When I was booking the trip and doing the research for Thailand I was impressed with Palm Tree Lagoon, I knew it was small but we’ve all fished farm ponds before, except this one had 300 pound fish in it so I thought I could come to terms with fishing two acres. Turns out the two acres wasn’t my issue with this place.
On several occasions before arriving I mentioned to John, my guide, a fish that had been caught there that I had seen on facebook and how they had 30+ species in the lake. John didn’t share my excitement and I didn’t understand why, he would just say yeah yeah and then talk about another lake. At no point was any of what happened Johns fault, in fact had I not been blinded by pictures of 300 pound Mekongs and 400 pound arapaima I may have seen that his lack of enthasium was justified.
Palm Tree has a name around Thailand for being a big fish lake with tons of species and this is true but what I didn’t realize was the style of fishing they do. The place is owned by a European man who bought it and runs it with his Thai wife. If you don’t know the euro style of fishing it is very different from what Americans do. Euro fishing is mostly long sessions of a week at a time or longer and one bite a day is acceptable. I have nothing against anyone’s style of fishing but the owners at Palm Tree fully understand this and this is why most all of their cliental are from Europe, not many Americans would spend days on end sitting in the hot Thai sun for one fish per day.
They only take 5-6 people at a time which is more than enough to fully occupy this lake and each angler having 3-4 rods is getting it pretty crowded. Again I understand this style but more than once everyone in the lake had to reel up their lines and wait for someone to fight a fish because it would go from one end of the lake to the other and had the lines been left out would’ve tangled everyone and likely resulted in a lost fish too.
We were assigned a “net man” or “bait boy” or whatever you want to call him, they call them guides but they don’t guide anything, they dip fish and bait hooks. Ours baited hooks and dipped my one fish up and really only wanted to just do his job and nothing else, that’s fine I guess but I like a little personality but people are different. This guy had zero interest in trying anything different and after four hours of banging my head on the wall I started to suggest things but was only told no, at first I held this against the net man but as the day progressed I started seeing why he acted this way.
Every person fishing was using the same bait which was rice flour and bread pack on carp rods and a piece of chicken carcass on a predator rod. These are good baits but do the math on 5 guys with 4 rods each fishing the same bait everyday and you start to realize these fish know this game. I’m all for some sport but this was nearing ridiculous. The longer I sat the more I realized that all these pictures I had seen were from 20 rods fishing in 2 acres everyday for a week and now it didn’t seem like a lot of fish.
I had my eye on a Siamese carp and had I caught a 150 pounder the story here would still be the same. I’m not telling anyone not to go there I’m telling you what to expect if you do and if this style fits you then by all means go have some fun but finish reading the story before you make a decision.
We started out like everyone with our carp rods out and our predator rod out and periodically the net man would come and rebait and recast, which I’m not a huge fan of, I would rather cast and bait myself but I could see immediately that this was the way it would be. After five hours only one small carp had been caught by the whole group and I had just chalked this day up to a relaxation day and didn’t expect a fish at all.
Suddenly my bite alarm sounded and I had a big run, I clicked the bait runner off and set the hook but I had missed it. Not sure what else I could’ve done and anywhere else or anytime else this wouldn’t bother me much but I fully expected this to be my only bite.
A little later a man across the pond hooked a Mekong so we all rolled in our lines and waited for the fight to end but the fish broke off. I say a man across the lake “hooked” a Mekong but he didn’t, the net man did and handed him the rod. As the day progressed and a few bites trickled in I seen that this was the way it was done here. I have no interest in letting someone bait my hook, cast my line, hook my fish and then handing me the rod but I had been here this long so whatever I’ll just make the best of it and try again tomorrow at a different lake.
One of biggest problems with this lake was no matter how skillful of a fisherman you are or think you are you had no advantage over the guy who’s never fished because you are all using the same bait and the net man is casting so it’s strictly a game of luck, good for some people bad for others.
After lunch John had talked the owners into letting us use some live baits to try for a arapaima or anything really so when John went to town I told him buy some of everything they would let us use in this lake and he did. John returned with a variety of small fishes none of which I knew the name except the koi.
We tried several ways of fishing these but it just wasn’t meant to be. John tried free lining some like we did at the other lake, we put some under bobbers, we even threw some right straight into the lillies and let them swim around in there hoping a snake head was hiding there but it was all for not.
Mary Ann gave up on this lake almost immediately and took advantage of the down time to catch up on sleep but I was all in. I knew the fish were there and they surfaced often but they just weren’t willing to play.
