VietNamNet Bridge – When the food first hits the water, a school of tra fish appears, eager to eat.
Cuong has taken care of the fish for four years. — Photo thanhnien.vn
The fish ‘belong’ to Pham Van Cuong, 64, commonly known as Nam Cuong, in Vinh Nguon District, Chau Doc City in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang.
For four years, Cuong has taken care of the natural fish school on the Vinh Nguon River, an undertaking that began with a twist of fate.
Under his floating house swim thousands of fish, making the area look like any one of the Mekong Delta’s thousands of fish cages.
In 2014, Cuong retired from his logging business as his sons and daughters had all settled down. He set up a holiday house by Vinh Nguon River, a branch of the Hau River and made it a place to gather with friends and enjoy nature.
At first, Cuong submerged dried tree branches in the river to lure fish for his friends to watch.
As he did not catch them, day after day, more and more fish gathered near Cuong’s house, waiting to be fed.
Tran Van Phi, Cuong’s neighbor, told Thanh niên (Young people) newspaper that local residents doubted Cuong’s fish farming techniques. No way could anyone gather such a huge group of fish, they thought.
Cuong proved them wrong, but even he was perplexed.
“I don’t know why only tra fish stay. Other species come for food then leave,” he said.
As the school of fish grew bigger, Cuong set up a strategy to protect them. He covered a water surface area of more than 400sq.m and constructed a floating house to observe the fish.
A thick carpet of water hyacinth is grown along with bunches of submerged dried tree branches, becoming home of the fish.
A bamboo stick fence is used to stop water hyacinths from floating away and strangers from fishing.
Every day, he spends about VND300,000 to 500,000 (US$13 – 21.5) on fish food.
According to Cuong, the school has now reached up to six tonnes. The biggest fish weighs nearly 10kg while the smallest is about 0.5kg.
Close to Cuong, the fishes even allow him to rub their heads, bringing him incomparable pleasure.
“Natural fish gather here to find food while a lot of people attempt to catch them. Therefore, I’m taking efforts to protect them from fishing,” he said.
Cuong’s one-of-a-kind fish has triggered public curiosity. Up to now, more than 1,000 tourists, on their way to visit Ba Chua Xu Temple or Bay Nui Area, have stopped by his house to watch the fish.
Cuong’s hospitality makes the experience unforgettable for them.
“It is such a meaningful activity,” said Phan Thanh Bui in Vinh Nguon District, “fish watching is soothing and relaxing. It also helps raise awareness of people about protecting the environment and natural fish reserves.”
Caring for the fish has become Cuong’s life’s work.
“I will protect them till the last day of my life and bequeath my children this legacy,” he said.
“It’s not only about leisure; it’s how we protect Mekong River’s fish,” Cuong added.