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A dam closes its spillway gates, opens up a fish-fest

In an annual ‘fishing festival,’ thousands dive into the water when a Dong Nai dam closes its spillway.

Thousands wait at the Tri An reservoir in the southern Dong Nai Province on Monday morning, bringing nets and even electric rods to catch big fish, in an annual “fishing festival” that happens when the hydroelectric dam closes its spillway.

Different kinds of fish including catfish, carp and barb are left behind by the closing of the spillway.

A huge catfish weighing about 20 kilograms was caught in a small cavity by a man who refused an offer of VND2 million ($85) for it. “It took me quite a long time to catch this one,” he said.

Another man said he will take his fish home and cook it because this only happens once a year.

Two tilapias get caught in the net. According to fishermen, a lot of fish remain in this area when the spillway is closed, including very big ones.

Hung is part of a group of people who’ve come from Bien Hoa, more than an hour away, to participate in the fish festival. “Our group has 10 people. My job is just to keep an eye on the fish. We sell most of the fish we catch.. only leave some to take home as gifts to our families,” Hung said.

While trying to catch a catfish, Sang gets punctured in the arm by a hard, sharp spine (seen in his right hand). “Catching a big fish is not easy at all, and when that spine stings you, you’ll get a fever for days,” Sang said.

Sang finally caught this catfish, weighing 10 kilograms.

This year, the prices of fish caught in this lake have gone up. Barbs fetch VND30,000 to 50,000 ($1.29-2.15) a kilogram, while big catfish (weighing over 10 kilograms) is priced VND800,000 to 1.2 million ($34-52).