English name: Mekong giant catfish

English knickname: Mekong

Scientific: Pangasianodon gigas

Thai name: Pla beuk (ปลาบึก)

Description: The word “beuk” (บึก) in Thai means hulk, behemoth, tough ass and all the other synonyms that are related to “monstrously huge” and this freshwater giant has rightly earned its name. In 2005 a female Mekong at 2.7m long weighing in at 294kg was landed in the Mekong river and confirmed to be the largest freshwater fish ever caught. Sadly it was shortly eaten up by a bunch of villagers (probably by the entire village). Story here.

Thanks to overfishing and the damns the Mekong giant catfish is critically endangered in the wild. However, thanks to their toughness and size they have been having a very healthy survival in stocked fishing ponds all across the country.

The Mekong giant catfish is scaleless and has no teeth. It is a freshwater species that has a mostly vegetarian diet unless the occasional unsuspecting creatures get sucked up by their big mouths. It also has a ferocious appetite making it spend most of its day eating thus making many fishermen very happy.

At fishing ponds a Mekong weighing around 50kg or more is referred to as a “Willy”, a reference to the killer whale from the Free Willy movie.

How to catch them: Like any other critically endangered fish, attempting to catch this one in the wild could probably take a while, maybe years or even an entire lifetime given the situation. Some have been caught in the wild in recent years but the right thing to do is to release this treasure of a fish.

The most effective way to catch the Mekong is to use a coil feeder baited with either wheat germ or bread mix on a floater rig. For anyone that didn’t get that last sentence I’ll have some a new page posted up about that shortly.

If you get them to bite be sure to be armed with some heavy and balanced tackle or you may be looking at some snapped lines or even rods (which happens more often than you believe). Line of 30lb breaking strength or more is the absolute minimum. Fighting these giants usually take at least 15 minutes. However, a fight with a Willy can sometimes easily take anywhere as long as 30 minutes to half a day (no joke na).

Tastiness: They are supposed to be quite tasty but… they’re endangered. So don’t eat it!

A medium sized Mekong.

2 Responses to Mekong giant catfish (plaa beuk) – the biggest mofo in the world

  1. Aunty Mei says:

    Dear Pengkit,
    Even though I have seen you here in my house in Italy, I still can get over the fact, that once not so long ago you were only a kid, now you are a bright, smart and handsome young man. I see in you, a part of your mother and also your dad. Thank you for sharing your stories. I like that you do not eat endangered species. Take good care of your mom.

  2. rob hall says:

    I live in Thailand and have caught them up to 94 lbs in Bangkok and up to 40 lbs locally in Nackhon Ratchisima..
    As you say up to 30 minutes to land and doesn’t give in.The problem I have that Thai people don’t,is
    how to
    tell the difference between a Plaa Beuk and a plaa Sawai.

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