Thailand, affectionately known as the ‘Land of Smiles’, is well known for its stunning beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, National Parks full of exotic plant and animal life, colorful markets and beautiful buddhist temples. Last but not least, Thailand is also well known for world-class freshwater fishing and angling for a wide variety of enormous native and imported species from around the world.
Fishing in Thailand the whole year round
One big plus is definitely that you can fish in Thailand the whole year round.
The fishing might slow down a little bit and the fish can be sluggish in the cool winter season from December until February, in some places. Then you need to be more patient as the feeding times can be really short, but your chances to catch some good sized fish are usually still good. The best time for fishing, especially for carp species, is normally considered to be in the raining season from June to November. Freshwater fishing in Thailand is usually most productive at private fishing parks. Fishing in the wild is often tough due to overfishing and low levels of catch and release. I will add some information about fishing in the natural rivers and lakes at the end of the article.
History: The first fishing park in Thailand 25 years ago
Everything started about twenty five to thirty years ago with the first articles about the famous fishing park ‘Bung Sam Ran’ in Bangkok being published in many European fishing magazines. The number of exotic fish being caught, the monster size and especially the variety of species immediately drew the attention of lots of anglers worldwide, and the first pictures of massive Mekong catfish, Arapaima, Alligator Gar and Siamese carp ect. were really an eye-opener. Wow! All these huge fish were caught at the same lake in only one country. Fishing in Thailand suddenly became the ultimative challenge for experienced anglers and even for beginners. Nowadays, fishing in this beautiful country is much more developed and you can find lots of opportunities throughout the kingdom. Thousands of anglers from around the world travel now every year to Thailand to catch a fish of a lifetime.
Fishing in Thailand step by step guide
But let us talk about the fishing in Thailand step by step and have a look first at the fishing methods and opportunities which we can provide for you in the northern province of Chiang Mai.
Fishing in Thailand for Asian catfish and carp species
Is mainly bait fishing with method feeders over heavily goundbaited areas.
We usually use a bread mix or a pellet mix for this method feeder technique and we recommend frequently baiting up your swim to keep it attractive to the fish all of the time.
Whilst fishing for predatory species, the most effective baits which bring the best results are usually dead baits and especially meaty baits like chicken heart or sausages etc.
Live baits, lures and artificial flies are banned at most fishing parks. Most predators are usually being caught by simple ledgering close to the banks after baiting up with a handful of free baits.
Do you love fishing with light tackle for smaller species?
So do I, and Thailand is a wonderful place for float fishing and light weighted ledgering with bread crust, a paste made of pellets or simply sweet corn on the hook. You will often catch Tilapia, Rohu, Mud carp and several smaller sized barb species. Feel free to bring your light tackle with you, it’s good fun.
(Please note that your are not allowed to bring your own baits, food and drinks from outside to most fishing parks in Thailand, but everything that you might need is normally available at a reasonable price)
We provide all the tackle which is needed so that you succeed in your quest to land a ‘big one’ at our venues. Please note that every customer is fully responsible for any loss of or damage to our tackle!
Do you prefer to use your own tackle? That’s absolutely fine with us as long as it is strong enough to deal with these powerful species. We recommend rods in a length of 9-10ft with a minimum test curve of minimum 3.5-4.5lb. Preferred reels are big sized ‘Baitrunner’ or spinning reels.
Breaking strength for the line has to be at least 40lbs for monofilament and 80lbs for braided lines.
Only barbless single hooks are allowed. Trebles, multiple hook links and any kind of free lining is strictly banned!
We offer fishing packages at two different lakes which are located in the outskirts of Chiang Mai, the second biggest town in Thailand and which is also called the ‘Rose of the North’
1.) Fishing Thailand: Guided day tours for Mekong catfish and Striped catfish at Borsang Fishing Park
Borsang lake is the biggest lake around Chiang Mai, Thailand. (driving time is about 30 minutes) and one of the most well known fisheries in Thailand. It was established as a fishing park more than 30 years ago. The lake is heavily stocked with catfish with an average size of 30-60lbs and with a few individuals up to a maximum of 120lbs. The lake holds also a few Asian carp species, some Tilapia and a few small Striped snakeheads from 0.5 to 2lbs. To be honest, species other than the catfish are rarely caught, the catfish are really dominant and they will chase all other fish away from the baited area.
Borsang lake is known as an easy water with a very high catch rate, it is literally non-stop action with extremely hard fighting catfish throughout the day. It is good fun fishing and perfect for groups, families, novice anglers and if you only have a few hours time planned to do some fishing while you are on holiday.
You will fish here with a very experienced guide who knows the best rigs and methods which work well at certain times of the day. With the help of our guide you will catch many more and much bigger fish than you would catch on your own….nothing can beat local knowledge! The majority of our guests will catch a new personal best here and probably the biggest fish of their life, and they are all more than pleased with nice pictures of huge fish between 20-30kg.
