When the harvest is done, rice fields in Quang Nam Province yield a complimentary bonus to farmers – a handsome catch of tasty fish.
Come September, when the autumn harvest season ends, Quang Nam farmers in central Vietnam get a bonus reward – fish, hiding in the mud.
In Tam Dan Commune, Phu Ninh District, farmers divide themselves into groups of two to five and go fishing in the mud after using pumps to drain out the residual water.
A snakehead fish sticks its head out.
Farmers say it takes two to five hours to drain the water from the fields after a harvest because it is usually a meter deep.
Vo Dinh Ky of Tam Dan Commune smiles after catching a snakehead. He said that these fish come along with the seasonal flood waters. When the rice is about to ripen, people will drain all the water to harvest it. At this time, fish will follow the water stream and hide in the puddles.
“Every year, people catch fish after the spring (March-April) and autumn (August-September) seasons,” he said.
With a plastic bucket placed nearby, a farmer dives into thick weeds to catch some fish.
“Snakehead fish and perch usually hide in the thick grass and refuse to come out,” said Vo Dinh Giang as he pulled out a bunch of wild grass to expose the mud.
Soon after, Giang was able to grab a snakehead hiding in the mud.
About two kilometers away, in a section of the canal covered with water hyacinth in Tam Phu Commune, Tam Ky Town, Hoang (in shirt) and three other people clear the area after pumping out the water.
They remove the water hyacinth one section after another so they can easily catch the fish from the muddy puddles beneath.
When the canal is drained and the sludgy bottom is exposed, the men stick their hands into it and begin their fishing expedition.
“You must be very careful to avoid sharp objects in the mud,” Hoang said.
The fish caught in the rice fields are mainly snakeheads, catfish and tilapia. The mud is washed off and they are placed in a basket.
Farmers divide the fish evenly into small bags for group members to take home.
Fish in a 5 kg basket harvested by farmers in Tam Ky Town.
The fish is cooked into delicious dishes, fried, stewed or grilled. Locally, the fish costs VND50,000-70,000 ($2-3) per kilo. They are not just a culinary treat for the rice farmers, but also a welcome source of additional income.