Tag Archives: fishing

Dolphins of the Indus – Is it that time of year again?

Think of a doll with a fin – doesn’t sound quite right, does it? Rather mermaid – like. Still, thats the first thing that came to my mind when I first mouthed the word. It was much later that I would glimpse just a flapper through the murky waters and forever be drawn to the playful enigma that is the ‘dolphin’.

Dolphins, often depicted as intelligent, playful creatures in films are found in both oceans and rivers. Due to the murky environment in which the freshwater dolphins live, their ability to see has been impaired to the extent that they are only able to distinguish between light and dark and the direction from where the light is coming, earning them the title of ‘blind’. In its place they have developed a sophisticated echolocation system which helps them navigate and alerts them to the possibility of food.

Pakistan is host to the grey – brown blind Indus river dolphin or Platanista Minor named Bhulhan by the Sindhi people meaning a tall, voluptuous woman. This species is unique to Pakistan while its close relative is the Platanista Gangetica or Susu of the Meghna, Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers in Nepal, Bangladesh and India.

Another cousin, the Boto, resides in the Amazon and Orinoco rivers in South America. According to the International Union for the Consevation of nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red Data list, the Bhulhan is second on the list of endangered species after the Baiji of the Yagtze river in China, for which the last verified blind dolphin sighting was way back in September 2004.

Originally said to be a shy dweller of the ancient Tethys sea about 50 million years ago, the Indus river dolphin was forced to migrate when the sea began to dry up. The Indus river dolphin enjoyed a peaceful existence until the 1930s when the construction of barrages and dams impeded its migration, split it into small groups and degraded its habitat. Since then, the dolphins have been forced to remain confined to certain areas – definitely not a natural occurence.

The majority of the dwindling population of about 600 dolphins currently resides in the shadowlands – the waters between the Sukkur and Guddu barrages; an area declared as the Indus river dolphin reserve since 1974.

While different agencies such as the WWF – Pakistan in its  Indus River Dolphin Conservation project. Man made perils still await the dolphins of the Indus in the form of industrial waste spewing into rivers, water scarcity in the Indus, construction of dams and barrages, fishing nets and hunting by the locals for its meat, oil and fins.

It seemx Pakistan has been a far from friendly environment for the dolphin. While 2012 remains free of any reports of dead dolphins so far, it was around this time last year in 2011 that reports were received of nearly 6 dolphins, lost forever to the chemical filled waters between Guddu and Sukkur. One can only imagine what this 200 metre expanse of water may have done to the area and later to those eating the fish in these waters. Ironically, the impatience of fisherfolk may shoulder much of this blame. Dumping in chemicals for quick results may prove more addictive than not.

One can only hope that the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum in sync with the environmental agencies operating in the area sustain and balance sanity, patience and livelihoods.

Gone Fishing!

Tiger skins, antelope heads replete with antlers amongs others have for a long time been considered trophies worthy of drawing-room attention in the homes of
subcontinent big game hunters. Fishing however was a rare sport. The past few
decades have seen a rise in fishing by enthusiasts, firmly putting Pakistan on the map of big gamefishing in the world. The thrill of having hooked a fish once roves adrenaline surging for the many who do venture into this arena and they keep coming back for more. This has in turn resulted in burgeoning of industries most of which are located in Sialkot manufacturing fishing tackle, lead, sinkers, spoons, spinners, pliers, forceps and lines.

PGFA is the Pakistan Gamefishing Association located in Karachi. Its member anglers on the other hand belong to all areas and frequently visit diverse spots from Cape Monz in Karachi to Satpara lake in Skardu in search of fish. The association believes in conservation in heavily fished waters. The Pakistan Whale and Dolphin Group (PWDG) established by PGFA with WWF-Pakistan seeks to raise awareness about cetaceans in this regard. Anglers are encouraged to fish according to the international catch and release system, releasing after weighing and tagging, before the fish is exhausted. A weighstation facility has been provided at Mubarak Village in Karachi.

Pakistan boasts of a variety of both saltwater and freshwater gamefishes. Some better known salt water fishes include:

  • Marlin: It belongs to the category of billfish such as swordfish and is found near Churna island from Septemeber to December.
  • Barracuda is the only fish found all year round while others can be caught in particular seasons with Amberjack, Cobia and Pompano from August to October and Tuna, Shark Trevally and Shark being caught in other months.

Freshwater fishes include:

  • Trout: The Northern areas of Pakistan, especially Naran, Ghizar, Shandur pass, Phander lake, and Chitral are the prime spots for trout. A trout hatchery is located at Chitral which charges Rs 70 – 80 per catch. May to October are the best months for catching trout.
  • Carps and Catfish: Chashma barrage in Mianwali and Kinjhar Lake in Sindh are good spots.
  • Mahseer: Tarbela dam in Rawalpindi boasts of this fish mostly from September to November.
  • Others include the Great Snakehead, Clown Knifefish and various Tilapia found at various locations along the river Indus.

Various fishing techniques are used by anglers like:

  •  Fly Fishing: involves the usage of bits of feather or other artificial material as bait attached to the hook with a string while Dry fly fishing makes use of bait that will float on water. Both involve the angler usually standing in the water.
  • Surf casting has the angler stand on the edge of the water and cast the hook.
  • Trawling is recommended on lakes and big rivers.
  • A ‘Hora’ or stationary boat is also useful among the mangroves and can be boarded from several points in Karachi such as Gharo, Rehri Goth, Ibrahim Hyderi village, Russian Beach, Marina, Club etc.