Mekong Catfish Fishing Tips

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Are you interested in catching the Mekong Giant Catfish, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world?

While fishing in Bangkok, I was fortunate to catch a number of these beautiful yet endangered creatures. Now I’d like to bring awareness to just how bad of shape they are in.

fishing in bangkok giant mekong catfish
Here’s the biggest Mekong Catfish I caught at Bungsamram.

I believe if we can showcase how impressive these fish are to catch and release, we can spark a movement to protect them before they go extinct.

Recommended Fishing Gear:


Giant Mekong Catfish are big river fish native to the Mekong basin. Located in Southeast Asia, this giant catfish is unique. It has grey to white coloring, no stripes, no teeth, and has little to no barbells. Juveniles have barbells that shrink as they grow older.

This huge catfish is a critically endangered species because of overfishing and over-harvesting. It used to be found from the lower Mekong all the way to the northern part of the river in the Yunnan Province of China.

Now it mainly exists in the middle Mekong region.

Mekong Giant Catfish mouth
As you can see the Mekong Giant Catfish doesn’t have any teeth.

Mekong Catfish Facts

Scientific NamePangasianodon gigas
Common Name(s)Mekong Giant Catfish
Identifying CharacteristicsIt has grey to white coloring, does not have stripes, has little to no barbells and no teeth.
HabitatSmall and isolated populations can be found only in the middle Mekong region.
LimitsCatch and release

Mekong Catfish Habitat

The Mekong catfish can only be found mainstream in the Lower Mekong and select locations such as Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam, and Cambodia. This large freshwater fish used to be common further north but now sightings of what some consider the biggest catfish are non-existent in those regions.

Some experts are of the opinion that the numbers have reduced by about 90% in the last 10 years. This is a massive decrease. In fact, there may be only 100 left in the wild…

How to Catch Giant Mekong Catfish

Jon Stenstrom with a Mekong Catfish at Bungsamran
This Mekong was one of many I caught at Bungsamran. Definitely not a wild catfish, but still fun to catch!

Catching this huge freshwater catfish is no small feat and you need some sophisticated fishing gear to fight this monster. One of the largest freshwater fish in the world requires serious equipment.

Since these fish can get over 100 pounds, use braided fishing line that’s up to the task. You’ll also want a medium-heavy to a heavy class rod. It takes a lot of brute force to land this catfish after all.

One of the best rod and reel you can use to snag this fish is the PENN Fierce 6000 reel that is fixed to a 6’ long rod. Besides being tough, this rod also gives adequate bending action which will come in handy when you hook this powerful catfish.

Mekong Catfish Rig

Catching these cats is pretty straightforward. Use a coiled baitholder and add a large dough ball to lure them in. Make the dough with coconut milk to make it more attractive to the fish.

Mekong catfish use its powerful gills to suck in bait like a vacuum cleaner. Since the fish has no teeth, use chicken feed dough to entice it to take a gulp. While in Bangkok, it wasn’t uncommon for us to catch the fish with just a hook and throwing some bread in the water. They would just suck it all up!

You can also use sticky rice and flavor it with fish and algae. Since the bait will dissolve in the water it should act as chum that this giant catfish cannot resist. Make sure that about 14 inches of the leader run from the baitholder with a J-hook at the end. Attach a piece of bread to the hook under the surface of the bait ball.

Mekong Catfish Fishing Tactics

  1. Apply constant tension to the line when you hook the fish. Any slack in the line will allow the catfish to spit out the hook in its mouth.
  2. This big river fish will make a dash around the pond when it is hooked and will drag the line. Make it tire itself out by maintaining pressure on the line till you can reel it in easily.
  3. These catfish are easier to catch during the dry season in small lakes. The location you choose to fish in will dictate whether you should use doughballs, fresh dead bait, or shrimp. Ask the locals for help before experimenting.

Mekong Catfish Fishing Tips

  • Make sure the dough ball you use as bait is at least the size of a baseball. This huge fish can gulp it down easily.
  • Prevent the catfish from making a dash to the pier or submerged foliage or it may escape.
  • These large fish like to hide in roots that are tangled under the water during midday for shade. A good idea is to start fishing after 5 pm when the sun is not on the water and the cats swim out in the open.

Mekong Catfish Seasons

The Thai catfish spawns in northern Thailand in June and it is also known to spawn in northern Cambodia. 6 to 8-year-old adults take part in the spawning run and can weigh 150 – 250 kg.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What do Mekong catfish eat?

A: This Thai catfish feeds on zooplankton when it is young and starts feeding on algae when it is a year old.

Q: How big is the Mekong giant catfish?

A: Mekong catfish can grow to be 3 meters long and can weigh up to 200 kg.

Q: Can a catfish attack me?

A: Incidents of catfish attacking humans are extremely rare and do not pose a danger.

Insider Advice

The world’s largest catfish is an endangered species in Thailand so it cannot be caught as food. Make sure to release your catch as soon as possible when you happen to catch one.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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