Fish provide an important
sourse of iodine otherwise lacking in the Kyrgyz diet and is a popular
form of food.
Today, there are some 54 species of fish found in
Kyrgyzstan, 38 of them indigenous and 16 introduced. The greatest
diversity is found in Issyk Kul and those larger rivers with suitable
waterflow and number of different habitats available. Only a few
species are found in the rest of the country and most lakes feature
only two or three species. These are mostly small and not commercially
variety of fish have been introduced into the waters of Kyrgyzstan
mainly into the areas around Issyk Kul, Son Kul and the various
reservoirs. Some have had a serious effect on the populations of local
indigenous species. Fish were introduced into Lake Son Kul in 1959 and
although Chatyr Kul has no fish it does have some freshwater shrimps.
species of fish that can be found include varieties of sturgeon,
salmon, trout, whitefish, peled, pike, roach, dace, minnow, rudd, asp,
tench, gudgeon, bardel, marinka, osman, bream, carp, goldfish, loach,
catfish (including the som), stickleback, perch, zander, snakeheads and
Fishing is an important activity on Lake Issyk
Kul. The name of the town at the Western end of the lake, Balykchi, is
the Kyrgyz equivalent of the town's former Russian name, Rybachi, which
loosely translates as “fisherman”. (Ryba is the
Russian word for fish.) There is a story that a Russian soldier serving
in the region made a boat and that many local people came to settle
nearby, followed his example and took up fishing the waters of the
lake. When he died, it is said that the town that had grown up around
his hut was named in his honor.
takes place on Lakes Issyk Kul and Son Kul, as well as on a number of
mountain rivers and several of the reservoirs. It requires a permit and
there are restrictions on the size of catch permitted (up to five
kilograms per day and for some species up to five fish). The permits
are not expensive although there are different rates for locals,
citizens of CIS countries and citizens of other countries. Night
fishing is not allowed.
A recent development has been the introduction of
fish farming with a productive farm situated just south of Bishkek.
The fish of Kyrgyzstan have been studied over the
centuries. Early studies and observations were carried out by Russian
explorers. In 2004, the findings of a West Tien Shan Biodeversity
project were published in Russian and English with many illustrations.
The book details the habitat and distinct features of each type of fish
found in the waters of the Kyrgyz Republic and offers an invaluable
guide for identification.