Arowanas are a family of long bony fishes found throughout the world. There are several species but this page will focus on the two found in South America - the Silver Arowana and the Black Arowana. They are similar in appearance and both reach over three feet in length. The Silvers grow a little faster than the Blacks but they have similar diets and habits. They are found in the Amazon and its tributaries. They are popular in the aquarium trade and are a relatively hardy and easy to keep fish if you have a large enough tank. See below for a pic of one I had in an aquarium for a few years.
Arowanas are surface oriented fish with eyes near the tops of their heads and they feed on things near the surface of the water. On occasion they will even leap out of the water to snatch small birds and insects. Their diet consists of smaller fish, insects, birds, and basically any other small creature that swims by and fits in their mouths.
Arowanas are generally caught as by catch by fishermen fishing for Peacock Bass. When hooked they put up a spirited fight for their size, generally leaping out of the water multiple times. They have tiny raspy teeth that won't easily bite through your line. Despite their large scales and bony appearance they are actually quite tasty.
When fishing for Arowanas you can use fairly light spinning or baitcast tackle but since they generally live near other larger species like Peacock Bass you probably wouldn't want to. I like to fish with a 25lb fluorocarbon leader but I'm not sure it's necessary. I like the peace of mind of greater abrasion resistence though. Great reels for these are the Daiwa Steez and Daiwa Certate. Click here to see tackle recommendations.
Arowanas are caught on both lures and bait, although in the Amazon they are primarily fished with lures. They can often be seen at the surface under the cover of overhanging trees and bushes.
Because of their surface orientation, small poppers work well. Shallow running jerkbaits such as the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow also work well when fished erratically. Arowanas are not shy and will generally attack most lures that resemble small fish and are twitched in front of their faces.
I have not done any bait fishing for Arowana. Small fish probably work well.
Where to get the big Arowana
The Amazon river tributaries are where you get the big ones. The main river does not have a good fishery and many of the tributaries do not either. The best fisheries are generally slow-moving "blackwater" tributaries. You get a very short window in most areas to fish; usually just a few weeks per year. Most of the year the water level is too high and the water extends into the jungle. The fish head in there and become very spread out and very hard to catch. A good operator will cancel a trip at this point rather than let anglers suffer through poor fishing. The dry season concentrates the fish in a smaller area and makes them much easier to target. However, the dry season can (and nearly always does) vary from year to year in a particular area and rains during the dry season can raise water levels and make fishing tough. This fishery is tough to time but when you do it right it's amazing.
The Amazon fisheries are generally accessed in one of three ways: fixed lodge, mothership, or floating tents/camping. The fixed lodges can offer good fishing but if water levels are off, which they often are, you could be stuck catching few if any fish. Motherships offer more mobility to go where water levels are optimal, although in very dry conditions they may not be able to access all areas. Floating tents/camping offers the most mobility and therefore the best shot at hitting things at the right time. If the fishing is not good, you can move. There is really no way to fish these remote areas on the cheap as many are in restricted Indian reservations and you could be in serious trouble if you just tried to go in there on your own.
In general, the closer to the headwaters you get the less water fluctuation there is.
Guyana is supposed to have a good Arowana fishery but it is not a very developed destination.
Other Arowana Resources
If you want to catch any species in the Amazon, I recommend these guys: www.acuteangling.com. They are reputable and their site has a wealth of information on Arowanas, Peacock Bass and other Amazon species.
Black Arowana caught in Brazil
Black Arowana caught from shore in Brazil on a floating Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow