The dam in the distance

At three and a half hours out of Bangkok,Srinakarin dam is not a place I go to too often. With petrol prices continuously going up and a full-time job, the trip there for a guy like me is only worthwhile when accompanied by some fun friends who are willing to share the expenses and some good laughs.

How it all started

One of my fishing buddies, Doc David Green, suggested to me once after one of our usual visits to Pilot 111 about a possible trip to one of the reservoirs for an overnight trip that he saw on a tour website. “It looks like a great deal, it’s just around B11,000 per person!” said the doctor. For a lowly paid employee of a cable company, the B11,000 price tag was definitely going to put a dent in my measly allowance.

“Let me see what I can do,” I replied with a slightly shocked tone.

 

The more economical trip

 

 

 

 

 

So many houseboats to choose from.

 

 

 

 

 

The thing about the tour companies is that they are a fantastic option for tourists. The price tag of B11,000 per person included travel, guide, boatman, accommodation, boat rental, food and gear for a two to three day trip. At B11,000 it’s just under USD$370 a day, a reasonable price for most people but for someone living here who already has a car, fishing gear and local know-how that price tag is like a kick in the nuts from a steel-toed boot adorned with diamonds.

With some googling and phone calls I revised our travel plan. There are many local companies but the one I found was http:www.paenuntana.com. The three of us including Doc Green, Alex and I, would travel to Srinakarin dam in Alex’s car, stay on a small house boat (B1,900 a night), rent a small long tail boat from them (B800 per half-day) and fish for three sessions (Saturday afternoon and all day on Sunday).

The final breakdown was like this:

- Gas and petrol, B1,500
- One night accommodation, B1,900
- Three boat sessions, 3 x B800 = B2,400
- boat’s petrol expense, B800
- Food and other stuffs, B500

Total: B7,100

Divide that by three and we’re looking at B2,367 per person, a lot less than B11,000.

 

Target not acquired

Target not acquired

 

As usual, the fish we wanted was the giant snakehead or the striped snakehead but the conditions were just not favourable. Even with the seasonal thundershowers the water levels were low; the dam was using more water for hydroelectricity than usual.

With water levels so low the aquatic vegetation were basically non-existent leaving very little hiding area for the snakeheads forcing them out to the open water, a very large expansive area in Srinakarin reservoir. Another factor effecting the snakeheads was the fishing pressure, being a very famous spot for both holiday makers and fishermen the snakeheads here were extremely educated.

 

At least we still have the krasoob

That’s right, if anyone plans to come to Srinakarin dam, be sure pack along some light tackle for some krasoob keed fishing. The krasoob keed, also known as the hampala barb or the jungle perch, is a fish high in abundance, a very good fighter and is quite easy to catch. On average they are about half a kilo but then can grow up to a few kilos. My record is 3.2kg but there have been reports of 5kg before.

One Hampala barb for the Doctor

With some shiny metal spoons, we caught a fair amount of them. The trick was to cast the spoons into the water, let it sink to the bottom, give it a jerk to avoid the snags before reeling it back quickly. This method, regardless of how careful you are, usually results in many snags and lost lures so bring many spoons (they’re locally made and cheap, at around B50-70 per spoon).

We caught a total of eight over the two days. Alex caught three, Doc caught two and I also landed three. Our guide, “Jeng” (เจ๋ง) , landed over 15 putting us in our places, haha.

Doc's thumb and my littled krasoob (released after photo)

Our guide showing us how it is done.

Some of the fish we kept for dinner

Other amenities

The house boat we stayed on was very basic. A small bedroom, some floor mattresses, pillows, blankets, a gas stove, a tiny kitchen, a sit-down toilet and a bucket to get water from the reservoir to wash ourselves with. At night, a car battery kept the lights going. To make things even more comfortable they also had a food and drinks delivery service. This came in handy when we wanted them cook up our krasoobs for dinner.

Clockwise from top: deep-fried krasoob, spaghetti with marinara sauce and spicy krasoob salad.

Last year, I came to Srinakarin to party with my friends so we stayed in a party house boat. There were a total of about 18 of us so we rented the big boathouse that came with a power generator as well as a karaoke machine. I can’t remember how much it cost but it’s definitely a lot more than B1,900 a night. We basically spent the entire trip singing and taking breaks by floating in the water with our life jackets while drinking beer to cool off from the summer heat.

 

Conclusion

Honestly, the fishing wasn’t that great. We didn’t catch too many fish and there we no snakeheads biting. Even the guides were adamant on not going after the snakeheads saying that it was a waste of time. However, the trip was definitely not a waste of time; sleeping in the cool jungle air was something no Bangkok air-conditioner could compare to; and going on a road trip with my fishing buddies was a wonderful bonding experience more entertaining than some weekend spent going to the clubs any day. The fish we caught weren’t big but the time we had was easily more awesome than a visit to  any fishing pond stocked with monsters.

 

 

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14 Responses to The Trip to Srinakarin Dam 2011 (pics and vid)

  1. Alex West says:

    Cool! It includes the trailer to the Alex Westphal Cooking Show!! HAHA!!

