There have been several Amazon fishing ponds popping up around Thailand as of late. Most of them seem to proudly feature the arapaima as a target species. I know of at least two ponds in the Hua Hin/Cha-am area, one in Ratchaburi, at least three in Bangkok, at least one in Pattaya and at least one in Chiang Mai that have the arapaima gigas amongst their stock. With the Discovery Channel show River Monsters featuring this Amazonian goliath this specie’s acclaim undoubtedly grew even more.
With so much recent fame and hype I wonder, is this fish really that great? Having caught several arapaimas here and there I’ll give it a comparison to Thailand’s local freshwater heavy-weight, the Mekong giant catfish, in a no-holds-barred battle of the giants in today’s Angler’s Review: Arapaima vs. the Mekong Giant.
Round 1: Appearrance
Long, slender and armed with a colourful set of green and red scales the arapaima looks like a mythological dragon as it slowly surfaces its long body for air.
No matter how you look at it, this scaleless, stocky, awkward and skin-coloured giant looks like a penis.
Round 2 Convenience
I could count all the arapaima ponds in Thailand on my two hands.
It would be impossible to count all the ponds that stock the Mekong giant.
Winner: Mekong giant
Round 3 Prestige
Arapaima: This fish eats other fish and when threatened it can fly out of the water like a rocket. Also… two words, River Monsters.
Mekong giant: This fish is a big hulking vegetarian that is critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Winner: Arapaima. More people watch River Monsters than read about the IUCN.
Round 4: Price
Arapaima: The cheapest arapaima pond I know charges B500 per rod but it’s a lure/fly only pond. For bait fishing you can pay anywhere from B3,000 all the way to B20,000 per rod.
Mekong giant: I know a pond that stocks the Mekong giant that charges B50 per rod.
Winner: Mekong giant.
Round 5: The Fight
Arapaima: Despite their large size the arapaimas aren’t much of a fighter. Being an air-breather they can’t fight for long. After a few minutes they’ll run out of breath and just give up. The angler is basically left pulling in an inanimate deadweight through the water.
Mekong giant: According to the staff at 7 Seas Pro Shop at Bungsamran the Japanese companies used to offer one-year warranties on the fishing rods they sold but quickly retracted it after too many people claimed the insurance. The rods just didn’t hold up and most of them would break from the strain that these underwater locomotives could deliver. When people go fishing for Mekong giants they don’t say, “good luck”. Instead, they say, “hope you get a sore back”.
Winner: Mekong giant.
Conclusion: Whichever fish wins the fight is truly subjective. It’s all about what we want in a fish. Do we want something photogenic that looks good on our facebook profile or do we want a strenuous fight that will leave us on a chemical high afterwards?
The arapaima’s strength is simply in its scarcity, beauty and international acclaim however with more and more ponds stocking the amazonian river monster the fish is beginning to lose its elusive charm. In fact, the arapaima is like a beautiful high-maintanence woman with no bedroom skills: you only feel proud of holding her in public but when things get down and dirty there just isn’t much to look forward to unless you are using a sensitive rod. The Mekong giant catfish, on the other hand, is the opposite. It’s like an unattractive girl with epic bedroom skills that will leave the angler tired, sweaty and ecstatic until the very end and best hooked with a strong stiff rod.
So in my books the Mekong giant catfish wins this one.