More Reasons For Not Going Swimming Soon

on Tuesday, July 29, 2008

If you know a fisherman or an angler, chances are you have heard some fishy story about the gigantic fish that got away. Most of the time we can chalk it down to friendly boasting and a little hyperbole on the description of the size.

Well, one time, I was with some friends in the relatively remote upper reaches of the Jasin River in Malaysia. We had been hiking through dense jungle for most of the day and now as the sun was low behind the trees, we gathered around one of the deep rocky pools of the river. Most of us rested on the rocks at the side, eating fruits we had collected along the way and dangling our legs into the cooling water. It was pleasant and calm and between telling a few jokes, we just sat and watched the water flow by or looked at a couple of our friends as they tried their luck with a rod and line.

Usually, in these deep pools there is this one large fish, the apex predator, the Toman. The Toman (Channa micropeltes) eats other fish, amphibians and even little birds. In fact, also known as the Giant Snakehead, it has even starred as the monster fish in several low-budget Hollywood B-Grade Monster movies. They can grow over 3 feet in length and weigh more than 25 kg. Their body can be as thick as a man's thigh. They are a favorite of anglers because they can put up a good fight and they are quite tasty.

Our two friends had been casting their lure of crickets near a dark and deep part of the pool for a good twenty minutes. Suddenly there was a shout of excitement. They had hooked a toman and it was giving a good fight. There was water splashing as the fish trashed and jumped about. We caught glimpses of the fish and it was huge.

They struggled with the fish but slowly and surely, they were able to pull the tiring fish towards the shallows. Suddenly, we all saw the line grow taut and swing upstream. The guy holding the rod felt a strong jerk and then nothing. There was no more resistance. It was as if the toman had gotten free with one last desperate jerk.

He quickly reeled in the line and to all our surprises, as he lifted the rod up, there at the end of the line was the three foot long toman but something had taken such a huge bite out of its middle section that it was almost severed in two.

We all looked at the mangled fish, stunned. It was a few moments before we all stirred as one and took our legs out of the water and stared suspiciously into the dark waters. What could have been able to take such a bite out of the toman? Not anything we knew or expected in this river! This has remained our story about the mysterious monster fish that got away.......or in hindsight, perhaps the mysterious monster fish that we got away from.

Last evening, a colleague related a different but related story from the muddy waters of a river in the rainforests of Borneo. On one of his trips, he found some of the native forest people a little skittish about a particular stretch of river. To his enquiry, they told him that a monster was sometimes seen in this river. When he pressed for details, he was told that it was some form of fish but it is very wide and long. They claimed that it was as wide as a man is tall or approximately 2 metres. Again this is not something that is known by science to be there.

In the light of these two stories, it is interesting that National Geographic has launched a search for the Megafishes in the world's freshwater sites. One of these is the Giant Stingray. These creatures were discovered by science as late as the 1980's hiding in the murky waters of the Mekong, other rivers in Indochina and also northern Australia. It's maximum size is reported to be as much as 197 inches (500 centimeters), 1,323 pounds (600 kilograms) and with a body diameter of 95 inches (240 centimeters). This recently re-made the news with the finding of a smaller specimen in Thailand this year.

My colleague feels this could easily be the monster that the natives were referring to as the Giant Stingray is immensely wide. However, I still don't know what we encountered up in the Jasin River. Perhaps it is another as yet undiscovered Megafish.

All I know is that just when you thought it was safe to go into the water, they find something else to remind us that something big may still be lurking under the calm water surface. Cue the music from "Jaws".....da.....dum,..da....dum, ..da..dum.

Hogan and a recent catch of the Giant Freshwater Stingray in Thailand (2008)


Giant StingRay
from Cambodia (2002)


The current known champion of the freshwater heavyweights, the Mekong Giant Catfish

44 comments:

Claire said...

Whoa, what could possibly have taken a bite out of the Toman? That's scary! In some ways though I'm glad we don't know everything about this world.

Dr.John said...

Now I don't dare go swiming either. I have to quit reading blogs.

squirrelmama said...

YIkes! I can just see the headlines now. "PREDATOR FISH SWALLOWS SQUIRREL."
Stay out of the water, LGS!

Joyce's Ramblings said...

Never was much for fishing and now I am turned off for good.

the walking man said...

