The big catch

(No.6, Vol.7,Dec 2017-Jan 2018 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Photo: Nguyen Tan Qua

Along the river Thu Bon which flows through Hoi An toward Cua Dai estuary, also called Egret Neck River, there are many framed small mesh fish nets fixed permanently in the same places. Called sitting nets, they are the main fishing tool, typical of river bank areas of Quang Nam Province in general and around Hoi An in particular, reflecting the diversity of trade and culture of Hoi An residents.
It’s an ancient practice in Hoi An, as ancient as the folklore itself. Like any fishing technique used anywhere in the lakes, rivers and seas, fishing with sitting nets has its own peculiarities and requires knowledge and skills. The nets are usually set during the dry season from the first to the seventh lunar month. During the rainy part of the year they are of no use. As it is fixed to one place for a long time, the choice of the location to put it is very important. The water there must be deep. Four strong bamboo poles, long but not too big, are planted to the riverbed so that their other end is about 4m above the water. The bamboo tops are tied together with ropes and a pulley is fixed there. A bamboo pole, fixed in the middle and having one end hung on the pulley serves as a crane, with a framed net fixed to its other end. A strong bamboo tiled square platform is built next to it, above the water, with a roof of palm or water coconut leafs or water proof canvas on top of it and a crankshaft to control the net. That is the fisher’s place. Fishers work mostly from dusk to dawn in the dark of night but some work in day time too. They lower the net, let it sink to the bottom of the river and wait for about one and a half hours. That’s the easy part. Then they lift it up to get what is caught inside. This may require strength and some effort. Fishers use methane fueled or 200 watt electric lamps hung above the center of the net to lure the fish.
Framed sitting nets catch river and brackish fish, shrimps and crabs etc. Most of the fish are small. Big ones are rare. As the net is lifted, a person on a little boat gets beneath it and uses a small stick to push the fish toward a small hole at the center of the net. It is easier to do this in the wind direction, so the fish collector has to control the boat so that the wind blows on his back. There are normally 2 persons operating a net together. One controls the net and the other collects the fish. They also take turn looking after the net and sleeping. When the catch is taken out cleanly, the net is lowered again for the next catch.

* The Vietnamese article was printed on www.hoianheritage.net, 27 June, 2017

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