Another pose!

The Sipping Fish

Both the snakehead variety are semi  amphibious. They are kind of the missing link between fish and reptiles. With a lung-like organ these creatures need to surface for air every-so often. They need to surface more often when they are hunting since air is released from their mouths when they open them to bite. This need to surface becomes handy for the fisherman as it gives away the position of the snakeheads. Among the Thai fishermen, we call this act “pla jib nam” (ปลาจิบน้ำ) literally translated to mean “fish sipping water”.

When the giant snakehead surfaces two sets of ripples are usually formed, the first from the head sipping in the air and the second from the tail propelling the fish back down into the depth where the prey are hiding. The best time to fish for the sipping snakehead is during the drought season (usually Feb-May) when the water level is low and the area for the snakehead to surface is dramatically reduced allowing for anglers to locate them much easier.

To catch the sipping snakehead the angler must:

1. keep an eye out to locate the sipping snakehead,

2. determine which direction the fish is swimming towards from the two sets of ripples

3. cast the lure out about a metre beyond the fish’s trajectory and

4. reel back the lure quickly and hope for a strike, which could be quite frequent given the right season.

The jungle ambush

The snakeheads also have a habit of ambushing their prey from vegetation. Anglers in Thailand will cast out surface frog lures into these little pockets along the banks all day in hope that there is a hungry snakehead waiting in the vegetation to ambush the hapless prey. This method is called “loh paa” (เลาะป่า), literally meaning “to skim the forest”. Though this method is used all year round it is the best method to catch a snakehead during the cool season (November-January).

The over-protective parent

Another trait of the snakehead that anglers like to abuse is the over-protective nature of the fish as a parent. During the beginning of the rainy season the majority of the snakeheads would enter the parenting part of their life-cycle. Males and females pair up and begin mating. Soon after they lose their black colour and start inhibiting green and purple colours in a camoflage-like pattern on their tops. Little snakehead hatchlings will swim in large shoals for safety and being much smaller than their parents they will surface for air much more frequently. The juvenile snakeheads begin their life as small blood-red fishes no longer than your pinky finger. When they surface for air, they will look like a living blood cloud moving up and down. It will sound a little bit like the pitter-patter of rain.

As they grow older, they will become more brown in colour while maintaining some red at the tail. The brown juveniles are viscous little creatures that will attack any lure together like a pack of hungry piranhas. Catching these are as easy as catching water when it rains.

The younger the snakehead juveniles, the more aggressive the parent. The parents of these little red hatchlings will violently protect their young. The parents also have a well-planned defensive strategy. While one protects the young from a close range the other parent will swim about 5-10 metres away to secure the perimeter while grabbing a bite to eat.

Fishing for the parents is called “Tii mae kohk” (ตีแม่คอก), literally “attacking the stable’s mother”. Like the sipping method, the fisherman waits for the juveniles to surface before casting the lure out to threaten the juveniles. Over time the parents will eventually see your lure as a threat and attack it. This is when you get ready for a big fight, especially if you hooked the female because she can grow up to 9 kilos.

The spawning period begins from July all the way until December but there are the occasional ones that decide to not stick to schedule but this is rare.

Note: it is extremely important that you release the parents after you catch them or the juveniles will be wiped out by the other predators in the area thus leaving less snakehead fishing for the next season.

Tackle required

Due the nature of the environment that the snakeheads like to hang in and the sharp teeth of the snakeheads, it’s important to have some heavy tackle when dealing with the snakeheads:

- a rod of 15-25lb or 20-30lb for heavy cover or parent hunting,

-PE braided fishing line that can handle at least 30lb although 40lb and above is highly recommended,

- though optional with lure fishing, a high abrasion leader line helps, preferebly a shock leader of up to 30lb

 

Recommended lures:

- Deep diving plug lures like the Rapala deep diver or risto rap,

- Pencil lure

- Propeller or non-propeller surface frog,

- buzz-bait.

