Kelong fishing is actually a very unique type of fishing found only in South-East Asia. To many people, the impression of a Kelong is more of a resort for families than a place for fishing, as the catch is often not as good compared to boat fishing. To a certain extent it’s true, as the fishing spots are determined by our casting distance around the perimeter of the kelong. But with the correct skills and techniques, the catch from a kelong can be comparable to a boat trip.
A Kelong (sometimes spelt Kellong) is a Malay word to describe a form of offshore platform built predominantly with wood, and can be found in waters off Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, while only a handful remains around Singapore due to rapid urbanisation.
Kelongs are built by fishermen primarily for fishing purposes, although larger structures can also function as dwellings for them and their families. They are built without the need for nails, using rattan to bind tree trunks and wooden planks together.
Anchored into the sea bed using wooden piles of about 20 metres in length and driven about 6 metres into the sea, they are usually sited in shallow water, although some can be found in deeper waters. Some kelongs are less isolated, and are connected to land via a wooden gangway. Other variants of Kelongs can be mobile, or may involve a large groups of Kelongs joined together into a massive offshore community.
Kelong are used as traps station to bring in fishes. Some Kelongs doing some aquaculture are usually accompanied by a floating fish farm. However, a kelong is not self sufficient, it has no water pipe lines or electricity lines laid to the kelong. Kelong runs on diesel generators and water are brought onboard by boats. Provisions are also replenished weekly. Transport to the Kelong and fish farm are usually done by boat.
The technology used to catch fishes and shellfishes are old school but somehow efficient. The Kelong makes use of the water current flow and vertical sticks stuck to the seabed to guide shoal of fishes into the Kelong where a main fishing net resting below. The net would then be lifted by a machine. Other methods of catching are by using fishing traps, designed to be a favourable hiding environment for fishes, where it is easy for the fishes to enter but difficult to exit.
Working in Kelongs involves routine work, in which the work runs for 24 hours and daily routine had to be split into shift works. The workers would harvest fishes, clean and repairs the net as well as maintaining the Kelong and fish farm.
In the present world, less people were willing to have these kind lifestyle so the workers found on board the Kelongs would turn out to be the owners. Over the years, some Kelongs had transformed into a tourism attraction in certain countries where people can have a retreat from the urban life.