Catching some of the world’s largest fresh water fish at the Bungsamran Fish Park is quite a different experience from your average weekend fishing trip. Built in 1983, the 20 acre lake is a well kept Bangkok secret situated on the outskirts of town. After tuk-tuk’n your way through the chaos of the soi’s, markets and temples in the city; it’s hard to believe such a peaceful and scenic place could be this close. After a short ride from downtown out to Nawamin Road Soi 42 you’ll be casting away in no time.
Originally converted from a swamp, the lake is now home to some of the most gigantic fish I’ve ever seen. Swimming beneath the calm waters of the lake are giant Mekong catfish, giant Siamese carp and arapaima, which can grow to over 200lbs (100kg). Professional fishermen have said, and I now 100% agree, that the giant Mekong catfish is pound-for-pound one of the most powerful freshwater fish around.
Bungsamran means ‘luxury lake,’ and the experience is definitely fishing in style. Surrounding the lake on 3 sides are for-rent private bungalows; each having their own living room, bedroom and floating dock. Bungalows range from 2,000 baht ($60) on upward for the more luxurious accommodations. Once the bungalow is secured; next up is renting tackle, bait and a guide. Guides are extremely helpful here. They’re local professionals who’ve spent the better part of their lives fishing. They’re masters at tying lures to lines, baiting hooks and offering essential techniques on how to coax the fish away from swimming into nearby danger zones, helping you reel in your prized catch.
Once at the bungalow the guides waste no time in baiting hooks. Baiting is both a skill and an art, as it involves mixing a small amount of fluid with a sack of powdery meal to create a near clay-like substance. This is then packed tightly around the lure in a softball sized shape with the hook inserted into the outside. I gave it a try myself and met no success. Packing the bait around the lure looks easy, but there’s a technique the guides have mastered which keeps it all tightly together. When I cast the line with the bait I’d made, the line sailed from my hand and the lure immediately went one way and the bait scattered in another. After that we decided to leave the baiting up to the professionals!
With lines baited and cast, the frenzy quickly commences. No more than 2-3 minutes after getting the bait in the water there are fish on the lines. The guide calls you to the ready, hands you your pole and the battle begins between you & the fish of your lifetime! Depending on the size of the fish the time it takes to “bring ‘er in” can vary. Listening to and watching the guides explain proper reeling motions will help you to not snap the line, save your energy and tire out the fish. These fish have become quite smart. They’ve learned to swim towards the safety of the underwater posts & supports beneath the bungalows. Under there they can weave their way through the maze, attempting to snap the line and swim free.
When my turn came up I could tell by the guide’s face that he’d hooked a lunker! I grabbed the pole and immediately felt the fish putting up a fight. He pulled me back and forth across the dock as he tried to get away, giving me quite a workout in the Bangkok heat. My forearms were burning, I was sweating and the pole was bent about 60 degrees. It felt like I’d hooked JAWS! About 25 minutes later I was exhausted, but I had my Giant Mekong Catfish on the deck. A professional estimation by our guide placed its weight at about 40kg’s, right around 90 lbs. While our guides were quick to re-bait the hooks, after fighting Mr. Mekong I was toast. I decided to take a well deserved beer break and reminisce about the catch; which put an ear to ear smile on my face.
Bungsamran is open 24 hours and you’re able to fish all through the night. If you need a break from fishing you can take advantage of the pool tables and their full bar. They also have a restaurant which will make deliveries directly to your bungalow. If you’re making a trip to Asia and looking for a unique memorable experience, I would definitely recommend a stop in Bangkok to head to the Bungsamran Fish Park for a once in a lifetime fishing experience.