Netting an income with crab casting

Rokiah Mahmud

“When there is a will, there is a way.” That is the life motto that has driven 69-year-old Haji Bidin bin Haji Mohd Salim from Kampong Penabai in his venture of crab casting.

He has been a crab hunter for Ketam Kaluk (River crab) and Ketam Nipah (Mangrove crab) for more than 30 years.

Haji Bidin said his interest in crab casting began when he was still in school. He would often follow his father to cast crabs.

Crab casting was just a weekend activity for extra income when he was still working as a government servant. However it became a permanent source of income when he retired.
In an interview with the Bulletin, Haji Bidin said that he would go to Kuala Tutong’s river to check on his crab traps after Subuh prayer.

Usually it is around 5 or 6pm when he’s done working on the trap. Haji Bidin said one needs to be healthy prior to going down the river as the activity requires the catcher to stay under the sun for a long period.

In addition to the weather, crab casting is also dependent on the water condition as it will affect the taste of the crab meat and the size.

Haji Bidin bin Haji Mohd Salim catches crabs along the river. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

In terms of the equipment, he said it can be easily found at hardware shops.

“All items I need for crab casting can be found either at convenience stores or hardware shops,” he said.

“My father and I used to use bamboo traps to cast crabs. However, this equipment is no longer practical as the traps could break easily and it is difficult to repair.

“Also if you settle the bamboo trap for too long on the river bed, other species like water snakes, crocodiles and lizard will damage the trap and eat the crabs.

“Usually I go down to the river four times a week to check on my traps. I use the method of casting or line. One rawai (line) is about 500 metres long,” he said.

“I will put about six rawai on the river bed. About 30 crabs traps hang on every rawai. Each rawai will take me about two-and-a-half hours to get out from the river bed.

“When the demand for crab is high, I check the trap daily. I could catch about 20 kilogrammes of crabs a day. My catch are usually sold out as it is bought by seafood restaurant operators or fishmongers,” he said. “I also have regular customers. This made me eager to continue this work.”

Haji Bidin said that he often encountered crocodiles while working, but advised people not to panick and stay calm.

“If we become aggressive, the crocodile or water snake will retaliate. That is why we need to be prepared before going down the river. We need to be careful because it is dangerous and can cost our life.”

From only a small capital, crab casting generates significant returns. This is because Ketam Kalok is more expensive than sea crabs. The flavour and demand for it is higher due to its thick and sweet flesh.

Apart from generating an income, Haji Bidin also urged the new generation or those unemployed to partake in the activity so that it is not lost over time.