The treasure of the rain forest

Arapaima, Piraiba

October 2015 . South America

Martin Sack

The smell of gas was running through my noose, and is was displacing the clean air of the tropic rain forest around me for short time. Our small motor boat was driving upstream since nearly two hours the endless appearing chapters of rapids and river channels blocked by big rocks. To dispose the load in the best way, we had lashed the additional petrol can at the bow of the boat, but the bumpy dive was causing some times a bit of leakage. Today we wanted to drive exceedingly far into the wild, and we had still to manage a stalk boat ride through shallow backwaters and tangled lakes – we were back again and on the hunt for an Arapaima, the last treasure of the primeval forest of South America!

To shorten the arrival we landed this time with a small plane on a dusty airstrip in the bush. From here we moved on with a boat on the water for a while, where we settled down in our basis tent camp at a sand bank. Our team was consisting of three boats with local guides, in total six anglers and a cooking team.

“Damn, there is nibbling again a bloody piranha at my bait fish.” Markus was beginning to reel in and control his rod with a float rig, but then he noticed a vehement resistance. The predatory fish at the other end of the fishing line was much bigger than expected and was first pulling line from the reel and then the boat. Unflinching it was swimming down the small channel and was staying first time hidden in the depth. Then the massive Arapaima was breaking through the surface, smashing the water around to foam. After some time we were pulling the boat over the fish and were looking with veneration at the wide back and elegant swimming movements. Because we never pulled the Arapaimas into the boat, but only beaching them, we were again looking a bit desperate for a suitable photo place at the densely vegetated shore. At the end Markus was jumping with the rod in his hand from the boat into the shallow water, but the fish was fighting five minutes longer with fast escapes in the near rage. Then we had success, the Arapaima under control, and noticed with enthusiasm: This specimen was with 2,04m surly over the two meter range! One hour later we were stalking alongside a shoreline of a swampy backwater and could not really realize what we just had experienced. In this moment another breathing Arapaima was coming to the surface, direct in front of me! In some seconds it had a bait in front of its mouth, and the game was starting again. This time Markus and I had to follow the giant at the muddy bank, to avoid an escape in the sunken dead wood. But also this spectacular fight was ending successful, and also I could catch my new PB with 1,94m length. What an unbelievable day!

The Arapaima fishery was showing from its best all time, whereas the catfish were getting more and more moody to the end of the tour. Caused by the ongoing dry season the water lever had been fallen very deep, and this was leading to short feeding frequencies of the cats. However, among a big Piraiba of 1,92m we could catch some nice Redtails and diverse smaller catfish species. This was completed by many different predators, attracted by our artificial lures.

Our tour was getting an own drive, and the adventuresomeness of the group was looking ongoing for new challenges. So we managed next to the fishes also some meetings with caimans, anacondas and poisonous snakes, which were lurking around the boats and loved to come a little bit closer at night. But also at daylight, at a trip with a wiggly kayak in a swamp full of Arapaimas, you should always observe the other animals around you. The highlight was definitely the catch of a 3,7m long caiman with rod and reel! Of course also it was after a picture allowed to go back in its element, same like all big fishes. But we were sure: Its eyes had noticed us with high precision! Many thanks to the daring of all, you were really a little bit maniac!

At the end nobody had to go home without an Arapaima, and everybody had recovered one of this treasures of minimum 1,72m. Sadly two awesome Arapaimas from estimated 2,10-2,30m were lost in the fight by getting off the hook during a jump. As well some big catfish could not be landed in river sections full of rocks.

As we were flying with the propeller-driven aircraft above the woods, we faced also different treasure seekers. Humans, polluting the rivers with quicksilver forever, extracting gold for short time out of the soil to saturate the hunger for raw material of our industrial nations. May the real treasures of the rain forest stay spared from this!


Angler: Robert, Phillipp, Christian, Franz, Markus, Martin

Fishing days: 10

Arapaimas (length in m):

2.04 – 1.94 – 1.83 – 1.81 – 1.78 – 1.72

Piraiba (length in m):






Travel Quote