Traditional Mabuna Fishing

It was a wonderful Autumn’s day out, with a background of golden rice ready to be harvested and the air thick with dragonflies of all colours.  After no success at the first spot, we tried another, an impossibly small drainage ditch, but I snagged a mabuna with my first cast.

1st mabuna

I got another two hits in rapid succession, with the fish getting away both times, and it promised to be an interesting hour or so until a tractor suddenly appeared and the driver, apologising profusely, said today was the day to mow the banks clear.  We headed off to another spot, a lakeside area, and was slightly alarmed when my companion declared, “The perverts!  The sick perverts!” but it turned out, only that another group of anglers had already started fishing the point we were headed to, and their perversion appeared to be no more than that they had got there before us.  So we headed off to one of my teacher’s secret spots – where he informed me in a conspiratorial tone that we were only there because of me, and he wanted me to have a good catch – and there wasn’t a soul in sight.  Here there was good fishing all round, and I caught plenty of mabuna, as well as some native minnows and a couple of crayfish.


This time of the year the mabuna are generally this size; Springtime is when the beasts can be taken in the shallows.  I was planning on keeping a bunch to make into the dish kanroni, but in person they seemed far too cute to me and I abandoned my culinary enterprise.  Still, on the ultra-light traditional bamboo tackle the game is pretty amusing and they put up a surprising fight.  This one looked to me more like a young hera:


This is a type of minnow called moroko in Japanese; according to my teacher, who is a chef, these are far tastier than mabuna, hera or tanago.  I took his word for it and let the creature go.


The whole area is devoted to rice cultivation and criss-crossed with irrigation channels; part of the fun of the fishing is walking along the banks looking for likely spots that hold fish.  There are many waterbirds about and the undergrowth teams with all manner of insect life and creatures.  In a quiet spot I tested the macro function on my camera:


The paddies – at this time of the year now drained, and either harvested or with the rice golden and waiting to be taken – seem to go on forever, and the hustle and bustle of Tokyo is rapidly forgotten, and all the walking quite meditative.

rice paddies

The wind really picked up after lunch, so we called it a day and headed home after a very satisfying day out.  Being strictly catch and release fishing, we stopped off at a friendly store selling local agricultural produce and I bought some specialties of Chiba: persimmon and peanuts, which were very reasonable.

specialties of Chiba


3 responses to “Traditional Mabuna Fishing

  1. Pretty busy with the fishing lately, huh? Nice.

  2. chris,
    Indeed! You will have some catching up to do!

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