Web Service
About us
Audio/ Video news
Subscribe now !
Online Sub
Online Adv
Other Services


Naps and firecrackers among realities of late nights on board lake for amputee fisherman

To those born or growing up close to a river, the lifestyle of a fisherman is a familiar one.
Some people just do for subsistence while others can create a business enterprise as well.

Mr Kam Vongphukdy on board with a full catch of sprat.

Walk the perimeter or cruise the big reservoir near Nam Ngum I Hydropower Plant of an early morning and you may be fortunate to see fishermen with a boat full of fish of the small sprat species known locally as pa keo.
One of these fisherman has an extra challenge.
40-year-old fisherman, Mr Kam Vongphukdy has been living and fishing near Nam Ngum I Hydropower Plant for half his life.
Yet having lost his left arm in an accident a few years back, he must do everything with his right.
Two years ago a brush with destiny brought him bad luck by way of an accident while he was helping friends on a job.
The accident resulted in the loss of his left arm.
Suddenly it seemed like life had changed for the worst.
He said having only one hand made it too difficult to do anything including fishing that was his livelihood.
But a loss of a hand is not a loss of life, so Mr Kam tried to live on and persevere like other people even if it’s not as easy or comfortable as before.
He still pursues life as a fisherman but his income is under pressure thanks to decreasing fish stocks.
“The catch has been decreasing a lot comparing to ten years ago,” Mr Kam admits.
“In the past I used to catch more than 100 kilos per night and perhaps fewer just before I lost my arm, some 50 kilos per night.
“Recently I have managed to get just 20-30 kilogrammes on a lucky day”, Mr Kam said.
Mr Kam sells pa keo at 9,000 kip per kilo to the local vendors and 10,000 kip to visitors.
Sometimes, Mr Kam catches bigger fish as well.
In the dark of midnight in rural areas most people are asleep but Mr Kam is just leaving home to ply the dark river.
Sprat can only be caught at night on those days without a bright moon.
The best time is when the river is not too windy.
Mr Kam sets his nets quite far apart, so he takes around half hour by boat.
He said he put some lamps on the river to make it bright and then small sprat will come to the light and about one and half hours later he will go to that spot to catch them.
With fish in place he lights a firecracker and throws it toward the water.
The ensuing bang shocks the small fish allowing them to be scooped up in the net made of bamboo and mosquito netting, catching them unawares.
Of course, catching fish by this method is questionable at best because of the decimation it causes.
Such methods might well be a factor in the decrease of the population of sprat.
Recently it’s more difficult than ever to catch bigger fish because in previous years fishermen here overused many unsuitable fishing materials and methods, especially electric shock.
Even now authorities have ordered all fisher folk to stop using bombs, poison or electric shock methods but it’s quite a belated move and there are some fishermen who now feel they cannot succeed otherwise, creating a vicious cycle.
Some local people and fishermen that have little education about the effects of such activities continue to use illegal fishing methods and materials as they don’t understand that such ways will eventually render the fishery barren and themselves without a livelihood.
Alas many can only afford to think about what they can to catch for today.
After the bang, the fish are caught and then its back to silence until the next trap.
Of course in the interludes on a dark night and quiet river with nobody to chat with, Mr Kam must grab some sleep while he can.
He can’t spare time to return home between catches so he grabs a late night nap in his boat.
There is nothing like a creature comfort in the form of a blanket, pillow or mosquito net in the boat but he often manages to catch forty winks before waking up to catch more fish.
So if in the early morning you can see Mr Kam cruising home with a boat full of sprat and looking a little tired yet satisfied, give him a good wave or better yet, buy some fresh fish from him right there or some of his dried sprat from the market nearby.


By Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
(Latest Update April 26, 2017)


Web Master l Newspaper Subscription l Newspaper Advertisement l Online Advertisement l Online Subscription

Vientiane Times Phonpapao Village, Unit 32, Sisattanak District, P.O.Box: 5723 Vientiane, Lao PDR
Tel: (856-21) 336042, 336048, Fax: (856-21) 336041
Copyright © 1999 Vientiane Times Newspaper.