Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ikan Haruan aka Snakehead - Fresh Water Predators

Haruan, Channidae Channa Striatus

In English, the haruan is called snakefish and you can guest why it is called snakehead, that is from the view of its head. It is one of the most sought carnivorous predatory fish in Malaysia as it is widely believed by Malaysian to have remedial effects. Haruan contains a good composition of amino acids and fatty acids hypothesized to be active components in the initiation of wound repair. I have personally witnessed where the haruan that I caught and kept in the same location had try to eat each other. As a result, one of the haruan was devoured almost 1/5 of the body. Then I had removed the wounded haruan into another aquarium and after sometimes, the wound healed and not only the flesh regenerate, but the bones too! So, I never doubt and agreed with the majority when they said haruan have the remedial effects.

Another interesting fact is that it can survive in almost any place even with minimal fresh water as it has accessory respiratory apparatus or in other words air breather fish.. The haruan also is able to walk from one place to the other place of water as it body has lateral undulations. The main diet of the snakehead are frog, fish (and yes, they are cannibals), fresh water shrimp & crab, duckling, and even small snake.

If you want to catch one, the favourite baits are frog (katak minyak).

So often, you'll find haruan fishermen fishing all sorts of puddles by the roadsides. Surprisingly to the non-haruan fisher-person, haruan up to 2-3kgs are sometimes pulled out in these little "puddles"! Other favourite places are old mining ponds and swampy places.

Rigged up weedless and cast towards the haruan's lair will often result in an aggressive take. Another productive method is lures: soft plastic lures fished weedless for snaggy areas, spinner baits, spoons, spinners or fly. Basically, anything that trigger the haruans predatory instinct works!

The haruan will hang out near structure, be it dead branches or a clump of weeds. In fact if there is more weed than water, chances are there'll be haruan deep among the grass. Therefore most haruan fishing is done with frogs, that can be cast into these holes among the weeds.

Sometimes, when the haruan took the bait, they can be quite vicious but it could also be a gentle tap. One should slowly release the line, letting the haruan swim away till a fine trail of bubbles is seen. Then set the hook. And be ready for the adrenaline rush. If artificial lures are used the hooks should be set immediately before the haruan drops the lure.

I still remember when I was a kid, I used to catch the snakehead using traditional techniques know in northern of Malaysia as taut a.k.a. tajur. It is made of bamboo that very durable and will be able to stand the force of the fish. The tajur will be placed along the small river or waterways and then left for few hours or overnite.

They can be caught as big as a kilo in heavily fished waters, but in untouched places sizes of 2-3 kilos is normal with haruan as big as 7 kilo caught occasionally! One could equate this fish to the American Large mouth bass.

But, sadly nowadays, it is kind of hard to catch these game fish as the habitats is sloly making ways for development. And how I wish my son will be able to tell his story about HARUAN to his son one day.


  1. In my hometown, Kota Bharu, there were abundance of haruan in paddy fields and water canal in early 70's. I used to see haruan as big as a man's thigh caught in the paddy "baruh" (perma-swamp). But then at the end of 70's and early 80's came the fish disease called ikan berkudis(people say related to massive usage of weedkiller poisons and chemical fertilisers)that almost wiped out mostly ikan haruan. Nowadays fish already made a comeback but I m no longer in Kelantan to know the current situation.

  2. En Mahdi, I went to Setiu, Terangganu recently. I think it was somehow similar to those you described in early 70's. The haruans and tomans abundance. The size - not the Godzilla size, but still mega to me. 2 days trip was like 2 hours. I the morning, i can just stand still looking at the river, the swamp, those dark but clean fresh water.I think the reasons because of not much of agriculture activities, and no pressure from human, and also, no pollution compared to here in Penang/Kedah/Perlis.

  3. Good sharing, Among Asians, consuming this fish is believed to provide one with good health. Through the study, science team learnt that the fish is rich in amino and fatty acids and provides medicinal healing for wounds and inflammation. Further research by the team led to the making of Chantiva, a natural remedy that aids in the healing of wounds, as well as the alleviation of muscular and joint pain, see detail at:

  4. is it better to use artifical lures or katak ?

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