About My Younger Days Catching Fish And Crabs

My fishing days began when I was a young lad around the age of 8. It was then 1953. According to my mother, when I was born in 1945, the Japanese bombers arrived to bomb Malaya or Tanah Melayu then. It was then the beginning of World War II.

As a young lad, I was then living or rather staying at Batu 2, Jalan Kapar or Kapar Road, Klang. In those days, my “kampung” was covered with trees of all sorts.

I still remember trees as pinang, kelapa, sentul, bunga tanjung, rambai and langsat, growing in abundance all around our kampung area.

As a young boy, as I mentioned earlier, I grew up cataching fish with my elder brother, cousin and many of my kampung friends. Many have since passed away.

Talking about fish, the most popular I remember, in those days, were haruan, keli, belut and the famous fighting fish, which were in abundant supply in the many longkangs, parit and the kolam-kolam of our kampung vicinity.

Readers of today’s article must excuse me for using bi-lingual phrases of both English and Bahasa Malaysia. Only these words can relate to you exactly what I’m trying to say.

Talking about the fishes I caught as a young school boy, I still remember vividly, a type of fish that could actually climb up low lying trees which had fallen across swollen drains or longkangs or parit as kampung folks call it.

Before continuing this article any further, it must be informed that I am of “peranakan” birth or “baba” descent. My father, a baba Melaka, was very fluent in the Malay language. My mum and granny were sarung clad bibis or “nyonas” from the island of the orient, Pulau Pinang, to be exact.

So, it was without surprise, that when I started working at the age of 20 to 21, among my many hobbies, one of them was going fishing with my friends.

I still recall, in those days, I used to go rod fishing in Kuala Selangor or the Petaling Jaya lake to catch tilapias. I also remember catching prawns in the Klang River and Banting river as well.

In those days, there was still no pollution yet. Do you believe it or not, large crocodiles even existed in the Klang river then. One story has it that a large crocodile was even discovered in the big lake which was located near the vicinity of Kwang Hua Chinese school in Eng Ann housing estate in the 1960s.

My fishing buddies in those early days, I recall very clearly was a husband and wife couple, Mr. Ah Poon and his wife, from Goh Hock Huat road, Klang.

Ah Poon, I hear, passed away some 2 years ago. His wife, still operates her famous “you char kuei” stall in Taman Eng Ann, Klang even today. She must be well over 70 years by now.

As rivers, longkangs, parit and ditches became more and more polluted by effluents such as kelapa sawit, pineapple cuttings and industrial wastes such as black engine oil thrown into the rivers and “anak-anak” sungai around, my interest in fishing finally became less and less.

The hobby that I was so interested in as a young boy in fact waned. Fish became less. Hours were spent in the hot sun around rivers and small lakes, but it resulted in unfruitful waitings. Much money and time were lost.

That’s when accidentally, my encounter with another new hobby began. It was, I remember around 1970. I was then around 25 years old and newly married.

While fishing near a “bagan” or fishing village, at the 7th mile Jalan Kapar, Klang, near the present Taman Perdana housing estate, myself and Mr. Ah Poon, encountered crab or ketam batu (the orange sea coloured) variety.

Not the thin, long legged varieties or ketam bunga or ketam pasir favored by the Malays, but ketam batu variety.

For your information, consuming ketam or crab is “makroh” according to Malays. It is not exactly haram to the Malays, only makroh. But in the modern era of our today, Malays have ended up consuming quite a lot of crabs.

The Chinese fancy eating of crabs. Especially chili crabs. This dish is extremely popular and costly!

Seafood restaurants serve “ketam masak chili pedas” at RM25- RM30 per kilo. In a famous, we known restaurant “Jepun”, in a nearby area in Taman Berkeley, Klang, one famous dish served by this restaurant is the mee-hoon fried with crabs which is very popular with diners. It comes at a price of approximately RM60 – RM70 per serving.

Crabs actually belong to the crustacean family. It has compound eyes, many legs (I think 8) and two large pincers. It prices in the market today is phenomenal, extremely high and affordable to some only. It is a delicacy affordable to very few only.

How did myself and my friends, Mr. Ah Poon and his wife encounter with this crustacean?

The story has it that one hot afternoon in the 1970s, we were actually fishing at a bagan at Batu 7 in Sementa, Klang, when our fishing lines, which we threw into a nearby river took bait.

Feeling excited that a fish must have been baited, we began reeling in our lines. All of our lines, surprisingly broke. In spite of using 25 lbs lines, it broke.

Sensing the fish we have baited must be a large one, we felt extremely excited. Throwing new baits and hooks into the river, met with similar results.

Feeling perplexed, we then began to contemplate, what was it that could so easily break our 25 lbs line?

We finally concluded it was either an extremely large fish or maybe a crocodile. It must be made know to readers who are unaware, that our anak-anak sungai have been well-knowned to have crocodiles in them!

This lead to use (the fishing party) to next put in lines meant for crab catching. Crab catching baits actually is simple. It needs only shark meat which are extremely durable in water, very smelly, a length of gunny strings and a few branches and of course a tangguk.

A tangguk is a large spherical wire mesh contraption to scoop up the crabs from the river or water. This is known as the “sakai” or orang-asli mode of catching crabs.

A simple, but cheap yet effective method of crab catching we used for many years. In fact, our or rather my crab catching days began in 1970 to be exact, and it was to stretch on for many interesting and enjoyable years until the 1990s, when the rivers unfortunately became so polluted that crabs were no longer available in our anak-anak sungai.

In the following article, I might contemplate relating to readers about crab catching episodes and techniques which even reader themselves can use if you happen to be residing in estuarine areas like Klang, Jalan Kapar Batu 7 stretching all the way from Klang to Kuala Selangor into Sungai Buluh, Jeram, Tanjung Karang, Kuala Selangor and Sabak Bernam.

All in all, my crab catching days were to last roughly 20 years!

Crab catching is an extremely interesting hobby, but unfortunately it is meant for those who can stand the hot Malaysian sun and stand bitten by sand flies or agas-agas.

It involves wading into muddy bakau filled sea-beds, infested with dangerous sea snakes (which are poisonous) and even rivers infested with crocodiles!

But catching crabs, when compared to fishing is an interesting and healthy hobby. I recommend it to readers, should you be able to indulge in it.

A single big crab can weigh in at least 1kg or more. At RM25 a kilo, that single crab alone is worth gold as compared to fish!

Is it a hobby you think you can indulge in?

Think about it as I contemplate telling you about my crab catching encounters in my next episode.

The biggest crab that I have managed to catch weighed more than a kilo. With its outstretched pincers and orange-reddish in colour, the monster measured approximately 16 – 17 inches. One such crab alone will fetch some RM25 – RM30 in the present day market!

For those ladies, puans and housewives who might wish to cook crabs with tomato chili eggs and chili padi, you are advised to first cook the crabs in oil for a few minutes to make it crispy, before proceeding with your cooking of the dish!

Eating chili crabs with white Gardenia bread would be just heavenly!

By | 2010-10-26T00:57:41+08:00 January 3rd, 2010|My Memories|2 Comments

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  1. Bryan Norman June 20, 2011 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Nice anecdote, reminds me a bit of Lat :)

    Oh well, the good old days eh….

    By the way, I wish the prices you mention still apply. Nowadays, you can pay anywhere up to double or more for a crab dish, especially flower crabs. Perhaps we shouldn’t catch them, but grow them! Crab farms anyone?


    • Cikgu Yap June 25, 2011 at 9:01 pm - Reply

      Your suggestion to rear crabs appears rather lucrative. Hope someone takes up your offer.

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