With such a wide expanse of water, finding the Krasoob (Sebarau / Jungle Perch) hideouts of Khao Laem may not be easy. But with the right guide, right tackle and local knowledge, even wet weather is not be an issue. Daniel Wan reports.
The action was pretty hot over at Huat’s boat (read catch report) despite the rain. Pla Krasoob (Sebarau/Jungle Perch) and Pla Chado (Toman) were hitting lures without being bashful. They weren’t big – at most a kilo or two but the lack of size (in Thai standards) was compensated with numbers. As long as your lure was presented close to the sticks, you had a good chance of being slammed.
Simple water bungalows where the locals live.
Heavy gear for heavy cover fishing.
The rain had not ceased for two days according to our local guide Pi An. Rain or hail, we had already arrived after a 5-hour car ride a night earlier and we sure were determined to catch some Krasoob. Our guides arrived at our water ‘bungalow’ just after 6am all ready and set to go in their traditional Thai long boats. I was impressed!
At most places where I’ve fished around the region, anglers were the ones who had to wait for the captains or guides but here in Thailand, it’s the other way around. That’s the amazing Thai culture and service. The other thing that impressed me was that each long-boat was powered by a big long-tail engine and equipped with a Minn-Kota thruster! Awesome!
Our party of six set off in three boats for the western side of the lake. Our initial target was to be Chado on topwater lure but rainy weather is usually not good for Giant Snakehead. The next target was naturally the Krasoob. Our first sortie yielded only small Krasoob around the sticks with X-Rap Count Downs.
We did have a few near misses on the surface with Storm Serpentino topwater hollow baits – big swirls and explosions that didn’t result in hookups. Too bad! Quite naturally, one would work even harder upon seeing your mates at the other boat hooking up Krasoob one after another!
BOOM! The ‘Nemo’-coloured Serpentino went under! Fred waited for the line to tighten then struck back to drive the doubles through. The sudden surge of speed was unmistakably Krasoob! On a topwater hollow bait! The fight was short and brief. Fred flashed his trademark smile with the fish in hand for the camera and duly released the fellow thereafter.
This wasn’t the only fish caught on the weedless dog-walking lure. Fred went on to produce 2 more Krasoob and a Toman to the tally. We were convinced this lure is a must when fishing heavy cover, especially when the fish are accustomed to the noisy splashes of weedless frog lures. A more subtle action seemed to arouse the curiosity of careful fish.
Most of the rivers were murky, thanks to the heavy rain. We had to venture into the tributaries to search for clean running water trickling down from higher grounds. Fred and our local friend, Pi Too entered this little cove with a little river pushing out clear water into murky surroundings.
What happened next was a scene every angler would kill for. Pi Too’s pink Clackin’ Minnow was hammered by plenty of Krasoob! Every other cast would yield a sizeable fish! Fred quickly swapped over to a Flat Rap and was soon in business! These Jungle Perch were absolutely fat!
Jack and I explored another tributary with similar surroundings; hilly terrain all around which fed clean running water into the murky lake. There were clumps of aquatic plants sitting perhaps 3 feet below the surface right in front of the stream. To the left was some fallen timber. A textbook Krasoob hideout.
Jack decided to check out the edges of the aquatic plants with a Storm Twitch Stick while I fooled around a bit with the new Rapala Scatter Rap Shad which was supposed to swim in a sweeping, evasive, zig-zag fashion. Perfect for such shallow water conditions. Both lures got nailed without question. The fishing began to slow down after several Krasoob were landed and released. This was to be expected as the fish would have wised up to the swimming vibrations of our lures.
Dinner time is always my favourite time of every fishing trip. This was no different. Pi An brought us some excellent home-cooked Thai dishes that left me in ecstasy after the meal! There was a particularly special dish worth mentioning that we had that night: finely minced Pla Krasoob with chilli, basil and lemongrass topped with Krasoob scales deep-fried into crispy flakes! The taste was simply out of this world!
This kid caught this nice sized Krasoob right in front of our water bungalow!
The sky cleared up a bit on the subsequent day. We interchanged fishing partners and I would be fishing with Bee for the day. Now that the weather was a little more warm and sunny, the Krasoob frenzies mellowed down with only a handful of fish caught here and there close to the running streams. Fishing was a little tougher on this day but that made each fish caught the more fulfilling to us, being able to entice the fish to take our lures when they’re off the bite.
The afternoon sun was beating down on us when we arrived at this spot which roughly translated to ‘Lion’s Cave’ in Thai. It was a prominent, vertical rock wall with some rocky structures underwater. Fred and Jack were already there and by then, had already landed many good-sized Krasoob on Rapala Flat Rap 8cm and X-Rap Countdown 7cm. Having had their good share of fun, they were kind enough to let us have a go at the willing fish. How could we decline the offer?
Flat Raps, Storm Twitch Sticks – minnow profile lures darting just a few feet under the surface was too enticing for the Krasoob. Bee and I were having a whole lot of fun! We soon gave up photographing the catches and concentrated on the fishing. As expected, the fish soon wised up to the lures and the Lion’s Cave became still. Silent.
What else but the shallow-running Rapala Flat Rap in Pink Candy
The panicky lures swam back to the boat untouched. We figured since there was some structure below, the fish may have gone down a little deeper, hugging close to the structure. That was when the Deep Tail Dancers (TDD) were brought out for a swim.
Surprisingly, Bee told me the Deep Tail Dancer was not a popular lure in Thailand as most local Krasoob hunters preferred the Risto Rap. I love the Deep Tail Dancer 7cm (TDD07) and it’s a must-have lure whenever I target Jungle Perch. There’s just something about the sexy tail-kick action, especially when you jerk the lure a bit on the retrieve. Like a light switch, the Krasoob were switched on again!
We had an assortment of Deep Tail Dancers in various colour patterns and each of them took fish. Interestingly, the naturalistic colour of the Golden Alburnus (GALB) pattern accounted for the most fish. I could only guess that the Krasoob preferred a more natural-looking pattern in the gin-clear water around the Lion’s Cave.
All good things must come to an end and soon, it was time to bid farewell to our Thai friends. We were well looked after by Pi An, Pi Kuanchai and their team of guides, cooks and helpers at Khao Laem Dam. The food was superb, fishing awesome, and hospitality – uncomparable. That’s one thing I love about Thailand. After all, it’s truly the Land of Smiles. As with all major dams in South East Asia, such fantastic fishing conditions aren’t a given, even in wet weather when Krasoob are supposed to be feeding voraciously before spawning. But with the right guides, right tackle and some local knowledge, even wet weather conditions won’t be show stoppers.