AMAZONIAN MAIN TARGET CATFISH SPECIES
In our travels as Amazonian guides and hosts, our anglers catch plenty of species of Cats, but our main target species are the following:
REDTAIL - The Redtail Catfish or Pirarara (Phractocephalus hemeliopteris) are short, stubby, aggressive catfish with a real attitude. They are speckled brown/black with a white belly and a brilliant orange/red tail, hence the name Redtail Cat. They grow to over 150lbs and are some of the most common Cats found in the Amazon Basin. They are top predators and can be taken on cutbaits and sometimes even on lures.
JUNDIA – The Jundia (Leiarius marmoratus) is a smaller Amazon Catfish that fights incredibly well on lighter tackle. A 25lb specimen is a good fish for this species and average out at 12-15lbs. Jundira are caught on small cutbait (bits of fish) and are one of the tastiest fish to eat in the Amazon (they are known as ‘chicken of the river’)! They have beautifully honeycombed markings all along their whole bodies including the fins and are a rusty brown, orange colour throughout. Perfectly camouflaged, they pounce.
JAU – The Jau (Zungaro zungaro) is an extra strong Catfish with a body like a Japanese wrestler. This is a big, stocky Cat that grows to over 200lbs and uses the current to its advantage. A favourite trick is to roar off over waterfalls and through cascades and you try following that in a small boat! The Jau has a mottled, marbled, dark skin and what it lacks in good looks, it certainly makes up for it with stamina and strength on its side. It is often found in caverns beneath falls and is really difficult to pull out once back in its haunt.
PIRACATINGA – The Piracatinga (Calophysus macropterus ) is a scavenger Cat and is a great clean-up merchant! It is a beautifully-coloured Cat, often with a red tail, has leopard-spotted flanks and a white/silver body overall. This species gets to 80cms and reaches a little over 10lbs.
SURUBIM – The Surubim or Cachara (Pseudoplatystoma coruscans) is one of the fastest sportfish in town and can be caught on cutbait and lures. It has beautiful hieroglyphic marking all along its elongated body and is a superb predator. It haunts nearly all of the waters of the Amazon Basin and even down to the Pantanal in South Brazil. It averages 20lbs but can reach over 100lbs in areas. If an angler hooks one of these strange looking beats, it takes off like an express train and medium-heavy gear is needed when targeting this fish. While usually caught on cutbait in shallower areas, it will readily take lures, flies, andjigs.
BARBADO/BARBA CHATA - Barba Chata or Flat-whiskered Catfish (Pinirampus pirinampu) are a medium-sized smaller fish of about 5-25lbs. They make a welcome change during a Catfish session and are fun to play with on lighter tackle. These crazy-looking fish are called flat-whiskered for a good reason as their whiskers are like long ribbons. Out of the water, they move these ribbons like an alien searching out prey. They are normally grey with an interesting spiky 1st dorsal fin and elongated soft 2nd dorsal fin.
CIUIU/RIPSAW - The Ripsaw Catfish (Oxydoras niger) or cuiu cuiu is a species of thorny catfish native to the tropical river basins of South America. It has thorns or ‘saw’ blades along each flank and spikes on fins and gills. This species grows to a length of 1.2m and can weigh up to 30lbs. With a soft mouth and fleshy lips and short whiskers, it is a foraging Cat and a really good fighter.
PIAIBA/LAU LAU/FRESHWATER SHARK – (Brachyplaystoma filamentosum) this magnificent, sleek Leviathan of the deep is THE fish for all Catfish anglers. Growing to over 600lbs (commercially caught), this Giant is the hardest-fighting, fastest, toughest and most aggressive predatory Cat in the Amazon Basin and is found in nearly all rivers. It can be seen crashing on baitfish up to 25lbs in size and occasionally it will strike at big, deep diving lures. Using whole fish or large slabs of cutbait, this monster will give the angler the fight of his/her life.
Heavy gear is needed to get to grips with the larger of these massive beasts and once hooked, the fight could last from minutes to several hours. They are clean fighters, tending to keep to their deep haunts and stripping many metres of line off with each arm-wrenching run. These big fish are a built like submarines and are unstoppable when making these screaming runs.
Stories of these huge Cats swallowing anglers whole might be a myth, just maybe ……