Every Friday Mustafizur Rahman Liton is found sitting by any one of the big ponds in Rajshahi, holding a fishing rod steadily in his hands and patiently waiting.
"I must go fishing every Friday. It has been like an addiction for me," he said.
Recreational fishing has been an integral part of Liton's life for the past 35 years. And, this hobby is not cheap – such fishing festivals mean buying tickets for participating, which can cost very high.
On 16 June this year, he was found at Bhatar Pond in Damkura Hat of the city. He had bought a ticket for Tk16,000 to participate in fishing in the three-acre pond. Mustafiz said once he had bought a ticket for Tk35,000 to fish in a pond in Rajshahi.
But, tickets are not the only cost. "Fishing baits and floats cost Tk8,000 to Tk10,000. There are other expenses too," said Mustafiz.
The organisers had sold tickets to 15 more people for 16 June.
"Today I have caught 11 katla fish, a few rui, mrigel and grass carps," Mustafiz said that day.
Many fishing hobbyists like Mustafiz are involved in commercial recreational fishing and the number is growing day by day. According to people concerned, the market of recreational fishing in the country is worth at least Tk10,000 crore.
Tickets for fishing are sold for Tk5,000 to Tk60,000 each and 10-60 tickets are sold depending on the size of the pond. The organisers circulate the news of the event through various mediums including posters and leaflets.
Most of the recreational fishing takes place on holidays, specially from Thursday evening to Friday night. In some areas, it also takes place on Saturdays and Sundays.
Fishing instruments such as rods, baits and floats are very expensive. Fishing rods can be as expensive as Tk6 lakh. Besides, fishing reels range from Tk300 to Tk4 lakh and fishing hooks at Tk1 to Tk1,000 per piece.
A fisherman has to buy at least 5kg of ant eggs, which sell for Tk1,300 to Tk3,000 per kg, for each day as fishing bait.
Piarul Islam, a recreational fisherman, said, "Fishing is our hobby which is more important than money. It does not matter whether we catch fish worth the money spent on the ticket. That's not important."
Rabiul Islam, owner of the Bhatar Pond in the Damkura Hat, Rajshahi, said, "I have been organising fishing in the pond for three years. I have a few more small ponds. I raised the fish in those ponds and brought them to this bigger pond for the fishermen to catch."
Md Monir, one of the owners of a pond in Shibpur, Rajshahi, said, "We have been organising fishing for the last two years. This May, our ticket price was Tk25,000. Later, it was decreased to Tk16,000."
He said the price of the ticket was high at first but later it decreased with the decline in the number of fishes in the pond.
Most of the commercial recreational fishing in the country takes place in Rajshahi as around 80% of the carp fishes in the country are available in this division. However, many people in Natore, Naogaon, Gazipur, Tangail, Dhaka, Kishoreganj, Naryanganj, Chattogram, Jashore and Khulna are also involved in this.
On 23-24 June, recreational fishing was organised for the first time in the Panch Kori Chowdhury Dighi in Shikarpur, Amanbazar, Chattogram. The number of seats were 40 with a ticket price of Tk15,500 each.
Ziauddin Bablu, who has leased the pond for three years, said that 27 tickets were sold as fishing was going on in seven more ponds on the same day.
Recreational fishing is organised as a form of competition in many areas of the country where expensive prizes are given to the winners who catch most fishes.
"Since 1980, Competitions have been held in the District Sadar Lake in Tangail twice every year. Currently, the ticket price for the competition is Tk35,000 and Tk15 lakh is given as prizes including the first prize worth Tk6 lakh," said Asgar Ali Khan, joint general secretary of Recreational Fishermen Organisation, Tangail.
"People from all over the country come to participate in the competition. They can catch rui, katla, mrigal, silver carp etc fishes here," he added.
Fishing rod and accessories shops
Ataur Rahman, a recreational fisherman, has a fishing rod shop "Primitive Fishing by Aqib" in Rajshahi. He has a factory on the third floor of his house where he produces fishing baits and floats. Some 15 workers in the factory produce 3.5 tonnes of different baits per day.
"A pheromone spray called Agunjal is made only in his factory in South Asia which is used in the bait to attract big fish. Baits from my factory are being exported to different countries in Asia and Europe," he said.
Recently, he has taken the initiative to open outlets in India and New Zealand. He also has a showroom in Uttara, Dhaka.
"I export 100 tonnes of baits to India and Malaysia every year. My products are also going to Europe. There is also a good market in the country," he said.
Apart from baits and floats, his showroom has different types and brands of fishing rods, reels and hooks. The price range of fishing reels in the showroom is Tk300 to Tk1 lakh, fishing rods from Tk500 to Tk75,000.
He said that recreational fishing in the country is a business worth at least Tk10,000 crore.
"It's like legitimate gambling," he added.
There are at least 15-20 similar shops in Rajshahi.
Dhaka's Chawkbazar is famous for fishing rod shops where at least 100-150 shops sell different fishing accessories.
Md Yasin, owner of Fishing Line, said, "My shop has everything including fishing rods, baits, hooks etc. The price range of a fishing rod is Tk500 to Tk2.5 lakh. Fishing reel price range is Tk350 to Tk35,000."
Shah Fishing is the oldest fishing rod shop in Boxirhat, Chattogram and it has been selling fishing equipment since 1971.
Md Arif, the shopkeeper said, "We import fishing products and sell them all over the country. We also produce our own fishing baits."