Written by Jean Francois Helias. (Pictures courtesy of J-F Helias.THE NIGHT THEY LANDED THE BIGGEST FRESHWATER FISH EVER CAUGHT ON ROD AND LINE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA. Twenty-three years ago, thirty five (35) Arapaima gigas or Pirarucu, a fish species originally from the Amazon basin, were stocked at Bung Sam Ran Lake, Thailand. A few of them were hooked during the past two decades but rarely was a fish successfully landed by anglers.“Joe Taylor’s catch of a lifetime was more than well deserved” added Jean-Francois. Before catching that fish, he had experienced a total of 7 Arapaima bites during his two previous visits in Thailand to fish with us. As in many other fields of endeavor, persistence is one of the best assets for anyone to succeed!”The text that follows, written years ago by Jean-Francois Helias, relates that unforgettable night on the 26th August, 2001 when his Fishing Adventures Thailand teammates and the legendary UK globetrotter caught the gigantic 185kg Arapaima. A catch which is still today – and certainly for many more years to come – the unofficial record of the Southeast Asian biggest fish ever caught on rod and line.
“It was around 01:00 that night when the 185 kg monster Arapaima gigas decided to take our fish filet bait. As usual, powerful and unstoppable once hooked, the huge predator fish rushed through all the obstacles it could find underwater. The Arapaima went absolutely everywhere, snagging the line several times around pillars of a wooden bridge and stilts of near by bungalows. Its unique strength and speed was amazing to observe. It ran non-stop for a while, and then stopped, showing itself later several times at surface level, far away, at the other end of the lake.
Two of my guides then proceeded with the strategy we use when the angler’s line is snagged on obstacles, to save his catch. One of them spent an hour swimming, often underwater, to find out where the snagged line was. Meanwhile the second one, every time necessary, was spooling out the line from the reel, cutting it, getting it free from the snags, and promptly re-tying the two line pieces. The angler, Joe Taylor, would then take contact again with the monster fish and fight it until he got snagged once more.
It took a total of two very long hours before the fight could be ended. One hour was spent working on the snagged line, and another 60 minutes for the tug of war with the giant fish. In accordance with IGFA rules, you can guess that fighting the fish in this manner wouldn’t have been sanctioned as an All Tackle World Record. Too bad, our Arapaima catch was almost three times bigger than the one holding the IGFA record at that time: a fish of “only” 67.13 kg, caught in the Rupununi River, Guyana, by a certain Ed Migdalski, in April 1953.
This battle occurred on a Saturday night and about 50 Thai people stopped fishing and came to watch the action. Once the fish was netted, a huge ovation from the Thai crowd congratulated all of us. The applause was first for Joe Taylor, as the “angling hero” of the day, and then for us, the Fishing Adventures Thailand team, his accomplices.
Every one was cheering and clapping loudly. It was a very emotional moment and a few tears came from Joe’s eyes.”