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    Entries in lake fishing (6)


    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.


    Video of the Day: Bass Fishing in Taiwan

    It is getting to be that time of year when the weather warms up and the largemouth bass in Taiwan get active as they head for the spawning beds.  To get in the spirit, here is a video of some successful local bass anglers showing off their catches. Too bad they don't share the locations of some of these fishing holes.


    Target Species: Largemouth Bass

    Family: Centrarchidae

    Scientific names: Micropterus salmoides

    Common names: Largemouth bass, black bass, California bass (in Asia)

    Chinese name: 大口黑鱸 (da kou hei lu, “largemouth black bass”)

    Habitat: Freshwater lakes, ponds, reservoirs, large and medium rivers, canals

    Size range: Up to 75cm, though adults over 40cm range would be considered large in Taiwan.

    While considered the king of freshwater game fish in North America, largemouth bass fishing has not been pursued with quite the same level of enthusiasm in Taiwan. The species was introduced to the island through the aquaculture industry. Live bass can often be purchased as some of Taiwan’s larger supermarket chains. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that, whether as fish farm escapees and/or fish planted by anglers themselves, the species eventually established healthy populations in local waters.

    Today a growing number of Taiwanese anglers are catching “bass fever,” a fact reflected in the volume of bass-appropriate tackle showing up in local fishing retail chains. Many pay-to-fish ponds are now stocking largemouth bass to meet angler demand.

    Taiwan’s (mostly) warm subtropical climate is similar to that of the southern U.S. were this species of bass flourishes, which explains why it has been successful as an invasive species. While many anglers may assume the warmer southern end of the island is the heart of Taiwan’s bass territory, this is not necessarily true. To be sure, there are plenty of bass to be found in the ponds, lakes and reservoirs of Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Chiayi counties, however Hsinchu and Taoyuan counties in the north also support healthy bass populations, as well. In fact, many of the ponds downstream from Shihmen Reservoir in and around the towns of Dasi and Longtan as well as the Taoyuan plain hold bass.

    Largemouths are happiest in clean and fairly well-oxygenated water, and are not as tolerant of pollution and stagnation as tilapia or snakehead, with which they often share habitat. They tend to favor water with plenty of cover (aquatic plants) or submerged structures. Largemouth bass are more tolerant to variations in temperature than some other non-native species, tilapia and peacock bass in particular, allowing them to survive sudden winter temperature drops that can claim the aforementioned species.

    Most anglers rely on artificial baits to stalk bass—plastic worms, crankbaits, swimbaits, spinnerbaits, etc. Matching lures to the available local forage is always a good idea and largemouth bass have been known to feed voraciously on juvenile tilapia. Bass strike hard and are strong fighters known for their acrobatic leaps.

    Adult bass begin to spawn in late winter to early spring as water temperatures reach 15˚ C. Females build concave nests in 1.5 to 2.5 meters of water, which they will guard aggressively.


    Target Species: Topmouth Culter and Redfin Culter

    Family: Cyprinidae (carps)

    Redfin Culter

    Scientific name: Chanodichthys erythropterus

    Synonyms: Culter aokii, Culter brevicauda, Culter erythropterus, Culter ilishaeformis, Culter sieboldii, Culter tientsinensis, Culterichthys erythropterus, Cultrichthys erythropterus, Erythroculter erythropterus, Erythroculter ilishaeformis

    Common names: redfin culter, predatory carp, skygazer

    Habitat: Lakes, ponds, reservoirs, larger slow-flowing rivers.

    Distribution: Map

    Size range: Up to 100 cm, but more commonly 30-50 cm.


    Topmouth Culter

    Scientific name: Culter alburnus

    Synonyms: Culter brevicauda, Culter recurviceps, Erythroculter aokii, Erythroculter ilishaeformes

    Common names: topmouth culter, president fish, aruzay

    Habitat: Lakes, ponds, reservoirs, larger slow-flowing rivers.

    Distribution: Map

    Size range: Up to 35 cm.

    Angling tactics: Casting small spoons, spinners and plugs (minnow and shrimp imitations). Fly fishing with streamers.

    Few species have been more challenging to research than the wily culters. This struck me as odd, since both the topmouth and redfin culter warrant mentions on several local fly fishing blogs, but little information is available in the English language literature mentioning them. Thanks to the Google page translation tool, I was able to pull together a bit more information to share here.

    The difficulty in tracking down comprehensive information is compounded by confusing classification and naming that can lead one to wonder if the names “redfin” and “topmouth” refer to one or two different species. The scientific name Erythroculter ilishaeformis has been applied to both in various sources. They look similar, with upturned mouths not usually associated with members of the carp family. In fact they bear a slight resemblance to herring or a relative of the tarpon. The redfin culter can be distinguished by its slightly more pronounced dorsal “hump” behind the head. It has also been known to grow considerably larger than its cousin the topmouth culter.

    Hang on to your hats, fellow fish nerds. A little digging revealed that these fish are not as closely related as one might think. The redfin is not really a true culter, belonging instead to the genus chanodichthys. Both are members of the subfamily Cultrinae. Culter, by the way, is Latin for “knife.”

    Both species are found throughout east Asia, primarily in subtropical China and Taiwan. Of the two, the topmouth is probably the more famous of the two in Taiwan owing to its place in local political lore. It is said that the topmouth became a favorite dish of former ROC president Chiang Kai-shek after he sampled it on an early visit to Sun Moon Lake. Since that visit, the topmouth earned the nickname “president fish” and has become a staple for the Sun Moon Lake tourism industry. The lake still supports a healthy population, which is fished both commercially and for sport.

    Both the topmouth and redfin are known to be voracious predators, sometimes at the expense of other carp species whose fry they often feed upon. Freshwater crustaceans and insects round out their diet. They feed most actively at dawn and dusk, often in large schools, before moving to deeper water by midday. Culters are ambush predators, preferring to attack their prey from below rather than pursue it for great distances.


    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.