Comprehensive guide and information
on angling, sport fishing, fishing in India. Mahseer fishing, river
fishing, lake fishing, fly fishing, also details on obtaining fishing
licenses and fishing permits in India.
Few anglers in the West realize that India, with its dozens of rivers
and thousands of streams, offers vast opportunities for sport fishing
and angling. Whether you’re the type who likes to string a worm onto a
makeshift line and catch your own dinner- or a thoroughbred professional
angler with the latest in fishing tackle- India’s waters, both fresh and
salt, can be a pleasant surprise. The country has an estimated 50,000 km
of waters- rivers, streams, and lakes included- and an additional 3,000
km of coastline, and although sport fishing is still the preserve of a
very select elite, there’s definitely a lot of scope for some satisfying
angling. Major rivers like the Ganga and its tributaries, the Yamuna,
the Brahmaputra, the Mahanadi, the Krishna and the Kaveri are home to a
wide spectrum of fish, including mahseer, rohu, katli, and trout. The
coastal waters lapping the shores of peninsular India harbor marine
sport fish such as mackerel, marlin and sea bass.
What makes angling or sport fishing easy in India is that most major
cities lie along rivers, as a result of which getting to a suitable
fishing spot is generally not a problem. Furthermore, most states have
well-organized Departments of Fisheries, where special hatcheries ensure
that there’s always a gene pool of local and exotic fish. Fish
sanctuaries and hatcheries in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar
Pradesh and other states through which major rivers flow, maintain a
vast stock of fish which are specially bred for re-stocking rivers.
It probably won’t be long before veteran anglers will be able to
attribute some of the `biggest ones’ to Indian rivers.
Timing your trip
Angling or sport fishing is possible on Indian rivers almost throughout
the year, although most state authorities forbid angling during the
monsoon months, when fish are breeding. Regional variations in climate,
can however, cause hindrances: most of the Himalayas, for instance, are
too cold to allow any angling during the winter months. On the whole,
October to November and mid-February to mid-May are the best times to go
sport fishing in India.
Licenses and permits
Fishing licenses are mandatory for all eager anglers, so go to the
designated official before you throw your line into the water, or you
just might find yourself being hauled off and penalised. In most cases,
fishing licenses are not issued during the monsoon (when most fish
species breed); in addition, most licenses are issued for only a
specified stretch of water. Furthermore, there are stipulations that all
fish caught must be released into the water, and anglers are restricted
to a specified number of fish per day.
Angling licenses can be obtained from the
organizations and offices listed below, for fishing in the corresponding
state or region:
Kerala High Range Angling Association, Munnar
Coorg Coorg Wildlife Association, Madikeri
Karnataka Wildlife Association of South India, Bangalore
Tamilnadu Palni Hills Game Association, Kodaikanal
Assistant Director of Fisheries, Udhagamandalam
West Bengal Fisheries Department, Mirik
Assam Angling Association, Tejpur
Maharashtra Fish Association of Powai Lake, Mumbai
Tata Hydroelectric Works, Lonavla
Delhi Assistant Warden of Fisheries, Delhi Administration, at Okhla
Uttar Pradesh Fishing Association, Dehradun
Forest Department, Corbett National Park
Municipal Corporation, Nainital (for fishing in Naini Tal)
Jammu & Kashmir J&K Department of Fish Preservation, Srinagar
Himachal Pradesh District Fisheries Officer, Dharamshala
Himachal Fisheries Department (Katrain/Barot/Sangla/Rohru)
If you’re a foreigner, and heading off to the Lakshadweep or Andaman &
Nicobar Islands to do some sport fishing, you’ll need a permit from the
Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi- or an authorised official in the
state. The same applies to certain areas of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and
Kashmir and other border states.
Things to bring
Patience- and lots of it. Angling requires oodles of patience, and the
ability to keep still and quiet for hours on end- and then the skill to
battle it out with a heavyweight fish of up to 200 kg for the next hour
And now to the more mundane. The basic fishing equipment required
includes rods, lines, hooks, reel, flies, spinners, spoons and bait- in
the form of worms, paste or other lure. Light, waterproof clothing-
brown or green in color- is essential, as are waterproof shoes or light
sandals which can easily be slipped off to drain out sand or water.
