HOME
-------------------------
-------------------------

IN DEPTH

IFFI GOA: Hanging on a rope

-------------------------
-------------------------
STRAY THOUGHTS
-------------------------
-------------------------

FILM FESTIVAL

-------------------------
-------------------------

BEHIND THE NEWS 
Bad Policemen, Bad Politicians

-------------------------
-------------------------

RETROSPECTION

Christmas in Goa

-------------------------
-------------------------

HOME & HEARTH

A Women called Yesterday

-------------------------
-------------------------

EATING IS FUN

How many film goers can afford Rs 400 buffets?

-------------------------
-------------------------

FILM FESTIVAL SHOWCASE

Festival of films and floats

-------------------------
-------------------------

HEALTH

Staff Welfare - A top priority

-------------------------
-------------------------
ON STAGE
Gulab Awards
-------------------------
-------------------------

HOBBIES

The Patience of fishermen!

-------------------------
-------------------------

BUSINESS
Is Gold an Investment option?

-------------------------
-------------------------

FASHION

From Dud to Stud

-------------------------
-------------------------
 
-------------------------
-------------------------

AD VALUE

Diwali Dhoom Dhamaka

-------------------------
-------------------------

ONE MAN’S VIEW

Rewriting journalists

-------------------------
-------------------------

SPORTS

The Best Forwards

-------------------------
-------------------------

GOENKARANCHO AWAZ
 

------------------------
-------------------------

ARCHIVES
 

-------------------------
-------------------------

 

THE PATIENCE OF FISHERMEN!

A hefty chonak... much prized catch

Fishing has always been Goan’s favourite passion and pastime…fishing with a simple spool line, bait and hook!

WHEN the blues catch up, in between jobs, in between job appointments, while waiting to go abroad, while exchanging tall ones with friends…when there’s time to brood over life’s vagaries…what do many young and not-so-young Goans do? They go fishing with a spool of line, a perforated pot of prawn bait and a lot of good humour! You’ll see them down at the Dona Paula jetty some evening during full moon nights or when there’s a new moon, dark silhouettes, patiently casting and re-casting their simple lines (very few state-of-the-art fishing rods) and when there’s a catch there’s a frisson of excitement running around…up comes the line and hey presto…Nah, it’s only a ker (an Indian tarpon), a shimmering reasonably sized fish but one with a lot of bones. Gustav Fernandes of Merces, amateur angler par excellent, called up one morning with a shy pride resounding in his voice, “I’m coming over to show you this chonak I caught at 1.30 a.m. It’s a big one…” He came along with his chonak (Indian perch) – a prize fish which most fishermen hanker for – the fish lay in the dicky of his car in fresh splendour and he lifted it out, it must weight 16 kg at least, in the market it might fetch him Rs.1,200. Occasionally he’d come up with larger chonak and if he manages to catch five or six of these big ones he needn’t earn a living, he could live off his amateur fishing line!

This is Gustav with torch and net in hand... looking for bait.

A young enthusiast with fresh haul of mud crabs

Fishing for fun or for a free meal has been around in Goa since time immemorial and  not for nothing is Goa known as the fish-curry or xitt-koddi state, every Goan is a connoisseur of fish and fish curry. Listening to Gustav one wondered how fishing as a hobby still existed in a Goa which has seen rapid urbanization and industrialization since liberation, how come there’s fish still growing fat and waiting to be caught in the dying rivers, creeks and backwaters of Goa??? But one fine day Gustav said, Come along, “I’ll show you.” He said, “I’m going fishing this evening, do you want to come?” So there they were, a group of Panaji regulars attired in old shorts-T-shirts, rubber slippers, a torch slung around their neck and a cone-shaped net on a long stick in hand. Down where the high tide brings water tumbling into the creek backwaters on the busy highway just outside Panaji (en route to Vasco and Margoa)…as the muddy, frothy water gurgled in, Gustav descended at water level and directing his torchlight in the fringes of the waterway his keen eyes quickly spotted transparent little and not-so-little prawns, their tiny glittering eyes a dead giveaway. A few scoops with his cone-shaped hand net and yet another prawn was netted, quickly transferred into a half perforated pot. There’s no time to waste catching too many prawns for bait because he has to get to the new Mandovi Bridge quickly for the big catch! Eight p.m. and we were on our way on our scooters and motorbikes joining other anglers, a lot of traffic still whizzing by down the Mandovi Bridge…a flurry of huge trucks rolling by literally makes the giant bridge rock…

But the guys are veterans used to it and they quickly had their line spools out, the pot of bait and a bag (for the catch!). Gustav removes a slippery fat prawn and carefully snags it to the deadly curve of hook at the end of his line, adjusts the weight bits (different weights for different fish) and in slow motion lets the line down into the water far, far below in the dizzy darkness. He handles his line with smooth grace, a pro …hey, he could be flying a kite under water! Fishermen must be the ultimate men of patience as they wait for a fish to bite, it’s a wonder that the noise of the moving traffic does not frighten the fish away far below in the water. While the fishing is on nobody is interested in idle conversation. But later on Gustav takes time off to offer a little insight into the patient art of fishing. See, they have to catch the fishing when the water is still, perfectly still, the pause between tides coming in and going out, “This is when one may catch a big one!” Is he going to catch a chonak again? He shrugs, it really doesn’t matter, “This is a hobby like, I have been fishing here for ten years and it is not for catching or selling fish but a sporting play between fish and me, to bring it up…it wins or I win! You will see how many of us over 40 years old, there are few young fishermen today because may be they don’t have patience! But we, we will go home today and come back tomorrow.”

