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    Entries in fishing in Taiwan (16)


    Finding Your Next Fishing Hole with Google Maps and GPS

    When one talks about electronic navigation and fishing, usually the conversation is about nautical positioning systems like GPS or the somewhat outdated LORAN system. These play an invaluable role in guiding commercial and recreational vessels to fishing grounds. What sometimes gets ignored is the value personal navigation devices can play for the non-seagoing variety of angler.

    I would quite literally be lost without my Google Maps and Tom-Tom GPS. As an expat in a relatively unfamiliar country (Taiwan), one of the biggest challenges I face is locating potential fishing spots. Local anglers with a lifetime of experience locating honey holes are friendly enough, but understandably reluctant to reveal their favorite spots to an outsider.

    My weekend fishing adventures usually begin by pouring over Google Maps on my computer, scoping out ponds on remote back roads near my home or jetties and tiny harbors along the coast. The satellite and street view allow me to locate landmarks nearby so I have a visual reference point when nearing my destination.

    If traveling by scooter, I generally rely on the Google Maps app on my iPhone. I usually have to pull over from time to time to check my progress, but it’s better than nothing. When I have the car, the Tom-Tom guides me to my destination with turn-by-turn instructions.

    Neither system is infallible. Google rarely updates its satellite view and even its street view shots quickly become outdated in Taiwan’s rapidly shifting landscape. Two weeks ago, I rode my scooter for nearly an hour from Sanxia to Taoyuan to check out a commercial pond near the international airport. The street view shots couldn’t have been more than a year old, so one can imagine my surprise when I pulled up at the location only to find a dry weed-filled pit where my pond should be.

    Even the GPS can lead one astray. What should have been a quick outing to a nearby harbor last week, turned into a journey of more than an hour through multiple counties because of some incorrectly entered coordinates.

    Still my GPS/Google Maps combo has paid off more often than it has lead me into the unknown. It’s the next best thing to a guide when exploring the bays and back roads in unfamiliar territory.



    Video of the Day: Longtan (Yilan) Largemouth Bass Fishing

    Longtan is a small township in Taoyuan county situated just below Shihmen Reservoir. There are several ponds in the area, and though many are fenced off for commercial purposes, a few are accessible and fishable.

    I'm not exactly sure which pond this was shot at, or whether the anglers had to pay to fish it, but it produced a few nice largemouth bass and at least one monster tilapia. Largemouth are not native to Taiwan, of course, but they are farmed here and a few escape and go wild in local ponds and lakes.

    I went out to Longtan last weekend looking for the fabled bass pond, but came up empty handed. I plan to head out again this weekend and will report here on the action (if there is any action to report).

    (UPDATE) I have since figured out that this Longtan (translation: Dragon Lake) is the lake located just north of Yilan city and is not related to Longtan township in Taoyuan County. I recently took my family here for a picnic, but only had a time for a few minutes of fishing. I look forward to heading back when I have a little time for fishing. 



    Species Profile: Japanese Sea Bass or Suzuki

    Family: Percichthyidae

    Scientific names: Lateolabrax japonicus

    Common names: Japanese sea bass, sea bass, Suzuki, (Chinese) rih ben jhen lu

    Habitat: Bays, lagoons, surf, near-shore reefs, harbors and estuaries.

    Size range: Can grow to over a meter, but more commonly found in the 50-70 cm range.

    Angling tactics: Similar to those for barramundi. Live baits and lures fished near the surface alongside structure seem to work best. Many anglers favor lighter saltwater rods (or medium to heavy freshwater) rigged with 12 to 16-pound line. 

    From Tokyo Bay to Hong Kong Harbor, the Japanese sea bass or suzuki is one of the most popular inshore fishing targets in East Asia. Part of the reason for its popularity is ease of access, since it is as at home congregating around man-made structures such as piers and jetties it can easily be fished from shore. Hong Kong anglers often go out at night in small boats at the peak of the flood tide and cast lures into the shadow of moored container ships for trophy sized sea bass.

