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    Entries in giant snakehead (5)


    South Taiwan Toman Hunt


    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.



    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.