This article appeared in todays Sunday Times. Page 16 Everyone featured in the article are members on IA
The world is their ocean. A growing tribe of intrepid Indians is hooked to a hobby that’s taking them places — to fish in foreign waters...
Shobha John | TNN
It’s the perfect picture — man and nature in sync. The tranquil waters of the Atlantic Ocean merging with the rising sun and the boat floating along lazily. The man lowers his fishing line with the bait of shrimps. Suddenly, the slack line gets taut. The waters shatter into a thousand brilliant fragments by the violent flip-flop of a 40-pound fish. Man and fish struggle till, with a muscle-wrenching effort, the fish is pulled out. It’s the angler’s moment in the sun. And like him, many have fallen hook, line and sinker for this passion. In fact, a growing tribe of Indians goes abroad to fish in blue expanses teeming with rare catch.
It’s an exhilarating pastime, not meant for the faint-hearted. You need loads of patience, luck and a gungho attitude to weather the sun and wind. ‘
‘The adrenalin rush that kicks in when a fish takes your bait and
heads out to sea has to be felt to be believed,’’ says Bopanna Pattada, 30, India’s representative at the International Game Fish Association. ‘‘It’s a real stress-buster and the sport is fast gaining popularity in India.’’
Sweden, Egypt, Thailand, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Seychelles, Gulf of Mexico, Florida, New Zealand...diverse places hook the angler. And the catch could be just as colourful — black marlin, tarpon, kingfish, catfish, shark, sailfish....The kit includes rods, reels, GPS and sonar equipment. A good angling kit, say anglers, can be procured for anything between Rs 5,000-Rs 50,000.
In places like Thailand, angling costs $100 a day. But if you want more exotic species such as marlin, be prepared to shell out a few thousand dollars a day. Plus, gird yourself for a five-six-hour battle to net the great guy. ‘‘Fishing for a 1,000-lb marlin is like going after an elephant,’’ says one angler.
For Bangalore businessman Rahul Rao, 28, Phuket and Florida are pet deep-sea fishing haunts. ‘‘The day starts early. In Florida, a friend and I go on a speedboat and hit the waves of the Atlantic by 6 am for sharks. We go some 15 km into the ocean with enough bait — around 10 kg of dead fish.’’ Once caught, the fish is weighed and photographed. But if the weight doesn’t conform to the licence, too bad, you have to release it. But there’s always another day, another catch.
For Darius Chenoy, 45, a Hyderabad businessman, the 7,000-km shoreline of the largest manmade lake, Lake Nasser in Egypt, has been a big draw. He netted his biggest catch there in 2005 — a 92-lb Nile perch, one of the largest freshwater fish. ‘‘I joined African Angler, which operates fishing safaris and provides us with boats, rods, reels and guide. We net 10-15 fish a day,’’ he says.
For Darius’s wife Ambita, who initially fished in the Cauvery, the high of angling is unparalled: ‘‘It was initially intimidating to try angling surrounded by men who have been at it all their lives. But once the reel screams that a fish has taken the bait and is running, the support from the men is incredible.’’ She admits it’s strenuous ‘‘but the strength to fight comes from the adrenalin rush you get.’’ Her biggest catch? An 86-lb Nile perch.
Bangalore-based Bopanna has fished in Belgium and Holland. But his largest catch was a 35-lb mahseer in the Cauvery. ‘‘Fish,’’ he reveals, ‘‘are of two types: predatory fish, caught on lures that imitate wounded bait fish and non-predatory ones like carp, caught using bread paste and earthworms.’’
Junaid, 37, from Hyderabad was introduced to fishing 12 years back by a friend and has never looked back. His three-year-old son is somewhat of a veteran himself. Junaid’s haunts are Thailand and Hong Kong and his favourites are silom catfish and snakehead. ‘‘Bungsamran in Thailand is one of the world’s most prolific freshwater fishing venues, and 2-3 days there can get you recharged,’’ he says. ‘‘The snakehead is caught using spinners attached to the line. These are artificial baits which spin, attracting the fish. The silom catfish, though, is caught using baits of bread, worms, crabs.’’
But why go abroad when India has so many rivers and a good coastline? Poaching and pollution have played havoc with fish populations, say anglers. ‘‘Abroad, conservation is taken seriously,’’ says Chenoy. ‘‘There are fish ladders — structures around dams to facilitate natural migration — where it’s allowed to spawn. Plus, the waters are quite clean there. In fact, hardly 1-2% of fish is killed for sport; the rest is for commercial purposes.’’
So will you rise to the bait too?