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January 6, 2017

Fishing on the Sarawak

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Night time fishing is rare in the river in front of my condo. However, there is one boat out there every night, and the owner fishes until long after I go to bed. I know because when I have get up during the night, he is still there.


He has a powerful flashlight (torch to everyone else) and he slowly moves it across the water about a meter from the boat. The boat is about five and half meters long (18 feet to Americans) and has seats to hold passengers. It is a daytime ferry to cross the river and a fishing boat by night.


From my wife Suriani, who went fishing with her father, the return of the beam indicates what's down there. Two red reflections is an udang (a sort of lobster). Two yellow reflections means a fish. Two golden reflections means a salt water crocodile.


When the man sees several red reflections, he know that it's time to stop and anchor because the udang fishing will possibly be good. He always seems to stop just west of the buoy in front of my condo, however.


He then gathers his fishing net with one hand and flings it outward into the water. It forms a rectangle and sinks to the bottom of the river. He slowly pulls it in as the weighted corners close around the contents. The udang is then harvested. He will throw the net around the boat in clockwise fashion for most of the night, letting the current move more udang into his net. The fish are thrown back. If he snares a crocodile, then most of his fishing gear will be lost as he will not fight the man eater back into the boat.


The major problem with the man vs crocodile is that both seem to meet at the same time. Men go into the river at dusk to bathe before sunset prayers and that is when the crocks begin their hunting. There are many people lost at this time of day.


It takes time and skill to learn to throw the net. I know, I have tried. I flung the net for about an hour, in daylight and on shore into the river and did not get the hang of it. But, I realize he was probably fishing for his dinner.


Daytime fishing usually occurs in the morning and afternoons. It is just too hot from 11-3 for either man or fish to be out or close to the surface of the water. The fisherman usually have three poles lining the side of the small two seat boat.


The bait is usually a worm. In most instances it is a kompon. A trunk of a rotting palm tree is found. The fisherman pulls up the trunk and living underneath is a long (about a meter; three feet) segmented worm. The worm is then cut up into sections. The rotting palm trunk is placed back into the water.


If the guy is fishing for prawns, a hook, shaped like a question mark, is used. He will place the bait on the end and reel in the shellfish. A fish hook is like the ones we use in the States with a barb on the end. It is used for fish. The Fish and Wildlife Service go after man eating crocs with rifles.


...Life is good. . . . .


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