Fish provide an important source of iodine – otherwise lacking in the Kyrgyz diet – and is a popular form of food.
Today, there are some 54 species found in Kyrgyzstan – 38 of them indigenous and 16 introduced. The greatest diversity is found in Issyk Kul and the larger rivers … depending on the waterflow and number of different habitats available. Only a few species are found in most 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 Issyk Kul region, Son Kul and the various reservoirs - some having a serious effect on the populations of local indigenous species. Fish were introduced into Lake Son Kul in 1959. Although Chatyr Kul has no fish – it does have some freshwater shrimps.
The species of fish that can be found include varieties of: Sturgeons; Salmon; Trout; Whitefish; Peled; Pike; Roach; Dace; Minnow; Rudd; Asp; Tench; Gudgeon; Barbel; Marinka; Osman; Bream; Carp; Goldfish; Loach; Catfish (including the Som); Sticklebacks, 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 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 fell in love with the area and decided to retire here. He had so much success fishing from his home made boat 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 honour: Riybachie - “The Fisherman”.
Angling takes place on a number of mountain rivers, Lake Issyk Kul, Son Kul and several of the reservoirs. It requires a permit and there are restrictions on the size of catch permitted (e.g. upto five kilograms per day and for some species – upto 5 fish). The permits are not expensive – although there are different rates for locals, citizens of CIS countries and citizens of other countries. Fishing at night is not allowed. Although Celestial Mountains do not operate fishing tours several companies do.
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 or observations were carried out by Russian explorers. A standard reference book, “Fish of Kyrgyzstan” was published in 1990. In 2004, a book called “Looking at Fishes in Kyrgyzia” was published – as a direct result of the work of the TACIS West Tien Shan Biodiversity project. It has text in both Russian and English and a large number of illustrations. It 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
Joost van der Ven, in his book “Looking at Birds in the Kyrgyz Republic” devotes a special chapter to cranes and the migratory routes that bring three different species to Kyrgyzstan. These long legged, long necked, migratory birds with powerful wings, live either in marshlands on the steppes where ...
There are several different types of birds of prey (eagles, vultures, hawks, Bustards and so forth) found in the Kyrgyz Republic – the largest is the Golden Eagle - Berkut.The wings of a young Golden Eagle tend to be light coloured with a dark line along the edge – an older eagle will have a white tail ...
Yaks are large animals, they can reach two metres in height, a relative of cattle. As long ago as 3000 years ago, they were first tamed by man. Domestic yaks tend to be smaller and quieter than wild ones. They don’t need special care and they are able to survive on scanty mountain vegetation. As well ...
The wolf has a bad reputation throughout the world. Perhaps part of this in modern times is due to the prevelance of Werewolf stories and films. There are a number of species of wolves found throughout the Republic, and their reputation is no better here than elsewhere – especially as they seen as a ...
Marco Polo sheep
Marco Polo's Sheep (Ovis ammon polii) are a variety of Argali. They are also known as Great Tibetan Sheep, Pamir Argali, and Great Pamir Sheep. They are mainly known for their characteristicly large swirling horns.Some scholars have doubted the accuracy of Marco Polo’s accounts of his journey to Cathay ...
Tigers and cheetahs once roamed through the forests of Kyrgyzstan – but the Snow Leopard is the only example of the “Big Cats” still to be found in Kyrgyzstan. They are extremely athletic – capable of making huge leaps over ravines – and can bring down prey almost three times their own size. They ...