  2. aidil says:

    hey…Oz nice trip and sebarau fish as well….but cannot compare with toman on fightinglaaa..hahaha

  3. Great to hear you had a good time however I would comment that your being far too kind to the “fishing tour guide” services in Thailand.

    You can go on a small group guided freshwater fishing tour pretty much anywhere in the World for $375 USD PP – Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Alaska some of the best freshwater fishing in the World.

    Of course Deep Sea Fishing is more expensive because they have the boat to run but running a small well set up boat in dams is not expensive – the major expense is petrol for the car to and from location and hiring a local boatman as you did will provide you with as much local knowledge as a Thai “fishing guide” will give.

    I love this country and the fishing here is unique but when you consider wages for other skilled workers and costs of doing business ect here $375USD is just another rip off for tourists.

    • Bangkokhooker says:

      Well, it looks like we’re in the market for a cheaper tour company then =)

      • I agree totally.

        The trekking business sets the benchmark of what should be possible for locally run fishing guide services in Thailand.

        There are a ton of parallels between the industries and many of the costs are virtually identical, you just need to add the “on the water costs” which is really small – less than 1000 baht a day ( I base this on the costs of running my own 12’5 boat here )

        You can do amazing treks and even motorcycle tours for 2000 – 3000 baht a day all over Thailand, Cambodia, Burma and Laos – there is no reason you should not be able to do the same with a rod in hand.

        Maybe its a future business opportunity for you : )

        • Bangkokhooker says:

          haha no thanks. Being a guide would take the fun out of fishing for me I think. I like helping people but doing it for a living while they catch the fish that I want to catch is not my style at the moment.

  4. Me again : )

    I thought I would drop this link to show what you can get in other low cost countries by way of comparison of the Thai fishing guide rip off.

    I have no connection to this business in any way, its just chosen at random.

    http://www.mahseersportsandadventures.com/Mahseer-Fishing-Tours.php

    This business offers guided Mahseer fishing in India, including pick up from Airport and basic on river accomdation for 645 pounds for a full week fishing for two people sharing.

    That’s like $1000USD for the entire week and that is what guided fishing should cost here.

    All of the things that cost real money like petrol and good quality fishing tackle cost the same here as they do in India, its all about greed rather than love of the sport and an appreciation of the life style of being a fishing guide.

    • Bangkokhooker says:

      Like I said before, “Well, it looks like we’re in the market for a cheaper tour company then =)”

      Where do you go fly fishing here by the way?

  5. I’ve been to Srinakarin Dam many times, but never for fishing. I imagine it to be nice, but after you said it isn’t that great… I just enjoy drifting on the lake between the mountains :-)

  6. crystallinesheen says:

    Good job on doing a little bit of legwork and having your good time on the cheap. Most fishermen I have met in my lifetime have cultivated that ability to problem-solve on the fly…especially when it comes to financial considerations. Fishing can be as expensive as you want it to be, but like being able to work on your own car, when you are able to get out there and have a fun fishing day on the cheap you get a good feeling inside.

    I’ve been fishing since I could hold a pole, and only within the past couple of years have I started to acquire real gear (non-Shakespeare rods and reels) because in my 20′s I worked crap jobs and the California cost of living is astronomical. So when I fish off 100 ft. cliffs down in Big Sur with my Daiwa Emblem Pro 5500 and 13 foot Whuppin’ Stick, I feel I have come a long way from my humble beginnings. When I was little I would fish for catfish with a little Wal-Mart special Zebco casting rig with a firearm always handy nearby in case of gators or snakes. Ahh, the memories! Cali fishing is very challenging, you might only get 2 bites in a fishing session, but generally you’re gonna land a 2-4 ft. long 5 to 20 lb fish. I miss fishing back home in the South, if you don’t catch a cooler full of fish in a session, you are a poor fisherman.

    On a side note related to fishing economics, how in the world can Bungsamran charge 600 dollars American to fish for the Arapaima? Do you get to keep the fish? Also, when you rent those ultra heavy rods there, does the rental come with rod insurance? I remember you said you broke a 300 dollar rod there the other day…it would be worth it, but man, that’s pricy! I don’t care myself, I would take the broken pieces home and mount them in honor of the King of Catfish! I’ll be there in November, you tell them Willys there at BSR that crystallinesheen is on his way to REGULATE! Jeremy Wade ain’t got nothin’ on me! (Just kidding, I worship him as a FISHING GOD!) Until then, I’ll enjoy watching you pull ‘em in! :)

    • Bangkokhooker says:

      Haha of course that $300 rod was worth breaking, it wasn’t mine haha. I was hired to be in a fishing dvd at BSR so basically I was employed to catch fish on camera. So instead of my rod they gave me their rod, one that they use for field testing and what do you know, SNAP. I think it broke because it’s been used too much. If I snapped a $300 rod I’d be in tears!

      Haha, I’m still a big fan of the Shakespeare rod man, those Ugly Stiks are my preferred rods for handling those mekongs.

      As for the $600 arapaima fishing fee it’s actually because the owner of the pond sees the arapaima as a pet so that high price-tage is there to discourage people from wanting to catch it.

      Cali sounds like an awesome place to fish.

      Let me know when you’re down at BSR, I could use the exercise!

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