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Krabi newsletter April 2008

Hello to all our readers. The month of April has been a strange one. April is the hottest month before our rainy season starts; some days have been unbearably hot, and the fish have been very lethargic. As we get ready to change over to the rainy season we get short rainstorms with strong winds and plenty of cloud cover after the rain, when the lake comes alive, with the fish going on short, sharp feeding spells. For day ticket anglers this has made the fishing very hit-and-miss, but for fishermen staying here there have been some red-letter days, with three new lake records for a start. Many happy people are going home with new personal bests, and huge fish in sizes beyond their wildest dreams. Mrs. Peacock was set free, and within three weeks Mr. Peacock had put her in the club. She was merrily sitting on her two eggs when the dirty old sod kept pushing her off the nest to ravage her again, but unfortunately in the commotion the eggs got broken, and he is now strutting around on his hill shrieking all bloody night. If he carries on he will be turned into KFP! George the giant tortoise is merrily pretending to be a lawnmower. As our gardens get more mature, more wild birds keep appearing, and it is slowly becoming a bird watcher’s paradise here. Our bungalow has big sliding windows all round, and every so often we here a loud thud. Upon investigation, we find unconscious birds under the windows, so obviously the cleaners are doing a good job, as the poor things do not see the glass. We put the unfortunate victims in a cage to recover, and then release them when they do.

Total fish caught this month was 212, made up as follows… 41 arapaima to 380lbs, five Mekong catfish to 180lbs, 79 Siamese carp to 98lbs, 25 red tail catfish to 70lbs, 11 alligator gar to 34lbs, 12 Julian’s golden prize carp to 36lbs, two common carp to 25lbs, one rahoo carp of 22lbs, one red tail Thai catfish of 30lbs, 17 black pacu to 36lbs, seven Chao Phraya catfish to 63lbs, 12 spotted soribim to 43lbs, two black wallago to 25lbs, one silver wallago of 23lbs, and two emperor snake head to 6lbs.
The first guests this month were Paul and Chris from Long Legs lap dancing club in Manchester. They only came to us for two days and one night at the end of their holiday, wishing they had come here earlier. They are now back in the UK planning a two-week stay with a group of mates. Both came with arapaima on their wish list, and the golden Buddha smiled on them both, especially big Paul who took a fine brace on the first day of 270 and 230lbs. He dedicated both fish to his late father, who was king of the Dane match men. Paul also took two arapaima of 160 and 60lbs, and the lads took seven different species for a total of 11 fish – the first rainstorm for a week certainly made the fish feed for their visit.

The next visitor was Joe Burkett, aka ‘Fishcake’, who came to target our Siamese carp, and using Solar tackle plastic pop-ups he landed 14, along with a new lake record Siamese carp of 98lbs. Also taking a shine to his plastic super bait were three Julian’s golden prize carp to 32lbs, and five black pacu up to 25lbs. Along with the fishing, Joe indulged in getting drunk down the town where he woke up one morning on the beach minus one shoe and his shirt, and add this to him forgetting where our resort was, and even what it’s called. He decided to hail a taxi and get the driver to drive around for two hours looking for a fishing lake, and he now knows every puddle in a 50-mile radius of here! Finally poor Fishcake remembered that the bar he started his session in had our poster on the wall with a map. He arrived back at Gillham’s at midday, minus a large wad for the delighted taxi driver. To prevent the same thing happening again, two other guests, Dean and Paul, bought Fishcake a T-shirt printed with ‘If lost please return to our address’, plus his name on it! Dean and Paul came for two days and as is normal here, they stayed on for another week. They both came wanting an arapaima, and went away well chuffed with five each, with Paul getting the biggest at 210lbs. Dean had the best red tail catfish at 54lbs, and in total they landed 23 fish between them of seven species. One night in particular we were all going out, but they wanted to stay at the resort. As they were both very capable anglers we left them with our guides to fish on, saying to fish close in for red tail catfish and spotted soribim, as they come within 2m of the bank after dark, promising them that the arapaima never come in that close, and don’t feed after 8pm. Imagine their surprise, when no sooner had the Gillham mobile left the premises than they caught a 100lb-plus arapaima, along with a 30lb Chao Phraya catfish. Apart from that they did not get a single fish species we told them they would catch.

