There’d been rumors of a giant fish in the lake for a while, but Waris Charoenpakdeethai didn’t believe them. At least, not until the monster bit his fishing line. Praying that his bending rod wouldn’t snap, Charoenpakdeethai pulled with all his strength until a huge shape broke the water’s surface.
Enjoying direct access to both the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, it’s little wonder Thailand is one of the largest providers of seafood in the world. In fact, some of the country’s towns and provinces – such as Chachoengsao, 40 miles east of the capital Bangkok – have even been nicknamed after types of fish. Chachoengsao is also known as Paet Riu, as a tribute to its local catch.
Paet Riu means “eight cuts,” which actually alludes to the way locals prepare the fish. The area around Chachoengsao is renowned for its whopping catches, but it is also supposedly home to a marine monster. According to the stories, the beast dwells in one of Chachoengsao’s lakes.
Locally, the presence of a huge lake fish was the stuff of legend. But although fisherman Waris Charoenpakdeethai had heard the stories, he wasn’t convinced by them. To him the rumors were just that.
“People had talked about a large fish in this lake,” he told MSN. “But it had never been caught, so I never believed the rumors.” Ironically, though, such folklore is often an irresistible lure to an angler. And the fable – if that’s what it was – likely stayed in Charoenpakdeethai’s subconscious until the day he met the lake-dwelling goliath.
On October 27, 2017, Charoenpakdeethai was fishing in a local lake with his friends when he suddenly got a nibble. But as the angler revealed, there was something that set this one apart from all his other hooks in the past. To begin with, it felt like there was a much bigger tug on the line.
“That day there was a bite, and I knew straight away it was something strong,” Charoenpakdeethai told MSN. And the power of the fish he’d hooked is evident on the footage his friends took that day. It begins with Charoenpakdeethai trying to reel his catch in.
The fish is so strong that Charoenpakdeethai braces himself on one knee to avoid getting dragged into the water. As he fights the monster on the other end of his line, the camera zooms in on the fishing reel. The speed it’s unspooling at is astonishing.
As soon as the reel stops unraveling, Charoenpakdeethai seizes the chance to pull the fish back in a little. After only a short reprieve, though, the angler goes right back to holding the rod with both hands. You can see his feet slowly sliding towards the dock’s edge as the fish fights its corner.
However, the angler refuses to give up and takes every opportunity to pull back. When the unseen fish falters, Charoenpakdeethai shifts positions and regains his balance. He also puts extra pressure on the fish by reeling it in whenever the beast slows its resistance.
The war for supremacy between man and fish wages up and down the water’s edge. It looks like both combatants are as tenacious as each other, but before long the advantage swings towards Charoenpakdeethai. The fish is getting ever closer to the shore.
With repeated heaving motions of the rod, the float is soon bobbing above the water. The prize catch can’t be very far under it, but still it doesn’t give up. Finally, using his whole body weight as leverage, Charoenpakdeethai pulls the fish to the surface.
And when the giant breaches the water, the whole group – Charoenpakdeethai included – let out a yell. It seems as though rumors of a lake monster weren’t exaggerated; it’s actually on the end of Charoenpakdeethai’s hook. Furthermore, the monster was too exhausted to escape.
One of the angler’s friends runs up and tries in vain to loop a fishing net around the catch. But it’s too big to fit inside, and at least half the fish remains unsecured. On the other hand, the net gives the group a chance to move Charoenpakdeethai’s catch to another container.
With this in mind, the guys use the net to pull the fish towards a much larger meshed basket. Charoenpakdeethai then clambers inside this enclosure and uses his weight to lower its level in the water. The reason for this soon becomes apparent as the fishermen carefully transfer the monster over the sunken lip of the basket. Catch secured, it’s likely thoughts turned to what exactly the huge creature was.
Apparently, it’s a species of catfish, but no one mentions exactly which one in the video. Some viewers believe it to be a Mekong giant catfish, though, which is actually an incredibly rare species. So rare, in fact, that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorizes them as critically endangered.
Back in the water, the footage shows Charoenpakdeethai removing the hook from the catfish, before another member of the group joins him in the fish basket. This guy is carrying a tape measure, and the pair set about recording the size of the humongous fish. But the fish is extraordinarily large, and it appears the tape isn’t long enough.
So the guys have to measure the fish in two parts to record its full size. And the resuIt? The fish stretches an impressive 6 foot 11 inches from head to tail. However, even though this is clearly massive, it turns out the catfish wasn’t a record breaker. The largest recorded Mekong giant catfish caught in Thailand was 8 foot 10 inches long, and there are rumors of them growing larger still.
Charoenpakdeethai’s catfish was also a robust specimen, weighing in at a hefty 374 pounds. Not that the group was planning on eating it any time soon. At the end of the video Charoenpakdeethai lets the fish go, and after a short rest we see it swimming back into the lake. “It took all of my strength and skill to get the fish in,” Charoenpakdeethai said, before revealing that he’d given his adversary an appropriate moniker.
“We named him Muhammad Ali because he was like a heavyweight boxer,” the angler revealed. “This is the biggest fish I’ve ever caught. I’ve never seen one as big, and I haven’t caught anything like this since. I tell the story all of the time. It’s a catch I will never forget.”