Other anglers around the lake had picked up a small carp here or there and lost a couple fish but for the amount of hooks in the water and the hours spent there it was basically dead.
As the day was ending and we had killed all of our live bait casting it out and we had basically thrown a full 50 pound sack of rice flour out one cast at a time, I told John let’s roll up. The net man had taken a piece of chicken on a rod and thrown it into the weeds at the edge of the water. It was dark enough now I had taken my glasses off and hung them on my shirt and was on my way out when he started yelling. I looked down the bank and the reel was spinning. I put my phone in my pocket and as I started to run that way my Ray Bans went flying onto the ground but I left them. I got to the rod set the hook and could tell it was a heavy fish but it was burried in the weeds and still going deeper. I’ve seen this before just a day earlier, remember John said the redtail will look for the exit, well this fish was looking for the exit.
Here’s where the day went from not real good to bad. The owner of the place who walked the banks with his camera taking pictures of fish arrived at the scene about the time I did. The fish had gotten under one of the huge aerators used to circulate the water at night and the net man was doing his very best to keep the line from hanging up and breaking. The owner is yelling at the poor kid to get the line away from the pump and he’s trying but the fish is big and doesn’t really want to go that way. I have the rod so the kid had no leverage on the fish he’s simply just trying to keep the line clear. The owner continues to yell louder and louder, I have no idea why because no matter how loud you yell he still can’t understand English. The volume of the language is not the issue dude, the language itself is the issue. I felt real bad for the kid he was doing all he could so I started to yell at the owner it’s ok I got it but he kept on. At this point I don’t care about the fish I just want him to shut the hell up and stop yelling at the kid so I jumped in the water with the rod. I use the term jumped loosely, I went in about waste deep and fell the rest of the way but either way I’m neck deep with an iPhone 7 plus in my pocket. So now this one stupid fish has me about $1500 in the hole between the Ray Bans and the phone that I’m sure are both ruined.
I do my best to turn the fish all the while yelling at the owner it’s ok I got it just so he would get off the kids back about it. I don’t speak a word of Thai but I speak people and I could tell this kid felt bad and was confused at what to do. Finally the fish comes out and I told the owner it’s fine it’s all clear, we got it, no need for more “instruction”. The kid got his net and I got the fish to the bank and he netted a very nice amazon redtail.
At this point just catching a fish was great but I had caught near twenty of these the day before and now here I am in a lake with thirty different species and I catch another one, albeit a very nice one but not at all what I wanted from this lake, that’s fishing.
I was very put off by the actions of the owner, that’s no way to treat a person, let alone an employee and for that reason alone I will not return but an incident earlier that day had me thinking this was not the place for me anyway.
In a conversation we were having between myself, the nice German man and the owner I had mentioned that I would be fishing Bungsamran Lake the next day for Mekongs, and his reply was, they don’t have them as big as me, and then added how his fish were healthier and his lake was better and on and on and on. Let me explain something here, this may not apply to everyone but for me the best way to convince me that your lake is superior to others is to shut up and let your lake do the talking. I’ll fish both lakes and I’ll decide what I like, don’t tell me what I like, I am a good enough fisherman to know what is the best lake and it has nothing to do with the fish I catch on a particular day. I can tell by the way it’s ran and by basically seeing the goings on of the day which lake is the better lake, for me anyway. Yes he had a huge assortment of fish, and he has huge fish but this ain’t an aquarium I didn’t come to look at them I came to use the skill I have to catch them and because we were all using the exact same thing it was just blind luck if you caught one, this is why the European crowd likes this place because if you spend a full week there I’m sure you will catch plenty fish but 10-12 hour days for a single fish or maybe two is not my style when I can’t decide what I fish with or how I fish.
John was happy we finally caught a fish and Mary Ann was less than impressed with me swimming with my phone and bouncing my glasses off a rock but the day was done and we could start over again tomorrow.
I fully understand that some days fish don’t bite and I fully understand the risk you take paying to fish a place you’ve never seen that’s 9,000 miles from your house but the actions of the owner are more what turned me off to this place than the fishing.
It was by no means a wasted day, I did catch a 50+ pound catfish and I learned a few things watching the net man but most importantly I learned that I can scratch this place off my list and focus more on the other lakes that I enjoyed if ever I return.
It was a bad day of fishing but after all I was in Thailand, I was fishing, and we would need our energy for the next day so all’s well that ends well right?