Fishing - Event

Fish On! India's Biggest Surf Fishing Angling Competition Beckons

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Spruce up that fishing rod and fill up the bait bucket because India’s biggest Surf Fishing Competition is about to happen! All India Game Fishing Association (AIGFA) are coming back with another tournament of adventurous angling on November 3rd, 2017.

Imagine more than 100 anglers with a determined spirit casting their fishing rods to land their bait beyond the breaking waves in pursuit of exotic and unknown beauties of the sea. Patiently waiting for that tug which could bear fruits to their long day perseverance and maybe even bag a prize! From the usual coarse fishes to the unique game ones, the Angling tournament will see an array of catches and it shall be a sight to witness.

Fishing or Angling as a sport is a fairly new concept for the Indian crowd. Although fishing, in its true sense, is a means of livelihood for the most of the rural population, as a sport, a passion, it is still in nascent stages in India.

Nevertheless, the sport of catching fishes- exotic and big is gradually gaining ground in India and it can become the next big thing with angling events like Surf Fishing Competition by AIGFA. Officially known as Ali Hussaini Memorial World Surf Angling Championship 2017, the competition is India’s biggest angling tournament to date.

It started eight years back with India’s best Anglers organizing the event and a humble gathering of 20 participants experiencing the thrill of exotic fish catching in Harihareshwar, Maharashtra.  This was followed by events in Andamans in 2012 and then in 2015 in Ganpatiphue in Maharashtra.  Now in 2017, the number participants are an astounding 100, with the highest representation of 41 anglers from Maharashtra. Enthusiastic anglers are coming from all over India and even globally from the US, UK and Dubai.

We caught up with Derek DSouza, Director Pelagic Tribe, one of the key sponsors and organizers of the tournament, who had this to say, "This is the single most largest Angling Surf event in India, getting over 100 anglers together in one place to battle out the species is one of the the greatest achievement to honour our Late president Ali Husaini. This event will bring together anglers from all walks of life, professionals to amateurs who will learn from each other and hone their skills. This event will also teach angler responsible angling and  take part in the largest citizen science project in India. I am very excited to be a part of the organizing team, its not easy to get 100 anglers in one place for a single objective, and we hope that the fish are biting."

Well, we hope so too that the biggest fish will be biting!

AIGFA Andaman Tournament
The Participants of the 2012 AIGFA Surf Fishing Tournament in the Andaman Islands

This year marks the 4th edition of the fishing sport which is taking place at Malwan, Tondivali. Competitive anglers will gather at the exquisite beach as early as 5 am on a cold November morning and spend two days in the quest of the biggest catch. Located in Maharashtra, about 2.5-hour drive from Goa, the Malwan waters are home to Sting Rays, Sand Sharks, and Reef Sharks and a host of other species. The coastline has a natural reef about 400 meters from its shoreline and a river mouth which nurtures the entire ecosystem.

With the growing passion for angling, the 2017 Surf Angling Tournament is expecting a grand reception. As mentioned before, aside from the domestic enthusiasts, the tournament attracts offshore anglers as well. Born in Chennai, Chandrasekar Ravi, aka 'Chan', now based in Stamford, Connecticut, US is coming all the way from there for this tournament. He is an avid surf angler who has been very successful in the beaches of the United States East Coast. “Fishing has always been a passion right from my childhood and I took up sport fishing seriously 6 years ago. Ever since there was no looking back. I have been part of earlier tournaments conducted by AIGFA and the fact that they are having their biggest ever tournament now is very exciting. I have had plans to travel on vacation in the later of November but once I heard about this, I rescheduled my trip so that I don’t miss this great opportunity of fishing with the best in India,” says Chan beaming with excitement.

