Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008

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Particularities of the Kyrgyz fishing

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 important.

A large 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.

The 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 bullheads.

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.

Angling 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.

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #3

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