Where to catch arapaima around the world

A majestic beast, high on the dream catch list of most anglers, here's how you can do it.

Where to catch Arapaima in Bolivia

How: Guided tours or private giude
How much: £6000+
When: May - October
Average size: 100lb
Realistic catch rate: 1 - 3 per day
Max realistic size: 400lb

If you’re interested in fishing in Bolivia for arapaima check out our tour in 2019. Here’s a quick snippet!

The portion of the Amazon rainforest which lies within the borders of Bolivia is the home of the arapaima, living in the fast flowing sections of rivers and schooling in the lagoons formed by these rivers.

Although the arapaima is a native species to the Amazon river basin, it is a new species within the borders of Bolivia and was brought here by flooding in neighbouring Peru in the 1980s.

With the lack of competition for the apex predator it has been very successful in colonising the waters and Arapaima can be found almost everywhere across Bolivia, from the smallest back waters to tiny ponds.

The best time to catch this mighty beast is between May and October, when the dry season is in full force because this will force the arapaima into more favourable grounds where they are easier to find and grouped up into schools of differing sizes.

You’ll be fishing from a canoe or small cut out boat, the same ones used by the locals, fishing for Arapaima in Bolivia is a truly all-encompassing experience.

Often you are not required to cast long distances so an ability to cast a big fly or lure will be beneficial although the terrain and conditions are not for the faint hearted, you are in the middle of a jungle after all.

The majority of the fish we caught were almost under the boat using locally caught dead baits.

Since the arapaima is an air breathing fish you can usually find them or know they’re in the area, meaning you can really pin point locations where you might catch one.

The air breathing nature of the arapaima will give you just a second or two to decipher which direction they are travelling and how quickly, allowing you to cast you fly, lure or bait appropriately.

Using a circle hook, you need to allow a little time for the arapaima to take the hook and have it set, meaning no need to strike like a madman, you will just need to tighten up leaving the rest to the power, size and speed of the fish.

Once the arapaima realises something isn’t right, all hell will break loose and the fights you get from these fish (as well as anything in the Amazon) are truly mental.

The fish will leap clear of the water thrashing its huge head from side to side in a bid to throw the hook, before it takes off on a series of runs. This is when you begin to follow the fish before making for a nearby beach to help you land this magnificent predator.

Arapaima are never brought up the bank and out of the water.

They are just too delicate.

There is usually just about enough time to stand in the water, approaching from the rear of the fish since they are known to headbutt their captors, and support the weight of the fish while you have your trophy photograph and then carefully nurse the arapaima back into its natural habitat.

Bolivia has a fantastic variety of fish so don’t just pack to catch arapaimas, there are a variety of bottom feeding catfish and a stack of smaller fish too.

Expect to fish for smaller varieties as a means of baiting the arapaima of your dreams since these are their usual prey.

arapaima fishing bolivia

Where to catch arapaima in Brazil - Trip of a lifetime!

How: One of our guided tours are the only way to safely access the waters of the Amazon basin.
How much is it: From £4k upwards, if you allow £6-7k all in you will be well covered.
When can I fish: August/September - December/January dependant on water levels
Average size: 80lb
Max realistic size: 400lb+
Realistic catch rate: 2/3 per day

Brazil – Incredible Arapaima Fishing

Brazil is a vast South American country which stretches from the Amazon basin in the north to the vineyards and huge Iguaçu Falls in the south.

The hunt for arapaima though will start in the Amazon basin with more than a million hectares of tributaries and lakes as well as the Amazon River itself to search for this ultimate jungle trophy fish.

Fishing will generally take place on well equipped flat boats complete with outboard motors, electric trolling motors and push poling platforms.

Because the region is dominated by narrow lakes, with interconnecting channels where the arapaima will congregate in periods of low water, these vessels are ideal for hunting your quarry.

The fishing will usually be done exclusively from the boats due to high concentrations of large caimans.

The arapaima is however an air breathing fish so can cope with a few minutes out of the water for photographs, after which the fish can be released unharmed back into its natural habitat.

Arapaima are a lethargic fish with their way of life designed to save energy in oxygen poor waters.

They have primitive lungs which enable them to breathe air from the surface and the frequency of their breathing cycles depends largely on their swimming and feeding activity. Often the only sign that there is arapaima present will be their sucking sounds while they gasp for air.

The arapaima feeds by waiting for its prey to swim by them and gulping down gallons of water in a split second and sucking in their prey. This means that they can do this with your lure or fly and it is important to ensure the fish is hooked in the mouth.

Also meaning when you are retrieving your lure it is good to take it slowly, slowing down the lure or fly and ensuring it is in the taking zone for longer.

In our experience free-lined dead baits near features work best.

The lakes you will fish for arapaima differ greatly from 1m to 20m of water so a variety of lines could be appropriate, so if you’re fly fishing anything from slow intermediate lines to heavy sinkers could be appropriate and finding the right approach at the right time can be a frustrating ordeal. Patience is key when fishing for arapaima.

