The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Anglers in Assam toil to raise fish for fun

Guwahati, June 12: If you ever had doubts about an angling fanatic’s philanthropic love for fish, visit the Jia Bharali, where men are breeding the dwindling golden mahseer to, well, have more of them to catch.

Every year in November, hundreds of anglers from across the country and several parts of the world arrive at Jia Bharali river in Assam for the annual competition — to net the fierce game fish, golden mahseer, known as the tiger of Indian rivers.

But a rapid decline in the golden mahseer population in the river, which flows through the Nameri National Park, has prompted the Assam (Bhorelli) Angling and Conservation Association to launch the first scientific breeding so that game fish does not become extinct in the near future.

Though the river is known as Bharali, the angling association was spelt Bhorelli by the Britishers and it has stuck since then. “This is a small step towards a big goal. We hope the day will come when anglers will always get a fish whenever they go to find one,” Atul Borgohain, honorary project director of the Golden Mahseer Rehabilitation and Hatchery project, said today.

The primary reason for the diminishing number of golden mahseer is poaching along the west bank of the river, a source said.

A captive breeding project was tried out earlier but it was abandoned midway for various reasons. This time, 500 fingerlings of golden mahseer were released into the Jia Bharali in the first phase.

Considered the “holy grail of angling”, the record catch of golden mahseer at the Jia Bharali on rod and line weighed 24.5kg.

“We will be releasing more of the fingerlings in different foothill rivers of the region which feed the Jia Bharali so as to replenish the depleting population of fish,” he said.

The comprehensive breeding programme will begin by July under which “brookfish” — fish with eggs — will be released in special breeding ponds near the river. When the fishlings grow to a certain size, they will be released in the river, Borgohain said.

Experts at the Directorate of Coldwater Fisheries, based at Bhimtal in Uttarakhand, will arrive for the breeding.

The directorate had financed a mahseer hatchery, situated in the vicinity of a tourist camp on the bank of Jia Bharali, and is the first of its kind in western India.

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