    Sea bass are usually found near the surface, making them prime targets for plugs, poppers and saltwater flies. Many of the tactics used in North America for striped bass seem to work well for suzuki, and the two species are comparable in other respects, such as migrating from brackish estuaries and bays to deeper water to spawn. Striped bass and Japanese sea bass are similar enough in flavor and texture that farmed U.S. hybrid striped bass has been introduced into Asian markets as a suzuki substitute.

    Individuals of the one or two kilogram size are frequently found in estuaries, but larger specimens in the 10 kg range are not unheard of in harbors and river mouths.

    In Taiwan sea bass are often found alongside barramundi on the island’s west coast, but the bass are somewhat more tolerant of cooler water and therefore range further north into the Danshui and Keelung Harbor areas. Also like barramundi, sea bass are farmed extensively in Taiwan and can be fished for in commercial ponds.

    Though generally referred to as suzuki in Japanese sport fishing circles, that name actually applies one of five stages of the fishes development. Those stages and corresponding names are:

    l          under 30cm "Hanego"

    l          from 30 to 50cm "Seigo"

    l          from 50 to 70cm "Hukko"

    l          from 70 to 90cm "Suzuki"

    l          over 90cm "Nyudo"

    The Japanese consider suzuki to a harbinger of good luck and it is highly prized by sushi chefs for its delicate flavor.



    Species Profile: Holland's Carp

    Family: Cyprinidae

    Scientific names: Spinibarbus hollandi

    Common names: Holland’s carpHolland's carp. Photo by Taiwan East-Coast National Scenic Area.

    Habitat: Running freshwater rivers and stream, with rocky or gravel bottoms.

    Size range: Largest specimens can reach up to 60cm, but most caught are in the 20-30cm range.

    Angling tactics: Since their primary food source is small fish and aquatic insects, most Holland’s carp are caught on artificial lures including spoons, spinners, solid plugs and soft baits (minnow imitations). The species is also a favorite among fly anglers who have success with nymphs, wet flies and small streamers.

    Sleeker and more attractive than the typical carp, it almost seems a shame to call it a carp. The Holland’s bears a closer resemblance to it’s popular (among European anglers) Cyprinidae cousin, the barbel. Physically similar, the barbel and Holland’s carp belong to two different genus—spinibarbus and barbus. The Holland’s carp is distinguished by is large symmetrical scales that range in color from silver-grey to bright chrome edged by black crescent shapes. The fish’s triangular dorsal fin is also edged in black.

    Found in southern China and parts of Southeast Asia, the Holland’s is a favorite among Taiwan anglers. A top predator, it is prized as a hard hitting and tough fighting river fish that fills a niche usually occupied by trout and other salmonids in less-tropical countries. The fish’s range extends to rivers on the southern and eastern sides of the island.

    While specimens have been recorded up to 60cm, half that size is more common. Little information on the Holland’s, particularly with regard to angling, is available in English language literature. That included the origin of its curious common name. Rather than being a geographical reference, it most likely it refers to the biologist that first identified the species. Post a comment if you have additional information on the Holland’s carp.




    Species Profile: Snakehead

    Family: ChannidaeBlotched snakehead (Channa maculat)

    Scientific names: Channa maculat (blotched snakehead), Channa asiatica (small snakehead), Channa micropeltes (giant snakehead)

    Common names: Snakehead, blotched snakehead, giant snakehead, small snakehead, toman, haruana

    Habitat: Ponds, lakes, slow streams, swamps, and canals. Can live in stagnant or low-oxygenated water. Prefers cover from which to ambush prey.

    Size range: Giant snakeheads can reach sizes of 2 meters. Sizes of 50-90 cm are more common.

    Angling tactics: Casting shallow running or top-water lures is the most common approach. Spinnerbaits and soft plastics can be productive. Frog imitators are the most popular snakehead lures. Braid leaders are recommended.


