Fishing in Thailand
“Chestnuts Roasting Beside a Great Fish Supper”
I thought of comparing fishing in Thailand around Xmas time…. to back home in the UK but the climates are so different I gave up writing about that. Instead I decided to investigate the care Thai people take, when catching and restocking their lakes, as “Winter Time” is probably the best time to fish in the lakes that populate this great country
“In the time of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, this land of Sukhothai is thriving. There is fish in the water and rice in the fields.”
Thai historians claim these are the words of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, ruler of the Sukhothai Kingdom from 1279–1298 and creator of the Thai alphabet, describing his lands during his reign. The mention of plentiful fish, as a way of portraying a nation that is at peace and thriving, shows how important fish have always been to the Thais as a source of food and a symbol of a settled civilisation. People, who live in a land where both fish and rice are abundant, will never go hungry.
Of course, fish have long been a source of protein in Southeast Asia. After all, this is a lush region fed by great rivers that wind their way across fertile plains, so fish have always been plentiful. Freshwater fish of many different species are easily caught in the streams and canals. During the wet season, when fish spawn and when waters are high, they can even be found swimming in flooded fields along with other nutritious treats; such as, crabs and molluscs. To make the most of this bounty, Thai people used to dig ponds to trap and raise fish that were washed in by the floods. This is the source of the Thai proverb, Khut Bo Lo Pla or “Dig a Pond and Lure Fish”, that now describes someone who is benefitting by deception.
Breeding in the floodwaters and so easily caught, these fish are regarded as having been given freely by nature to nurture the people. This means that killing them for food isn’t seen as taking a life in the same way as eating other animals would be – an important distinction in a Buddhist country like Thailand. Sometimes fish stranded by floodwaters are released back into the rivers as a way of making merit and many urban Thais who don’t work the fields will buy fish at temples to release which gives them a connection to their rural roots.
Over December, January and February fish are at their best after months of feeding in the nutrient-rich waters. This is the time of year when farmers are harvesting the new rice crop, so food is more abundant than ever – hence the Thai saying, Khao Mai Pla Man or “New Rice Fat Fish” to mean that everything is just perfect. Although these days the phrase is mostly used to describe newlyweds in early months of marriage.
Any remaining fish from the rainy season is traditionally dried or salted for the rest of the year. These techniques of preserving fish contributed to the unique flavours and textures that make up many popular Thai dishes and snacks – shrimp paste,dried squid and the tiny dried prawns that go into dishes like Phat Thai.
If you’re one of those unlucky souls who’s susceptible to seasickness you’ll probably prefer to do your fishing on land and luckily Thailand has many freshwater lakes that have been stocked to attract sports fishermen. In fact, Thailand can boast some of the world’s largest species of freshwater fish including Giant Catfish, Siamese Carp, Barramundi and the great predator, the Giant Snakehead. Records for big catches are regularly broken in the kingdom, with anglers reeling in some monster fish.
There are lakes up and down the country offering specialised fishing packages including tackle, lures, bait and transport. Some anglers may stay for several days, and rent floating bungalows, so that they are never far from the rod and reel action.The growing popularity of freshwater fishing has led to a surge in aquaculture and fish farming, it is hoped that this will ensure the long-term survival of many threatened species.
Have a (Tight Lines) XMAS and a bumper 2019