Fishing in India is hotting up. Once the reserve of officer/gentlemen the sport is now beginning to reach the local masses and adventurous anglers from abroad. For many, the most sought after prize is a Golden Mahseer.
Tor putitora, better known as Golden or Common Himalayan Mahseer, though also by a myriad other names, are a member of the Carp family, Cyprinidae. They are quite closely related to barbel. Apart from the distinctive scales on the side, the carp family tie is not immediately obvious. Golden Mahseer are a graceful and attractive fish with more resemblance to a salmon than the stocky carp specimens so sought after in European waters.
This species can be found in streams and rivers all over India but they favour fast-flowing rocky waters. The best sport is found up in the Himalayan foothills and down on the Deccan Plateau around Bangaluru (previously known as Bangalore).
The best fishing is when water levels are low. This means the months of October through to December and February through to the closed season at the end of June.
Like all species of Mahseer found in India, the days of true giants are long past. A fish of 50 kilograms is now considered a rarity with the average being more in the 5 to 10 kilogram range. Unfortunately, poachers have found Mahseer catches to be lucrative and many of the best fish end up in their traps and nets rather than on an angler’s line.
With large fins and a tendency to fight with rather than against the current gives Golden Mahseer the reputation of being amongst the most powerful freshwater fish. There are many stories of anglers being taken by surprise and ending up in the water with their rod, or only just saved by an attentive local guide. Other stories suggest that one of the best tactics for coping with the fishes initial run is to sprint downstream rod in hand. Good luck to you.
Golden Mahseer are omnivorous, feeding on plant matter and insects as juveniles and becoming more predatory as they get larger. Anglers will find a live or dead bait or a lure delivered in the bottom half of the water to work the best. Where possible, fishing from a boat is recommended as the biggest fish stay out where the current is strong. A boat also allows for a stretch of river to be covered easily – a big issue up in the mountains where the riverbanks may be very difficult to traverse.
Other fish in these same rivers provide worthwhile sport and, now that long haul flight to India can be had at reasonable cost, fishing in India becomes a viable option even for a short break. Whatever you regular style of fishing at home, catching a Golden Mahseer would certainly spice up a fishing holiday. Now all you have to do is find the time to get away.