It is important to trust your guides instinct with where the fish will be since they have a lot of time in the water you are fishing and know how to track their movements throughout the dry season.

where to catch arapaima fishing bolivia


Where to catch arapaima in Thailand

How: There are loads of lakes, Gilhams, Jurassic or PTL are our faves.
How much is it: Ranges by venue but expect to pay £100 a day all in.
When can I fish: All year, UK winter time is the best.
Average size: 100lb
Max realistic size: 300lb

The arapaima is not a native fish for Thailand and has been transplanted there in order to provide game fishing opportunities for keen fishermen who are unable to catch these fish elsewhere in the world. It is an awe inspiring fish and has become endangered due to overfishing and destruction of its habitats in South America.

The arapaima has the chance to reach up to 3 or 4m in length and can reach weights of well over 200 kgs. This, along with the large armoured scales which interlock along its body add to its fearsome and predatory appearance.

With a huge variety of lakes offering up the opportunity to fish for arapaima, with many being only an hour or two drive from the airport in Bangkok, your choices are huge.

Where you can catch arapaima in Thailand

Top-of-class venues like Gilhams and Jurassic are the main-stay of anglers targeting Arapaima in Thailand but for the best experience you should be looking at moving around a few venues.

If you haven’t been to Thailand before, you’d be shocked at how easy and cheap it is to really live like a king on a budget while targeting arapaima across several lakes.

In our experience, the best tactics are the simple ones, free-lined dead baits near features or showing fish produce the most bites.

Check out our fully guided luxury arapaima tours here.

Where to catch arapaima gigas in Peru

How: Private guides and tours
How much is it: Expect to spend upwards of £10k
Best time to go: September - Jan

Peru is home to a section of the Amazon rainforest and Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan city high up in the Andes mountains.

It is also home to some of the biggest arapaima on the planet.

Unlike in Guyana where fishing for arapaima is illegal due to their low numbers, the fish are in peru in abundance and can be fished for legally.

With local guides who are experienced fishermen in the amazon basin, and the right equipment, you can catch yourself one of these giant fish with a little help from lady luck. With wide running river systems and lagoons, ideal territory for the arapaima, you can fish freely during the dryer months, from September until early January.

You can expect to spend your free time when you are not fishing in a jungle camp surrounded by the wildlife of the amazon. Also, whilst fishing the guides have noted as many as 15 or 20 arapaima catches in a week. With average sizes of between 40 and 80lb, it is the region where the current world record catch was made at a whopping 339lb so expect at least one huge fish whilst you are there.

That said, real records are well over the 400lb mark, it’s obviously hard to claim a record with no civilisation for hours around.

In addition to the arapaima you can expect to find peacock bass, stingrays, piranhas and ayumaras in these waters.

If you’re looking for the ultimate in fishing, catching an arapaima on the fly then Peru is for you and it is best to carry tackle for any situation where the arapaima could be sought.

Firstly a 7weight rod and reel spooled with floating line and a floating cricket fly, secondly a 10weight rod and reel spooled with intermediate line with a 3” long a streamer and finally a 12 weight rod and reel with a 500 gr sinking line and an even bigger 4” long streamer as the largest option.

Where to catch arapaima in Colombia

Colombia is a country at the northern tip of South America and its landscape is marked by rainforests, the Andes mountains and numerous coffee plantations.

The region of Tres Fronteras, the point where Colombia, Peru and Brazil meet, or Leticia is the main focus of the fishing industry in Colombia and has an active presence of the FARC ( Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia/The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

Arapaima is well known in Colombian waters as a delicacy, and the apex predator is bringing the sport fishermen here to explore new territory to capture the fish of a lifetime.

The fish is a rare sighting due to overfishing and the fact that the waters are not policed for poaching, but it is hoped that there will be sport fishing for the arapaima established here soon.

Where to catch arapaima in Guyana

How: Guided tours and private guides
How much: £6k+
When : September - March

Guyana is a country in the Northeast of the continent of South America, bordering Venezuela, Suriname and Brazil.

The Essequibo River is found in the heart of the country and forms part of the Amazon basin, but flows north to its estuary in the Atlantic Ocean. It is perhaps the most unfrequented river of its type in the Amazon and is home to a myriad of fish species, including the arapaima.

The arapaima’s population in Guyana is extremely healthy, mainly due to the fact that the arapaima represents an “Oma” to the Macushi tribe who inhabit the region.

Meaning that they are seen as a demon or evil spirit and it is believed if you are to consume arapaima you are likely to become very sick. It is also referred to as the mother of all fish due to its enormous size.

A trip to this region is not for everyone, but it is an ideal combination for anglers who like to include adventure travel, technical fishing and the opportunity to catch the largest freshwater fish in existence.

The arapaima is an apex predator in waters which include piranha, payara, crocodiles and numerous other dangerous species of fish and animals which inhabit the waters.

It takes stealth, accuracy and patience combined with an ounce of skill to land these huge fish, but when you have a tight line and a huge arapaima bursts from the surface of the water shaking its head you will understand the thrill of hunting these large predators in their natural environment.

You can often find yourself trekking through the jungle for anything from 5 to 30 minutes to access the dugout boats which have been transferred by the local tribespeople to the waters for the days fishing.

These isolated jungle ponds and lagoons are often home to some of the largest fish in the region.

We offer guided arapaima tours in Guyana, have a look here.