AIGFA 2015
A Few Memories from the 2015 AIGFA Surf Fishing Tournament 

Amandeep Bakshi, another excited angler who is coming from all the way from Dubai to be a part of the angling event. “I have been into angling since my childhood, as far as I can remember I would be sitting on the banks of rivers holding a handline. As I grew up and with the access to knowledge and right equipment I realized that how shallow I am swimming in this vast ocean of angling. The first realization of the vastness of the ocean was when I first met Ali Bhai couple of years back, the meeting was short but the impact was everlasting,” reveals Amandeep. Amandeep also tells that he was totally overwhelmed when he heard about Ali Hussaini's sudden demise. So, when the gathering of the anglers in the name of a tournament came up, Bakshi was sure to not miss the opportunity to pay tribute to Hussaini and meet a few others like him.

Learning and networking is not the only motivation, there is also the lure of some awesome prizes sponsored by upcoming brands like Pelagic Tribe, Agwetor and others in the fledgeling angling ecosystem.  

The first and the second prizes are cash prizes of Rs. 70,000 and Rs. 50,000 plus 1 full day Andaman Popping boat trip for four anglers and lots of fishing gear! 
The 3rd position will earn you Rs. 30,000 with a 1 full day Chennai Popping Boat Trip for four.

Similar cash and goodies are also available for the fourth and fifth position winners.

Chennai man, Prasanna T. aka Pras, owner at Poseidon Sport Fishing (a Sportfishing charter service) says, “Sport Fishing in India has come a long way, there are more anglers out on the water every week than ever before. Angling is a way to connect back to nature and rejuvenate the mind and body.”  Pras is coming to the tournament with a contingent of fully prepped up 15+ anglers from Tamil Nadu. They have had trial runs and strategy sessions in the beaches of Chennai! Other participants had better watch out for them!

Speaking of prizes, angling in the West is a recognized sport with millions of dollars in prize money that encourages the likes of Chan, via awareness and handsome prizes, to see fishing more than just a recreational activity. Due to lack of proper promotion and media coverage, the angling scene in India may seem nascent but it is quite vast than one might assume. As per AIGFA,  there are over a million anglers in India, recreational as well as subsistence.

How is that possible you might ask? 

Well, the Indian subcontinent has a coastline of about 8118 Km and thousands of rivers, ponds, and lakes. With such a vast coastal area and numerous inland water bodies, fishing is an activity which is observed or practiced daily to those living near the water. Anglers are spread all over the country, even in the remotest of villages. Both the east and west coastal regions have game fishing species like Indian Salmon, Barramundi, Sharks, Rays, Groupers, Mackerel (Spanish, King etc) Mangrove Jacks, Giant Travellys, Barracudas etc. all of which are regularly targeted by anglers. 

Going a little deep in the sea towards the Andaman and Lakshwadeep Islands, exotic fish species such as Billfish family (Blue, Black marlin, and Sailfish), Tuna (Yellow Fin Tuna and Dog Tooth Tuna) Giant Trevally, Napoleon Wrasse, Coral Trouts, Groupers, Wahoo, Reef Cods etc are found in abundance. Consequently, both local and international anglers flock to these places to indulge in Sport Fishing activity.

Andaman Game Fishing
The Exotic Catches and Species of Andaman (Image credit)

Mangalore's Roland Dsouza, winner of the All India Surf Angling Championship 2016 orgainzed by Manglore Anglers Club, shares his angling story with us. "As for my background, I started fishing at a young age, following my dad who was crazy about fishing and through him I was motivated. Last year I took part in the tournament along with 70 anglers and my winning fish was the Red Snapper at 3.2 Kg".

Roland Dsouza, Mangalorean Angler
Angler Roland Dsouza with his Winning Catch the Red Snapper at 3.2 Kg

As an experienced Angler, Roland Dsouza’s expectations from the Malwan Surf tournament are to meet fine anglers from all over the world and to learn something new from them while hoping to hook a big daddy in the serene waters of that area.

While speaking with the organizers of the tournament, we also got a history tour of the AIGFA, India’s very own angling Illuminati.  All India Game Fishing Association (AIGFA) is a non-profit-making, charitable organization. The association calls itself a “league of gentlemen anglers across India” whose sole intention is to promote “Sport Fishing” and to protect the fast depleting stock of sports fish. The championship is an effort to protect the aquatic ecosystem by the active participation of angler community. 

