Crafty destinations

Unique fishing in Vung Tau

Walking on Vung Tau beaches, visitors will see stilt houses built about one kilometer from shore. The houses are where local fishermen stay to catch fish using an original, traditional method which has existed in the southern coastal province for decades.
For years, fishermen in Vung Tau have caught fish using nets strung between wooden or concrete poles which are fixed into the seabed at a depth of 15-16 meters. The stilt houses are built above the sea on those poles, between 17-18 meters high, which are connected with one another via rope ties. Fishermen stay in the stilt houses to monitor the currents to decide when to pull the nets. The only way for the fishermen to move from one stilt house to another is on the rope ties. 

Vung Tau fishermen have caught fish by this traditional method for decades. Photo: Tat Son

The fishermen's work is hard and requires bravery. Photo: Tat Son

Van has worked as a ban choi for 20 years, living in the stilt house to watch the fishing nets. Photo: Cong Dat 

The fishermen walk on rope ties to lay fishing nets at sunset. Photo: Cong Dat 

The net fishing system of Nguyen Van Bang in Vung Tau. Photo: Tat Son 

The fishermen are regarded as rope dancers at sea. Photo: Thong Hai 

This traditional fishing method is now limited in Vung Tau due to navigation channels. Photo:Thong Hai

The catches are harvested in early mornings. Photo: Thong Hai

Fishermen who live in stilt houses are called ban choi. Living in the houses with an area of merely 4-10 square meters, ban choi must be excellent swimmers to encounter the rough sea during storms. They are regarded as rope dancers at sea as they have to walk on ropes to drop, drag and pull their nets. Their work is particularly hard and dangerous on stormy days when the fishing net frames in the seabed shake violently.

Ban choi put out the fishing nets twice a month (the 1st and 15th of the lunar calendar). After five days, they will pull the nets. The catches will be brought ashore by boats which come to the stilt houses on harvest day, bringing along food, drinks and cigarettes for ban choi.

“Our family has done this traditional way of fishing for half a century,” said Nguyen Van Bang, a local fisherman. Bang now owns three such fishing systems, which earn him about 100 million dong (rough 4,350 US dollars) a month. But the cost to build a fishing system is relatively high, at nearly 200 million dong.

There are now hundreds of fishing systems like Bang’s in Vung Tau. This traditional fishing method is unique in Vung Tau in particular, and in south Vietnam in general.

By Tat Son, Cong Dat & Thong Hai

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