The Fish and Fishing in India

The sub-continent of India includes an incredible range of geographic features, and the fish species found here do not disappoint in their size or variety.

The choice of venues is already good but, since fishing as a sport for locals is relatively new, we can expect this to get even better as the years roll on.

The best fishing is almost always found in remote spots and is therefore easily combined with other activities such as trekking or observing wildlife. Our fishing holidays concentrate on the angling but are easily extended if these other aspects interest you or your travelling companions.

One issue to note: several of the species on this page used to be found as much larger specimens. That should be a warning against over-fishing. The species concerned are slow-growing and obviously no adults are actually surviving long enough to reach the size that attracts special attention. We support a Catch & Release policy whether or not one is imposed by local authorities. We hope all anglers on our fishing holidays will support us in this.

Golden Mahseer

Tor putitora

We start with perhaps the mightiest fighting fish found in freshwater - the Golden Mahseer. Though it is not the largest fish in India, let alone the world, it has a reputation for surprising anglers; more then one has been grateful for their ghillie's hand to stop a headlong plunge after a huge tug on the line.

Also known as the Putitor, Yellow-fin, Common Himalayan or Copper Mahseer, as well as a host of other names, these fish inhabit streams, rivers and lakes along the Himalayan range as well as on the Deccan Plateau. They prefer deep pools in fast flowing water with a rocky bed.

The largest Golden Mahseer on record was 2.75 m in length and weighed 54 Kg. That's a mighty size for any fish and, given that these are powerful fighters, that must have been an epic battle.

Lure fishing for Mahseer requires a sturdy 8' - 10' rod. Baitcaster and spinning reels are both suitable; the main requirement being a capacity sufficient to hold 200m of 20 pound line. You are going to need all that to fight a big fish.

Plugs from 3" - 5" will see action with black/gold/silver combinations working best. Spinners are also a good choice especially in coloured waters. Check out the Mepps range . Start with an Aglia (size 2-5) and work with variations on that theme.

Humpback Mahseer

Tor mussullah

The Humpback Mahseer is found in pretty much the same range as the Golden Mahseer, but should not be confused with that species. They are stockier and so though they only reach a length of about 1.50m maximum, weights of up to 90 Kg have been recorded.

Large fish like deep pools in fast-flowing but clear rivers.

Katli or Copper Mahseer

Neolissochilus hexagonolepsis

The Katli is also known as the Copper (a term best avoided as it is also used with the Golden Mahseer) or Chocolate Mahseer. This species is the one most favoured for its taste which may explain why mature adults are rarely found much in excess of 1.00 m nowadays.

These fish feed in mid-river, mostly on algae and invertebrates (including insect larvae, beetles and crustaceans).

Brown Trout

Salmo trutta fario

The Brown Trout is an introduced species much as it is elsewhere around the world. In fact the original population is meant to be limited to the Mediterranean island, Corse. As a species intended for sporting purposes only, there are strict regulations against netting and other commercial methods of catching these fish.

Brown Trout in India are largely found in the valleys of the Kulu Valley region. They have been reported to reach a maximum of 1.00 m and 20 Kg in size, but this would be a rare fish indeed in Indian waters.

Giant River Catfish

Sperata seenghala

The list of alternative names is too long to pick a representative few. This shows just how widely they are found. They thrive in pretty much any body of freshwater, permanent or temporary. They have even been seen searching for food in flooded fields. Their range is from Afghanistan to Bangladesh, with populations as far south as the Deccan Plateau.

The Giant River Catfish can reach 1.50 m in length, which doesn't make them the largest in Asia but still provides a challenge for the devoted angler. These huge catfish have a reputation for fighting well, and at that size you can expect some great sport.

Long-whiskered Catfish

Sperata aor

Found in all the major rivers of India as well in many of India's neighbour states, the Long-whiskered Catfish is also found in stillwater locations.

Adults are decidedly predatory, targetting other smaller fish.

Reports indicate that these fish can grow to 1.80 m. You'll have to try your luck for one that big.

Wallago

Wallago attu

The Wallago is a kind of Catfish, and is found from Afghanistan to Vietnam. They flourish in large slow rivers. They use stealth to catch their prey, either hiding in vegetation by the river bank, or by lying still down on the silty river bed. They will also feed on freshwater crustaceans and molluscs.

Wallago have been reported to reach 2.40 m in length. That makes them the largest of the catfish species covered here. Beware if you do catch one. They have powerful jaws and sharp teeth. Keep your hands well clear.

Goonch

Bagarius yarrelli

Goonch have been making the headlines lately; well one specimen anyway. The media have latched onto one angler's successful trip to the Kali River to catch a monster fish that was being blamed for the death of a local teenager.

Goonch belong to the family of catfish. They can reach an amazing 2.00 m in length. The fish above measured just short of this (about 1.80 m) but still weighed weighed in at 72 Kg.

Goonch are found over much of India - in the Ganges and Indus river systems and further south in rivers flowing out into the Bay of Bengal - and in south-east Asia.

