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Thursday September 27, 2012

The lure of the haruan

THE search for giant haruan has taken many of my fisho friends to wild ponds in the interior or secluded places around the country but nothing could match the size of the fish caught recently on a trip to the southern part of peninsular Malaysia.

In the outing to Malacca and Johor, both my buddies James Fam and Ah Hock landed rare, extraordinarily-sized haruan which are difficult to find these days. They caught a 4kg and 3.8kg specimen, respectively, which was a record of sorts for them.

They too were surprised by the extra large catch, thinking at first that they had hooked a toman instead of the haruan or snakehead.

Like the toman, the giant haruan can also give an extraordinary fight to anglers.

Big one:
Ah Hock
and his
3.8kg
haruan. Big one: Ah Hock and his 3.8kg haruan.

The fish, which had given a ferocious hit on the plastic frogs used as lures by James and Ah Hock, had still not been landed after some 15 minutes as it put up a good fight after the initial strike. The fish managed to put in a run that almost emptied their spools, followed by a furious tug of war.

It was a hard-fought battle and the brute force from the fish really tested the medium-heavy rods used by the two anglers. At one point, the rods took a severe beating, curving to a semi U-shape, as the fish refused to give up but fought back with brute strength as it struggled to free itself.

While haruan is still a common local fresh water species found in many places around the country, especially in lakes, paddy fields, irrigation canals and old mining ponds, catching anything above 1.5 to 2kg is rare these days.

There are many haruan hunters amidst the anglers and when news of such a find gets to them, you can bet to your last dollar that they would invade the site sooner or later.

So what is so good about haruan fishing that makes fishos hunt for this fish?

Hooked: James managed to bag a 4kg haruan. Hooked: James managed to bag a 4kg haruan.

Aside from the adrenaline rush of fighting the fish, perhaps it is its medicinal value. According to the old wives’ tales, the fish is believed to be an effective remedy for quite a few ailments.

The Chinese believe that juvenile haruan, cooked in some herbs, is good for post-operative recovery. Apparently, although it has not been proven scientifically, the soup and the meat from the fish boiled in this special preparation would heal the wound quicker.

Taking haruan, according to some, would also prevent scarring and this is, apparently, highly-recommended for children.

I believe that the many tales of the haruan has encouraged fishos to hunt for the fish. As the result, the many haruan found in the wild have been constantly caught, leaving very little opportunity for them to grow bigger.

Aside from its medicinal value, the sheer brute force in the haruan’s fight, the ability to spot or stalk the species in a pond covered with snags or weeds and tall grasses, makes the hunt interesting as it gives anglers an adrenaline rush.

Low-cost: Plastic frog lures used to
catch haruan these days. Low-cost: Plastic frog lures used to catch haruan these days.

But, unlike those days, where one would use live frogs to lure the haruan from their hideout, spinner bait like bushwacker and artificial soft plastic frogs are popular among anglers now. They are not only easy to use, effective and long-lasting, but cheaper in terms of costing.

I was a bit apprehensive of the effectiveness of artificial lure and prefer the real thing but after several successful outings using soft plastics, I now have them in my tackle box.

But despite these changes in catching the haruan, the fishing techniques remain the same. One would still have to wait for a few seconds to allow the haruan to hold on to the bait in its mouth before taking the strike.

As for the rod, a long and stiff stick is still the best. As for me, I prefer a seven-footer fitted to a small reel, the 2000 series, with breaded line to do the job.

Aside from a good and strong rod, one also needs to be extra sensitive to the surroundings when catching haruan in the wild. An angler not only must have a sharp eye to spot the haruan movements among the weeds and tall grasses along the bank as it surfaces for a breather but also a good listening ear and ability to differentiate the splashing sound of the fish as it navigates and lurks for its prey in the wild.

One also needs to be skillful in casting, to be able not only to draw quickly but flip the bait accurately or as close to where the haruan had been spotted to taunt it to take the bait.

Haruan fishing has always been fascinating. However, the challenge now for me is to be able to catch an even bigger haruan that James and Ah Hock.

To do this, we are now planning to venture further into the interior, to explore and find untouched wild ponds to try out our luck. Happy fishing!

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