Otter fishing in the Sundarbans


Off prompt today, sorry NaPoWriMo! Didn’t fancy writing a backwards story because I’ve been thrilled by accounts of otter fishing, still a living practise in the mangroves of Bangladesh, where generations of fishermen raise domesticated otters to herd fish into their nets, pups learning from their parents. I’ve taken inspiration, images and some entire phrases from this great eye witness account  and also from this deliciously atmospheric website celebrating the Sundarbans.

You can watch footage of otter fishing here and here.

Otter fishing in the Sundarbans


the beautiful forest receives

the falling night

smears it kohl-black

along its starless, brackish



where fish trace cursive

drowned comets


elders swung on a chain

of tailflicks like

heavy-flanked censers


in a bamboo box

a writhing otterknot

cacophonous yipping

piercing the slats

their whiskers and stench

of fermented mud



the estuaries breath the tide

into their bronchioles

new islands breach

spines of giant crocodiles

midstream, middream


the mud shifts

whispers under

the paws of maneaters

the striped jungle

conceals its secret hives

its weapons


fisherman, release them

longleashed from the narrow boat

dogfaced snouting

fish from crannies

playful, frisking

fish from gullies


in swamps where

translucent women wade

neck deep dragging

nets through shrimp-seethe

and are eaten tiger-silent

down to their screams


this is the only joyful hunt







2 thoughts on “Otter fishing in the Sundarbans

  1. Wow, I think you made the right choice to ignore the prompt. This is wonderful. Captures so well the mystery of symbiosis of humans / animals / nature

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