THE paka is still the most popular fishing net for catching bubuk (shrimps) in the seas of Miri.
Used since time immemorial, it is a spread of very fine net attached to a pair of long sticks.
Each stick is held at one end with a piece of wood that resembles a shoe which slides along the sandy seabed when dragged during a catch.
One paka can accommodate 300kgs of bubuk.
According to fisherman Mohd Azlan Manla Ayup, the paka is normally prepared one week before the start of the bubuk season in February.
“There’s usually a lot to do at this time and generally, shrimp-catchers prepare in advance for the harvest,” he said.
The two other traditional shrimp-catching nets are lengkong and ronda tarik which are the second and the third most popular.
“Paka and lengkong are used to catch shrimps swimming on the surface while ronda tarik is used to trawl for those under the water,” explained Mohd Azlan from Kampung Batu Satu, Lutong-Kuala Baram Road.
February is when bubuk will start appearing in the waters near the shoreline of Miri – a time much awaited by both fishermen and bubuk lovers alike. Come the season, they will set out with their nets in keen anticipation of a bountiful harvest.
After several weeks of waiting, the bubuk season is upon Miri and the catchers are kept busy scouring the waters for the smallish crustaceans.
As usual, during this time of the year, the seashores of Miri are dotted with shrimp-catchers who wade into the water with their nets and containers, looking for the shellfishs no bigger than clipped finger nails.
According to seasoned shrimp-catchers, it’s very hard to predict where and when the tiny krills will appear. One hour, they may be at a certain area but the next hour, they can be somewhere else.
The catchers will always have to check the water at random before plunging in for the ‘attack’.
Many claim the further out to the sea, the thicker the volume of shrimps.
“This is what prompts some catchers to use boats,” Mohd Azlan told thesundaypost.
He does not hold with such a practice, saying it might scare away the shrimps or deter them from moving inshore, hence depriving others of their share of the harvest.
It was this sort of situation that often led to some argument between the boat-users and the ‘waders’, he noted.
Mohd Azlan pointed out that too many shrimp-catchers crowding into one ‘hot area’ could also give rise to confusion, especially when they encroached into each other’s territory.
“But usually, the catchers can sort things out among themselves.”
Best catching times
Mohd Azlan’s sister, Rohani Said, 24, revealed the best catching times were from 8am to 11am and 4pm to 7pm but the siblings would set out much earlier – 5am or 6am — hoping the shrimps would appear at that time.
Rohani and her family have been returning to the sea every now and then, and sometimes, they were able to catch a big tray of the shellfishs weighing some 50 kgs.
There are those who put up in temporary shelters by the seashore so they can get an early start.
Generally, during the peak season, a shrimp-catcher can harvest more than 12kgs in a few hours but the lucky ones can net as much as 30kgs within an hour.
Mohd Azlan said occasionally, catchers could make two trips out to the sea a day “but the most is four.”
There are two types of shrimps – red and white – and they can fetch a good price in the market. When still fresh, the red type sells for RM4 or RM10 for three kgs while the white type, RM10 for four kgs.
“The red type is more popular and also the most abundant,” Mohd Azlan said.
According to him, the Miri seashores at Mile 1 and Sri Bima along Lutong-Kuala Baram Road are the ‘hotspots’ for shrimp-catchers.
The other locations are the Esplanade, Bakam and Kuala Baram.
Meanwhile, Rohani said they earned RM3,000 last month from bubuk sales.
“The daily profit is between RM400 and RM450, depending on the catch.”
At the time of the interview, the day’s catch of Rohani’s family were selling like hot cakes.
Buyers – most locals with a few from Brunei – were still coming towards the evening to buy in bulk.
Rohani’s mother, Jenah Chee, said the end of the bubuk season was unpredictable.
“It can be at the end of this month or early April but March is the peak period,” she added.