Back in March earlier this year I met my fishing buddy Alex for the first time. He was one of my readers and a usual commenter on the posts. Over time we eventually connected and he took me out to my first trip to the Bang Pakong River (read the story here). It was quite the lackluster trip to the brackish river save for one decent-sized boseman croaker that I hooked. Apparently we had come on a bad day.
So many months passed by and we waited for some news regarding the river being in fishing season again to surface. After a while, we forgot about it. That is, until one day when Alex looked through the fishing forums saw plenty of posts of people finding success at Bang Pakong River. It was the season of the threadfin (more specifically the four finger threadfin or “plaa kurao” in Thai) and people were pulling these fish out by the numbers. The high water level of December had brought them back from the sea and in to the river.
Not long after, Alex took the initiative to call our boatman from our previous trip. He was already booked. Alex tried several other numbers posted on Siamfishing.com. All of them were busy with other customers and booked all the way until January 8, 2012. One guy even laughed and said, “good luck”. It looked like it was time to abandon all hope but then Alex reached one boatman who was particularly more picky than the rest. His name was Num and he ran a small ice making business that supplied to the nearby restaurants Bang Pakong. Num had bought himself a boat a while back and restored it so that he could go on his own fishing trips in the river. One day, he took a customer out to fish. The customer found a lot of success and posted his pictures up to the fishing forums along with Num’s number. Soon enough he was getting calls every day but he didn’t just take anyone that called. He already had his own ice business, the money he makes from the fishing is really not his priority but rather the fun he could have with others so he is quite picky with the people that call him to request his fishing services. For us, Num’s pickiness meant that he was available to take people out during a time where finding a boatman was impossible. And even luckier for us, he took a liking to my half-Thai half-German friend via the phone. Maybe it was Alex’s thick German accent that got the boatman intrigued or perhaps it was the sound of desperation in his voice, from getting rejected by 15 boatmen, that got Num interested. Either way, we had a boat booked for Friday December 30, 2011.
Our boat was a wooden boat about 140cm in width and about 3m in length. It had the tendency to rock quite easily which made things a little uncomfortable when the ginormous shipping carriers passed us, on numerous occasions, with their massive waves.
For the first time in a long time we were bait fishing as opposed to lure fishing. Our obsession with lure fishing was something that had taken over our lives. But, this time we were fishing for keeps and bait fishing was the way to do it. I had already told my mom that I was going to bring her back some threadfin to eat so I wasn’t going let her down. Armed with me was my trusty 7-feet light-tackle rod and a reel spooled with 15lb line. Along with that we set our gear up with a lead sinker, a swivel, 40lb shock leader for those sharp teeth or barnacles and a number 14 Gamakatsu hook. For bait we used small shrimp, both live and dead.
The fishing seemed simple enough: put the bait on the hook; cast the line out and let the line sink to the bottom; reel in slack until line is stiff and wait with rod in hand, for the bite before setting the hook. This really brought me back to my days as a boy visiting my friend who lived on a property stocked with tilapia. There, we used the same set-up but with bread in place of the shrimp. The trick back then was to point the rod down with the tip of the index finger touching the tension of the fishing line coming out of the spinning reel. With the fingertip, feel the fish nibble at the bait; this is indicated by short little taps on the line. When there is a sudden and constant pull on the line that is when the fish has taken the bait and the hook must be set by snapping the rod back firmly without having it swing back forward. Now reel in the fish quickly making sure that there is not a single moment of slack in the line. It was the same old trick that worked back then and it was the same old trick that worked even now while out on a boat in the brackish water of Bang Pakong River.
Over the coarse of the entire day the three of us landed plenty of threadfins, some brackish water catfish and other species of fish that I wasn’t too familiar with. Num would anchor the boat somewhere and we’d drop in our lines and fish. We went to several locations, passing by mangroves, large shipping carriers carrying gas with big letters saying “no smoking”, a golf course, abandoned barramundi farms (due to the flood this past year), mussel farms and even the opening to the Gulf of Thailand. It really was a diverse river that blended agriculture, industry, the recreational and nature quite interestingly.
By the end we had landed around thirty fish in total. Just at dusk, Alex lands himself the biggest fish of the day a striped saltwater catfish that weighed a little over a kilo; a giant compared to all the little guys we have been landing. For once, the catch and release fishermen were going to go home to their families with some fish. The next day I coated the fish in a light coat of flour and spices, deep-fried it and served it to my family for lunch and it was a big hit (I’ll post the recipe in the next few days).
At the end of it all, Alex and I laid out our day’s hard work out for a photograph of our bounty with big smiles on our faces. According to Num, we had encountered quite a slow day but we couldn’t care less, it was already thirty times better than the last trip and at the end we had loads of fun.