Through AIGFA, the Angling community of India aims to establish ethical practices of sport fishing by chronicling game fish, their habitat, safe methods to target them and to promote catch and release by publishing, educating, record keeping and involvement of other organizations which also commit to the same agenda.

AIGFA logo
All India Game Fishing Association is a "League of Gentlemen Anglers" Across India.

Previously, AIGFA has conducted another angler led initiative called “Abhiyan” with a mission to clean water bodies. The event was conducted in Assam, Orissa, Maharashtra, Nagaland and West Bengal.

This year's surf fishing competition is held with the objective to do a population study, recapture study, growth rate study and migration distance of the fishes. This will be done by tagging every Shark (Carcharhinus), Sand Shark or Shovel Nose (Aptychotrema) and Sting Ray (Myliobatoidei Sp.) that is caught in by the Anglers. AIGFA is working with Pelagic Tribe who will sponsor the Floy tags to tag every Shark and Rays. This will be the largest Citizen Science projected executed in India if not Asia on Saltwater fish.

Anglers will be using ethical fishing practices like the use of circle hooks to ensure the safe release of the fish. All fish, after measurement, must be released safely and should swim away to be counted for the competition.

Another significant objective of the tournament this year is to honour the legacy and memory of the late President and co-founder of AIGFA - Ali Hussaini, popularly known as 'Ali Bhai' in the angling community. He was an avid conservationist and the tournament is looking to carry forward his legacy with the aim to catch and release hundreds' of Sharks and Rays and use them to conduct a limited survey study.

Anglers fondly remember him saying that he was always ready to share his deep knowledge & one always came away enriched after each meeting with him. The whole fishing community of India moans his death in his prime. “We hope to continue his legacy & help promote this sport in a gentlemanly manner,” says one of the participants.

Ali Hussaini
Ali Hussaini (left) with Angler Saikat Barik (right) posing with a Shovel Nose in the AIGFA event of 2015

As we inquire about the ways the anglers have prepped themselves up, Col. Pratap Nair (Rtd), a veteran angler and runner-up of the 2015 event says, “Frankly I am not hoping or preparing to hit the top three again. There is always a huge element of luck in fishing. Last time Lady Luck favoured me & I was lucky. In fact, on the first day, I didn't catch anything. It was only during the last session that Alibhai shared his spot with me & I hooked on to a big sting ray. It was all thanks to that great gentleman angler.”

Col Nair
Col. Pratap Nair (Rtd), with the runners-up catch of Sting Ray in 2015

Steve Locket, a UK raised-Goa settled, post-retirement after a long career as an independent angling journalist is another participant of the tournament who speaks quite fondly of  Ali Hussaini. “Having fished and worked with Alibhai, this upcoming surf casting championship was an event I felt I had to attend and support. Sea fishing is not my thing at all, but fish have similar habits whether they are swimming in the sea or a river, so I will give it a good shot.” 

When asked about his expectations from the championship, Steve further says, “Mostly, I see this event as a perfect opportunity to meet up with old friends & make new friends. Ali was responsible for so many introductions and new friendships, that approaching the competition in this way is the best way to celebrate his legacy.”

And indeed, the ever-inspiring Ali Bhai shall be missed this year. 

You can read Ali Hussaini's story in our article - Legends Live Forever - Ali H. Hussaini: Gentleman Angler, Mentor, Innovator and Conservationist

The Ali Hussaini Memorial World Surf Angling Championship 2017 is a big shout out to country’s talented anglers. Such events can lead to the growth of pro-anglers who can not only make quite a handsome sum of money by catching these alluring water creatures but also bring awareness to conservation and protection of our water bodies and fishes at the same time.

And no worries if you aren’t much of angler, just visit the tournament for the joy of it, and maybe pick up one or two angling tips for next year! 

As they say in angling - 'Tight Lines' to all participants!

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