Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Catching Eels and Other Animals

My brother David, writing all the way from Perth, recalls how he used to catch eels during our kampong days.

" Now that the memories are starting to return, let me recall how we used to catch those yellow fresh water eels. There were 2 methods:

The first and more adventurous one is as follows:

We will first catch the ordinary garden worms, hook one on a small hook tied to a short nylon line trace of about 12-18 inches long. This trace in turn is tied to a short thin bamboo stick. We will then wade along that famous river and look for the "homes" of these yellow eels. Usually, when we see a hole at the banks of the river, and such holes are at about water level. We will then use another bamboo stick to push the hook (with the worms on) into the hole. Since we do not know how deep the eel is hiding in the hole, we will make "muck, muck " sounds with our pursed lips to attract them out. Its quite effective.

The second method is easier but usually end up with smaller eels. We will look for small rocks lying in the shallows of the ponds on our land (2 of them ) or the 2 adjacent to ours belonging to our neighbour. Usually, we can find eels hiding beneath such rocks. However, they tend to be "baby" size.

All eels caught based on above 2 methods were always sold to a traveling "fisherman". He comes along in his 3-wheel motor bike. The eels are sold based on weight, but I cannot remember how much we could fetch. Rather, what I could remember is one type of cooked fish that he sells: a sort of steamed cooked fish, very salty, and ready to eat ..... probably some kind of Teochew style of cooking.

The spiders catching and fighting fish, fresh water prawns (including catching and rearing of
guppies) , end of the year catching catfish and Aruanas on dried ponds were definitely more interesting. Also the way we catch our "Luai " (aruana) fish from the neighbour's ponds were pretty interesting. Unfortunately, you and Meng were too young then. I am not sure who were with me doing those stuff except No 7 auntie's son (Ah Tee) who was quite into spiders.

I will include cuckoo catching and the home made catapults (and shooting of birds) in the next e-mail. But both these activities are very cruel ways and I would rather forget such episodes. "

Yes, catching fish and other animals was indeed one of our favourite past times those days.

Talking about catfish, I remember how we caught them at this small pond with lots of water hyacinth. (Hyacinth is harvested to form part of the feed for pigs). It was very different from the usual method of holding the rod and waiting for the fish to bite. We would usually use a short bamboo rod and short fishing line, and coil the line around the water hyacinth and then go away. When we come back after a couple of hours, we can see the catfish hooked to the line. We had to be very careful in unhooking the catfish because its sharp pectoral fins (I think that’s what they are called) were reputed to give a painful prick. The catfish also tended to bleed a lot.

Earlier this year, during the Chinese New Year gathering at our cousin Chee Keong’s house, we were reminiscing about the kampong days, Our cousin Chee Kean recalled one interesting fishing episode.

Usually, our neighbour who owned the pond, would allow us kids to fish anywhere in the pond except for a certain fenced off section where he bred red tilapias for sale. However, he and David apparently decided to venture into the forbidden territory and managed to catch a big red tilapia. When our neighbour spotted them, he gave chase all the way until my uncle’s house. I cannot recall what punishment, if any that the kids suffered as a result of this daring raid.

The ‘luai’ fish that David referred to above, I believe were tomans or snake heads (san yu in Cantonese). The Americans call it the ‘franken-fish’ because it is carnivorous and have a ferocious appetite. We saw some of the older kampong boys use frogs as bait to fish for it. But for us younger kids, we would catch the babies from the shallow edge of the pond. How? – by clasping our hands to form a semi-circle to encircle the fish; then slowing moving backwards before sweeping them to the shore in one quick movement.

I often tell my kids about how we caught the baby tomans in this way as well as fighting fish using the ‘punki’ or rattan basket. Maybe that explains why my teenage son has fallen in love with fighting fish and tomans. Our house is now filled with jars of fighting fish which he breeds; although he wouldn’t dream of letting them fight. We even have a toman which he bred from a baby. He bought it from the aquarium which sells them as feeders for arowanas at $2 per packet.


Ikan Bilis said...

if there's no fish.. tadpoles also can lah.. hahaha...

Lam Chun See said...

By the way, do you see the dead half-body of another fish which was attacked by the tomans?

Lam Chun See said...

These 2 beautiful betas were bred by my son. But nowadays he has lost interest in breeding fighting fishes.