Emperor Snakehead (Channa marulioides)

Channa marulioides - The Emperor snakehead is a rare catch. In it's Thailand range, only found in the south of the country. Its nowhere near so abundant as its famous and larger, more powerful cousin the Giant snakehead (Channa micropeltes) but its beauty and coming from more inaccessible off the tourist track areas make it a must have feather in the snakehead anglers cap.


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Suborder: Channoidei
  • Family: Channidae
  • Species: Channa marulioides
Common names: Emperor snakehead, Darkfin snakehead, Toman bunga Thai name: Pla Chon kha luang (ข้าหลวง) Thailand status: Native Max size: 2kg (4.4lb) Diet: Crustaceans, Fish, Amphibians, Small reptiles Habitat: Freshwater

The Emperor snakehead has the family trait of jutting jaw and dark front facing eyes. Colour is brown/gold-tinted  to dark brown with white belly. Its got large black blotches edged with white and white dots on tail.

Photo of Emperor snakehead (Channa marulioides) caught fishing in Thailand with killer frog lures. Notice the striking snakelike skin

In Thailand you will have to travel to the South to target this rare snakehead species. A hard fish to catch specifically, most anglers encounter them by accident when actually fishing for the Giant snakehead (Channa micropeltes). Channa marulioides does not grow very large 2 Kg would be a huge specimen and the catch of a lifetime but they do pack a lot of power into a smaller frame, their initial hit and run is fierce and will have even the tightest drag straining. Being ambush predators the Emperor snakehead dwels close to submerged snags and obstacles and is especially fond of undercut roots which provide good cover for ambushing prey from all directions. Best methods are topwater lures for excitement, cast tight to margins and close to tree stumps and submerged bamboo as possible, also diving lures such as Rapala's cast to the same areas can be effective.