The next guests to arrive were brothers Alan and Bob Martin, who had been following this newsletter in Big Carp magazine. As with everyone who arrives here, they were pleasantly shocked at the sheer beauty of our resort, as no pictures ever do this place justice. Alan and Bob got off to a slow start due to the heat, but after a couple of days the weather broke a bit, and the fishing should have lifted off. Benz and I were on our evening stroll round the lake when we reached the brothers, and there were little piles of money spread out along the path, with Gollock the guide pacing up and down chewing his fingers to the knuckles. Upon asking about this strange event, it turned out that Bob had promised Gollock various sums for different species. Hearing the offer of 1,000 baht for an arapaima, plus the same for a red tail catfish over 50lbs, my king size ears pricked up, as we had just noticed a huge arapaima at the bottom end of the lake, plus clouds of bubbles in a known red tail hotspot. Grabbing Bob’s rods we took him to the end swim before the restaurant, and I showed him where to cast his bait for a red tail catfish, but before he could cast out, his second rod had an absolute screamer, and by the fight we could tell it was a red tail, and a good one at that. After 20 minutes of pulling, puffing and panting, a huge red tail rolled over the net, and it was fish we had not seen for a year, when it was stocked at 30lbs. Upon hoisting the fish onto the scales, it pulled the dial round to confirm a new lake record of bang on 70lbs. Now the question is how long before Gillham’s produces its first 100lb red tail? We reckon two years max, as a lot of these fish have gained more than 30lbs in one year, and most weeks now we are getting 60lb-plus fish. After sorting out the mayhem and receiving a kiss and a cuddle from Bob (I would have preferred the 1,000 baht, but bloody Gollock had already swept the path!), he managed to get both rods back in place, when the bait in the arapaima spot went on a slow deliberate run. Upon striking, the rod hooped over and Bob had a battle on his hands. From the outset it was clear this was no ordinary arapaima, but little did we know what the golden Buddha on the hill had in store for Bob. After one hour, a huge arapaima was ready for the cage, but the only problem was the cage was not ready for this monster! Our cages are 7ft long, and this beast was well over that. After some heart-stopping moments we bundled the freshwater whale into the cage, and only then could we see the immense girth of the fish. It was one of our original fish that we had grown on at our fish farm, and stocked last April when it was weighed at 350lbs on potato scales, with its body hanging off the scales at both ends. Well, the fish was loads fatter than then, and we estimated 380lbs, which was probably a low estimate. We have now developed a special stretcher to weigh these fish accurately, and our scales are also now verified so we will put the arapaima record out of sight in the near future. After that little escapade, it was a very emotional Bob who retired to his bungalow with a cup of PG to celebrate, plus a much richer Gollock who scurried off down the local to spend his new wealth. These were Bob’s only arapaima and red tail of his week, but he did manage a few nice Siamese carp to 55lbs. The twist in this tale was that Bob has always disliked tattoos, but this chapter in his life affected him so much that the man on the wrong side of 50 got his first tattoo, and an arapaima, with its weight written below it now adorns Bob’s upper arm. Alan also got in on the act, taking four arapaima up to 165lbs.

Another strange event occurred, which I am sure everyone will find hard to believe, but just ask the guys who were there – it is 100% true. Alan landed the well-known crazy arapaima Mad Max. This fish always creates mayhem when caught, but this time exceeded all previous antics when he had a heart attack in the cage, and passed into the other world of fishes. Now the last time we had a fish die of a heart attack, Mr Egg our fish supplier told Sean that you should shove your fist down the fish’s throat as far as you can go, then pull it out fast and punch the fish in the flank and it will recover. On mentioning that if you force an arapaima’s mouth open it will die, Egg laughed and replied, “It’s dead anyway, so try it.” Well, now was the test, so yours truly rammed his giant ham down Mad Max’s throat, pulled it out with a plop, and punched old Max straight in the flank as instructed (payback time for when Max head-butted us all at Christmas!). We were all shocked and relieved when old Max took a series of short gasping breaths, which after half an hour turned into steady breathing, and then he swam off into his home on his second life. We actually know Max survived this ordeal, because last week he was hooked and leapt from the cage when he was landed, parting the hooklink and swimming off with a wave of his tail. Alan and Bob went off for a beach holiday, after which Bob was returning to England, but Alan, who has a Thai wife, returned for some more fishing, bringing with him his better half by far, the lovely Tong. Alan returned with a red tail catfish as his target, and landed a nice brace of fish at 50 and 55lbs, taking 13 fish this time around, made up of five species. Tong got in on the act too, landing a nice 150lb arapaima, plus a 20lb Siamese carp. We are hoping she doesn’t get an arapaima tattoo done to keep up the family tradition.

The biggest Mekong this month fell to Magnus from Sweden, weighing in at 165lb, and the same day he landed a 150lb arapaima, two Siamese carp and a soribim. Well after having those fish on a day ticket, he returned for more, and in a three-day session he added another Mekong, a PB arapaima of 170lbs, three red tails, a pacu, plus six Siamese carp. As with many of our clients who promise to email us their pictures, it seems good old Magnus has forgotten us already. We are in the water taking care of people’s fish of a lifetime, and we can’t get a photo, so come on all you who have promised us send those pictures, or this newsletter won’t exist. Another girl to do well this month was my daughter Rebecca who wanted to catch an arapaima and a red tail. She got the red tail with a nice 50lb fish, then got greedy with the Harry’s, landing three up to 180lbs, plus three Siamese carp. My future son-in-law Mike got in on the act, and having never fished before, he showed us that he will fit into our fishing family, taking Siamese carp to 40lbs, and a common carp of 20lbs, along with pacu. Mike is eagerly awaiting their return at Christmas to beat Becca’s arapaima.

