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Event Article: Fishing in Taipei, Taiwan

Fishing both fresh and saltwater species in Taipei, Taiwan

Date: 1/23/03
Location Taipei, Taiwan
Season Winter
Reviewer: Zander

Introduction: One of my favorite fishing quotes "The best time to go fishing is when you can get away" -Robert Traver, couldn't be more pertinent then on my recent trip to Taipei, Taiwan. While Taipei is best known for its bustling city night life, it is good to see that anglers can find plenty of action in local streams, reservoirs, and on the coastline. While the fishing styles may seem foreign to some, the excitement of landing fish is universal.


Local anglers fish for shad and trout in local streams

Fishing for sport: Fishing is a very popular pastime in Taipei, and with easy access to the ocean saltwater fishing is excellent. The East China sea is home to hundreds of species of commercial and game-fish including tuna, sharks, hairtail, herring, pomfret, scad, yellow croaker, large croaker, small croaker, cuttlefish, jellyfish, shrimp, filefish, and crabs. Pelagic fish species include sauries, horse-mackerel, sardines, and other scombrids and clupeid species. Freshwater anglers can pursue species ranging from bass, carp, trout, perch, and catfish.


Large rainbows inhabit streams that flow from the nearby mountains that feed Taipei's watershed

Stream Fishing: Fishing for panfish and trout in small streams and rivers is extremely popular. When I first saw anglers fishing in streams with long poles and bobbers it immediately reminded me of fly fishing for steelhead. The only difference is that these rods truly are panfish poles and have no reels. These collapsible poles are extremely lightweight and have a metal loop on the end which anglers tie directly to their lines. Casts are made with a simple flick of the arm. The current will carry the small bobber downstream towards the fish. The minute the bobber takes a dip the angler pulls up on the rod setting the fish, then actually lifts the rod high up to pull the fish out of the water. While walking along the river I noticed many anglers fishing while wearing motorcycle helmets. What I later discovered was that these anglers wanted to me extremely mobile. They would fish a rift or small pool for a period of time, then collapse their pole to a 1 1/2 foot length and hop back on a motorcycle or scooter and head for the next stretch of water.

Shihmen Reservoir is one of two large lakes that provide water to Taipei City

Reservoir Fishing: Taipei has two large reservoirs that feed the entire city, but only Shihmen reservoir is easily accessible and open to the public. Shihmen is a very large manmade reservoir that was completed in 1964. While it is home some large carp, perch, and bass the lake is continually plagued by extremely fluctuating water levels. Last summer Taipei residents ran out of water during the most serious drought in a decade. I was told stories by local residents that during the period you could walk straight across the center of the Shihmen reservoir from shore to shore.

Anglers at Shihmen Reservoir fish mainly for carp and perch

Most anglers that fish at Shihmen reservoir do so from the shore with spinning gear and elaborate bobber rigs. Underneath large bobbers I found some anglers fishing cut up worms and liver on rigs consisting of as many as 6 hooks! Artificial lure fishing and baitcasting rigs are a rare sight. Most anglers are content to sit on the shore relaxing and socializing as they wait for their lines to go tight.

Anglers can rent outboard powered boats to cruise the lake or reach better fishing locations on the lake

Owning a boat: Owning a powerboat in Taipei is extremely difficult. Anglers have to go through a extremely difficult permit process, and towing a boat in the city is near impossible. The only boats that anglers can get on are charters or small rentals. On the Shihmen reservoir small powerboats are available for hourly rental. This is not the case on any coastal waters as Taiwan is weary of smuggling from nearby countries. Not once on my trip did I see any boat that resembled a bass boat, in the most part the watercraft here are simple in design and built with function over form.

A group of locals huddle around a goldfish trough in a effort to land some fish

Goldfish fishing?: Six months ago MP and I went shrimp fishing in local shrimp fishing clubs. On this trip I found a fishing related activity that was just as unique. Because it is difficult for most city dwellers to travel far to fish, why not bring the fish to them....in this case goldfish! Taipei is well known for night markets packed with locals and tourists looking for great shopping deals, good food, and entertainment. It is here that I first encountered these goldfish stands.

Zander finally lands a fish without breaking the tissue paper net, unfortunately it wasn't a lunker by any means

Basically hundreds of goldfish are put into a aluminum troth and for fifty cents you are handed a plastic loop that is fitted with a piece of tissue paper that acts as a flat net. The key to the game is to catch as many goldfish as you can without breaking the tissue. In some booths catching large or certain goldfish will earn you a prize, but for the most part most people just get to take home their catch. It took some getting used to but I finally landed a few goldfish after going through 2 tissue nets. I soon found being aggressive and going for the larger fish usually resulted in a quickly ruined net. Much to the amusement of the locals I practiced catch and release when I was done with my third net, and poured the captured fish back into the troth. While definitely no substitute for wetting actual lines I can't deny that goldfish fishing was certainly entertaining.

Many Commercial fisherman use small single outboard powered v-hull boats

Saltwater fishing: Chartering a boat is possible in the coastal marinas, but most anglers either fish from local docks or enjoy surf fishing from the rocky coastline. The tackle for saltwater anglers consist mostly of panfish type poles or spinning gear rigged up with bobbers. I found that most anglers were extremely patient and would toss bobbers out with worms, liver, squid, or shrimp attached to a series of flies or j hook rigs.  

Local anglers use panfish poles to toss bobbers on the edge of a commercial dock

There are a lot of different species to fish for in Taipei but among the most interesting are sizeable squid and octopus. I found anglers both fishing bait under bobbers and trawling prawns through the water to attract this quarry. Most anglers would position themselves near sea grass or sandbanks as these are natural habitats for squid which feed on baitfish that find refuge in the same structures. In the evening some anglers will bring out bright lanterns or halogen lights and shine them into the dark water below. The artificial light cast on the surface is enough to draw squid to the area as they are instantly attracted to illumination. It is quite a sight to see these large squid surge forward and engulf your shrimp bait with their long tentacles. When I first tried fishing for squid I would often reel back my bait disappointed only to find a few tentacles still attached, and the rest of the squid gone. Rather then set your bait once it is hit the best thing to do is reel back slowly in a smooth constant motion to bring in the entire squid instead of just snapping off its arms.

Catching squid is quite exciting and takes a balance of patience and finesse

Over fishing: Over fishing both freshwater and saltwater ecosystems has been a major concern in recent years. With a noticeable decline in both sport and commercial fisheries the regional countries are just now beginning to implement stricter laws that protect the ocean's fisheries. Locally in Taipei there are some stocking programs, and fish farming has helped reduce pressure on natural habitats. Unfortunately "Catch-and-Release" is not a practice that most anglers in the region are familiar with.

Zander holds up a popular Taiwanese gamefish...Shark

Conclusion: It was a absolutely great to experience local fishing locations and techniques in Taipei. While very different then sport fishing in the U.S., it was obvious that anglers in Taiwan benefited from the same excitement that fresh and saltwater fishing has to offer. Many people don't know that Taiwan has a wealth of game fish species that even include native landlocked salmon. Fishing continues to grow as a major pastime in the region, and if you are ever fortunate enough to visit the region you owe it to yourself to do a combination of goldfish and big game fishing, from the streets of Taipei to the deep China Sea.









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