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Lake Biwa and the creatures inside: Fishing in the largest lake of Japan

By cinnamonellie, grape Japan

Biwa-ko (琵琶湖), known as Lake Biwa in English, is one of the largest lakes in Japan and is the only ancient lake of the archipelago that has been around for approximately 4 million years.

Biwa-ko is situated right at the center of the beautiful Shiga Prefecture, and due to its diverse natural resources, it is also abundant in many species of plants and animals.

Biwa-ko is well-known for fishing and its variety of fish species and subspecies. More than 1,000 species have been discovered so far, and inside the lake, you can find around 46 species that are native, such as the cyprinids (belonging to the carp family).

 Some of the most popular species are the black bass and bluegill, two of the species non-natives to the area.

One of my favorites is ayu 鮎 (sweetfish), from the family of Plecoglossidae, a type of fish that can often be spotted in Japan, and that is super delicious to eat grilled with a pinch of salt.

I also like having bass as it’s delicious and has a delicate, mild flavor. I once had it as sashimi, and I can honestly say it tasted as good as maguro (tuna).

What other species can you find in Biwa-ko

  • Biwa salmon (Biwamasu 琵琶鱒): it is tasty, but not so fatty. I feel that it’s perfect when I want something lighter for my lunch.
  • Minnow (Honmoroko 本諸子) that belongs to the Cyprinidae species mentioned above: I like it a lot as it’s very delicious when grilled.
  • Round Crucian carp (Nigorobuna 煮頃鮒): This fish is unique to Biwa-ko, and it is usually used for funazushi 鮒ずし (nigoro-buna fish filled with rice and fermented). I know that fermented fish might not sound appealing at first, but it is a delicacy in Japan, and it tastes heavenly, so you won’t regret giving it a chance.
  • (Biwa) Rock Catfish (Iwatoko-namazu 岩床鯰). In my country, we usually eat namazu 鯰 (catfish), but when I tell Japanese people that, they always give me strange looks. However, with the Iwatoko-namazu, it is a different story! Even the Japanese will say “Oishii!” (so tasty!) after eating this one!

The above fish are only a few of my recommendations, but there is so much more to discover.

Besides the many fish species and subspecies, you can also find a variety of mollusks. One of the most well-known ones is seta clams / setashijimi 瀬田蜆, which also happens to be one of my favorites.


Bass fishing is popular in Shiga Prefecture, and the big bass, that broke the world record, was caught, in no other but Lake Biwa of Japan!

If you go with your family, I also recommend Nango Fisheries Center 滋賀県南郷水産センター, where you can fish ayu, trout, and cook it right there.

If you are interested in fishing more species (including bass), I recommend the Okubiwako Campground. There, you can also rent equipment, enjoy a day in nature, and the many other outdoor activities available.

Besides renting a boat and go fishing, I enjoy strolling around, and if the weather is nice, you can also take a nice cold bath in the lake.

If you plan on going to Shiga Prefecture, don’t forget to try out the local cuisine, sightsee and try out catching your fish. It is a fun experience that any generation would enjoy.

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© grape Japan

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Am a big fan of eating bass, but would not eat any freshwater fish raw.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Interesting there is a salmon species in the lake. Do they migrate to the sea and return as with other salmon or are they different and maybe not a true salmon? Just curious because I don't associate salmon with fresh water lakes.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

One of the largest lakes?

Love sailing and racing on Biwako...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If I ever get a chance to fish Lake Biwa I want to try to get one of these guys:

giant Lake Biwa catfish or Biwako-o'namazu (ビワコオオナマズ) they get to about 120cm & about 40lbs impressive beasts!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Biwa lake is also known for Biwa Pearl, or at least here in North America some pearls are sold under that name

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No surprise that the American commenter failed to realise that the article was written by a Japanese person... and that they still cling to the word "expat"....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Interesting how expats always know more about countries they invade then the local residents.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

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