The croaking gourami (Trichopsis vittata) is a small freshwater fish found in Southeast Asia. This member of the gourami family is a labyrinth fish. That means it can breathe air from above the water. One way to find the croaking gourami to wait for them to come to the surface and take a gulp. Other gouramis and labyrinth fish like the climbing perch suck in air more often though. So you might have to be patient or really keep your eyes open.
In the United States the croaking gourami is mainly seen in the aquarium trade. Though there are reportedly some croaking gourami in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida where humans have introduced them into the wild. In countries like Cambodia the croaking gourami is a fairly common food fish. They’re often caught in nets. But they can be caught on hook and line too.
Croaking gourami are most commonly an incidental catch. People hook them while fishing for other species or just looking for whatever bites. Few people would out to target them specifically. A possible exception would be people into microfishing or adding another species to their life lists. They’re a fun fish to catch.
How to find and identify croaking gourami
Croaking gourami are elongated fish with dark markings. They don’t grow longer than 2 3/4 inches (7 cm). Most are smaller than that. They have black lateral lines or stripes along their bodies. Strikingly they have blue eyes. Males can also take on a blueish hue at times.
The croaking gourami looks a lot like the betta prima. But they are found in different environments. Betta prima live in clear mountain streams and small ponds. Croaking gourami are found in slow moving bodies of water like ponds, rice paddies and streams that often have discolored water. Croaking gouramis also have elongated pelvic fins that almost resemble antennae.
At 5.5 centimeters long this is an average fish
The croaking gourami gets its common name from its ability to create a croaking sound by rubbing its pectoral fins together. I’ve caught a lot of croaking gourami. But I have never actually heard one make a sound. I have definitely heard freshwater drum and channel catfish make noise though that’s a little different. Croaking gourami make noises under water during the breeding process. Channel cats and drums also make noise as a sort of distress signal when caught.
Croaking gourami are native to mainland Southeast Asia. They are reported in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Vietnam. I’ve caught a number of them in Cambodia. They’re relatively easy to find in the main stream flowing out of West Baray in Siem Reap and Rolous Stream in the village of Ta Prak during and immediately following the rainy season. They can also be found in a lot of other areas.
How to catch croaking gourami
Croaking gourami would be tough to target individually. They usually live in murky water along many other species of fish. So it would difficult to single them out. I’ve always caught them while fishing for other available fish in a given area. So I’ve found them mixed in with other more plentiful species like parasikukia maculata and the silver flying fox.
Rigging to catch croaking gourami is pretty simply if you’ve got the right tackle. Since they’re small fish with small mouths you will want to use microfishing tackle if at all possible. If not, just scale down to the smallest traditional tackle you can find. I’ve seen people miss bite after bite from these little fish and the others found with them because their hooks were too large. A small fish like this just can’t fit a traditional hook in its mouth.
This croaking gourami took a small piece of worm
I typically use a simply microfishing float rig to catch croaking gouramis. There are ready made microfishing rigs available from companies like Owner and Marufuji. But you can also make your own. To do that I cut a piece of line the same length as my pole. That’s normally about 70 inches (180 cm). Then I tie one end of the line to the end of my rod. Next I slide a microfishing float on to my line. Again you can buy these already made or you can fashion your own out of foam. After that, I pinch on a micro split shot. Then I tie on a small clip. Finally I attach my snelled microfishing hook to the that clip. If you didn’t have a microfishing hook you could tie a size 24-32 fly tying hook to your line instead.
Live bait is the best thing for catching croaking gouramis. I just pinch off a tiny piece of worm and attach it to my hook. I do mean tiny. A lot of times I use a pair of tweezers to cut off the smallest piece of worm I can find. If I don’t have any worms handy I will use a tiny piece of Gulp maggots. That also works well. But it doesn’t work as well as worms.
Fish in the margins around the bank. Look for slower water. Suspend the bait a little up off the bottom with your float. When your float goes under water or starts to move in any direct, set the hook. If there are croaking gouramis around you will probably get into one or two. Just don’t expect to catch a bunch in the same place. They’re not as common as other species like climbing perch that you find in the same areas.