When it comes to fishing destinations, Bangkok, Thailand doesn’t particularly ring any bells. As a bustling city filled with buddhist temples, insane drivers, and backpackers from all over the world. The last activity most people would think of within the urban landscape is sport fishing. However as odd as it may sound, the busy Southeast Asian city is not only an amazing place to visit but it is home to a very unique and traditional freshwater fishery all within a few minutes to a couple hours outside the city. Both cheap and easy to get to, Bangkok is a must for the urban fisherman, swimbait fisherman or the eager exotic chaser that simply cannot afford a trip to the Amazon. Beyond the fishing aspect, the country is rich with culture and full of spectacular things to see and do on as little as $20 USD per day.
This previous December I was invited to fish in Bangkok with Mike Kikkawa whom I met while working on the New Lo An during the last summer season in San Diego. Considering working on the sport boats is a seasonal gig, I decided a trip to Thailand would be a sufficient way to celebrate the end of a fantastic season. After previously visiting the country the year before with little knowledge that a fishery might exist, I took advantage of the opportunity to go back to Thailand and get a whole new experience chasing exotics. So I decided to drag one of my best friends Nate Lindsay along for the ride and give Thailand another shot. Therefore, I packed up my warm weather clothes, cameras and tackle in my backpack grabbed my Phenix Rods REDEYE Travel Series Rods and I was out the door for what would end up being a trip of a lifetime.
After 24 hours of travel, we arrived at BKK at 2 am as Mike, our guide Chanchai and our driver Ched met us outside of customs. Suprisingly, Nate and I were ready to fish despite it being 2 am and a 15-hour time change. I’m guessing we had some courage due to all the free beer in Shanghai from the First Class lounge we somehow got access to through a Chinese airline. So we piled in the van, headed to the hotel for a power nap and day one was already on its way. Mike decided to make a pit stop at the fishing expo that happened to be in town that weekend. It was pretty amazing to see the other side of the worlds tackle and techniques. After exploring the show and buying brand new jigs the same price as a candy bar in the US, we headed to Bungsamran fishing park to pull on some mekong catfish.
Now keep in mind this style of fishing was new to both Nate and I and we had no idea what we were in for. Armed with rods and reels that you would typically use on bluefin tuna, we arrived to the park which was a giant man-made pond with about 50-100 small houses right on the water. Mike happened to reserve the best house in the far corner for us and invited all of his Bangkok buddies. Lets just say it got to be REALLY fun, almost like our own house party on the water while fishing in the front yard. Full food and beer service combined with fishing was like a dream come true.
Chanchai and the locals rigged the gear and started mixing up the bait which was bread crust in buckets and Nate and I looked at each other and all we could say is “Are you kidding me?!” Moments later, it was game on. Armed with the Phenix Megaladon, Mikes buddy swings into a big mekong and within minutes, everybody was getting bit.
Full speed would be an understatement. These fish were mean and hungry.
Ranging from 20-80 pounds, I could not believe how hard they pulled considering they get caught multiple times a day. We fished from 12 pm till long after dark and we must have put 60 of these fish on the dock. Mike, Nate and I ended up being the last men standing around 9pm and by that time it just got out of hand. Back to the hotel it was…
Day 2: Boonmar
Mike decided to take it easy on us for day 2, so we headed to the Boonmar barramundi ponds for some epic topwater action. These ponds hold a mass of fish that are used for selling in markets, and the average fish range between 10-20-pounds.
If you’ve never heard of a barramundi, I would say its comparable to corvina and tarpon.
These fish are absolute monsters that destroy anything in their path and we must have caught 100 fish within 4 hours on pretty much anything that you could cast. However, the baits that stood out the most were Daiwa SP minnow and Tady A1. Lets just say there is barely any paint left on them. Needless to say, we absolutely crushed it and we all got our personal best Barramundi. Yet another exotic fish crossed off the list for Nate and I…
Day 3: IT Monster Park
Today got off to an early start and included a stressful effort to get the redtail catfish to eat the hinged swimbaits. Eventually we all connected, but it was incomparable fishing from the previous 2 days.
Lets just say this day was long, but ridiculously rewarding.
Ever flylined a live koi before? Didn’t think so. Targeting chaoprayah catfish, also known as dog-eating catfish, is very rewarding. These things are screamers. Imagine flylining a bait for a tuna on the shore of a manmade lake. That’s my best comparison.
After a strong effort from Mike, Nate and I, we all came out on top at the end of the day with triple digit fish resting in our arms. One for the books, and two more species checked off the list.
Day 4: Amazon BKK
This was the day Nate and I came to Thailand for; the number one fish on our list, the air-breathing Amazon monster also known as the Arapaima. After seeing these fish on river monsters and hearing all the stories Kevin Mattson shares about his adventures in the Amazon, I had to put my head on straight and connect while I was in Bangkok because God knows I won’t be able to afford a trip to the Amazon anytime soon.
