Clown Knife Fish (Notopterus chitala)

Clown Knife Fish

  • Size 10-20 inches
  • Food Value Average
  • Game Qualities Good
  • Habitats Inshore

Clown Knifefish is one of the most distinct looking gamefish you’ll ever hook into. This species was named after her unique physical features, including a long anal fin shaped like a curved sword and a series of black-and-white spots. Not only is this fish unforgettable, but highly elusive, as well. Naturally, this makes her popular among anglers!

How Big?

Clown Knifefish are popular as aquarium fish and don’t typically grow larger than 10-12” when living in a tank. In the wild, however, this fish can grow to more than 3 feet long.  The IGFA record for Clown Knifefish is 14 lb 0 oz (6.35 kg).

Where and When

This species is native to the rivers of Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. It’s been introduced to various other regions as well, including Palm Beach County, FL–where it accidentally took up residence after someone emptied their aquarium into a local canal.

South Florida is the only place in the United States where anglers will find Clown Knifefish, specifically in the Lake Ida chain of lakes from Boca Raton to West Palm Beach.

Clown Knifefish

Clown Knifefish caught in Boca Raton, Florida

How to Fish

Clown Knifefish are nocturnal, which makes them elusive to many anglers. The key is to look for these fish near structure like submerged trees, dock pilings, and bridges.

You can rely on a baitcasting or spinning reel to catch this fish, with at least 30 lb test line. Braided line and several feet of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader are recommended. A fast action rod and a reel with smooth drag are ideal, since this fish will bolt as soon as she knows she’s hooked. As if this species was not already challenging enough to catch, she can also swim backwards, making it hard to get her into the landing net!

Good to Eat?

Anglers in Florida are more interested in Clown Knifefish for sport than for food, but it is edible and has a lot of commercial value in the countries its native to. People eat the flesh of this fish minced, rolled into balls, and cooked with curry.


Top Clown Knife Fish Fishing Charters