couple of bites from a hungry snakehead.

    Our patience was eventually rewarded with a double hookup and the landing of two small toman. That would be the end of catching for us this day. As the sun rose, the action began to shut down. We saw a few large toman rise in a couple of places to feed or gulp air, but fewer strikes.

    Duane and GK were not fairing much better until shortly after our two boats met up again around noon, just before making the long paddle back to our launch point. Duane hooked into nice 2.5 kg. toman on a custom wood popper, which he netted after a short tussle. A bit later he would land a good-sized haruan (stripped snakehead) which are also plentiful in his reservoir.Another species: a fine haruan (striped snakehead).

    In the end it wasn’t exactly the explosive action this particular location is known for. On good days it can produce endless action and fish pushing the 5 kg. mark and beyond, which is all the more reason to plan a return.


    Chiayi Snakehead Sets New IGFA Record

    Gerhard with his IGFA record breaking chevron snakehead and a little souvenir for his efforts (note the treble hook buried in his index finger).Big things are happening down in Chiayi these days as a handful of expat anglers are indulging in some record-breaking snakehead action. Last October, South African Gerhard Terblanche caught a 3.6 kg. chevron snakehead (haruan) at Tsengwen Reservoir that set a new IGFA All Tackle World Record. Just this week he received the official certification confirming his record-book status.

    A month later, fellow South African Duane Christie landed a massive giant snakehead (toman) that at 9.775 kg. was just shy of the IGFA record of an even 10 kg. Duane asked that I keep the location of his catch a secret for now. He and his fishing buddies down south are still on the hunt for that record-breaking monster toman, and though they have come close, one on the scale of the November 2011 monster has so far eluded them.

    It’s safe to say that there are big snakeheads in several of Chiayi’s reservoirs—Tsengwen, Paihe (White River) and Renyi Tan—not to mention local streams, ponds and canals. The next record-breaker is just waiting.Almost there. Duane Christie with his monster 9.775 kg. giant snakehead. Just shy of the 10 kg. record.



    Red Drum at Nanliao Saltwater Ponds

    Austin on an earlier Nanliao trip in May landed this monster red drum. Photo by GK.Last weekend I had a chance to check out a new (to me) saltwater pond in the Hsinchu area that some of my fishing buddies in that town have been raving about. The pond is just across the river from Nanliao Harbor on a little peninsula near the river mouth. It’s stocked with variety of game fish including jack, groupers, Japanese sea bass, pompano and red drum (redfish).Austin's small red drum from this weekend.

    By far the drums seem to be the most numerous and frequently caught species at this particular location. Native to the U.S. Gulf Coast and South Atlantic seaboard, they are imported to Taiwan for the aquaculture industry and have made their way into the recreational fish ponds.

    Red drums have controversially been released into the wild locally by a few misguided Buddhist groups. These religious organizations frequently buy up stocks of farm-raised fish and set them free hoping for a karmic boost for their members. The environmental damage may be difficult to gauge, but red drums have been showing up in the catches of local anglers along the coast for the last few years.GK with a nice red in May.

    There are actually two ponds on the premises—a catch-and-release pond and a catch-and-keep pond. Both are open 24 hours and NT$500 gets you a whole day of catch-and-release fishing. The catch and keep pond is a bit more expensive. You are restricted to using artificial lures in the catch-and-release side.

    Big reds put up quite a battle, especially on light tackle.On my recent visit we didn’t catch much, but it was the middle of a hot and windy day. Austin did manage a small drum just as I was getting ready to pack it in. Other visits by Austin and his friends have produced some big and beautiful reds, which are tough fighters known to straighten out cheaper treble hooks. Below is a map to the pond location. 

    View Nanliao Saltwater Fishing Ponds in a larger map


    Sunday at the Jhunan Saltwater Pond

    I took the kids down to Jhunan on Sunday and met up with GK (seen catching all the groupers in the video), Austin and a couple of their fishing friends for an afternoon of salt pond fishing. I didn't have much luck personally, but GK caught several groupers and other friends caught black porgy and a drum of some kind. 


    Chiayi County Township Expands Fish Conservation Program

    Shoals of shovelmouth carp in the Danaiku Ecological Park.The Chiayi County township of Danaiku is expanding its successful local conservation program by boosting fish stocks in other area streams. The township banded together a few years ago and created a very successful grassroots program to protect the township's traditional fishing grounds from illegal electrical and cyanide fishing. The resulting Danaiku Ecological Park is now showcase program and the town's streams teem with fish--mostly striped dace and shoveljaw carp--which tour groups can tour and view. The township is now launching an combined tree planting and fish stocking program to improve conditions in other area streams within the Zengwen River drainage.


    Friends Seek Donations for Family of Drowned Hualien Rescue Swimmer

    Hualien rescue swimmer Du Jinfu. Images on right show him just before he was swept into the rocks during a rescue attempt on April 1.Fishing the rocks along Taiwan's coast is not without its hazards. Anglers are frequently swept into the water by unexpectedly large waves and often it is volunteer rescue swimmers who are called on pull them to safety. It was in just such a situation that took the life of a Hualien rescue swimmer on April 1. Du Jinfu attempting such a rescue when he he was suddenly swept into the rocks in heavy surf and drowned. You can find a full description of what happened here as well as background on the local hero who was responsible for saving many Hualien area anglers. Friends are seeking donations to help Du Jinfu's wife and elderly parents (see above link for info).