Another visitor this month was Peter Gibbinson with his lovely wife, Avril. Now Peter’s dad is the one and only Jim Gibbinson, an angler I have always respected, so Peter and I had plenty to yarn about, and as expected Peter has gained a lot of his skills from Jim. He went on to stalk and land five arapaima up to 185lbs, plus pacu, Chao Phraya, alligator gar, red tail cats, and Siamese carp. Then came that lovely pair, and oh what a pair – Kandy from Canada, with her partner Matt from Middlesex, England, who remembered me from when he was a lad working in Farlows tackle shop. Kandy and Matt only came for a day ticket, and ended up staying for over a week. Every day was a scream with this lovely couple, especially listening to their friendly banter as Canada took on England in a friendly (well, sometimes) fishing match, which Kandy actually cheated in by catching tilapia. Both Kandy and Matt caught their target fish, arapaima, Matt taking three to 140lbs, and Kandy one of 145lbs. They had red tail catfish too -one each, and again Kandy had the biggest, but that’s not surprising as she sure has the biggest of everything. If you take off the tilapia, England won the most fish hands down, but the biggest was no contest, as I was the judge, and Kandy bribed me to estimate the fish in her favour. Species-wise England again won by seven/five, or six if you count tilapia! As for drinking, again no contest, Kandy was by far the champ. What more can I say apart from a great time, a great pair, and Matt and Kandy as well.

The next couple to arrive were Darren and Tracy who I met at the Five Lakes show. Although they come from the wrong side of the Thames they were great fun. They were already booked for their holiday in Phuket, but came here on a two-night, two-and-half day trip. Tracy was trying to take on my title of the biggest belly, but could not match my superb spread. Mind you hers is only a nine-month growth, whereas mine is from 54 years of dedication to the perfect body! As soon as they arrived, they were regretting not booking their complete holiday here, as again the website pictures of the resort do not do justice to the beauty and peace and quiet here. On arrival Darren was like a kid in a sweet shop, sitting on our balcony watching huge arapaima rolling, and various other fish crashing around, and what with the scenery, his camera was in danger of burning out. Again there was some friendly rivalry when they started fishing, but once again the boys emerged the winners by seven fish to four. Darren put Tracy firmly in her place, catching the biggest of each species plus the most. Apart from wanting to catch every species in the lake, Darren’s wish was for Siamese carp, red tail and of course arapaima. Every time he caught a fish he was over the moon, and his enthusiasm was infectious, the bonus fish for Darren was his 25lb Julian’s golden prize carp, in Darren’s words the most beautiful carp he had ever caught. It was looking like the arapaima was going to elude him, when with an hour to go before departure Darren was finally hooked into something special, and after a good 45-minute fight Darren’s dream was achieved with a superb 150lb arapaima. A lot of people are so wired up here that when they achieve fish beyond their wildest dreams, the emotions take over, and Darren was no exception – he went through a box of tissues. It is a good feeling for us also when we are responsible for making people’s dreams come true. A lot of people who come here are thinking the fishing is easy, but in fact it is hard. You get poor days, good days and red-letter days, and if you are targeting arapaima it can take five days to achieve, but no one has yet gone more than five days on the trot without an arapaima. Also the sheer sizes of our arapaima make some people think a 200lb-plus arapaima is the norm, when it is a fact that any arapaima over 100lbs is a huge rare fish. It was never our plan to create an easy fishery where fish crawl up the rod tips; here you work for your fish, and the more effort you put in, the more fish you get. We ask everyone the same question, “If at home there was just one arapaima or other huge fish in a lake, would you sit there all year in the hope of catching it?” So in reality five days of a holiday in paradise is not long to wait for the fish of your dreams.

Back to the fishing… As the month was coming to a close, the hot weather prior to our rainy season breaking was making the fishing hard. During this period we had a group of ten fishermen from Sweden come up for a five-hour evening match for the heaviest fish, the fishing was slow, but between them they landed six fish – four Siamese carp to 23lbs, and two spotted soribim. The match winner was a 30lb soribim to William, and the unluckiest competitor was a young lad whose name we did not have, who lost a big Mekong after having the fish on for ten minutes. Then came the three Aussies, Reese, Lee, and John, who was the elder of the group, who showed the boys how it’s done, with a fine 145lb arapaima, and he was not a fisherman! They all ended their day trip with a fish apiece. Mark and Shane came for two days, and Mark’s target fish were red tail catfish and Siamese carp. He achieved both, with a 50 and 20 respectively, then immediately booked to return the next week for the last week of his holiday to target an arapaima. Shane had never fished before, and only did a day to keep Mark company, but he caught a 120lb Mekong catfish in the first hour, much to Mark’s disgust, then chilled out for the rest of the day. Sorry if we do not fit everyone in, but space is running out. A special thanks to all of you who sent your pictures in to us. That’s me out of space about this month, and next month the rains come, but will the fish? I think Johnny Allen will vouch for that, as those of you who look into our website regularly will have seen the newsflash, but those who don’t will have to wait ’til next month. Best wishes from all the team here at