Sunscreen, a light hat and dark glasses are necessary, and during the
winter make sure you’re well clad with sufficient woolens and a
High quality angling equipment for angling is not widely available for
hire in India, although some outfits in popular areas like Garhwal and
the Nilgiris do provide equipment on hire.
Accommodation and other facilities
In most cases, finding suitable accommodation shouldn’t be too much
bother, as many of India’s biggest cities and towns lie along rivers.
Even if there’s not much fishing within an urban area, fishing beats
will usually be close enough for you to stay in a town and drive out in
the morning to the beat you’ve chosen. In cases where beats lie far from
urban areas, there are generally state-operated forest lodges or fishing
lodges in close proximity. These won’t be the height of luxury, but you
can depend upon them for basic necessities. In rare cases you might need
to take along a tent and pitch camp.
In an attempt to encourage game fishing in India, the national and state
tourism departments have started providing leaflets and brochures on
areas where fishing is possible. These leaflets usually contain fairly
accurate and detailed information on where to go, what are the
facilities available in the area, where angling equipment can be hired,
and what licenses will be required. More information can invariably be
obtained from the state tourism departments in India.
Some travel agencies and tour operators in India cater to anglers and
will provide everything from equipment and experienced guides to
boarding, lodging and transportation. Major cities and those close to
angling and sport fishing grounds often have such travel agents; further
information and assistance can always be obtained from the local
wildlife, forests or fisheries department.
Rivers n’ beats
The main river stretches suitable for angling are in the lower
Himalayas, the Satpuras, and the Aravalis, all of which have rivers
teeming with a wide range of fish. India’s rivers have approximately 31
species of freshwater fish which are of interest to anglers; these
include trout (brown and rainbow trout, both introduced species);
murrel, catfish and cyprinids.
Unfortunately, some of northern India’s best fishing beats, on the
rivers of Jammu and Kashmir, are no longer recommended, because of the
ongoing turmoil in the state. In quieter times, rivers like the Lidder,
Indus, Jhelum and smaller tributaries like the Bringhi, Aru and
Sheshnag- all replete with fish, especially brown trout- were a haven
for anglers. Until peace returns to the area, however, it’s unsafe to
The Ganga and Yamuna
The Coastal Waters
Arising in the Himalayan mountains along India’s easternmost frontier
with China, the Brahmaputra works its way through the far eastern states
of the country, foaming through gorges and gushing over rocky beds till
it reaches the Sunderbans delta in Bangladesh. The Brahmaputra, its
tributaries and a number of smaller streams and rivers in eastern India-
including the Rangeet, the Teesta and the Lohit (as the Brahmaputra’s
known in Arunachal Pradesh)- are home to two main sport fish, locally
known as the katli (or bokar) and the jhungha. In places, brown trout
and mahseer can also be found. The Teesta, in particular, is known for
its excellent mahseer.
Arunachal Pradesh, one of India’s easternmost states, is also one of the
best places to go angling in the east. The state is bisected by the
Lohit river and a number of smaller streams, all of which offer ample
opportunity for reeling in some of the biggest fish you’re likely to
catch. Try Tezu, on the Lohit, or Tipi and Bhalukpong (on the Bhoroli
river), and Pashighat (on the Siang River). Itanagar, the capital of
Arunachal Pradesh, is connected to the nearest airport (Lilabari) and
the closest railhead (Harmuty) by road. Beyond Itanagar, accommodation
and other facilities are rather sparse, so you’ll probably end up
staying in a camp, or, if you’re lucky, in a guesthouse.
In Assam, mahseer fishing is possible on the Manas river, at the Manas
Tiger Reserve. Manas is about 176 km from Guwahati, which is connected
by air to most major airports in India. The nearest railhead is Barpeta
Road, 41 km from Manas.
