Angling for a catch: fishing in our canals

Canals running through neighbourhod estates can yield a surprising harvest for anglers
Yusuf Abdol Hamid, Sunday Times 5 Jul 09;

When security officer Andre Lim wants to eat seafood, he heads for the canal near his Bishan HDB flat, a 10-minute stroll away.

Armed with a rod, hook and line, he usually does not have to wait more than 15 minutes before he reels in something suitable for dinner.

He has caught varieties such as tilapia, haruan and catfish.

'Once I caught two eels, which my wife made into a tasty Japanese-style dinner,' he says. The 49-year-old has been fishing since he was five.

Amateur fishermen like Mr Lim are finding that canals in neighbourhoods such as Pasir Ris, Clementi, Jurong, Kallang and Rochor can yield a rich harvest of fish. The canals are located near HDB and residential estates.

A spokesman for the Public Utilities Board, whose responsibilties include the water that runs through canals and drains, advises the public against entering the canals as they are prone to sudden rapid flows and rising water levels during heavy and intense rain.

Many of the city fishermen can be found on fishingkaki.com, a local website which boasts a membership of almost 30,000. It was launched in 2004.

On the site, they post pictures of themselves with their catch, some of which are bigger than their torsos. Here, anglers also share the best fishing locations.

One of them, Mr Terry Wang, 23, and his 50-year-old father have been fishing in the canal opposite Jurong Primary School for the last 10 years.

The ST Logistics officer says: 'It requires a lot of patience to fish. I do it mostly to accompany my father and to relax.'

His most impressive catch was a 6kg snakehead, or 'toman' as it is more commanly known here.

Unlike Mr Lim, Mr Wang does not eat the fish he catches. He releases them back into the canal. 'This preserves the fish population and allows them to grow.'

Mr Roy Phua and his 14-year-old son also fish for leisure.

The 50-year-old Civil Defence officer, who fishes at a canal in Clementi, says that it is a good way to spend time with his son.

He adds: 'We usually catch nothing. It's really just about enjoying the activity.'

Mr Davy Ong, who owns a fishing tackle shop in Bussorah Street, says he has fished at nearly every drain and canal in Singapore.

The 35-year-old says: 'The most unexpected place was a drain next to Somerset MRT, where I caught a big tilapia. People just stared at me in disbelief.'

But he bemoans the fact that local anglers have fewer fish to catch and fewer places to catch them at.

He estimates that there are about 20 legal fishing spots.

Furthermore, he says, foreign workers trying to catch their meals contribute to the problem of overfishing.

According to him, once the fish population is wiped out at a location, it takes four to five years for the fish to return.

Anglers are also losing fishing spots to urbanisation, as areas get walled off or covered by construction projects.

Mr Ong used to fish at a drain near Teban Gardens, where he says he was able to find some varieties unique to the area.

Shaking his head, he says: 'One day, I went there with my friend and found that the drain has been replaced by a construction site.'

Fishing spots
Sunday Times 5 Jul 09;

Where: Lower Seletar Canal, Nee Soon Road
What you can find: Giant snakehead, peacock bass and featherback


Where: Jurong Canal, junction of Jurong Canal Drive and Jurong East Avenue 1
What you can find: Giant snakehead, carp and tilapia


Where: Sungei Tampines, runs along Pasir Ris Town Park
What you can find: Barramundi, barracuda and garoupa


Where: Rochor Canal, opposite Sim Lim Square, along Rochor Canal Road
What you can find: Tilapia and luohan

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