Feathers fly as fisherfolk turn to fowl tactics on Siem Reap River

Feathers fly as fisherfolk turn to fowl tactics on Siem Reap River

A traditional form of Vietnamese fishing in which live ducklings are harnessed to the end of the line and used as bait is catching on among Cambodians, with varying levels of success

Photo by:


The duckling fishing process in action. After cleaning and securing the duckling, a fisherman patrols the Siem Reap riverside in search of a good spot.

AMATEUR Cambodian anglers in Siem Reap are adopting a form of Vietnamese fishing in which live ducklings are used as bait, after learning about its supposedly unbeatable results from immigrant workers.

But while the Vietnamese can use the method to gracefully reel in large adult fish, many frustrated Cambodian anglers are finding that the only thing they are guaranteed to land is a dead duck.

Sok Kon, a Vietnamese immigrant worker who practises duckling fishing, told the Post that the trick is to use the duckling to lure adult fish out into the open.

At first glance, duckling fishing seems cruel, with a live duckling used as bait. But the duckling is not impaled on a hook. Instead it is contained in a small harness at the end of the fishing line, and a baited hook hangs from a line below the duckling's harness.

During spawning season, Sok Kon said that many adult fish become protective of their young, and surface to chase away intruders, like the ducklings dangling from harnesses that venture too close to the infants. Once the adult fish is in the open and close to the line, it is more likely to take the bait tied below the duckling, he said.

Sok Kon said the technique requires a steady hand and a great deal of finesse, adding that, if done properly, the duckling is recovered free of harm.

But, unfortunately for the ducklings, the Cambodian technique is still a little rough around the edges, and a new sound on the Siem Reap riverside is the whizzing noise of ducklings being swung through the air as anglers hurriedly pull in the line, often followed by a muffled splat.

Sok Kon is a construction worker in Siem Reap and fishes on his lunch breaks and days off. His father taught him how to fish with ducklings when he was a child, and so far he has schooled five of his Cambodian co-workers in the practice.

Demonstrating the art of duckling fishing in Cambodia on the bank of the Siem Reap River, Sok Kon gently harnessed a duckling to the end of a fishing line and scoured the water for a school of baby fish. He then bobbed the duckling in the water, near the baby fish, occasionally changing locations and making duck-like calls intended to lure the fish.

In contrast to Sok Kon's methods is the Cambodian version, as evidenced by a fisherman near the Old Market Bridge. After casually scoping the scene, he unscrewed the lid of an empty water tub and tipped out three mangy ducklings, which were given a quick brush over with a cloth before one was strung up and tied to the line.

The fisherman trawled the river, and periodically plopped the duckling into the water. Unlike Sok Kon, who gently bobbed the duckling in the water, the fisherman took more of a yo-yo approach to the task. Occasionally, feeling a twitch in the line, he yanked it out of the water and swung it overhead, exposing the duckling to G-forces normally reserved for training astronauts.

Depending on how graceful the landing was, and the degree of damage to baby bird, he then re-secured the duckling to the line,  or returned to the duck bucket for a new candidate.

Needless to say, he failed to catch a fish.


  • Diplomatic passports issued to foreigners to be annulled

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will move to annul diplomatic passports issued to those not born in Cambodia. Analysts say the move may be in relation to reports that former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra used a Cambodian passport to register as

  • The hairy little heroes saving many lives in rural Cambodia

    IN RURAL Siem Reap province, rats dare to tread where no person will, as these hairy little heroes place their lives on the line each day for the good of the local community. The rodents are the most important members of a special team, leading

  • Hun Sen warns Irish MP of EBA ‘mistake’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday told former Irish premier Enda Kenny, still a member of the EU nation’s parliament, that the 28-nation bloc should not make a “third mistake” regarding Cambodia by using the preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement to “take 16 million

  • PM warns EU and opposition on 34th anniversary of his rule

    HUN Sen reached the milestone of 34 years as Cambodian prime minister on Monday and used the groundbreaking ceremony for a new ring road around Phnom Penh to tell the international community that putting sanctions on the Kingdom meant killing the opposition. “Please don’t forget