Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to Catch Catfish

"What's his secret?"
"He grills geckos to use as bait."

We're talking of Darijo, resident of a hamlet within Projotamansari, south of Yogyakarta, who is often the champion of the village daily fishing competition.
"We've got no videos or computers out here, so we do other activities for leisure," says Karo, sponsor of the local one-metre deep fish pond. "We've got 400 kilos of catfish in here - that's about 350 fish - and we keep them hungry so the biting is good."
Karo's competition pond follows a catch and release system. Prizes of Rp 100,000 ($10.00) are awarded to the competitors catching the most fish within a timeframe, and for the largest catch of the day.

"But you're not allowed to sprinkle food in the water near you when you fish to encourage more fish into your area. That's cheating."
Karo keeps a daily record of the visitors to the pond. The book shows they receive between 7 and 15 competitors a day, who each pay Rp 10,000 ($1.00). Rp 4,000 covers rent and administration, and the balance goes into the pot. "This isn't gambling," Karo asserts. "It's just to lift the spirits."

"They may have paid several times before earning any winnings, so the net takeaway can be as small as Rp 20,000 - but it's enough to keep the heart happy."
The secret to being a successful fisherman is fourfold. "Firstly, luck," lists Karo. "Secondly, food. A good fisherman is creative. He can use small fish, manufactured pellets, worms, grubs, lizards, geckos, snake meat, or eggs. Caterpillars are expensive though, and you shouldn't use cat meat. Cats are lucky to have around.

"Thirdly, skill. But skill without good food is not effective. Finally, money! Ha ha!" Karo shows a mouth of blue gums.
People can also rent the pond to fish for fun; for Rp 30,000 an hour. "Usually men and boys fish here, not women," adds Karo.

I sit on one of the concrete stools around the olive-gold water trailing the float of my fishing pole slowly left and right. The men have all had bites in under 50 seconds. A grubby grey kitten peers into the still water. There's not much action. He heads for the bucket of pink worms, peers in over the rim, and topples the lot over.
"Most fishermen bring their own poles. There are different sizes for different fish," continues Karo, displaying two of his slim wooden fishing poles. "These are made of a special type of bamboo from Wonosobo in the Dieng Plateau, central Java."
Suddenly there's a heaviness to the line. The kitten's ears are up. I'm standing now, pulling in the line with my left hand, gripping the pole with the right. It's heavy, this struggle of wills and strength between the fish, the line, and I. "It's gotta be 100 kilos," I exaggerate. And then he launches up from the water: a grey alien with barbels and whiskers: my first catfish.

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