Not far from the famous Pattaya Beach in Thailand sits a small human-made pond loaded with monster catfish. This pond, open to the public, is known as the Pattaya Fishing Park.
At 6400 square meters (around an acre and a half) the water body is about the size of a decent farm pond in the United States. One bank holds a paved walkway and shelters. Another is covered with low cut grass. A third bank is overgrown with vegetation and the fourth is inaccessible.
Fishing is typically done with nothing more than a few wads of old white bread. The bread can be purchased by the bucket at the park, though it is included if you rent a rod. The rig used by the staff at the park is made up of a method feeder, a swivel, and a circle hook around size 6. The method feeder is caked with bread crumbs and a large piece of bread is molded around the hook. The two wads are mashed together into a ball about the size of an orange, and the whole rig is tossed out in the middle of the pond.
The action is nonstop. The heat really begins to take its toll when every catch is followed almost immediately by another take. I started out with two poles but quickly reduced that to one so I could keep up.
In my visit, which lasted just under two hours, I hooked five Mekong giant catfish. All but one were brought to the net after long, tough fights. And the fish were big, all weighing in the double digits (speaking in kilograms). According to the park’s owner and the guides, there are fish up to 70 kilograms (154) swimming here.
While this sounds huge, it’s nothing compared to the largest specimens captured, like the 646 pound (293 kilogram) fish caught in northern Thailand back in 2005. The herbivorous species is the largest of all catfish, reaching lengths of 10 feet (3 meters) or more. Unfortunately, because the Mekong giant catfish is currently listed as critically endangered, private waters like those at Pattaya Fish Park in Thailand are the only places you can fish for the species legally.
As much as I love fishing, and as bad as I’ve wanted to catch a Mekong cat, the park just couldn’t keep my interest for more than a couple of hours.
To be blunt, there is not much sport to the fishing done at Pattaya Fishing Park. Sure, you can show up with your own gear, but the fact remains that you are casting to a captive audience. There is a large concentration of big fish in this little pond that have nowhere else to go, and nowhere else to eat; and they’re not difficult to catch.
But, as Hemingway said, “Anglers have a way of romanticizing their battles with fish and of forgetting that the fish has a hook in his mouth, his gullet, or his belly and that his gameness is really an extreme of panic in which he runs, leaps, and pulls to get away until he dies. It would seem to be enough advantage to the angler that the fish has the hook in his mouth rather than the angler. ”
On a positive note, fishing parks in Thailand secure their stocks from a government breeding program. The money the program earns from these sales is put toward recovery of the Mekong giant catfish in the wild.
Pattaya Fishing Park probably holds most value for the tourist in Pattaya, the inexperienced or once-in-a-life-time fisher, or the person who may never have another opportunity to catch a big freshwater fish. It doesn’t have a lot to offer the seasoned angler, but the park and others like it are the only game in town if you want to catch a Mekong giant catfish without running afoul of the law (and, most likely, going without a catch). There are also a few Siamese giant carp (which is also listed as critically endangered) swimming here, though catches are reported to be few and far between.
The cost of fishing at the park seems to vary a bit according to various accounts, though the owner says it costs 500 baht ($16.30 USD) all-inclusive for those who need to rent a rod, rigging and bait. The going rate for those who bring their own fishing gear seems to be 250 baht ($8.15 USD).
Drinks are available at the park, and they can arrange to order food for you as well.
Regardless of whether or not you bring your own equipment, the hard-working guides on staff will net your fish and offer any advice they can. If you visit, you should offer a tip or at least buy them a drink.
Be forewarned that there are a number of dogs and cats living in and around the park, along with some various birds. Of course where there are animals like these, there is animal waste, and all that comes with it (including the smell). It’s not enough to make the park a place to avoid, but it is worth mentioning.
Pattaya Fishing Park is located just off the Sukhumvit highway, about 7 kilometers south of Pattaya Klang Road. A Google map of the location can be found here. The park, which is open daily from 10 am to as late as 11 pm, can be reached by phone at 081-652-7829.