Bank line fishing in Southeast Asia

The term ‘Bank line’ used in English to refer to a string of poles along a water bank is virtually unknown in Southeast Asia. Instead, this fishing method and its equipment are referred to by different names in the region. In Thailand, it is called รอบแบ่ง (pronounced ‘Raw Baed’), in Cambodia, it is known as សន្តុចបងគៃ (pronounced ‘Santouch Bong Kai’), in Laos, it is called ໄກ່ຂົ້ມ (pronounced ‘Kai Khom’), and in Vietnam, it is referred to as ‘Cần câu múc’.

Target fish- and frog species

The primary target fish species for Bank line fishing during wintertime (September to January) are snakehead (Channa striata). During summertime (July to September), various catfish species are the main targets. However, it’s worth noting that a variety of fish species can be caught on a bank line throughout the year, even during the low fishing season from February to June.

In many areas, large frog species make up a significant portion of the catch on a bank line. The most commonly caught frog species include Crab-eating frogs (Fejervarya cancrivora) and Common Lowland Frogs (Hoplobatrachus rugulosus). These frogs contribute to at least half of the catch numbers in certain regions.

Tackle used

The fishing tackle used for bank line fishing consists of small-sized poles, each equipped with a fixed line and a single hook. Typically, a passive bank line setup includes anywhere between 20 to 80 of these poles set consecutively.

The poles are crafted from split bamboo, with a slight downward bend on the thinner end. They usually measure between 65 to 120 cm (approximately 2 to 4 ft) in length, with a diameter of 6 to 9 mm (0.23 to 0.35 inches). The lines attached to the poles are braided, and their free length is approximately 40% of the pole’s total length. At the other end of the line, a single hook, usually in size 12 or 13, is securely fixed. When not in use, the hooks are kept in place by a cotton band.

Ready-made bundles of these fishing poles, consisting of either 50 or 100 pieces, are available for purchase in country stores. However, due to financial limitations, many villagers opt to construct their own fishing implements using locally available materials such as bamboo stalks, Tonkin grass, or flexible wooden twigs. As for the fishing lines, any string material that is accessible can be used, along with commercially available fishing hooks.

In addition to the fishing tackle, it is necessary to bring along a closed holding basket to store the caught fish and frogs. Bait, such as froglets, and other types of bait are often kept in a separate compartment within the holding basket, which is enclosed with netting. Lastly, a headlamp, light source, or lantern is essential for visibility during fishing activities.

Bait used

The choice of bait for bank line fishing depends on the specific target fish species. When targeting snakeheads, the prime bait is small frogs that are hooked through the mouth. These bait froglets are highly effective and are also eagerly consumed by larger frogs.

In the case of catfish, several bait options can be utilized. Shrimp, fish fry, earthworms, or water snail meat are commonly used. For live baiting, preferred fish fry options include species such as Clarias (walking catfish) and climbing perches.

Fishing technique

In the afternoon, the bank poles are gathered together, and the bait is prepared. Later in the afternoon, the poles will be baited and positioned approximately 3 meters apart along the water’s edge. They will be firmly inserted at an inclined angle into the muddy bank. Depending on the abundance of fish and frogs in the area, the bank line will be left overnight and regularly checked and re-baited throughout the night. When targeting catfish, the bait should be suspended about 10 cm / 4″ below the water’s surface. In the case of targeting snakeheads, the bait should consist of froglets, or small fish placed directly on the water’s surface.

Lessons learned about bank line fishing:

  • Establishing a bank line is an uncomplicated and efficient technique for capturing fish and frogs.
  • Optimal bait options include small frogs, live fry from resilient fish species, and crushed water snails.
  • Commercially available hooks can be utilized, although they can be substituted with homemade hooks made from natural materials.
  • Fishing lines can be replaced with self-made strings crafted from plant fibers.
  • Flexible poles made from bamboo or Tonkin grass are readily accessible across South-East Asia.

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