A r(eel) tricky way to fish

It's a fiddly business catching the wriggly creatures, but somebody's got to do it, as long as Japan's taste for eels grows unabated.

On the darkest of dark nights, in Tokushima, Japan, fishermen make their way out into the freezing Yoshino River to catch the baby eels.

During high tide, when the eels swim upriver from the estuary, the fishermen use lamps to search for the young eels, like this fisherman (left) was doing last Saturday.

Taking advantage of the eels' attraction to strong light, the fishermen shine a light to lure them.

When the eels swim up close to the river surface, the men scoop them up. The fishermen have been using this technique of eel fishing for centuries.

The wild glass eels are about 5cm long, and those caught during the fishing season are sold to farming facilities at a price of between 100 yen (S$1.20) and 300 yen.

They are then allowed to grow bigger at these facilities before being taken to market.

Japanese eels, which have been classified as endangered due to overfishing and other factors, have long had a special place in the Japanese diet. Connoisseurs savour the meat, which is rich in vitamins, and many people believe it will protect them from fatigue in hot weather.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'A r(eel) tricky way to fish'. Print Edition | Subscribe