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Malaysian traditional games :: Catching small fishes in paddy field and streams in the rubber estate

By NKKhoo

Location: The outskirts of Muar.

Time capsule: 70s.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

This outdoor outing is not a game, it’s more like a leisure sport in today’s jargon.

During the weekends and long school holidays, my village mates in a small group of four to five would bring simple fishing tools like rattan bucket, unused mosquito net, empty Milo can to catch small fishes like “ikan sepat”, fighting fish, “ikan keli” (pond  loach), tiger barb (an endemic species in Northern Johor), frogs, etc. in the paddy field and streams running through the rubber estate.

Sawah Ring is located at about 5km from my new village and it was easily reached with the bicycle or walking. Look at a rotating banner above for Sawah Ring scenery.

Malayan fighting fish is only found in the muddy water of paddy field. We caught the male fishes for fighting purpose. The fish is easy to breed in the small glass bottle with white Hainan bread.

Malayan fighting fish

Malayan fighting fish

Pond loach is a delicious edible fish we like to catch from the drainage channels in paddy field for our dinner. Sometimes we also caught some eels with luck. We are not good in setting up eel traps, thus eels are rare catch for us, a bunch of small chidren.

The streams flow through rubber estates in the olden days is crystal clear and unpolluted by pesticide. Many fish species are found in the streams and the most beautiful one is tiger barb.

There are two species of tiger barb in my place, i.e. four black strips and five (six?) black strips. Four black strips tiger barb could be found in the swampland at Sengkang. The bad news is Sengkang fresh water swampland is no longer exist.

Five black strips tiger barb [Puntius pentazona] is smaller and also not shinny, and they could be found in the unpolluted streams in the rubber estates.

Four strips tiger barb is commonly sold in aquariums.

Four strips tiger barb is commonly sold in aquariums.

Six strips tiger barb is a rare species in Johor.

Five strips tiger barb is a rare species in Johor.

Unfortunately, almost all streams are drying and dying after rubber estates are replanted with palm oil trees nowadays.

We would strip off our clothing and enter the stream in nude to keep our clothing clean and dry before we returning home. Caning by our parents is a normal punishment for being naughty.

In one time, my mate caught a black snake with his rattan bucket and all of us ran in panic to shore in nude like a funny scene in the comedy show. 🙂

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