Into the swamps with Hanoi's eel king

By Ngoc Thanh   July 26, 2017 | 12:36 am PT
A military career left this man with a skill you might not expect.

For more than two decades, Nguyen Cao Son, 54, has been wading through the fields and swamps outside Hanoi on the hunt for eels.


“I was in the military in the 1980s and I learned how to fish for eels from my commander. It's been a way of life since I left the forces,” Son said.


Every day, Son leaves home with a stick, a reel of catgut attached to a hook, a bucket and bait. On a normal day, he catches several kilos of eels, but that rise into double figures when his luck's in.


He uses tiny shrimp or worms as bait, and sells the eels he catces for VND100,000 ($4.4) per kilo.


He baits his line and holds the catgut tight. “It’s easy to fool eels because they’re suckers for food,” he said.


When he finds an eel hole, Son stamps his feet and stabs the stick deep into the area around hole.


If bubbles appear, there are eels in the hole, so he starts shaping the ground and setting his trap.


An eel rising from its hole. Sometimes Son waits for hours for the eels to appear.


Son goes fishing twice a day, from early morning to 9 a.m. before starting the evening shift at 5 p.m. The more humid it gets, the more eels he can catch.

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