The Mahanadi, Kaveri, Krishna and Godavari
The four major rivers of peninsular India- the Mahanadi, the Kaveri,
Krishna and Godavari- have the advantage of being open to angling and
sportfishing almost throughout the year, barring a short spell in the
monsoon when the fish are breeding. Prominent species in the peninsular
rivers include the high-backed mahseer, the purree, the khudchee and the
The Nilgiris have a number of streams, rivers and pools where good trout
fishing is possible. Among the best trout streams are the Peermund
stream, Kalkundi stream, Portimund stream, Mekod river, and the Chembar
stream. The Mukurthi Lake and the reservoirs created by the Avalanche
and Emerald rivers also are well-stocked with trout.
Good angling is possible in the streams around Munnar, and Elephant Lake
(in Munnar) is particularly renowned for its excellent trout. Munnar is
accessible via road from Kochi- it’s a four hour drive- and from other
cities and towns in southern India.
The Kaveri, in Karnataka, is the prime angling or sportfishing river.
Mysore, one of the main cities in the state (and with road, rail and air
links to the rest of India), is located conveniently close to the
Kaveri, and anglers can stay either in the city or at the Kaveri Fishing
Lodge, slightly outside Mysore. The waters around the lodge, which is on
the banks of the river, are a good place to fish for mahseer.
The Ganga and Yamuna
The Ganga, the Yamuna and their tributaries
The rivers flowing southwards from the Himalayas harbour a vast number
of fish, including the well-respected and much coveted mahseer, a
cyprinid which is considered by veterans to be one of the most difficult
fish to reel in- as good, some feel, as the famed Atlantic salmon. The
mahseer’s been dubbed the `King of Indian sportfish’, and with good
reason too. The largest of the carp and minnow family, the mahseer
includes a number of different sub-species such as the red-finned
mahseer, the yellow-finned mahseer and the copper mahseer. The largest
can weigh up to 220 kg, and they’re capable of putting up a very stiff
fight. The time taken to pull in a mahseer is supposedly in ratio to its
weight- 5 minutes for every 5 pounds.
Other game fish found in the rivers of northern India include trout,
rohu, katla, alwan, chhiruh, kalbose, murrel and catfish. Catfish are a
particularly popular choice with Indian anglers, as they’re easy to
bait, are good fighters, and are prized for their tasty, boneless flesh.
Although the polluted and muddy waters of the Yamuna at Delhi may not
appear very promising to most anglers, they actually harbour about eight
species, including catfish and a local humpbacked species known as the
moh. The best beats in Delhi are along Okhla.
Ever since Jammu and Kashmir became off-limits for eager anglers,
Himachal Pradesh has acquired the status of prime fishing locale. The
Kullu Manali region, especially the Larji Valley, is crisscrossed by a
number of streams which finally meet the Beas river. Most of these
streams have good brown trout, besides other local species. Kullu,
linked through domestic airlines to most major cities in India, is also
accessible via road from almost anywhere in northern India. Kullu has
ample accommodation, and is a convenient base for angling tours around
Further north, the Baspa river is replete with trout, and along the
Sangla Valley are dozens of good beats where prime specimens can be
caught. Kasol, Bathad and Banjar are more acclaimed for mahseer.
Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal
The Shivaliks, stretching across the mountainous state of Uttaranchal,
offer good fishing- both in rivers and streams as well as in lakes. The
Ramganga and Sharda rivers and the area’s lakes- Nainital, Dodital in
particular- are great for trout and mahseer fishing. On the Ganga, the
stretches around Beasghat and Gangalehri are good for mahseer.
Convenient bases for fishing beats include Rishikesh (linked by rail to
Hardwar and by road to the rest of the country); the Corbett National
Park and Nainital, both of which have road connections to cities and
towns all over northern India.
The Coastal Waters
India’s 3,000 km long coastline offers abundant opportunities for
angling, and port towns like Mumbai, Kandla, Nhava Sheva, Marmagao,
Kochi, Kolkatta/Haldia, Paradip, Vishakhapatnam, Chennai and Tuticorin
have facilities for coastal fishing. Fishing is possible in coastal
waters and in estuaries, and also at Chilka Lake in Orissa. The Andaman
and Nicobar Islands and the Lakshadweep Islands too are rich in marine
life, although conservation laws in these areas have put a large portion
of the waters off-limits for anglers.
The main saltwater fish found along India’s coasts include snapper,
perch, sea bass, shark, jacks, mackerel, marlin, tuna, tripletail,
sailfish and snook.