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    Entries in snakehead (8)


    South Taiwan Toman Hunt


    November Snakehead Morning

    On a recent rainy Sunday morning, I headed to the fishing grounds we have dubbed "Tombstone" for its proximity to a hillside graveyard for some mid-Autumn snakehead hunting. This is actually a system of ponds with varying depths and amounts of cover. Joining me was new angliing friend and recent California transpant William Ting. Will is an experienced angler both on freshwater and in the ocean, but this was his first time stalking snakehead. He certainly seems to be a fast learner because in no time he bagged a pair of nice blotched snakehead on a hollow-body topwater frog, in spite of the chilly (for Taiwan) and wet weather.



    Blotched Snakehead Surprise

    I paid another visit to my neighborhood snakehead pond and got a pleasant surprise in the form of a relatively large blotched snakehead (Channa maculata). The online literature on the species says they grow to a max of 30 or 40 cm. This one was about 52 cm and I've seen others online about twice this size. So, it sounds like its time for a few "authorities" out there to update their data. I'm looking at you, Taiwan Fish Database and Wikipedia.

    This fellow inhaled on of my soft platic Stanley Ribbit Frog right next to the bank. It was a pretty explosive take after about an hour of coninuous casting with just a few strikes. Landing him was complicated by the fact that a giant Taiwan wasp decided he wanted a closer look at me as I was reeling in my catch. I must have looked like a complete lunatic running in circles and waving my arms with a fish still on my line. It took a bit of work to pry his jaws open and get the big 3/0 hook out. If you are fishing for snakehead, its a good idea to have two pairs of pliers on hand for just such an occasion, since you don't want to be sticking our fingers into a snakehead's toothy maw. 


    Buzzing for Summer Snakehead

    Bass anglers like to talk about the summer being the best time of the year for topwater action. The same seems to be true for snakehead, although its safe to say that most snakehead fishing is done on the surface regardless of the time of year. This time of year, however, snakehead seem paritcularly irritated by anything that flaps, wiggles or splashes across the surface. Maybe its because many of the fish are guarding schools of fry. Their hair triggers may be all the more sensitive. 

    This morning, revisited a pond I had not been back to for several years. Its near my home and I had written it off as containing nothing but tilapia. My error may have had to do with the fact that I was fishing the wrong baits on my last visit. This time I arrived with a tackle bag stuffed with frogs and buzzbaits. 

    I started off with the frogs and got a few promising strikes, but no hookups. Then I reached for a Booya Buzzbait that I had originally picked up up for bass fishing. A couple of casts parallel to a bed of weeds and water lettuce and a small striped snakehead hammered it.

    Looking closer at how it was hooked and it was easy to see why the hookup had been easier then with the frogs. While fish seemed to target the legs of the frogs I had been fishing, usually missing the hook, this fish seemed to home in directly at the buzzbaits skirt which hides a sharp 2/0 long-shanked hook.

    I switching locations on the shore and was quickly into two larger fish. These fish were hooking themselves without me having to worry about waiting until they took the bait all the way into their mouths. This can be a problem when using frogs on small to medium-sized snakehead, as they have smaller mouths than the bass many of these lures were designed for. Again, we are talking about smallish to medium fish, not the big toman and haruan found down south.

    The only drawback to the buzzabaits is durability. A couple of hard hits from snakeheads and my Booya Buzzbait's wire was bent out of whack. It was almost impossible to bend them back perfectly straight. 


    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: Japanese Angler Nails Snakehead, Tilapia,...and Shrimp

    This clip is entertaining in spite of the fact that the dialog is all in Japanese. Apparently the host is something of a fishing legend in Japan. Again, I'm not sure exactly where he is fishing, but it appears to be on the outskirts of Taipei. He finishes his day out with a visit to an indoor shimp pond.


    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.