Life Life

27/09/2019 - 07:58

Coastal fishing: "Side job, real income"

No matter if the sea is calm or rough, coastal fishing is still a "silent livelihood" for many fishermen in the coastal area.

Each kilo of fresh needlefish costs VND 150,000

"A profitable occupation"

At an old age, Mr. Huynh Hai of Hai Duong Commune (Huong Tra Town) no longer accompanies his children to go fishing at sea. The job of “chasing the fish” had been his lifelong pursuit, so he felt rather emotional when he “retired”.

From 4-5 am every day, Mr. Hai often goes to the beach to exercise and enjoy the fresh air from the sea. At such times, he often reminisces about the tradition of his forefathers. He has the opportunity to watch the young people in his village continue the traditional livelihood of catching fish at the inshore area or out at sea.

Every time he witnessed the boat going to the sea, or returning to the shore, Mr. Hai remembered the job that he had done for most of his life to provide for his family. That "memory" urged him to find ways to return to the profession of the sea which is suitable for his old age. So, the coastal fishing career "accidentally catches his eye". It not only helps him to be close to the sea again, but also helps him relax and earn money every day.

Every day, when the sun shines brightly, Mr. Hai begins to wade into the sea to fish needlefish. Mr. Hai said that in the coastal area in Hai Duong, there are many species of fish such as tiger bass, mullets, white-spotted spinefoot, scad, whitings, etc.

However, the needlefish is caught by most people because they often swim into the coastal areas in search of food early in the morning. At this time, the weather is cool, the sea is cool, and fishing is relaxing. The fishermen can enjoy bathing in the sea and watching the sunrise.

Needlefish is also popular with many coastal people because of its delicious meat and little bones. So, it can be sold at a good price. Except for days when the sea is rough, fishermen can catch a few kilos of fish each day. On good days they can catch from 4 to 5 kilograms.

The current market price per kg of fresh needlefish is about VND 150,000 and VND 350,000-400,000 for dried needlefish. Young people or the elderly like Mr. Hai can fish along the shore and earn a few hundred thousand VND or more each day.

The people in Hai Duong do not only catch the needlefish but also other fish such as tiger bass, mullets, white-spotted spinefoot, whitings, etc. When it is difficult to find fish out at sea or inshore fishing is inefficient, many fishermen in the coastal areas such as Hai Duong generally switch to coastal fishing.

Unlike the needlefish, fishing tiger bass, mullets, white-spotted spinefoot, whitings, etc., requires patience and persistence throughout the morning or even the whole day. Experienced fishermen often know how to choose the best water areas and know when the water is deep or shallow, or when there will be plenty of fish. They also know which type of bait to use for certain types of fish.


Calling it an occupation, but frankly, coastal fishing is very simple! The only things needed are a bamboo fishing rod, or an artificial rod about 4-5 meters long, a few hooks, a fishing line and pulley... The cost of buying a coastal fishing kit is only about VND 500 thousand to 1 million. A fishing kit can be used for a few years. The cost for each fishing trip is also minute. Depending on the type of fish, appropriate bait such as squid, worms, fish or pork is chosen... Therefore, the coastal fishing trips can only bring profit”, said Mr. Huynh Than (Hai Duong commune), smiling brightly.

"Big waves mean no hunger"

"Fake sea" is the catch phrase of many fishermen to mean that the sea is erratic and there is not always fish available. There are times when the boats are full of fish and at other times, boats wander all day on the sea to only bring back some small fish. Not to mention the days of rough seas are always the dread of fishermen, when boats lie on the shore with no income for daily needs and their children’s school fees.

In the difficult days of searching for a source of income when the weather did not permit them to go to sea, the fishermen have sought a livelihood by coastal fishing. Coastal fishing in the rough sea season probably started in this way. Although the income is not high, fishermen can still earn enough money to support their daily life and at least to put food on the table.

Mr. Tran Hoa, from Hai Nhuan village, Phong Hai commune (Phong Dien), said, “Jobs such as bricklaying or fishing all come to a halt when it rains and strong winds cause rough seas. Perhaps for me as well as many fishermen, at such times, the only job we can do is coastal fishing to earn income for our daily life. Many people mistakenly think that there are fish only on calm days. However, it is completely opposite as when the sea is rough, the environment changes, so many fish swim near the shore to search for shelter and food," Mr. Hoa explained.

Hai Duong fishermen wade into the sea to fish when the sun just has just dawned

However, on the days when the sea is rough, the waves often hit hard and swirl the water. So, the hooks are often tangled and they take much time to remove. Therefore, the number of fish caught in such a day is often only half of a normal calm day. But in return, the profit is higher because there are high-value fish such as tiger bass, tench, buôi fish, and mullets; and in the summer there are scads, whitings, and mojarra. It is normal for experienced and patient anglers like Mr. Hoa to catch a few kilograms of fish each day.

During the rough sea season, there is a scarcity of seafood, so the price is very high. Each day/fishing trip can bring VND 400-500 thousand. Sometimes a lucky fisherman can catch a few buôi fish at 5-10kg/fish, fetching from VND 1 million to several million; however, catching a large-sized buôi fish is very rare. Sometimes, fishermen can only catch them once during the whole season.  

Ending the conversation, Mr. Hoa concluded: "The fishermen who go coastal fishing as a side job often have a stable source of income. That is why people have a saying: "Big waves mean no hunger".

Story and photos: Hoang Trieu