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Larry Fukuhara shows off a Mekong catfish he reeled in while traveling in Thailand. This one is relatively small, he reports, as the fish can grow up to 600 pounds.

By LARRY FUKUHARA, Special to The Rafu

A few years ago, I traveled to Thailand to do a little fishing. On the first day, I was taken to a large man-made lake to fish, primarily, for planted Mekong catfish. This lake has a couple of places to fish: a long covered wooden dock area where one can fish next to other people or rent a cabin with its own private fishing deck. My guide got us a cabin.

I was with my guide, his wife, her monkey, and a fishing helper. And yes, I said monkey.

I went up to the monkey, who was sitting on top of pier pilings, to make friends with it. As soon as I got close, it grabbed my sunglasses off my face and threw them into the water. What a hairy little punk!

I did get my sunglasses back after my guide hired a guy to dive for them.

As I was being shown how to rig up to fish, the fishing helper made up a full bucket of bait. It consisted of all kinds of ingredients. I recognized bread, rice, and – I believe – coconut milk.

After giving it a good mixing, he took a giant handful of the concoction and squished it into a round shape the size of softball. He then shoved a large hook into it, and I cast my line out as far as I could.

Then I waited. I got a bite, fought the platinum fish and brought it in to be netted. After a photo was taken, it had to be released. I caught three dif­ferent species of catfish, the biggest weighing about 60 pounds.

We spent the entire day at that lake. I asked my guide where we were going to fish the following day. He said the same place. I asked if there was someplace else to fish? He said, “How would you like to fish barramundis?”

First of all, up until that time, I had never caught a barramundi. Secondly, I thought you could only catch them in Australia, so I said, “Absolutely, let’s go!”

The following morning, the van arrived without my guide, but the driver knew where to take me and how to catch barramundis.

I was driven out about three hours into the countryside to an area where they primarily raised tilapia fish. However, there was one farmer who raised barramundis in his ponds, which takes more time and effort, but brings in more money, for the Thai people consider them a delicacy.

This silvery fish is a barramundi, caught during an unexpected side trip recommended by a tour guide.

The public can fish the ponds, but very few Thai do, for the farmer charges quite a bit more to fish his barramundis.

After I got there, I tossed out a plastic fish lure and hooked up right away. One thing about fishing these ponds was that the fish could only run so far before it reached the other side, but it was still fun, for the bar­ramundis are strong fighters.

My driver, with the utmost care, released each fish I reeled in. After I brought in a dozen barramundis, I decided that I had caught enough, so I called it a fine day of fishing and headed back.

Catching barramundis wasn’t the targeted fish I went to Thailand to fish for, so it was an unexpected special treat for me on this trip.

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