The kelah is arguably the most challenging freshwater sportfish in Malaysia. Locating, hooking and landing an adult kelah will be a highlight of an angler’s career. It is found in the remote rivers of our mountains, preferring deep dark pools, invariably filled with rocks and submerged timber.
The kelah is usually caught on baits, notably the oil palm kernel. Traditional baits include jungle fruit like the neram, maris, ara, pelir pelanduk, mata lembu, jambu kemancung and perah. In truly wild waters, the kelah may be caught on small spoons and lures, usually on the drop.
Scientific name: Tor Tambra, Tor deuronensis, Tor tambroides
Common name: Greater Brook Carp, Malaysian Red Mahseer
Malay name: Kelah
Other names: Empurau (Sarawak), Belian or Pelian (Sabah), Garing (Sumatra)
Kukhiah, Kurriah (Red Mahseer, Northern India)
Salient Features: The body is elongated and moderately compressed. Caudal and anal fins are exceptionally large, making the kelah a powerful swimmer. The mouth is downturned, with barbels on the sides. Has large scales on the whole body. Body colour varies from light pink to reddish-brown to deep red.
Preferred habitat: Large pools of jungle rivers with deep dark trenches. Prefers dark conditions: darkk rocks, leaf litter.
Distribution: Selangor (Sg Bernam, Sg Langat), Johor (Sg Endau system, Sg Kahang), Negri Sembilan (Sg Konkoi), Pahang (Sg Tembeling system, Sg Tanum system), Perak (upper Sg Perak), Kelantan (Sg Lebir system, Sg Aring, Sg Galas, Sg Nenggiri), Terengganu (Kenyir rivers), headwaters of Sg Paka & Sg Dungun), Kedah (upper Sg. Muda)
Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Thailand, Myanmar
Record size: 25 kg: Sg Paka, Terengganu
27 kg: Sg. Rejang, Sarawak
Angling records: 12 kg (IGFA): Jeram Besu, Sg Lipis, Pahang
25 kg (unofficial): Sg Paka, Terengganu
Conservation status: Approaching endangered status. Release specimens below 2 kg, and those above 3 kg. Limit catch to 1 fish per group per trip.
Diet: Jungle fruit, crustaceans, earthworms, small fishes (subject to local variation).
Common baits: Oil palm fruit, ara, neram, maris, pelir pelanduk, perah, tapioca.
Popular lures & flies: Spinners, spoons, small plugs. Orange/red colours