Mighty Mahseer



“There he stood the Mahseer off the Poonch beside whom the Tarpon is a Herring and he who catches him can say he is a fisherman”. (Rudyard Kipling)


In the midst of the vast Indian Subcontinent, which has such diverse landscape, and in the many rivers, which drain the nation, swims a classic game fish, still unheard of, by a lot of us, the Mighty Mahseer of India.


Undeniably, the Mahseer is one of the fiercest fighting freshwater game fish that exists. Pound for pound it had unparalleled strength and endurance. They do have a transitory likeness to the carp and the barbell of the English waters, but as they say, the similarity soon ends in the turbid waters of the Himalayan foothills. Often weighed against the lordly salmon, for their sporting competency, the Mahseer have overjoyed generations of anglers and time after time lived up to being called the  “Mighty Mahseer”.


This fish occurs all through the north, north eastern and even parts of central India, the Himalayan Mahseer are one of the two most popular game fishes of India, the other ones are their larger more illusive cousins of the south called the humpbacked Mahseer.


The Mahseer inhabits the torrential, rivers and perennial rivulets of sub mountainous terrain, in the course of the Himalayas, they could be found up to an altitude of 2500feet above sea level.


The following rivers are considered to be the strongholds of the Himalayan Mahseer – the Ganges and its tributaries, the Eastern and western Ramganga, the Maha Kali and its tributaries, the Kosi, the Beas and its tributaries, the Sutlej and its tributaries, the Bramhaputra and its tributaries, Ravi and its tributaries, Yammuna and its tributaries and the Indus which flows into Pakistan. Due to the diversity of regions they are to be found in and the assortment of techniques they could be had on, fishing for them makes a particularly interesting pursuit.


The Himalayan Mahseer too grow to enormous proportions, prior accounts pertain them to exceed lengths of seven feet. Now days that would be a rare occurrence, though a 50 lbs fish is considered monstrous. The Mahseer have a prismatic range of shades on their large scales, in addition to their beautiful exterior, they have a firm appearance too.


For the ones of us who have experiences their first rush, recognize what the Mahseer feels like at the end of the line. Perhaps the most significant sporting feature of the fish and the most intense adrenalin charge is felt when a fish takes the bait and begins the rush, it's more sudden than you expect it to be, very impetuous, rash, impulsive, reckless or what ever you might call it. Sometimes it could be terrifying, as the bait is taken very rapidity.


In the north of India, the best time to undertake the large snow fed rivers is from February through the middle of May, this as they are most liable to be clear and the water at a reasonably low level, by the month of April mid the river begin to rise progressively and the real snow melt comes in by the end of May. This timing slightly alters from year to year as and when the summer approaches.


Feeding Habits - It is and remarkably omnivorous fish. The Mahseer is noted to be a continuous feeder. Green filamentous algae and other water plants taken in with intent or while seizing aquatic insects on them, Figs, other things thrown by humans, other insect, fish, etc has been recorded from the stomach of Mahseer.


Migration - Mahseer migrate upstream, from the main river into the rivulets mainly during the southwest monsoon (July through September) for the purpose of spawning, this is when they ascend to substantial heights up to (2500 ft). Though migration process is not only due to the reproductive biology of the fish but also in search of fresh feeding grounds. The migration is a very significant feature of the Himalayan Mahseer's life cycle and the fish moves extensively during this period. Over the years it has been subject to a fair amount of field research by ichthyologists, but still there are a lot of unanswered questions, which will only take years to reveal.


With efforts from the various angling bodies and with close vigilance on stretches of river which hold good fishing potential, the Mahseer will always live up being called a legendry game fish in the years ahead.



Ranjit interviewed by NDTV

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