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COME ON BIG FISH AND…

On words «Central Asia» and «Uzbekistan» the first associations to occur to you are, for sure, a scorching desert, sand-dunes, and camel caravans… And most probably you’ll be surprised that here, in the Central Asia, there is an exclusive possibility of fishing with all amusements that come with this!

 

 

 

 

What is fishing in Uzbekistan? It is hot weather, sand isles and splits, diversity of aquatic inhabitants, possibility to contemplate the natural beauties around, and many other exciting and exotic thing to enjoy. With the local hot weather, every even small pond is overrun with inhabitants.  Along with traditionally widespread fish species such as sazan, barbel, carp, zherekh, pikeperch, catfish, bream, and chukhon, you may find also local endemic species: zmeegolova (snake head), marinka, tupak or Samarkand khromulya. Some waters, if fortune permits, could bring you a chance to catch unique enormously huge catfishes.

There are traditional fishing places, well known and loved by all sport fishermen in Uzbekistan: these are once navigable rivers Syrdarya and Amudarya, amazing Aidarkul lake and some other lakes, man-made canals, many mountain rivers and channels.

Syrdarya has been a very attractive place for fishing from the beginning of times. Big sazan, silver carp, crucian carp, and the other cartilaginous fish species are found in its waters. Among fish of prey there are zmeegolova, pikeperch, and certainly a catfish, the master of deep pits. The biggest catfish, as confirmed by the real facts, has been caught on the Uzbek land in Arnasai river, and it weighted 432 kg! Big calm rifts, flocks of seagulls in the rays of the morning sun, dark water blueness, green canes, slight ripples and rare millerbirds piping – such a marvelously beautiful views surround fishermen on the Syrdaria river.

Aidarkul lake, the second in Uzbekistan by its size, is a geographical miracle. Its location amid the Kyzylkum desert at its South Eastern outskirts is quite unusual. And the history of this lake’s origin is also quite amazing. In the middle of the 50-ties of the XX century Chardarya dam was erected on the river Syrdarya. At that time nobody could predict that one of the biggest lakes in the Central Asia would appear in the dam’s neighborhood. Until the middle of the last century Arnasai cavity had been just a salty marsh, known as Arnai, with a little salty lake Tuzkan splashing amid it, connected to the river with a dried river bed. Occasionally, once in a hundred years or so, disastrous floods occur on Syrdarya river, and there was one in 1969. Starting from February waters rose until the next February. Almost 60% of Syrdarya flow a that period was directed along that previously dry riverbed and flooded the cavity, turning Aidar salt march into Aidarkul lake. And the whole lake system with an area of 2824 square kilometers is now called Aidar-Arnasai.

New reservoir is a true gift from above. Its banks and waters are wonderful for hunting and fishing. The natural contrast is striking: sands of Southern Kyzylkum on one side, cool blue waters on another, with Pistalitau mountains (“Pistachio Mountains”) and Nurata range behind them as a background. In spring the lake is surrounded by emerald planes with bright drops of tulips and red poppies.

Aidarkul lake has become a tourist center of Kyzylkum desert. There are yurt camps by the lake banks where tourists may find conditions quite comfortable, yet still exotic. It feels like a bliss to get into lake’s warm salty waters after riding through a desert on camels. The size of the lake gradually increases, pushing the desert boundaries aside. Aidarkul is quite remote from any settlements and cities, and its primeval silence is broken only by natural sounds. Aidarkul is a habitat for a great number of animals included in The Red Book and such birds as cormorants, herons, pelicans, ducks, swans, geese and seagulls. Waters here a re abundant with fish, there are over 30 species: sazan, pikeperch, zherekh, chukhon, bream, vobla, cat-fish and others.

 
Aidarkul waters are fishermen’s heaven. Now this lake system supplies a third of all fish catch in the country and is considered to be the basis of the fish industry. The most exotic fish of prey of these places is zmeegolova. It is amazingly strong fish. Its skin is thick like snake’s, head is snake-shaped; the body is eel-shaped, but considerably thicker and somewhat shorter. Aidarkul fishermen succeed in catching record specimens over a meter long, weighting up to 15-20 kg.

Lake Sechankul is located 260 km to the North-West from Samarkand, at Kashkadariya and Bukhara regions border and almost at the border with Turkmenia. Previously it was just a salty wasteland. Now it is filled with Amudaria waters through Alan canal. The lake is deep: depth exceeds 40 meters in some places. Water is salty and quite rich with fish: sazan, pikeperch, zherekh, cat-fish, barbel, silver carp, vobla. Alan canal is a branch of the Big Karshi canal, stretching from Amudaria. Canal runs through very scarcely inhabited areas, and forms quite big overflows at some places. It flows into Sultandak lake already on the territory of Turkmenia. The canal is good for fishing barbels – local fishermen considered it a valuable trophy. Some barbells here are about 1 m long and 20 kg in weight - it is a strong, quick, lively, cautious and sly fish. Barbel meat is very tasty, and balyk from the barbel caught in the Central Asian rivers is quite known as an exquisite delicacy. 

Wonderful Tien Shan mountains boast with a great number multitude of rivers and lakes, amazing for the crystal purity of their waters. Fishing in these places is also incredibly fascinating, moreover, especially coupled with enjoyment of nature and marvelous views around. Beautiful Aigirkul lake is located in the center of Gissar range at the height of 2400 m over the sea level. Places are wonderful here: ruins of granite blocks with grass and smooth sand between them, all surrounded by blooming tulips. You would surely meet local herders here, who settle down in the lake’s vicinity from spring till autumn. There’s trout in the lake, which reaches impressive sizes according to local inhabitants. The biggest trout ever caught was about 800 gr, and average weight is 250-300 gr. Rainbow trout can be also found in Tien Shan rivers: Ugam, Maidantal, Kok-su, and many others.

Uzbekistan is not only the country of grand monuments of ancient architecture, Eastern markets, and infinite hospitality, but also a good place for fishing. But best of all is is that you can combine all these! Only imagine how fascinating can be your trip to fishing if you’ll take a real Bactrian camel or a horse ride to the fishing spot of your choice, stay there, surrounded a desert or an amazing mountain landscape; fish caught by you will be cooked before your eyes according to one of the Eastern recipes, and after that you may choose to visit the ancient cities of the Central Asia and touch the history of over 2500 years.

 

And, of course, you’ll bring back fishermen tales about those h-u-g-e fishes you’ve caught!

Discovery Central Asia #21

 

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