Gone Fishing in Vam Nao

The Mekong Delta is inherently famous for immense rice fields, floating markets on alluvial rivers, colorful orchards and serpentine canals. The excellent fishing in the delta has become a tourism drawcard as can be seen in the many brochures on display at travel agencies – with tours that take you fishing one day and farming the next.

Every part of the Mekong Delta has its own peculiar fishing techniques. Locals use different types of fish traps, nets and fishing rods.

As we wanted to find out what it would be like to be fishermen, we decided to go to Vam Nao Canal that links the Hau and Tien rivers in An Giang Province’s Tan Phu District. To get there turn off National Road 91A and travel 15km to Nang Gu ferry then ride eight kilometers to Tan Phu District’s Ong Chuong Islet.

Vam Nao canal is about 800 meters wide and 6.5 kilometers long. It is home to many kinds of fish such as ho fish, bong lau fish and even whales sometimes plus thu and doi fish and crocodiles.

For six months from early in the eleventh month of the lunar calendar is the season to catch bong lau fish. The best days to fish are the 14,15, 19 and 30 days of the lunar month.

Bong lau fish, whose scientific name is Pangasius krempfi, are found throughout the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. They live in fresh water and eat seaweed and crustaceans. They grow to 120cm in length and can weigh as much as 20 kilograms. The fish, which has been widely domesticated here, is sought after for its flavor and can be used to make a range of delicious healthy dishes.

After nightfall about 7 p.m., we set off in a wooden boat to Nam Vao. It was rather cool, but we were keen to catch some fish so the cold didn’t bother us.

It was a dark night and the river was dark, except for the red and yellow lamps of other fishing boats. The red glow on the water made us fancy that we were in the middle of a lantern releasing festival.

After setting the long fishing nets, we lay down on the floor of the boat and talked while we waited. We imagined what dishes we would make with the fish we’d catch. I recommended the bong lau fish sour soup with many kinds of vegetable such as pineapple, tomato, Indian taro, tamarind and okra. While my friend suggested fried bong lau fish with lemon grass and steamed bong lau fish with green mango.

The scene was totally still. After about one hour later, we pulled in a net full of fish.

On the way back down the dark river, our hearts were full of happiness because of all the fish we caught and the fun we had as fishermen.


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