Lunch!...but which creatures?

citizen of the world said...

I was just watching this show last night! The Mekong cat is amazing. And a little scary about the big Toman being reduced to prey itself. Watch you legs out there!

cabcree said...

um, yeah, as if I didn't already have some sort of fear about swimming in waters that aren't full of chlorine (is it even chlorine? ugh, I don't know)...actually, I don't like swimming in chlorine either...hmmm...

other than that...I find this stuff very fascinating. I love seeing new-to-me creatures. :)

Margaret said...

I just watched a History Channel series on "Monsterquest" last night and it was about giant fish tales.

They mentioned a huge 9' long catfish that was found over your way. I wouldn't want to go swimming either. I've read about Jonah and God's big fish and I surely believe it.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

claire,
Yes, I agree. A world still undiscovered is a fascinating world.

dr. john,
Please don't stop reading blogs. Just stay away from dark murky waters!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

squirrelmama,
It might surprise you but while doing research for this post, I came across a story about a 70kg catfish in Germany that was known to have eaten a small dog and was actually dubbed the Dog-eating catfish. That same name is also used in the Mekong river, implying that it has been known to happen there too.

joyce,
Sorry, if I put you off fishing. Fans swear that it is a very relaxing activity.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

mark,
With your appetite, we are saved from the devil fishes!

cz,
Indeed, it occured to us that anything that could chomp on the toman might find our legs viable prey too.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

cabcree,
That's the spirit! It is good to enjoy "new-to-me" creatures as long as they are not also "near-to-me" creatures.

margaret,
How have you been? It's been awhile since I have seen you about in blogland. I do believe that we have large fish over in my part of the world. I find it equally amazing that there have been so few sightings given the size of these things.

MedStudentWife said...

EEEEEKKKKK !!!

There was a reported Sasquatch sighting in Northern Ontario this week... never knew they were this far east.

And a lady sighted "Opie" a couple of weeks ago in lake Okanagan.

We still have no idea what lurks in our world.

Wonder what took the bite from the fish... a cricket as a lure to catch a Toman & then the Toman becoming a lure for something bigger.

Kwel !!!

Gledwood said...

I saw a giant snakehead for the first time in a British newspaper not long ago... local anglers were horrified as the monster had been caught in an ENGLISH RIVER..!!

Hey have you heard of the one in the Amazon with a back barb... if you take a pee in the water it swims up the stream and lodges itself halfway up the you-know-where...

... quite inconvenient and 100% true!!!

Pam said...

I won't be dangling my legs in your part of the world anytime soon. It's getting that way that only the bath is safe!!As for stringrays, our Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin was killed by one of them, so crikey!those guys in your photo are standing a little close to the net.

Jocelyn said...

Jiminy Crickets! EEEEEEK.

I love your storytelling, as always...but I did wonder if you weren't going to take the concept of the toman that was bitten nearly in half by something mysterious and more powerful to a metaphorical level and show us how it applies to how we live our lives. I'm kind of glad you just scared the pachouli out of me, instead!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

msw,
Say, are you an X-phile?

gledwood,
The snakehead does have a rather fearsome reputation. It really isn't that dangerous to humans but it seems capable of beating out local predators and become an alien invasive species. As to the Amazon story, I've heard this told too but is it really true?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

pam,
It is a pity about Steve Irwin but paradoxically, these much larger rays seem even more docile than their smaller cousins whose tails are more rigid and dangerous.

jocelyn,
As usual, thank you for your kind comments. But as for me going "metaphorical", are you sure you have the right small brained rodent?

MedStudentWife said...

LGS..I could have been an X-Filer...I've learned from past experience about getting totally hooked onto a show ( Space 1999 and Poldark did me nuts).... it drives my agenda,and its not a good thing.

So I stayed away from it - totally except the odd time I watched it when I visited my sister.

But in the other sense.. yes..I am an ex-filer (which I think is your question)

Eastcoastdweller said...

From the waters we came, long ago, but we have forgotten what lurked in the world that we left behind.

Eastcoastdweller said...

BTW, ever heard of a candiru? Nightmare creatures can be small, too.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

ecd,
Thanks for introducing me to a new horror.

Delirious said...

Now that's a fish story. :) Could it possibley have been an alligator?

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