Well the luck was on our side that day, and Nate was the first to hookup with about a 60-pounder on the Jackall Giron. It took me a while, but I eventually connected when a big girl swam up to the shoreline to check me out and I dropped a savage gear bluegill right on her head and she slurped it right up. 30# fluoro and a lexa 300, 15 minutes later I was laying next to a 120-pound Arapaima on the bank of the pond. Most of the rest of the day consisted of changing out swimbaits and sight fishing them when they came up to breath. It reminded me of bass fishing the local SD lakes with my buddy Jay Saberon and how I couldn’t decipher the fact that he can toss a swimbait all day just for that one bite. Well now I know how all these green bass guys feel and why they do what they do. Long days of casting are worth it for the fish of a lifetime.
Even though most of the day was slow, the sun started going down it really started to get hot. The fish were hungry and if I’m not wrong, we hooked about 8 Arapaima between the 3 of us in less than an hour. I had one around 200-pounds inhale an 8-inch Huddleston and spit it after 10 minutes. Heart breaking, but an amazing sight and I even got it on film! Nate got another one, I got another one, Mike got one and a redtail catfish then we called it a day. Perfectly satisfied.
Day 5: Back to Boonmar Barramundi Ponds
After the amount of fun we had catching Barramundi on day 2, we decided to go give it another shot on a day that we were supposed to take a “break”.
We just couldn’t get enough of it, and we all wanted to try out new lures.
Nate decided to break out the popper, and with a strong effort he finally got them to react. Eventually turning into a full speed topwater bite, Mike and I decided to join. I busted out the SavageGear Suicide Duck and they were all over it. The lure was entirely too big for them to swallow so I decided to use the Pop Fly Method that Mike showed me earlier in the week. I simply attached a small fly with a 1-foot piece of 40# fluoro to the back of the duck and let it drag behind it. Simple as that, I was bit on what would be the biggest Barramundi of the trip at 8kg (17-pounds).
The rest of the day consisted of triple hookups, surface iron fish, frog fish and lots of spit jigs. Fun all around, but we called it early to get prepared for the biggest trek and final day fishing in Bangkok.
Day 6: Saltwater Grouper Pond
It was early to bed and even earlier to rise for us on our final day of fishing Chanchai and Ched picked us up at 2 am to make the trek to the south to take our chances at a saltwater pond filled with goliath and malabar grouper. A spot Mike had been wanting to fish for years, his day finally came and after a 4 hour drive, we arrived around 6 am and began our long day of fishing. Only seeing pictures and hearing stories, we had no idea what we would be in for.
My first instinct was to tie on a Tady 45, let it sink out and burn it as fast as I could through the column of the pond. It was the closest thing I could decipher to catching a grouper considering I had never fished for them before. After a few hours of unsuccessful pond yo-yo-ing, I decided to switch it up with an 8-inch Huddleston. Nate and Mike had been throwing swimbaits all morning with no luck, but the Huddleston was the biggest in the box so I figured it was worth a shot considering the grouper eat the smaller barramundi that are mixed into the pond. Despite all the effort, the morning started out very slow for us. Not a single bite for the three of us and after sifting through the massive lure collection we decided to take a break for lunch.
As the afternoon came around we decided to give round two a go. This time the barramundi were eager to play and after catching a few, Nate caught one with huge teeth marks on it from one of the goliaths that tried to eat it. Nate wanted to fly line it for a grouper but the pond owner wouldn’t let him. Never know till you ask, right? Hours went by and we still had not connected with a grouper. Unfortunately the moral was low and the thought kept crossing my mind that it just wasn’t going to happen. Well I was right. We didn’t connect, but we gave it our all. We blew through every bait in our massive lure connection and we just could not make it happen. The fish gods were not on our side that day. It would have been awesome to end our last day of fishing with some superb action but unfortunately, you can’t win them all. After a few beers and a spectacular sunset over the gulf of Thailand, our fishing trip was over; just like that.
Overall, I’d say fishing in Bangkok was a huge success. Out of 6 days of fishing we only had one slow one and that’s pretty hard to beat. I caught fish I’ve always dreamed of, met great people, ate fantastic food and experienced a culture that is truly unique. To top all of that, I did it all with great company. A huge thanks to Mike and Chanchai for organizing everything and Ched for driving us all over the city and helping film along the way. We could not have done it without them and even though our fishing trip was over, Nate and I said farewell to Mike and the crew and continued our trip through the rest of Thailand to experience all the country had to offer.
If you are interested in Fishing in Bangkok please contact Tap Dechodomphan. He is the go-to Bangkok fishing guide, he speaks fluent English and Thai and he will be more than happy to put you on the fish both fresh and salt. No gear? No problem!