2.) Fishing at Dreamlake Resort, Chiang Mai – Thailand
Dreamlake is a relatively small but deep water about 1 hectare in size and with a depth around 9 metres (27ft). The lake was manmade and dug out about 50-60 years ago, but it looks much more like a natural lake with all the large mature trees around the banks. We bought the lake in 1999 and for the first 4 years it was not fished whilst we developed the lake, and introduced more fish and waited until they grew to a decent size. Dreamlake opened as a fishing park at the end of 2003 and is one of the oldest established fishing venues in Thailand. Dreamlake is a catch and release fishery…with one exception, if you manage to catch a plate sized Tilapia of 1-2lbs you are allowed to keep it, and we are happy to cook a nice lunch or dinner for you (1/2 menu price). We stock Tilapia only now and then as a bait fish for our predators, and they are quite delicious.
Please note that we only sell overnight packages at our lake! We have five small purpose built bungalows at one side of the lake and one club house with a restaurant on the other side. Every bungalow has got a small terrace with a fishing platform and every unit is available with aircon or fan-cooled options. At our restaurant, we offer a great variety of delicious Thai and International food at a reasonable price.
Fishing in Thailand: Native species from Thailand and South East Asia
Dreamlake has a nice variety of species, here are the most common…
Giant Mekong Catfish
(Pangasianodon gigas) – We stocked 150 individuals in 2002, the fish now weigh 50-120lbs
(Catlocarpio Siamensis) – The original stock in 2001 was 30 individuals, they now weigh 70-100lbs. A new stock of 15 fish at an average size of 25-34lbs were introduced in March 2020. More carp will be released by the end of the raining season 2020.
The best time to fish for carp species is usually from June until November.
Chao Phraya Catfish
(Pangasius sanitwongsei) – Considered as a really rare catch at our lake. Actually we never stocked the Chao Catfish ourselves and the number of individuals remains unknown. They must have lived here for a long time before we bought the lake. Now and then Chao’s from 60 up to an estimated 160lbs have been caught over the years.
A german angler really surprised us in November 2019, when he managed to catch a fish with a length of 165cm (that’s actually just 9cm (3.5 inch) under the current IGFA world record!)
‘Pla Sawai’ (Pangasianodon hyphophthalmus) – The most common species in many Thai waters. The total number at Dreamlake is unknown, as this species spawns regularly at our lake. It is estimated that we have around 400-500 individuals at a weight of 10-50lbs.
‘Indian Carp’ (Labeo Rohita) – Rohu can be found literally in every South East Asian country. They are a medium sized, beautiful looking carp species which put up a fantastic fight on light tackle. Rohu are caught regularly at our lake up to a max size of 25-30lbs. The best time to catch Rohu is from June to November.
Small Scale Mud Carp
(Cirrhina microlepis) – Mud carp are another medium sized carp species from South East Asia which is a good fighter on light tackle. We catch them regularly at Dreamlake up to a maximum size of 20lbs.
Jullien’s Golden Price Carp
(Probarbus jullieni) – Jullien’s Golden Price Carp are native to Thailand and SE Asia and probably the most beautiful carp species worldwide. They are quite smart and cautious and to catch a Jullien’s is always an achievement. Dreamlake is stocked with about eighty individuals, and they’ve been sometimes caught up to 60lbs
A predatory species native to Thailand. It is considered a rare catch at Dreamlake. The maximum size at our lake is around 30lbs.
(Osphronemus goramy) – A prehistoric looking fish which is native to Thailand. The Giant Gourami is the biggest member of the gourami family and can grow up to 70cm in length and about 8kg in weight. They are omnivorous but their preferred diet is plants and fruits. We sometimes catch them at Dreamlake at a specimen size of 5-6kg.
(Tor Tambroides) – A very rare catch at our lake. Their natural habitat is usually small streams and rivers in the mountains. Dreamlake was stocked with seven individuals many years ago, we catch them now and then at a size of 10-15lbs on light tackle, whilst ledgering with bread crust or sweetcorn.
(Chitala Ornata) – A medium sized predatory species native to Thailand. A stunning, beautiful looking fish, but considered a rare catch.
(Channa Micropeltes) – The Giant Snakehead or ‘Pla Shado’ is found in most reservoirs and natural lakes in Thailand and is considered at the top of the food chain, similar to the northern pike in many western countries. We catch them at Dreamlake up to a maximum size of 6-8kg.
Imported species at Dreamlake Fishing Resort, Thailand:
(Atractosteus spatula) The Gar originates in the south of the USA and is one of the biggest predators at Dreamlake. We stocked 25 Alligator Gar in 2002. How many Gar we have today is unknown, probably around 100 individuals. The Gars breed at our lake, and we now have several different generations and sizes of them. The fish from the original stock are now 1.5 – 1.8 metres in length and are estimated to weigh up to 40-45kg. The Gar are actually quite lazy and we rarely see them actively hunting. They even sometimes pick up a piece of bread off of the surface. The Gar usually don’t fight that hard and give up relatively quickly, but they are still full of power and energy. The angler really needs to make them tired, otherwise the gar can be a nightmare to unhook. Please follow our instructions at the lake.
