The Kenderap / Devil Catfish is a bottom-dwelling fish of weird design. In fact, at first glance, one is tempted to say it is not a fish, but a figment of one’s nightmares! It has this ugly, flattened head with beady eyes and a pair of fleshy, keris-like barbels. The head dominates the body. From there on, it tapers down to a small peduncle, with scythe-shaped fins enlarging its frame.
The scaleless, blotchy skin adds to this weird nature of this fish. Even its flesh is an unnatural orange hue. In the scale of ugliness, the Kenderap is only beaten by the hideous ‘bandaraya fish’ (suckerfish).
It is found in only a few large rivers. Probably the most populous water is the Pahang river system , between Lower Tembeling down to Temerloh. Regular catches are made from the large rocky island in the middle of the river. Kenderap like to position itself on the river bottom, in between or behind rocks. Once in a while, a large specimen has been landed in upstream stretches like the Keniam and the Upper Tembeling. Invariably, it will be in the rocky areas.
The vicious nature of these fish is well known among river anglers. It will pounce on baits and lures with a force that rivals the Sebarau, and make decent runs. In fact, there have been occasions when villagers crossing a stream have been ‘attacked’ by the Kenderap. The fish probably mistook the feet for a tasty morsel!
There have been reports of Kenderap being caught by anglers who were trolling for Tapah in Sg. Terengganu, using large plugs like Rapala CD14 and CD18. Further to this, underwater loggers in Kenyir have reported sighting huge fish in the lake.
The possibility of landing a truly huge Kenderap is real, especially in the large stretches of Pahang and Terengganu rivers, and Kenyir lake. After all, its Indian brother, the goonch – found in large rivers like the Cauvery and Upper Ganges – can grow to 70 kg!
Scientific name: Bagarius yarelli (Bagarius bagarius)
Common name: Devil Catfish
Malay name: Kenderap, Kenderak, Kenerak, Tinggang
Other names: Goonch (India), Kelaling, Laak, Lele Gunung (Indon.)
Salient Features: Head flattened. The body is light brown with irregular dark blotches. There are two fleshy barbels on the sides of the mouth, and eyes are extremely small. Pectoral and dorsal fins have stout spines. Upper part of tail fin ends in a long filament.
Preferred habitat: Rocky bottom of large rivers, usually behind a big rock.
Distribution: Sg Pahang system: Tembeling, Kenyiam, Jelai (Pahang); Sg Kenyir (Terengganu)
Sundaland, Borneo, Indochina, India, Burma
Record size: 16 kg : Sg Jelai, Pahang.
Angling record: 12 kg (unofficial): Sg Keniam, Taman Negara Pahang.
Conservation status: Endangered. Release all specimens.
Diet: Small fish, worms
Common baits: Bunch of worms, live minnow.
Popular lures & flies: Silver spoons, small plugs