The haruan is one of the most widely distributed species in the country, found in rivers, lakes, swamps, even ditches. It prefers still waters with ample aquatic vegetation; normal environment for frogs and small fishes which serve as its favourite food. It is thus definitely a carnivore, preferring to lie in ambush amidst the vegetation.
Like all snakeheads, the haruan is an air breather, and thus will have to come up to the surface at regular intervals. This habit works to the advantage of the patient angler, who must himself lie hidden behind bankside vegetation and wait for those telltale rises which show where the fish are stationed. Then it’s a matter of casting the lure or bait at those spots to trigger the classic explosive strike from the fish.
It’s easier said than done, of course. The haruan take extreme care when rising, appearing ever so slowly from among the weeds and looking around with those red eyes for any signs of danger, from hawks to humans. The smart angler will dress to blend with the bankside vegetation, hide behind some bush or tall grass, and not make any sudden movement when scanning the water in front of him. Preferably, a sidecast is used to get the lure to the fish.
Traditionally, the favoured baits for the haruan are dressed frogs which are cast and retrieved, or live fish placed among aquatic vegetation, or a deadbait jigged just below the surface. The last method is of particular interest, practiced widely by Malay villagers in the past. Called “mengunjun”, this method demands reserves of patience on the part of the angler. In extreme cases, the deadbait – usually a small fish like sepat, seluang or puyu – needs to be jigged at the surface for more than an hour before the haruan is triggered to strike.
Scientific name: Channa striata (Channa striatus)
Common name: Striated Snakehead, Chevron Snakehead
Malay name: Haruan, Aruan, Ruan, Toman Paya
Other names: Gabus (Indonesia)
Salient Features: Body elongated with a round cross-section. Head is compressed. Dorsal and anal fins are very elongated, almost reaching the tail fin. Body and head covered in small scales. Colour varies from dark green to pale grey, with faint chevron-shaped dark streaks along the flanks.
Preferred habitat: Swampy or stillwater, with plenty of structure and weeds. Prefers shallow water, to about ten feet.
Distribution: All states of the Peninsula, Sundaland, Sulawesi, Moluccas, Singapore, India, Indochina, China
Record size: 12 kg, caught on set line; Meru Lake, Selangor
Angling record: 6 kg (unofficial): Kenering Dam, Perak. 3.5 kg. (IGFA): Gombak, Selangor
Conservation status: Very common. Release the specimens above 2 kg.
Diet: Frogs, small fishes.
Common baits: Frog baits, live minnows.
Popular lures & flies: Small spinners, spoons, spinnerbaits/buzzbaits, soft plastics, small plugs, Muddler Minnow, small Clousers, Deceivers, fry imitations.