A SNAKEHEAD HUNTING TRIP
Date : Feb. 27, 2005
Location : Serian area, North-western Borneo.
Before I started to write my story on my short hunting trip for snakehead, I wanted to write a short introduction on my "relationship" with this predatory fish, snakehead.
When I was young, I used to catch the common snakehead, Channa striata in the drains of Kuching area. At that time, I thought all the snakeheads are the same, black or alcohol dark brown color. When I was living in KL city in Peninsular Malaysia, I was invited by my friends to go fishing for snakehead at Batang Berjuntai area in northern Selangor state. That was my first time to know there is more than one species of snakeheads in the world.....and this one in the lake of Batang Berjuntai was HUGE! It was Channa micropeltes.
When I was starting to collect the wild tropical fish of Borneo in Kuching area, I found 2 more species of snakeheads which I never seen before, Channa lucius, Channa bankanensis and Channa gachua. Channa melosoma was spotted hiding in a culvert of a drain near a paddy field near Serian but failed to catch it. I believed I have seen or found almost all the species of snakeheads in Sarawak area except Channa baramensis.
One day, my friend in Thailand showed me the picture of a beautiful blue-colred snakehead called Channa pleurophthalmus. I told him I never seen it before. One week later, another friend in Switzerland told me there is a possibilty that I could find Channa pleurophthalmus in Sarawak area. I was very surprised to know such a species because I never seen or heard it before in my life!
Few weeks later, I recalled back my memory...... it was a Sunday morning in Year 2004, I was hunting for Betta brownorum in an oil palm plantation near Serian with my cousin. At a location inside the plantation, I saw a common kingfisher caught a blue-colored fish by using its beak. The size and length of that fish was very similar to a snakehead but I was shocked that it was very blue-colored! The bird flew away when I was approaching it. That day, I did not find any Betta brownorum or that blue-colored "mysterious" fish at all! I checked all my reference books but I still could not identify what was that fish.
Thanks to my friends in Thailand & Switzerland, now I wanted to find out more about that mysterious fish. There is a big possibilities that was Channa pleurophthalmus !
February 27th, 2005. It was a hot Sunday morning. Around 10.30am, I reached the location where I was hunting Betta brownorum in previous year.
Just before I wanted to walk into the oil palm plantation, I saw a school of juvenile snakehead. They looks like young Channa striata. From my experience, there must be an adult fish watching & guiding them, so I threw a hook with fish bait (earth worm) in the center of that school of juvenile snakehead. Nothing came to take the bait. I left my hook and bait at the spot and moving into the plantation.
I placed another 6 more hooks with bait in different locations and left for lunch break after finished placing the fishing lines with hooks.
On the way out, I checked 3 hooks which I placed in the blackwater drain and all the bait were taken but failed to catch any fish. I replaced the baits on those hooks & left for lunch in Serian town.
When I was back there around 1.30pm, I saw two Bidayuh guys (native) were pushing their motorbike inside the plantation. Their motorbike was stuck in the peat soil. They told me they came here for fishing. As they were busy to push their motorbike, I did not ask them about the blue snakehead. I regretted later that I failed to ask them.
When I went to collect back all my hooks, I found out all the baits were eaten but no fish were caught! It was an unlucky day. On the way out, I collected a few juvenile of those snakeheads which I found in the pond in the morning. I believed those are juvenile of Channa striata. I will keep those fish for one month and hope it is something new to me. If it is Channa striata, I will have to come back to hunt for that blue snakehead again. (Sometimes different species of snakeheads can be found in the same location)
A blackwater pond.
A school of juvenile snakeheads.
Oil palm plantation.
Close up photo of the mosses.
Hook and line method is used to "hunt" the snakehead.
Rasbora kalochroma is found abundantly here.
Betta ibanorum, the most common wild fighting fish.
A species of Fern.
The fruits of oil palm. Oil palm is the main export of agriculture product of Malaysia. As the government is encouraging local company and enterpriser to plant & export the oil palm product in the recent year, a huge area of peat swamp in Borneo was destroyed and converted into oil palm plantation.
The shadow & sunlight reflection on the blackwater of the drain inside the plantation.
Something is taking the bait!
A = Trichopsis vittatus
B = Rasbora kalochroma
C = Trichogaster trichopterus
Juvenile of Channa sp.