The ‘king of fish’ now an endangered species
At one point, catching a caho, or ‘the king of fish’ was treated as an honor complete with offerings to the gods, but sadly the large fish species is near extinct due to over fishing. (left; a tragic sight a 150kg+ Giant Siamese Carp laying in a Vietnamese market)

Caho, or Catlocarpio siamensis, is a giant species of carp weighing from 40 to more than 160kg each and subsists on seaweeds, marine algae and shellfish, and follows a migration pattern from Cambodia to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam

The giant fish is concentrated in the Vam Nao confluence – where the Tien and Hau rivers meet – home to many deep waters holes that provide suitable shelter for this type of fish after it migrates in from Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia.

There are two types of Caho: den (black) and hoa ca (spot), of which ca ho den is preferred because of tastier fillets.

What has driven the caho to near extinction in the wild is the fishing season, which begins in the first lunar month and lasts for four months. Experienced hunters believe the caho usually feed on the 13th, 17th, 18th, 25th and 27th days of every month.

Fishermen spread a 70m long and 12m wide net in the river, believing that setting up a channel to catch the caho in advance means they claim the right to the fishing area.

Another reason contributing to their extinction is that the caho do not to be baited for, but like to run headlong into the nets to show its strength even when the tide ebbs, making them an easy catch.

“I’ve never seen a fish like the caho. It rushes towards the net and throws itself up and down many times once caught,” said Sau Vien, a veteran caho hunter, who caught a 155kg caho in 2000.

Glory years

Binh Thuy commune in Chau Phu district of An Giang province has more than 60 caho fishermen, who have each caught 30-40 caho each. A man named Nam Thu, also known as Nam CaHo has caught a record 80 fish.

Thu said he caught his first caho in 1980 while spreading nets on a fishing area he inherited from his father. “It weighed more than 150kg and sold for one tael of gold (one tael = 1.25 oz) at that time” Thu recalled, adding he was so happy he never slept that night.

Thu said that after catching the sixth fish, he decided to quit working for the commune police to become a professional caho hunter.

He said fortune continued to smile on him rather than on the fish as he later caught dozens of caho ranging in size from 50kg to 160kg.

According to custom, if you catch a fish weighing less than 100kg, you must donate a pair of ducks as offerings to the River God and a pig’s head if catching a larger fish.

The reality

Unfortunately, all of the tradition that surrounds catching a fish of this size over the past decades has lead to over fishing, and sadly the caho is now in danger of extinction.

Many fishermen have had to turn to other work, having fished the supply of caho dry, as the number of caho left in the river waters weighing over 100kg can be counted on one hand.

Even the King of CaHo, Nam Thu, is changing his work, having gone some years with catching only one of the giant species during a whole fishing season.

Thu recently sold his two fishing areas for 0.6 of a tael of gold, even less than his prized 150kg catch back in 1980.

Reported by Thanh Dung – Translated by Thu Thuy

Story from Thanh Nien News
Published: 21 February, 2006, 10:53:14 (GMT+7)
Copyright Thanh Nien News