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18 Responses to How to catch the giant snakehead

  1. Eric says:

    Whoa! That’s really a huge fish! I can probably use your tips when we go fishing next time. Every time we fish, I only catch a couple, like all the time.

  2. Edu says:

    Nice article! Just what I needed! I was hunting for snakeheads recently, got me 10 strikes but no catch :(

    I hope you are still monitoring this so you can send answers to my questions:

    1. The ripple you described, what exactly would they look like? One big ripple from the mouth than a smaller one from the tail? Do they happen at once or mouth ripple first, and then the tail? I think that will greatly help.
    2. I am guessing on this, please tell me if my guess is correct. BuzzBait for when there is a ripple. Am saying this because I think the ripple happens in more open water yes? How fast to I crank? Then frog lure when hunting snakeheads in parenting more correct? I drop the frog along with the young ones or do I drop it outside of the young ones flock and then make the frog “swim” towards the young ones?

    Thank you in advance!

  3. Great site you have here. I’ve been looking around and trying to get any tip I can get for an upcoming Snakehead Tournament here in the US in June. Will be my first time going after these fish so I look forward to the fun. Tight lines to you and keep putting up those pics.

    • Bangkokhooker says:

      Welcome to the site David! What sort of snakeheads are you going after?

      • They call them here the Giant Northern Snakehead. They find big ones around the Potomac River between Virginia and Maryland. I think they are a great looking fish but they are considered an invasive species here. Link to what we are catching http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/fishingreport/snakehead.html . From what I’ve been finding out here is that they are great to eat and they want us to catch as many as we can. Were some caught last year close to 19 pounds. It is surely a fish to be respected in its own environment but unfortunately it is not wanted by many here even though now it is here to stay.

  4. Khao sok in suratthani is a great place to catch snakeheads. i’ve been around 10 times. If you go out on the lake deep in the jungle there are many giant snake heads as well as the other varities. I’ve caught up to around 6kg, but have been told they get up to 15kg +.
    great fun.

  5. mr barracuda says:

    hello bangkokhooker,,,rod for 10-20lbs it is enough for below 10kg giant snakehead?? with 30lbs braided line and 50lbs shockleader??? I used this setup for casting giant snakehead…are ypu suggest for 15-30lbs fishing rod??

    • Bangkokhooker says:

      Yes. A 15-30lb rod means it can handle that weight in a fight, since the fish is in the water its true weight isn’t the issue, it’s the pulling strength of the fish that matters.

  6. Nadir Khan says:

    Interestint info…. we luv fishing fr snake heads!

  7. john musgrove says:

    am off to koh samui shortly,anysnakehead on the island in the drains or lakes?

  8. john musgrove says:

    any snakehead in koh samui?

  9. jun han says:

    hi I recently got a voon frog.when I cast it out and crank it, at first it goes upside down and swirling in the water then as it goes nearer, it pops up and starts to slap the water. is there any thing wrong with my voon? or is it my technique? my setup is 7ft seahawk storm rider , 5:1 spinning ,20lb mono (maybe getting 50lb shock leader soon ) I just started fishing months ago , hoping to have my fst catch. hope u reply ! I thank you in advance!

  10. Dwsmrchubom says:

    ask:

    At alkaline water they focused their foraging very easy to catch, when water from upstream countries to provide consistent distance and volume down did not know they move to the public sector, that sector has many features pasture. one can find help with.

  11. Khai Audigier says:

    Hi….awesome tips…. Btw I have a few question…. Recently I have been aiming for this giant snakehead….
    What is the best timing to catch this fish?
    And about the over protecting parent….Fee time I did saw but when I cast on the direction of the parent , they will try to run away…is there any ways or tips ?

  12. anubhav says:

    sir i would like to know that is it important for us to hide ourselves away from snakehead sight?
    And how much ball bearing spinning reel we should use to catch 5-7kg snakehead.

  13. Gene says:

    do you know a good place to catch the giant snake head

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