Throngs of fishermen have converged on the Kingdom’s riverbanks, catching good hauls of mudfish and other smallbodied natives as the annual tradition of making the ubiquitous pungent-smelling fermented fish paste known as prahok gets underway.
The official start to prahok season is signalled by a rapid recession in northern Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake which speeds up the currents along the eponymous river and its tributaries.
Fisheries officials have predicted that the season will officially begin in the third or fourth week of this month depending on temperatures and rainfall.
Kandal provincial Fisheries Administration director Heng Sophearith told The Post that remarkable hauls had been registered at one location in the province’s northern Ponhea Leu district on November 26-27.
“Every two to three hours, we observed catches of between 50-100kg a pop, while others caught even more,” he said, pointing out that water levels were still high and the current was still slow.
He said fisherman in the area had begun casting their nets after the last new moon (November 15) and their success during the waxing phase was limited to November 26-27.
Kampong Chhnang provincial Forestry Administration director Ly La said Tonle Sap Lake’s water levels enabled fish to live in flooded forest areas that boast high species biodiversity and provide them with a stable food source.
He noted that cold weather discourages fish from migrating south toward the Mekong River or other rivers downstream.
“During last month’s waxing phase, family-scale fishing yielded from 10-15kg per day, using tools like bamboo traps and gill nets with mesh sizes ranging from 15-17cm,” he said.
Most small-scale fishermen in the province caught varieties such as Hypsibarbus pierrei, Cyclocheilichthys enoplos and snakehead murrel to make pha’ak, another fermented-fish product.
But catches of fish species for making prahok are still considerably low, he added.
Ouch Vutha, the director of the Fisheries Department under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, voiced his optimism that catches of prahok varieties will pick up at the official start of the season.
He told The Post: “According to observation at various stationary trawls for these several days, we predict that there fish species for making prahok will be plentiful by the end of December 2020, in the middle of January 2021 at the latest.”