The undisputed king of the Himalayan rivers is the Mahseer. A large, powerful fish, it is the largest member of the carp family
in the world. Mahseer means Great mouth in India, an apt name for the long slim creature known to be
the toughest fighter amongst fresh water sports fish. In fact experienced anglers recommend sea fishing tackle rather
than ordinary carp rods, if you're after the monster Mahseers.
Ranging across vast territories, Mahseer exhibits an astonishing range of habitats all across Asia, from the Himlayan
highlands to the tropical forests of Thailand.
Various sub species have evolved to deal with the climatic differences. The Himalayan Mahseer or Barbus tor pututora as
it is known, is found from the waters of the Beas, in the west, all the way to the Brahmaputra river system in the east. Some of the
Rivers frequented by this very powerful fish include the Indus, Shyok, Beas, Ravi,Ganga, Yamuna, Mahakali, Teesta, Luhit,
and the Dihang as the Brahmaputra is known in Assam.
Like all other wild creatures, the Mahseer has suffered the effects of environmental degradation and river pollution for
decades now and the result has been not only a drastic decline in numbers, but in average size as well. As late as the 1930's,
Mahseer as big as 100lbs were, though not exactly common, not rare either, especially in the Brahmaputra river system.
Nowadays, 35lbs is a record catch!. The situation is better in the rivers of peninsular India due to eco conservation measures
and habitat protection.
In the north, especially the Ganges river system, pollution has reached alarming levels primarily due
to the fact that the Indo-gangetic plain is home to a population of some 300 million plus.
The extensive use of dynamite for fishing in the Himalayan areas has been another factor contributing to a decline in their
numbers. A pursuit mainly of road labour gangs, it consists of tying a stick of dynamite to a stone and throwing it into the
water. The resultant blast and concussion brings many fish belly up and these can then be gathered in. However, since most
these dynamite fishermen lack nets and the Himalayan waters are fast flowing, the end result is that they manage to grab
only a few fish for the dozens they kill and maim.
For those interested, a physical description is as follows ....... Elongated and fairly compressed body. The inter orbital space
is flat and the ssnout is pointed while the jaws are of equal length. Barbels are in two pairs with the rostral barbel shorter
than the maxillary. The dorsal fin rises opposite the ventral fin while the caudal fin is deeply divided. The lateral line
is complete with 2 or 3 rows of scales which are of a large size. The body colour is golden along the lateral portion with
the dorsal side being a dark gray shade. The fins are reddish-yellow in colour. (From S.S Negi - Himalayan Wildlife:
Habitat and Conservation)