Fishing is usually done with a net or a fishing rod. But in Banyuwangi, East Java, shooting fish with a rifle is currently trending and is well-loved by those who do it.
Like a sniper, these fish hunters aim at their targets swimming among the reefs without having to dive. They remain on the edge of the water while watching the fish passing by under the surface.
Hunting fish with a rifle is quite difficult. In addition to requiring high targeting accuracy, one must also consider the depth of water and wind direction and speed.
Hunting can only be done in shallow waters as well. The pressure from the air gun can only penetrate the water with a maximum water depth of 1 metre.
The craze is only prevalent in one small area of Banyuwangi. You’ll find people shoot fish with guns at Plengsengan, Mandar Village, Banyuwangi District.
“You can at least get 13 fishes while hunting in five hours,” said Imron, a resident of the Keramat neighbourhood, Kertosari Village, Banyuwangi District.
The results of this hunting, on average, are used for additional side dishes for lunch and dinner. However, when sold, the shot fish are usually priced between Rp15,000-25,000 per kilogram, depending on the type of fish.
Almost every day, Imron and other fish snipers hunt in the Plengsengan area. This location is one of the favoured spots for hunting because of its shallow waters and variety of fish.
“From noon to evening, many people fish or shoot fish here. The fishermen and the snipers have their own places. We understand each other,” said Imron.
To make it easier for the eye to see prey in the water, these snipers are required to wear sunglasses. If one only relies on the naked eye, then hunting becomes difficult because of the reflection of the sun.
The shooters don’t aim directly at the target before firing. This is due to the laws of physics; light is bent when it enters the water.
“We have to estimate the direction the fish will swim in. We aim at least 5 to 10 cm from the target. If you aim at the target, the bullet will definitely turn,” he said.
Imron said that he had only recently become fond of this hobby. He and his colleagues are bird shooters who have switched their hobby to become fish shooters, members of the Banyuwangi Fish Sniper (SIWANGI) community.
“Because I was bored, I finally switched to hunting fish with this rifle. It’s a shame if the birds continue to be hunted,” explained Imron.
According to Imron, all rifles can be used for fishing. The rifle will need to be modified first. The ammunition used isn’t the standard lead bullets; the hunter-fishers use long iron bullets.
“The bullets we use are motorbike wheel bars. Cut them to about 18 cm. The bars are tied to strings. For the bullet to fill the barrel of the rifle, it must also be slightly modified,” said Imron.
Meanwhile, another fish sniper, Agus Ariyanto, said that apart from fish, the rifle can also be used to hunt squid. The difficulty level of that catch is higher.
“If a squid is not hit right in the middle, it will get away. Squid is different from fish because its body is easily torn,” said Ari.