Giant Snakehead Fishing

The giant snakehead (Channa micropeltes) or locally called toman is a monster fish with a notorious reputation. It is the largest and the nastiest of all the snakehead fish species.

The giant snakehead is native to Southeast Asia and can be found all over Malaysia mostly in ponds and lakes, and some rivers, even in brackish coastal waters in some places.

Anglers from all over the world come to Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia and Thailand to catch these fish that are not only stunningly gnarly looking but also pack a punch when hooked.

They will readily hit at surface lures making them even more exciting to fish for hence some of the favourite fishing lures used are poppers, stick baits and buzz baits.

The sharp canine teeth of the toman are meant both for grabbing and cutting

Best Places for Giant Snakehead Fishing in Malaysia

There are numerous locations in Malaysia to fish for the toman (giant snakehead) from small unassuming ponds to the majestic rainforest jungles.

One popular destination is in Belum Temenggor lake to target these vicious, yet stunningly beautiful fish that can reach 10kg (22 pounds) or more in a breathtaking wild environment.

Quick Facts About Royal Belum State Park

  • Royal Belum is one of the oldest rainforest in the world at 130 million years old
  • Contains about 6,050 million cubic meters of water
  • Created after the completion of the Temenggor dam in 1974
  • Covers an area measuring 117,000 hectares (290,000 hectares total Temenggor area)
  • In 2014, the Malaysian government proposed to turn part of it into a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • One of the largest concentration of hornbills in the world can be found in Royal Belum
  • Only place in the world where all 10 species of Malaysian hornbills are found in one location
  • Home to 23 species of freshwater fish and 5 species of turtles

If you look at the facts above, you must bring a camera when visiting, especially a decent camera if you love nature and wildlife.

Click to watch our Video Playlist from our Giant Snakehead Fishing Trips

Fish-on with our Russian guest
Fish-on with our Russian guest
Giant snakehead goes for air time
Giant snakehead goes for air time
A toman about to be released
A purple coloured toman about to be released

Where Is Royal Belum Temenggor?

Part of Royal Belum borders Thailand. Most visitors will come from the west and pass through the town of Grik which is located in the state of Perak. The ‘silver state’ of Malaysia (due to its name Perak and possibly its tin mining history) and where the local peacock bass madness started in Malaysia!

Distance and Travel Time by Road to Royal Belum
Kuala Lumpur to Royal Belum 370km 4-4.5 hours
Penang Island to Royal Belum 170km 2.5 hours

A typical size giant snakehead in stunning spawning colours

Common Fish Species

  • Toman (Giant Snakehead)
  • Sebarau (Hampala Barb aka jungle perch)
  • Lampam Sungai (Barboides)
  • Kelah (Malaysian Mahseer)
  • Kaloi (Giant Gourami)
  • Baung (Catfish)

Things To Do in Royal Belum

  • Bait fishing, lure fishing, fly fishing
  • Houseboat stay

Other Activities That May Interest You

  • Trek into the rainforest
  • Lake cruise
  • Rafflesia hunt (world’s largest flower)
  • Waterfall visit
  • Orang asli (Aborigines) village visit
  • Wildlife salt lick
  • Chill out in the resort with pool and lake-view villa rooms
Fly fishing in one of the oldest rainforest in the world
David with a nice giant snakehead on fly
David with a nice giant snakehead on fly
Toman, giant snakehead, on a split-tail fly
A “bachelor” or sometimes referred to as free-swimmer toman taken with a split-tail fly
An indigenous tribe village
An indigenous tribe village
Irhamy with a sebarau on fly
Irhamy with a sebarau on fly
Etlon with a nice sebarau (hampala) on 5wt gear
Etlon with a nice sebarau (hampala) on 5wt gear

What Is The Best Time To Fish for Giant Snakehead and Hampala Barb in Royal Belum

Royal Belum is fishable all year-long. The only difference is how much rain falls affect the environment and how hot it is.

December can be quite cold at night especially in the houseboat.

Generally, rain triggers the snakehead into spawning. Rise in water level will also see the sebarau (hampala barb) swimming upstream to spawn.

How To Fish Toman (Giant snakehead)

Toman are very predatory and voracious feeders. They will scavenge, bite a large fish in half and ambush anything that comes close.

We’ve caught toman using all methods even bottom fishing with dead bait in my early days of fishing for them.

The easiest way to catch toman is using live bait but some people spurn the idea and may think it is less sporting.

Lure casting is certainly more fun but challenging. Lures can be anything from noisy topwater buzz baits and poppers to quiet soft plastics. Diving lures and spinnerbaits are also commonly used.

The ultimate challenge will be catching toman on the fly. You will need to be a fairly good fly fisher to be successful but there are techniques and can be done. JW will be more than happy to share his experience with you.

While the toman will put up a good fight when hooked, the biggest appeal is probably because it presents every angler a casting challenge like no other and puts their casting skills to the test whether you’re presenting bait, lure or fly to the fish.

There isn’t any fish quite like it, you have to experience it to understand and it will keep you up at night!

Find out more about fly fishing for toman in this detailed post with videos

Accommodation Options – Houseboat Stay and Fishing

You can choose to live aboard a houseboat and practically sleep on the water surrounded by one of the world’s oldest rainforest enveloped by the sounds of wildlife and cool evening air.

The smallest houseboat is capable of accommodating 8 persons in their dorm-like cabin rooms.

And then there are huge two-storey houseboats that can accommodate up to 40 people or more.

Fishing is commonly done in 6-meter (18 foot) fibreglass boats that can comfortable fish two anglers. A registered guide will drive the boat.

A week-long trip will offer you the most enjoyment and a relaxed trip, and a suggested minimum 3-day 2-night package from the houseboat.

The following video will give you some idea of what’s it like on a houseboat live aboard trip:

Stay in a Hotel

At time of writing this, there is only one proper hotel on location – the Belum Rainforest Resort.

If you choose to stay here, we will pick you up in our boat right at from the hotel doorstep (jetty), very convenient and head straight to the fishing spots.

This option is preferred by those seeking modern and more comfortable lodging. May be of consideration for those with non-fishing partners.

There are alternative resort-hotels nearby but most of these are very basic with no air-conditioning and internet connection.

Buy Local

We are a 100% local operation. Should you have any questions, wish to make a booking or enquire about available dates, please contact us here.


Photos of Giant Snakehead from Some of Our Trips

Warren’s big catch
Capt. Josh of OnStrike Charter Exmouth with a stunning purple toman (giant snakehead)
Capt. Josh of OnStrike Charter Exmouth with a stunning purple giant
Etlon with a monster toman (giant snakehead)
Etlon with a monster
Quinn's giant snakehead with beautiful markings
Quinn’s giant snakehead with beautiful markings
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