Photo: Its body was 7ft long and 7ft
wide its tail measured 10ft and its lethal venomous barb had
to be wrapped in cloth while it was out of the water.(enlarge
photo) It took THIRTEEN grown men to heave the fish
– which is the size of a garden shed – out of the water.
Anglers Mail journalist and fish biologist
Ian Welch recently joined the Fishsiam
team to assist in the filming of a documentary with National
Geographic Channel featuring Giant Freshwater Stingray.
45-year-old nearly disappeared over the side of the fishing
boat when the specimen took his bait, which was a snakehead
He said: “It dragged me across the boat
and would have pulled me in had my colleague not grabbed my
trousers - it was like the whole earth had just moved.
“I knew it was going to be a big one. It buried
itself on the bottom and the main fight was trying to get
it off the floor. I tried with every ounce of power but it
just would not budge."
“After half an hour my arms began shaking and after
an hour my legs went. Another 30 minutes went by and then
I put a glove on and physically pulled the line with gritted
teeth and somehow I found the reserves to shift the fish.”
Once the stingray was off the bottom 11.5
stone Ian, from Aldershot, Hants, managed to lift it 30ft
to the surface relatively easily.
“That line from the film Jaws came to
mind about needing a bigger boat because we had to get it
to the shore to tag it.” The group managed to put a 12ft wide
net under the fish and towed it to the bank where it was weighed
on a giant set of industrial scales used in the tagging programme.
Ian added: “It took 13 people to lift it into
a large paddling pool we had set up in order to tag it and
take DNA samples. I was absolutely exhausted afterwards and
did very little for the rest of the day and just celebrated
it with a cold beer.”
After a thorough scientific examination
by Dr.Zeb Hogan and the visiting Thai veterinary surgeon the
fish was released back into the river. The giant freshwater stingray is listed as
a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation
of Nature’s red list.