Nile Tilapia and Red Devil (Plaa Nin and Plaa Thubtim)

English name: Nile tilapia

Scientific name: Oreochromis niloticus.

Thai name: Plaa nin, ปลานิล.

English name: Red devil, pomegranate fish.

Scientific name: Oreochromis niloticus mossambicus.

Thai name: Plaa Thubtim, ปลาทับทิม.

Description: The Nile tilapia is an African fish that is capable of surviving in both freshwater and brackish water. They have been a part of human aquaculture since the ages of Ancient Egypt. This farmed fish is known for its marketable value. It was introduced to Thailand by King Rama IX back in 1967. Today, the African species is naturalised all across Thailand and is found in just about every body of water.

In recent years the Nile tilapia has been cross bred to create a new aquaculture species known as plaa thubtim which literally translates to “pomegranate fish”. Peter Jaggs in his book, A Freshwater Fisherman In Thailand refers to them as red devils. The red devil is supposed to be more farm friendly, growing faster and yielding more meat.

The Nile tilapia is an omnivore eating just about anything in the water from plankton to plants. They are also used by some people to control water weeds. In adulthood they generally grow to around a kilo in the wild. Farmed tilapia can easily grow up to 2kg and more.

How to catch them: Tilapia fishing is very easy with bait. Worms, prawns, bread, sticky rice and sometimes even vegetables can by used to catch this hungry omnivores. They will take the bait on a floater, a sinker and sometimes even an arm’s reach away from the bay.

They also go for very small lures. Fly fishing and lure fishing for these little hunters can be quite fun and challenging.

However, the most challenging method for fishing them is something that my uncle Weng calls “yod luhm” (ยอดหลุม) or literally “hole dropping”. This fishing method works best in snag-free fishing ponds. To hole drop, the angler sets up a float fishing rig so that the weighted hook is just touching the bottom of the pond. The angler then casts the line out. Then he reels the line back in allowing the hook to go graze across the bottom. When there is a significant drop in the float that is an indication that the hook has found it’s way into the nest of a tilapia. The annoyed tilapia would then instinctively pick the hook up with its mouth to clean out its nest. This is when the angler sets the hook. I’ll have a more detailed explanation on this technique in another section.

Tastiness: The fact that you could find a tilapia in almost every Thai restaurant in Thailand that serves fish is a testament to its taste. Fry it, bake it, grill it and boil it, Thai people have tons of ways to cook this fish but the two most common ways to prepare the tilapia is deep-fried and salt-baked with lemon grass.


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