Oz Chanarat: Bangkok Hooker

Whether it’s going fishing out on a lake, on a dock, or even in a water hazard on a golf course, Oz Chanarat can’t resist the lure of monster fish. This humorous angler is known for his unorthodox methods, and unadulterated reactions. With his new Discovery Channel show coming up, we managed get him on the line for a few quick questions.

Hey Oz, first of all, how did you guys arrive at the title “Bangkok Hooker”? Seems a little, misleading at first.

The year was 2009, I was one year into being a writer/reporter at a local English newspaper called The Bangkok Post. Having spent a year writing for others I wanted a platform to record my fishing adventures. I wanted to come up with a name that I felt best represented what I did as well as having a tongue in cheek element very much like my own personality. I thought, “well, I am from Bangkok and the word ‘Hooker’ literally means one who hooks, which is what I do so yeah, I guess I’ll call the WordPress blog, ‘Bangkokhooker’s Fishing in Thailand’ “. 

Can you tell us a little more about your life, growing up?

I was born in Bangkok and spent most of my childhood in a city surrounded by concrete. Two of those years were spent living in Kuala Lumpur. By 14, I went to a boarding school in Australia. I was always a hyperactive kid.

How did you first get into angling?

My first fishing trip was at the age of three. My great uncle, a man who eventually died from smoking too many cigarettes, took me to a fishing park in Bangkok. I caught nothing. At 11, my dad took me fishing in the Gold Coast from a floating pier by the beach. It was a small little bream but I would never forget the feeling of succeeding at something you put your effort to.

Over the years, I started falling in love with fish in the snakehead family. I would see photos of them in the Thai fishing magazines and was mesmerized by their balance of beauty and ferocity. By the time I was 24 I finally had the financial means and know how to get properly into the sport of snakehead fishing and realised that it was the start of something big.

Have you always wanted your own television show?

Nope, to be honest my goal was to one day get paid to fish. I tried many different methods to make that work and as one thing lead to another I suddenly turned my blog into a TV show (laughs).

What is your craziest fishing story?

It’s on my YouTube channel. Look for two videos titled “Bite Send Hook 1” and “Bite Send Hook 2” (above). Seriously my most eventful fishing trip.

Easily, my most dramatic catch would be the charcoal-colored giant snakehead back in 2014. I was at Kaeng Krachan Reservoir. There was a freak thunderstorm that crashed down during the afternoon. It was the first monsoon of the season. As we went out after the storm, the snakeheads were biting! I caught several but by the time the third one bit, I realised that it wasn’t a small one. In my haste, I set the hook sloppily, launching my fishing rod out of my hands, into the air and straight in the water. With all the adrenaline rushing in my head I jumped in after the rod. I caught the rod and continued to fight it for a few seconds but then the hook flew off.

Wet and cold, I climbed back into the boat and continued fishing with the rescued rod. We found one more spot. I noticed the grass was folded into the bank and realised that this was very likely a giant snakehead nest. Curious, I cast my frog lure into it several times. The fish went for it, making a huge splash, but unfortunately, she missed. I kept casting anyways, and eventually, my efforts came to fruition. The rod is lowered to create slack in the line, the fish takes the frog into her mouth and shoots off. The fish pulled and pulled out line from the drag, and in fact, the narrow long tail boat we were in was getting pulled into the depths. Finally I felt her pressure lighten. Her burst of adrenaline had been spent, and fatigue was setting in. “Let’s bring her up!” I yelled to the camera standing on the tripod in the boat. And just as I say that, my rod breaks. Oh shit. But wait! The line didn’t get cut in the process! I kept fighting, now with half a rod in my hand and the other have floating near the fish’s mouth. My boatman then hands me this homemade instrument which was literally a squash racket with a net weaved into it. So with half a rod in my hand, and a net the size of a small squash racquet, I try to score the fish of a lifetime. Yeah, it was a little stressful but I finally got her in. She was completely black, a stage they stay in for about 2-3 weeks a year before laying their eggs. It’s also when they are at their strongest and most aggressive. I weighed her in at 7.23kg but her strength was insane. I let took some pictures and then her go to raise the next generation of badass mother fuckers.

Oz with an Arapaima he caught at a golf course

Why do you suppose viewers love shows about monster fish?

Because when one looks at a marvelous specimen of fish, it’s not just a fish. It represents millions of years of evolution. When a fish gets caught by an angler, the viewers don’t just see a fish, they see a history of biology and the technique that had to be mastered to catch it.

Apart from entertainment, will your show provide some education about the world’s depleting fish populations?

I will always adhere to the concepts of responsible catch and release. In the few times that we do catch and cook a fish, we remember to keep only what we need while releasing the rest. 

Do you prefer deep sea fishing, or more river/freshwater fishing?

I love them all. Each style has its own charm and challenges to overcome.  

Sum up Bangkok Hooker in three words.

I’m a little too complex for three words (laughs).

Join Oz on his crazy fishing adventure through Thailand from the comfort of your couch in his new show Bangkok Hooker. Premiering July 3, 9pm on Discovery Channel.

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