Tet is the peak month catching Chinese pangas-catfish, this catfish species has high economic value that can help fishermen “having a well-off life” after a fishing season. The wharf is still immense but the fishermen are unhappy because of the effects of Covid-19 epidemic, the price is not high and the caught amount is increasingly less.
Gifts of the river
Chinese pangas-catfish is a generous gift from the river to fishermen, helping them to have a stable income every year. They can earn dozens of millions in a favorable fishing season. Chinese pangas-catfish appears on rivers, but especially on Vam Nao river, the section which runs through Phu Tan, Cho Moi, Chau Phu districts of An Giang province is the most abundant place.
For many generations, fishermen in Vam Nao region have earned dozens of million each season, the fishing season starts from December to April of the following lunar year.
Although chinese pangas-catfish is a family of catfish, its economic value is very high compared to pangasius or howling fish. The price is from 150,000-200,000 VND/1kg, so the fishermen can earn millions if they catch a fish of more than 5kg.
Fishermen who specialize in hunting chinese pangas-catfish share, this is a very mysterious fish, even though fishermen have been catching them for many years, for example, where did the fish come from and why do they choose Vam Nao as a “lair”? Does this place have many niches for them to hide? Why they only appear more from December to April of the lunar calendar and then “disappear”?
The fishermen said, hunting chinese pangas-catfish cannot rely on experience, but only on luck. It takes them 3-5 hours to release and collect their net, the nets get a lot of fish if they are lucky, and vice versa, there is only the trash and water hyacinths. Usually, hunting from 9 pm until dawn the next day gets more fish than the time from 5 – 7 pm.
Fish source is not the same as before
We visited an isle of Tan Trung commune, Phu Tan district, where the hunting season of chinese pangas-catfish taken place when the sun shadowed. Fisherman Truong Van An shows off a giant chinese pangas-catfish weighing more than 5 kg that he has just caught. The fishermen said that chinese pangas-catfish caught by the net is usually big, weighs from 4 kg or even 10 kg.
Fishermen An said, the flood water level was low last year, so this year the source of this fish also decreased. In previous years, they can get a few fish in one night but at the moment, they sometimes catch no fish all night. However, a thing that makes fishermen feel worried most is that the fish caught is low while the price is not high.
“In the past, 1kg of fish costs 170,000 VND or more, and even 250,000 to 300,000 VND before and at Tet, but this year Tet, the price is only from 100,000 to 200,000 VND”, said a fisherman.
It is going dark, the wind blows strongly driving small boats swaying along the waves. Chinese pangas-catfish is known as the “king” catfish because of its delicious meat, at the peak time, its price is higher than one-tenth of a tael gold. Although this is one of the “expensive” fish, the fishermen still can not escape the poor for many generations. There are still small boats, still austere faces. Catfish hunting looks simple but “extremely hundred faces”. This career looks simple but very hard, they must go in pairs to complement each other, when it is rainy and windy at night, they have to roll the nets quickly because the small boats can not withstand big waves so it is easy to be sunk.
During waiting time, the fishermen tell stories to kill spare time, many people sigh worriedly because the quantity of fish is gradually less.
The fishermen confided that, at Tet in previous years, the fishermen usually take rest, But in recent years, the fish is less and less, and the price is increasing, sometimes up to 200,000-250,000 VND, so fishermen till work, except for New Year’s Eve.
In the previous hunting seasons, a net pulled up with more than four fish at the same time, each often weighs more than 5 kg, but now two fish in one net is considered as a piece of luck. They catch a few dozen fish in a season instead of hundreds as before. In the past, some farmers even change to this job completely since it has a much higher income compared to farming.
Even in the past, many farmers found that catching catfish in a season had too high an income compared to gardening, so they switched to fishing.
After a time, the source of natural chinese pangas-catfish is less and less, the fishermen are bored with hardships in the river, sometimes loss of petrol cost, empty-handed after a hard night so they quit. It is also the general situation in the catfish hunting wharves in Phu Tan, Cho Moi and Chau Thanh districts.
The story is interrupted when it is time to collect the net, a fisherman named Thu eagerly pulls the net with his son. Then, their face suddenly changed when the net was light, it means there was no fish.
Mrs. Vo Kim Nen, who specializes in selling big river fish such as coral, chinese pangas-catfish, Smallscale croaker, and Freshwater Shark at My Binh market, Long Xuyen city, An Giang said, in the past, the fish price soared at Tet sometimes 500,000 VND/1kg, and fluctuates from 250,000 to 350,000 VND for the rest of other days, depending on the specific time. But in this season, the price is low, although the amount of fish purchased from fishermen is less than in previous years.
The reason for this is the Covid-19 epidemic, restaurants limit the purchase of chinese pangas-catfish because the number of tourists coming to An Giang has decreased. Besides, high prices make people hesitant ưhen buying it. She said, not only catfish but the other large river fish also difficult to sell like Smallscale croaker and Soldier river barb.
Source: Nhan Dan Newspaper