“It’s my cameraman’s number that I have given on my Facebook page. Otherwise people keep calling to meet me in person!” says Abdul Sami, 34, with a laugh. The Guntur-native is getting used to attention after he started a fishing channel, Abdul Sami Fishing, one-and-a-half years ago. With over 1.5 lakh subscribers, it is now a source of income as well for Sami.
The business of fishing vloggers is booming, with subscribers running into lakh and millions. Kerala has the largest number of these vloggers, followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra.
“The huge Malayali presence is because of the different kinds of water bodies in the state, such as sea, lakes, rivers and ponds. The numbers have increased this year, post the lockdown,” says Midhun Surendran from Kozhikode in Kerala, who runs Mallu Angler (101K subscribers) and is the admin of a Facebook group of fishing enthusiasts.
Content is diverse and exciting, as these vloggers fish from the shore as well as do inshore and offshore fishing. Besides extensive coverage of the process, they talk about technique, give tips and highlight features of the catch.
The fish varieties generally featured in the vlogs are grouper, red snapper, rohu, catla, king fish, mangrove jack, barracuda, barramundi, sting ray, different varieties of snakehead, among others. Besides showing traditional fishing traps and speargun fishing, some vloggers demonstrate the use of ingenious bait, made using rice bran powder, chicken intestine, maida paste and even cauliflower.
Not just fishing techniques, vloggers also highlight the gear/equipment used, by posting review videos. “When I started vlogging in 2015, there weren’t many channels in Malayalam to guide me through the process. That’s why I decided to focus on gear. Now, thanks to us vloggers, fishing tackle shops are minting money,” says Midhun.
Ahammed Bisher (Folks Channel) from Kozhikode, adds that he used to upload only fishing tutorials initially on his channel. “Even though I got an imported rod and reel in 2007, it was only in 2015 that I learnt how to use it. I didn’t want others to struggle like me,” says the 26-year-old.
These vloggers include members from the fishing community as well who make videos documenting their day at sea, such as Ungal Meenavan Mookaiyur (821K subscribers) by K Kingston from Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu and Kadal Raasa-Fishing (173K subscribers) by D Gandhi of Puducherry.
A graphic designer and son of a fisherman R Desappan, Gandhi used to run YouTube channels that focussed on cinema, sports and cooking earlier.
“When it came to creating original content, I couldn’t find a better option than fishing. So, for my channel, I ventured out into the sea for the first time. Videos featuring my father get more views! However, there are also vloggers who pay fishermen to shoot videos for their channels,” says Gandhi.
Presentation, quality and variety go into the making of a successful channel, says Sebin Cyriac who has 1.34 million subscribers for his channel, Fishing Freaks. “It is a family affair for me. My videos often feature my 85-year-old grandmother, Rosamma Joseph, who introduced me to fishing, my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law and their families, friends, neighbours…. One episode had 24 of us, when we travelled to Chellanam (in Kochi) a day after my elder brother’s wedding!” says Sebin, who was all set to move to Canada before vlogging changed his life.
Having run a prawns farm (chemmeenkettu) for several years now at Alappuzha district in Kerala, Saiju Thomas (K&K Techs) talks about rearing prawns and various aspects about farming in his videos. “I used to do technology-related videos initially. But when I fell short of ideas, I turned to my vocation,” says the 38-year-old.
The presence of too many channels has forced vloggers to think different. “It is important to showcase something new. So I am going on a three-month fishing trip in Dubai to create novel content,” says Bisher, who is back from a four-day deep-sea fishing trip off the shore in Kozhikode.
Malayali vlogger, Unni George from Kumbalangi near Kochi, adds that he often looks for adventure in his videos. One of them show his encounter with an Arapaima weighing 37 kilograms, a strong predator he caught at a quarry in Angamaly. The fish though endemic to Amazon, is grown in commercial farms in Kerala and escaped to waterbodies during flash floods.
Meanwhile, Maruthu Palanichamy (Konkan Fishing), a native of Kambam in Tamil Nadu and currently settled in Bengaluru, brings his 15-year experience into his vlogs. He stands out because he travels across the coastline to fish, covering parts of Tamil Nadu, Goa and Karnataka. “That is why my channel is in English. Also, I use inflatable boats for fishing expeditions, which isn’t common in the angling community,” he says.
Even though most vloggers present content in their mother tongue, Sami prefers to be silent: “I can speak only Hindi but my videos are watched by people across the world. So, I let the videos speak for me.”
A vlogger’s revenue can run into several lakh rupees, inclusive of the amount obtained through product promotions. There is no better example than Unni. His vlog, OMKV Fishing&Cooking founded in 2018, became the means to clear his debts after a kidney transplantation.
“OMKV, short form for ‘Odu Meene Kandam Vazhi’, is my life now! I couldn’t risk my health by doing heavy jobs after the transplant. So I decided to try my luck on YouTube and that clicked,” says 34-year-old Unni. The vlogger, a toast of social media for his simplistic presentation style and his cooking videos, has done a video with popular food vlogger Mark Wiens as well.
Earn your way
- A vlogger can apply for monetisation to YouTube after getting 4,000 watching hours and 1,000 subscribers. Once the content is analysed for authenticity, one can start earning. “However, the revenue depends on the number of views and not on the number of subscribers. It took me three months to make 100 dollars. If the videos garner one million views a month, you get ₹12,000-15,000 per month. The amount goes up if the video goes viral,” says Sebin. There are vloggers who get as high as ₹15 lakhs per month, inclusive of the amount earned through product promotions.
- A basic combo pack of fishing gear costs ₹1,500, which is not enough to catch all varieties of fish. Reels are priced at ₹2,000 and up and some high-end models cost ₹75,000-80,000.
However, even with sophisticated gear, there is no guarantee that you get a great video every time. Abdul Vajid of Tackle Tips explains, “One has to also understand the science behind fishing, especially about how moon, tides, weather, wind… influence fish activity. One has to be at the right place at the right time and use the right technique. Patience is the key.”
A small percentage of vloggers focus on catch-and-release content. Chennai-native Om Prakash, of ‘Om is fishing’, who works with a BPO in Bengaluru, specialises in Malabar snakehead (vaaha), a “vulnerable species in the IUCN Red List”, found only in Kerala.
“I travel to Kerala to catch the fish and unless it is gravely injured, I always release it. My purpose is to create awareness about this species. Even the angling community doesn’t know much about it. Now I also focus on cherumeen (Channa Psuedomarulius), a sub-species of bullseye snakehead,” says 38-year-old Om.
Another crusader is 27-year-old Ngurang Nega from Arunachal Pradesh who creates awareness about the golden mahseer, an endangered variety, on his channel, Mahseer Fishing Arunachal Pradesh. “Even local people aren’t aware of the need to conserve the fish. So I fish for the mahseer and introduce it to the viewers before releasing it,” Nega says.
Om concludes, “When you go fishing, it is also about connecting with nature. And you have a responsibility to conserve the fish stock for the future generation.”