Fighting to catch the snakehead

The toman is an aggressive and brute fighting fish. Landing the monster requires some skills.

THE toman, which is known for its brute fight and strength, is one freshwater fish that is sought after by hardcore anglers.

Keen anglers would go the extra mile to look for this monster fish whenever they have the slightest hint that this species has been sighted in the wild.

However, it’s sad to note that a big toman is rare these days. While they can still be caught in the wild, the population of these big fish is very small and such catches are normally kept a secret as many fear other anglers may invade the site, seeking to find the fish and subsequently destroying its natural habitat or killing the fish.

The toman is a prized catch in Malaysia and its neighbouring countries, especially Thailand.

This species, Channa micropeltes, is commonly found in man-made lakes and dams around the country and in the interior jungle. It’s also the haruan or snakehead’s cousin.

It is easily identified. This carnivore has white stripes and purplish and greenish markings on its long body.

The toman is a mean-looking fish. It is aggressive and has strong, razor-sharp teeth.

It puts up a brute fight and has enormous energy to resist being caught with an ability to dive deep into the waters.

An angler from More and More fishing team releasing a toman which he caught back into the lake as part of a conservation effort. The catch and release method can help to protect and sustain the population of the fish.
An angler from More and More fishing team releasing a toman which he caught back into the lake as part of a conservation effort. The catch and release method can help to protect and sustain the population of the fish.

Temenggor lake; Kenyir dam, the largest man-made lake in the country; Chenderoh Dam, the oldest power station in the country, located in northern Perak; and Pergau Dam, a hydroelectric dam in Kuala Yong, Kelantan are places where the toman ruled.

These places used to have huge toman, some one-metre long and weighed more than 15kg. Today, the wild stock, however, has dwindled due to overfishing.

Toman meat is in demand, a substitute for haruan, which is used as an add-on or toppings to make porridge and noodle soups.

However, despite the low catch rates at these lakes and dams, I still enjoy going to these places to look for wild toman.

Depending on luck, there are still one or two monster fish still lurking in one corner of the lake, underneath the submerged tree trunks and rotting trees, waiting to be caught.

But catching a toman is unlike fishing for other freshwater fish. The gear used has to be slightly heavy duty.

As such, it is recommended to use a medium heavy and relatively stiff rod to fight the fish.

At least a 13.6kg or heavier line is a must, and a wire leader is necessary to prevent the toman from snapping the line.

The toman runs fast and dives deep into the water. As such, a slightly bigger reel – a 3000 or 4000 series spinning reel – with a strong and fast cracking power is essential. The lines must also be spooled full to fight the tug-of-war with this fish.

Lures and poppers can also be used to catch the toman as many of these artificial lures have proven to be effective.

Catching the toman is like casting for haruan. One has to be alert and on the lookout for this fish to rise to the surface for air.

Once spotted, the lures have to be cast towards the spot where the fish emerged. But skill is needed to do this.

Live bait such as keli, live frogs and plastic lures like bushwhackers can also be used to attract this fish. One has to cast the lures out and retrieve them quickly to simulate a swimming action.

It is important to keep the line tension taut. If the line is slacking, the toman can spit out the hook out when they are caught.

Of course, the best season to hunt for this fish is during the hot period, when the level of the dams and lakes is lower and the fish is more aggressive.

Oh yes, don’t forget to catch and release. Such practices would help to keep the population of the fish.

Happy fishing.

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