(Phractocephalus hemioliopterus) The Redtail Catfish are native to the Amazon. We stocked 30 Redtails in 2004 and they now all weigh between 45-70lbs. In December 2019 we restocked with another 25 fish weighing 14-26lbs. The Redtail Catfish are really good fighters, and we catch them quite regularly on meaty baits like chicken hearts or pieces of sausage.
(Sorubim) Another beautiful catfish from the Amazon. Sorubim are considered a rare catch at our lake. Sometimes we catch one at an average size of 10-15lbs on chicken heart.
(Piaractus brachypomus) – A strong fighting fish from the Amazon. In their natural habitat they feed mainly on hard-shelled nuts and fruits. At Dreamlake we often catch them on pellets, meaty baits and slices of banana. The average size at our lake is 35-50lbs.
(Colossoma macropomum) – Similar to the ‘Black Pacu’, they belong to the Characin family in South America. We introduced 25 individuals at a size of 12-16lbs in January 2020.
(Cichla ocellaris) – The most popular game fish in the Amazon for American bass anglers. The majority of the bass at our lake are relatively small, 0.5-2lbs with a very few individuals up to 5lbs. Anyway, they are very colorful and pretty looking fish.
Please note: No catch guarantee!
Dreamlake is not considered an easy water where you can catch one huge fish after the other in a short space of time, and to be honest we never had the intention to turn it into an easy lake like so many other venues in Thailand. Our regular customers and friends enjoy the privacy at our lake and they appreciate that the fishing is challenging without any guarantee. They look for the sense of achievement which comes from patience, thought and hard work. Anglers enjoy fishing without a guide, although a brief introduction and tips are given on arrival.
We certainly understand that this concept doesn’t appeal to every angler visiting Thailand.
Fishing in the wild – rivers – natural lakes and reservoirs in Thailand
Last but not least a few words about fishing in the wild, in the rivers, natural lakes and the huge reservoirs.
We noticed over the years that many anglers come to Thailand relatively unprepared and with overly high expectations about what they will catch.
Back home, the majority of fishermen from western countries are used to fishing in rivers or lakes near their hometowns, and with some experience and if the conditions are right, they have a good chance to catch some good sized fish. They often expect it to be the same when they come to Thailand. Just take one or two rods, some terminal tackle, lures and flies or instant baits ect. with you and catch some huge fish in any river or lake while on holiday.
Sorry, but ‘Fishing in Thailand‘, and the rest of South East Asia, often doesn’t work this way!
- 1. Fishing in public waters is usually free for everybody, and you don’t need a fishing license. Fishing is only prohibited or restricted in public parks, in ponds and canals on temple grounds and in areas controlled or owned by the Royal Thai Army and so on…
- But you have to realize that every local can put out a big net or a longline with hundreds of hooks as well and at any time, and there are no closed seasons for spawning, no minimum sizes for different species and no bag limits. Fish is a free food source for every local who wants to fish in public waters. There are some nice big fish in the wild as well, but you usually find them only in really remote areas far away from every village or town. These places are not easily accessible, they are usually a part of a National Park, and there is no path to walk or road to drive along these rivers or around the reservoirs, the only access is by boat and you would need someone with excellent local knowledge!
- 2. Many of the larger native species, like Mekong catfish, Chao Phraya Catfish, Siamese carp and Jullien’s carp originate in the big river systems in Thailand and they are critically endangered in their natural habitats. The main reasons are over-fishing and especially the building of hydropower dams (without fish ladders. This means that the fish simply can’t reach their spawning grounds anymore.
- Please note that the fish stocked at Dreamlake, whilst endangered or vulnerable species, are farmed and bred in captivity and are not taken from the wild.
- 3. Another reason why it is extremely difficult to catch some of these species in the wild is their natural food source and diet. Siamese carp and Mekong catfish are for example mainly filter-feeder in nature, filtering algae and phytoplankton out of the water and the baits we usually use for carp and catfish won’t be attractive to them. This is very different to the diet of the fish you can catch at a fishing park! The fish at a commercial fishery were raised in a farm and are fed on a mixture of pellets, rice husk and bread.
Fishing in the wild – Thailand
Finally, the good news about fishing in the wild. There are a few reservoirs and a few tour operators who offer bait fishing trips for carp species like Rohu and Mud carp, or lure fishing trips by boat for Giant Snakehead (Toman) and Jungle Perch. These tours are mainly for experienced anglers, especially when it comes to lure fishing. The angler should be able to cast a light weighted lure over a long distance precisely into a small area.
The tours have basic accommodation and do not guarantee catches but offer adventure fishing in stunning scenery and a chance to observe the lives of rural Thai people. In some locations, it is also an opportunity to appreciate Thailand’s beautiful wildlife.
It is the same story for fly fishing in Thailand
There are a few excellent guides who offer multiple day tours to fly fish for Thai Mahseer in streams in the tropical jungle.
Another option to fish in the wild for really huge, prehistoric species are the tours for the Giant Freshwater Stingray in some tidal rivers with brackish water around Bangkok. The chances to catch one of these monster sized stingrays is still good, as there is no commercial fishing for this species…but you need a professional team on your side to help and to guide you.