Chocolate Mahseer - Boker
Streamlined fish, with two tone scales chocolate and white in colour, with a smaller head, greyish or blue-gray fins. Common to the rivers of North East India. Much smaller than the four species described above.
(By Steve Lockett)
Neolissochilus wynaadensis is an endemic species of the southern portion of the Western Ghats. As the name suggests, it is mainly found in north Kerala in the area known as Wyanad.
My research, guided by tales, photos and film of a fish closely resembling Tor putitora, took me to small rivers which were once joined to the Kaveri River. These seem to contain healthy stocks of what I now believe to be N wynaadensis.
Most of these rivers and streams are now separated from the main river by Harangi and other dams. Harangi was built in the 1970’s, so the fish populations upstream have been isolated from the rest of the Kaveri watershed for at least 40 years.
This suggests that N wynaadensis was formerly widespread across the whole Kaveri watershed. Unfortunately, to date, I have no evidence to support this theory.
N wynaadensis is also called Katli, Copper Mahseer and Maara meen in Kannada/Kodava. I will refer to it as Katli from now on. The name Maara meen comes from the habit of eating leaves, a trait Katli shares with N hexagonolepis. In parts of Northern India, especially Assam, N hexagonolepis is fished for using petals as bait.
The large population of Katli we found were ‘called’ by the village priest slapping the stream’s surface with a leafy branch. These fish were considered sacred by the local populace, and were eaten at a yearly festival.
Katli is a streamlined fish, with a blunt nose, prominent barbules and a thick black stripe along its flank. Colouration is usually bronze, paler underneath, with a reddish eye and bronze to red fins. All the fish we saw and could count had a lateral line count of 27. Fin ray counts were not carried out.
Katli seems to prefer fast flows over a rocky substrate. The presence of overhanging trees is also a plus point, presumably to provide the fish with natural food.
We saw fish from a few ounces to a little over 2lbs. N hexagonolepis will apparently reach up to 20lbs. I would expect a Katli of over 4lbs to be an exceptional specimen.
Catching the fish on stretches where we could fish was very easy at first. As the fish became used to being caught, they became more wary. Fishing with a float was definitely preferable, to allow the bait to move freely with the current.
We used bread and pellets to catch, and would also expect sweetcorn to work well. Regular loose feed will get the fish, which seems to enjoy living in large shoals, competing against each other, and therefore easier to catch.
Once hooked, Katli is a very hard fighting fish and most enjoyable to catch. Size for size, it is easily one of the most sporting fish native to Indian rivers.
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