    Maligned outside of Asia as an invasive and potentially destructive species, the snakehead has become the boogeyman of exotic fishes in the U.S. and Asia. While media reports painting a picture of an indestructible monster fish border on the ridiculous, the snakehead’s reputation as a voracious and highly adaptable predator is deserved. Specimens have been known to attack and devour largemouth bass roughly their size, and their ability to breath air with primitive lungs means that they can potentially move from one body of water to another, though rumors of specimens actually “walking” may be another bit of “fishzilla” hyperbole.


    That’s all academic since we are talking about Taiwan, where the snakehead is a native species increasingly sought after by anglers, particularly with the growing popularity of lure fishing on the island. Today, anglers from Japan and other Asian countries come to Taiwan to do battle with this hard hitting game fish.


    Snakeheads can be found in almost any body of still or slow-moving fresh water: ponds, lakes, even drainage canals that seem far too small to support a large predatory fish. Snakeheads will sit and wait under mats of weeds and other debris, ready to pounce on anything that moves into striking range. Other fish, amphibians, small aquatic birds, even unlucky rodents can end up on the menu.


    Anglers usually throw lures near cover and try to coax a strike. Top-water lures such as poppers or anything that makes enough of a commotion to attract attention appear to work best. Frog imitators are a favorite lure among diehard local snakeheaders. Just such a lure was pushed into my hands when I inquired at a local tackle shop about the species. Most of the thrill of snakehead fishing comes from the initial strike when the greedy fish attempts to incapacitate the bait swallow it whole. What follows is usually a tug-o-war with the snakehead trying to make it back to the safety its lair and to potentially wrap your line around a submerged log or some other aquatic obstacle.


    The clerk at the tackle shop recommended a braid leader because the fish’s toothy maw can easily saw through most monofilament, so also watch those fingers when unhooking!



    Video of the Day: Giant Snakehead on Spinnerbaits

    A crew of Japanese anglers take on a pair of monster snakeheads on a large lake Taiwan. They are apparently from Snakehead Magazine, which struck me as odd that there would be a publication devoted to this species. Strangly, all the graphics are in English. And then there is the always annoying fact that Taiwan is refered to as Chinese Taipei. This is an angling video, no need to pander to mainland China.


    Species Profile: Barramundi

    Family: LatidaeBarramundi

    Scientific names: Lates calcarifer

    Common names: Barramundi, Asian sea bass, giant sea perch

    Habitat: Inshore reefs, bays, harbors, estuaries, and lagoons. Can tolerate  salt, brackish and fresh water.

    Size range: Up to 200 cm.

    Angling tactics: Casting solid and soft body lures is the most common tactic. Barramundi are most active inshore and in river systems in the warmer months, but can be caught year  round.

    The barramundi takes its name from the Australian aboriginal word for “large-scaled river fish.” How’s that for a to-the-point description? Found from the Arabian Peninsula to East Asia, the barramundi is prized throughout the region both as an important commercial fish and a favorite of recreational anglers.  Equally at home in salt and fresh water, Australians stock many of lakes and reservoirs  with this hearty and hard-fighting fish.  The barramundi is a centerpiece of Thai cuisine and farmed extensively there and in several other Asian countries, including Taiwan.

    In Taiwan barramundi can be found both in commercial fish farms, as well as coastal rivers, lagoons and harbors all along the west coast and southern tip of the island (see map). It  shares this habitat with the Japanese sea bass (Suzuki fish) and it is easy to confuse to two because of their similar coloration and general appearance. The barramundi can be distinguished from the bass by its rounded tail fin and concave back that give the fish’s head a more pointed and protruding appearance.

    Barramundi are aggressive predators whose diet is comprised mainly of smaller baitfish, crustaceans and squid. Lures and saltwater flies (streamers) that imitate these seem to work best. Live and dead bait can also be productive, but live is the preferred choice.  Fish will often hold around structure and ambush passing baitfish. Dawn and dusk are considered good times for barramundi, particularly in the summer months. The peak of the tide is also optimal when fishing bays and estuaries.Japanese sea bass (suzuki) for comparison


    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


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