Freshwater, Recipes

Fishing in Vietnam – a study in efficiency (photo essay)

I’ve been lucky enough to spend a few months living in Vietnam this year, visiting my partner who has a 12 month contract in Hanoi.  In my spare time, which is most of the time she is at work, I’ve taken to trying to work out how the locals catch fish.  Vietnam has a strong fishing culture and there are freshwater rivers and lakes everywhere!  It’s been a fascinating experience – here’s just a snapshot.

 Fishing techniques

I call this technique the “jag and wind” – very effective with the heavy ‘lure’ below. Swing the rod around 180 degrees and then wind in the slack – or the jagged fish
Schooling fish are a regular catch on this device – particularly larger fish
IMG_9214 Vietnamese man casting spider rig
This technique requires slightly more finesse and seems better suited to smaller fish. It involves casting out the “spider rig” on a bamboo rod and a hand reel
I call this the ‘spider rig’. A small weight in the centre with 6 or 8 hooks. It can be used to simply jag fish, or fished with bait in the centre and a small float to detect bites, before setting the hook(s)!
IMG_9216 jagged fish spider rig
A victim of the spider rig – jagged
IMG_9230 Snag retrieval
With so many hooks it’s not surprising the spider rig gets snagged from time to time. It’s simply a matter of stripping down to your shorts and going to retrieve it.
IMG_9185 Man fishing with bait and float
Watching intently – The spider rig under a small float (right of photo) at our local lake
IMG_9132 Man fishing with prawns in Ha giang province river
Fishing with peeled prawns on a running sinker – just like back home really except this would be one of the largest rivers in Australia


Personal watercraft

The array of boats cruising up and down the lakes means there is never a dull moment for the casual observer.  The foot-row boat is probably my favourite as it looks really comfortable. Hobie take note.

IMG_9176 Foot pedal boat mirror reflection
Row your boat with your feet …
IMG_9155 Hand oar boat
or row your boat with your hands
IMG_9169 Net boat and jumping fish
These guys are throwing burley out from a boat and the fish react immediately, launching themselves out of the water. Once the burley has attracted all the nearby fish to this spot, they will be netted.


“Waste not, want not” is probably the best phrase to describe the Vietnamese approach to cooking fish.

IMG_8847 steamed carp with tumeric shallots and peanuts
A whole steamed carp doused in dill, shallots, peanuts, chilli and tumeric sauce. The sauce was delicious, one to remember for next time – the fish however tasted quite muddy.
Vietnamese Fried baitfish
Deep fried baitfish are delicious! Here they are served with steamed rice, a spring roll, a piece of bacon and some stir fried greens
All the making of a fish stew, complete with fish heads and roe


Fishy photos

Judging by the next two or three photos, much of the freshwater is fairly low in oxygen.

IMG_9143 Oxygen is at a premium

IMG_9149 carp catfish fish

IMG_9203 Fish breathing air
Being able to breath air in the urban lakes is definitely an advantage!

So there you have it, a tiny glimpse into the world of Vietnamese fishing.  I’ve concluded there’s not much “sport” in it from a western viewpoint, the gear is stout and durable.  But it is relatively cheap and often home made.  The techniques employed are incredibly effective, catching the maximum number of fish in the shortest time.  It’s certainly made me think about the way I catch and cook my fish back home.  If only jagging fish was legal in Australia…






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1 thought on “Fishing in Vietnam – a study in efficiency (photo essay)

  1. Interesting stuff. Makes me think of how people here get blasted for takign a photo or having a hook with a barb compaired to the excelent care European fishermen take take of carp and pike they catch to include plastic sheetign to protect their mucus coating. Thanks for sharing.

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