Saturday, August 16, 2008

catching freshwater eels in the stream

when we first moved into the kampong, the stream that flowed by the side of our house was not paved. before it was realigned and before it became a drain, there were more creatures making their home in it. besides, the common longkang fish - the guppies , there were tubifex worms, other types of fish, catfish and eels. eels are an order of fish although they look like snakes.

i seldom saw eels in the day. i think eels are nocturnal and prefer to hunt at night but once in a while you might spy a stray one sticking its head out of its hole at the side of the stream. most of them were about 50cm long, although i have seen longer ones. female eels tend to be bigger than their male counterparts.

it was not easy to catch the eel as it was quite slimy to the touch. we would use a fishing hook attached to a line and supported by a length of stick. we used earthworm or meat as bait. we would look for holes or gaps at the sides of the stream and push the stick with the hook into the opening. then we made a clucking sound and would wait for the belut (malay for eel) to take the bait.

even when the eel took the bait, it was not a forgone case because it would withdraw into its pit deep in the ground. it was a rare time that we managed to win the struggle and haul the eel out of the water.

i just cannot remember what we did with the eels that we managed to catch. however, i do remember seeing eels being sold by this man who would come around with a basket on the back rack of his bicycle. he would have these slimy creatures in the basket; there was not much water in the round tray at the bottom of the basket as eels can survive without water for extended periods of time.


Lam Chun See said...

I wasn't much into catching eels but my elder brother did; and he wrote something similar to yours here.

yg said...

chun see, thanks for introducing me to your brother's account of eel catching. i have read it and yes, the first method he mentioned is the one we used to do it.

somehow, no matter which kampong you lived in, the experiences tended to be of the same kind.

Lam Chun See said...

Interesting how this 'know-how' is disseminated. By the way, I think those worms from the river are not called blood worms. My mistake before. I think it is called tubifex worms. I wonder where the aquariums get them from nowadays.

Beng Tang said...

I used to catch eels too. They used to be common all over the place, even in old concrete drains that had holes in the side and slow water and guppies. You could see them around Newton circus, in the drain in NJC, in drains along Balestier road, in drains in the Upp Thomson area, in the stream behind Faber Gardens condo, in the Whampoa river along Thomson road. You didn't even need a hook, you can entice them out of their holes with a piece of prawn or fish held in your hand, then let them bite it, and lift them up. Now, due to Singapore being too rich, all the nice eely drains have been converted into covered lifeless drains where no fish can live, sometimes more than once - they dig up a drain and re-make it for nothing.

yg said...

beng tang,
the fresh-water eel population has been greatly depleted with all these drains being covered up. i have seen some eels in a stream in the kranji area.
you had to be very fast to be able to catch them with your bare hands because eels are quite slippery.

p.s sorry for this late response as i have not been checking my blog for quite a long while.

David Lee said...

Ahh, I too had done this a few times in the 50s. Its just for the fun of it. But I preferred catching frogs instead. The methods for catching eels all seems to be similar. But we did not use stick, instead we used sapu lidi. It's thinner and flexible for slotting into the little holes along the side of drains.