Of course, if he catches a chonak or two his five sisters, endless relatives, neighbours and friends where he lives will be happy to receive a modest gift of fresh fish! His wife Agnes makes a superlatively delicious fish caldeen. This is the season to catch chonak, it was almost by accident he learned the trick of catching a chonak, different fish have different vices and virtues, some fish can nibble their way around the bait and leave the hook clean, very clever. If one is sensitive to one’s line one can sense a fish and hold one’s breath, try to stay perfectly calm, not betray any excitement of a pending catch vibing along the line…oh, oh, it has caught and here it comes. The fish lands on the pavement gasping for breath…another ker. This ker is pretty strong willed, it flip flops and slides almost right back into the river and then onto the road. But a quick grab and it’s back on the pavement, give it 15 minutes, see how red its eyes are…soon it will be dead fish. It has the scent of the river about it…ker is bony but tasty. A fellow angler nearby says, “I only come for the fishing and give away my fish to a friend or whoever wants it, you can take my fish today!” One hour, that’s it, as soon as the water begins to move anew it’s time to call it a night, pack up and go home with or without a catch.

Rupchand Harmaskar, fishing afficianado, confides that many of them come to the Mandovi Bridge because they know that when the bridge was built 10 years ago some bars had fallen into the river and here fish were known to gather for some peaceful feeding. In the nooks and crannies around the fallen bars quite a few chonak could be lurking. Gustav confides,” “During full moon and new moon time is the best time for fishing. Fishing is seasonal.After chonak season, when the weather gets colder, it will be time to catch rawas (Indian salmon)…”  He grew up catching fish as a boy in his village and yes, he has caught quite a few chonak in recent times. Big, fleshy fish is welcome, also rawas, kingfish.. Goas waters, especially sweet river waters, have an impressive roll-call of fish names, Gustav reels of the names with nostalgia: He has caught catfish or sangata (not a very pretty fish but welcome), there’s rock fish or gobro, goat fish which is palu (red mullet), there’s kite fish, there’s stone fish which actually has a stone in its head! The “pamplet” are of course popular, silver pomfret (surgunti), black pomfret (halwo), mackerel or bangda are common place and available in the market for a song. The big hotels like to lay their hands on red snapper (tambso), shark (mori), lady fish (mudoshi)…the smaller fish can be bony but very delicious and anyway most Goans have mastered the art of quickly de-boning a fish (either crunching up small soft edible bones or with a deft touch just feathering away small fish bones with a clean sweep between the teeth, a technique to master).

There’s fish and fish in Goan waters sweet and salty…how about jew fish or ghol, silverbelly or kapi, blue fin tuna, kingfish or visvon, grey mullet or shevto, carp or dinas, flounder or lepo, Bombay duck or bombil, oil sardine or tharle, there’s Indian shad or pedve, herrings or dawak, silver bar or karli, bel or valm, skate or phadke, butterfly fish or combo, ribbon mackerel or arro….the roll-call of fish in Goan waters are worth a detailed study and review. Especially since rampant industrialization and urbanization have taken a heavy toll on both marine and riverine ecology…the big-time trawlers may come and sweep up huge loads of marine fish but the riverine and creek backwaters have been the traditional fishing grounds for small-time amateur fishermen like Gustav Fernandes in every village. In the old days, he says, every village river, creek, pond or lake teemed with prawns, crabs, fish…for the taking. He remembers just tying a worm onto a line and dropping it into the water and hey presto, there was a fish nibbling away at the end and he would grab it with his bare hands! Sad to say, as in the case of farming, the real good fishing days are varnishing and together with them the fishermen. It’s an old nostalgia and a lifetime’s passion for fishing which still takes him up to the Mandovi Bridge when the tide and time is right. His family? Oh, wife Agnes and two daughters Glynis and Leann are used to him sneaking out of the house at odd times of the day or night. Besides his whole family loves it when he returns with a good catch! But any true blue fisherman knows the virtues of taking each fishing trip in a sporting spirit…the real fun is in the fishing and not so much in the catching.

One of these days if he comes home with another chonak (although the brief chonak season is as good as over) or rawas, he invited, come home and eat his wife’s fish caldeen with them. It’s to die for with Goa’s fat red rice. It’s a pity that Goans are abandoning their own rice varieties for refined white basmati! Affluence can be curse when the good things of life get replaced one by one with inferior marketplace processed foods and youngsters today just do not realize what the definition of a good life was the older generation. In their time they worked hard and respected the old village and countryside ways. Think about that.

Back