The end of our fifth season at Pirarucu left us with much to celebrate! When we started Pirarucu in 2015, the Mamirauá Reserve was preparing for sustainable commercial fishing from the native communities. After a 15-year effort, they obtained the license to manage and harvest a small percentage of the arapaima in the most protected zone of the 1.2 million hectare reserve.
The Mamirauá Reserve was the model of protection in the Amazon for arapaima. The area is a gigantic feeding and spawning ground for arapaima, tambaquis, arowana, and several other fish species. It has hundreds of miles of water connected by lakes, lagoons, channels, and the two most important rivers of the central Brazilian Amazon - the Solimoes (Amazon River) and the Japura River. Both rivers meet in the tip of the reserve and the interflow of these massive bodies of waters creates a varzea jungle - one of the most amazing tropical jungle environments on earth.
The simplest way to describe a varzea jungle is a marshland with gigantic trees, and it has land that stays underwater for 4-6 months. This creates a fantastic food chain inside the jungle and most of the fish species benefit from the healthy ecosystem that is created by the flooded jungle. The arapaima have an incomparable natural habitat in this area. The Mamirauá Reserve is the most protected varzea jungle in the Amazon and holds an astonishing population of wild arapaima and perhaps even the biggest anywhere.
The core of the reserve is the Mamirauá lake, the system surrounding the lake is truly an arapaima sanctuary. Everyone who has experienced this core zone has noticed the astonishing population of arapaima that start to enter in the reserve at the beginning of the dry season until the beginning of the high water season. The number of fish rolling is simply ridiculous. This is the area where the natives were planning to harvest arapaima and this is when fly fishing came to the scene. A project was proposed that not only avoided the commercial fishing threat to the ecosystem but it also created new opportunities that protected this massive population of wild arapaima while bringing very significant economic benefits to the natives (included in all of our projects as 50/50 partners). These economic benefits are much higher than their estimated profits for the harvesting a percentage of fish every season. Most importantly, this option is sustainable. So yes, fly fishing is helping to preserve the most important wild arapaima reserve in the Amazon, we truly have all the anglers who have visited this area to thank for your contribution to protecting these fish. We are proud to be the connection between the fly fishing community and these people from the jungle and their giant arapaima.
That said, we had some amazing fishing during the 2019 season. 50 anglers fishing an average of 4.5 days in our 62-day season, more than 200 arapaima were landed! Considering that the ratio of fish hooked to landed is about 5:1, we had more than 1,000 arapaima taking flies, and two of the four biggest fish ever caught with us were landed! Matt landed a 239cm leviathan, and Jako caught a 237cm beast. For the natives of eight different native communities, the economic benefits were approximately $100,000 (U.S.) for just a 62-day season. This helps them improve their quality of life and, at the same time, protect their forests.
As for the 2020 season, we have some exciting news: we have got an approval from the natives and the government to explore a new area that fly anglers have never fished before and promises to be packed with big tambaqui and arapaima. We also plan to start an arapaima tagging program that will help us understand more about the migration, biology, and population of the arapaima at Mamirauá.
Thanks to all who believe in this project and came to experience Pirarucu in 2019 and thank you to the dedicated staff that made this season so great. The arapaima are waiting for you in 2020!