Goonch prefer to live in fast flowing sections of rivers, sometimes taking shelter behind boulders but often right in the white-water.

Goonch is not considered suitable for food as it decays quickly and can cause illness.

Great Snakehead

Channa marulius

These exotic fish are found from Pakistan to Cambodia. They have many local names.

In India you are most likely to find one in the deep south. They love the sluggish waters of swamp-like waters since they the creatures likely to be found on or around submerged vegetation. They may be found in deep river pools, but rarely.

Great Snakeheads will take insects, earthworms, fish, frogs and even small snakes and rodents. They can reach almost 2.00 m in length and weigh up to about 30 Kg.

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Other Species

Deccan Mahseer

Tor khudree is a species found mostly in the highland streams and rivers of the Deccan Plateau (a large area in south India bounded by the Wetsren and Eastern Ghat mountain ranges).

In the past, Deccan Mahseer in excess of 1.00 m and weighing 45 Kg were known. Nowadays, you are unlikley to see fish half that length.

Deccan Mahseer feed on insects, freshwater shrimps and molluscs.. They can provide good sport on light fly-fishing tackle.

Tor Mahseer

Tor Mahseer, scientific name Tor tor, go by many other names. Depending where you fish, they may be known as Burapatra, Khadchi, Pumeen, Redfin Mahseer, or another local name.

Tor Mahseer are a northern fish being restricted in their range to rivers flowing down from the Himalayan ranges. They are known to move upriver to spawn during the monsoon season. They prefer, and grow much larger, in rivers with a hard rocky bottom.

Like Deccan Mahseer, it seems that Tor Mahseer in olden times were of a much larger size. Whereas the current maximum size on record is 0.52 m and 9 Kg, in the past fish of three times that length and 68 Kg weight were noted.

Catla

These carp-like fish go by the scientific name Catla catla.

Catla were a popular choice for fish-farming until recently and are found widely distributed over India as well as in neighbouring states. They breed in rivers but are often raised for food in ponds and reservoirs.

Omnivorous feeders, Catla are most often found in mid-water. They can reach nearly 2 m in length and 40 Kg which makes them an attractive proposition for the Carp Angler abroad.

Chaguni

Chaguni, Chagunius chagunio to Ichthyologists, are a small game fish found mostly in the north of India. They like clear and fast-flowing rivers with a hard river bed and sparse vegetation.

Changuni reach a maximum size of about 0.50 m.

Garua Bachcha

Clupisoma garua, better known as Garua Bachcha, are found in large rivers from their tidal mouths right up to the Himalayan foothills. They can reach a respectable 0.60 m by feeding on insects, shrimps, crustaceans and even other smaller fish.

Mrigal

Mrigal is probably the most widely-used name for Cirrhinus cirrhosus though they can be called White Carp, Dodda-arja, Nainee, Pudu kendai, Venkendai or Yerramosu. They do belong to the Minnow/Carp family.

Mrigal are farmed throughout India but, in the wild, are mostly found in southern rivers flowing out into the Bay of Bengal.

Wild fish can reach 1.00 m and about 13 Kg weight.

Asaila Snowtrout

The Asaila is one of many species of fish that gets the name Snowtrout even though it really belongs to the Minnow/Carp family. It has many other local names including Alawan, Chuss, Gulgali and Ngaka. It's scientific name is Schizothorax richardsonii.

Asaila live amongst rocks and enjoy the fresh waters of rivers and streams throughout the Himalaya. They grow to a maximum size of about 0.60 m

Chirruh Snowtrout

The next Snowtrout worthy of mention is the Chirruh, Schizopyge esocinus.

Chirruh are found in many parts of the Himalaya but are perhaps less widespread than Asaila. They favour rivers with a bottom of small stones or gravel. They are mostly herbivorous, often feeding on decomposing matter found on the river bed. Adults are more predatory, and will take flies and nymphs.

Chirruh do not exceed 0.50 m.

Dinnawah Snowtrout

Highly rated for the table, these fish, Schizothorax progastus, really belong to the Minnow/Carp family and are not true trout at all.

Dinnawah Snowtrout are mostly found in the Himalayan foothills of India, Nepal and Bhutan. They feed almost exclusively on insects and small fish. They can reach 0.50 m.

Tibetan Snowtrout

Another Minnow/Carp, the Scaly Osman or Tibetan Snowtrout (Scientific name Diptychus maculatus)

Tibetan Snowtrout are found in mountainous rivers both north and south of the Himalayan divide. They feed mostly on river weeds but also on the insect life (adult and larval) found in this environment but can still reach a maximum size of 0.70 m.

Indian Trout

The Indian Trout is not a true trout but a Minnow/Carp just like the various Snowtrout species above. Known as Raiamas bola to scientists, this fish is also known as a Trout Barb. It does not have barbels but does have a deep cleft to the mouth.

Despite its name, this species is found in the rivers of hilly parts as far east as Thailand.

A chunky fish, the Indian Trout is unlikely to exceed 0.40 m but can reach weights of over 2 Kg.