Fishing Tourism in Jammu

Young man fishing on a lake

Rajan Gandhi
Adventure tourism is an outdoor leisure activity that generally takes place in an unusual, exotic, remote or wilderness setting, sometimes involving some form of unconventional means of transportation and tending to be associated with low or high levels of physical activity.
As the name suggested it entails an element of risk and can range from getting wet to getting high to getting faster. Adventure is an evocative term. Adventure speaks of beginning, boldness and power, a quest,begins because of human desire, a drive to experience which is hidden and unknown. Jammu and Kashmir had bagged “best destination in Adventure Tourism award at international travel mart Pune, (2015). Adventure tourism has a potential to attract high-level customer who are willing to pay premium for exciting and authentic experiences. Despite having all these potentials and prospects for adventure tourism, Jammu and Kashmir is getting only a small portion of adventure tourists on national as well as international lines. The Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEEs) from tourism is minuscule for our UT as Jammu and Kashmir recorded very few foreign tourist arrivals resulting in below 1% of total share, foreign exchange earnings (FEEs) from tourism. UT of Jammu and Kashmir has everything to satisfy the adventurists; nevertheless, it is behind in competition with other states of adventure tourism, reasons very well known- terrorism, insecurity in the minds of travellers, which needs to be addressed on priority. Solution lies in alternatively developing Jammu Division as well for Adventure Tourism, more stress on fishing as tourism.
Geographic location of Jammu makes it a suitable tourist destination for not only recreational purposes, but other forms of tourism as well. Adventure tourism is one of them. Jammu has got a vast untapped potential as role of sport fishing in promotion of adventure tourism in Jammu and Kashmir which remains practically missing in Jammu region. International sport fishing is part of adventure tourism involving exploration or travel to remote areas, where the travellers expect the unexpected. Sport fishing tourism is rapidly growing in popularity as tourists seek adventure holidays, as an alternative to the typical recreational activity. Fishing holidays and sport fishing tourism is a booming international business opportunity. Fishing can have considerable impact on the UT’s economy, can be one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in Jammu. Millions can be collected as revenue through hired equipment, licenses, trips and other fishing-related items or events. These funds will help create and support more job opportunities in Jammu. In India, angling has remained a favourite pursuit of the British in the first half ofcentury and it wasmainly for this reason that brown trout and rainbow trout were introduced in the upland waters. Sport fishing is now a very popular outdoor recreational activity which has given boost to tourism in the Himalayas. Recreational fishing is an important component of the tourism industry as well as regional economies around the world. Jammu is the centre of a variety of outside activities. Positioned on the northern part of India, Jammu is perched on the foothills of the Lesser Himalayas. The smugly standing Pir Panjal ranges, the green valleys, and the frisky cascading waterfalls make it an ideal holiday destination. The environment with all her exquisiteness creates magical charm among the visitors. Tourists can very easily involve themselves in a variety of outdoor activities such as water sports, trekking and fishing or angling. Angling is the chief technique of sport fishing. However, commercial fisheries too use angling techniques like long lining or trolling. Catch and release fishing is more and more practiced by amateur fishermen. In many places of the world, the factor of size limits is applicable to some species which means fish below orabove a particular size have to be released by law. Angling or fishing in Jammu can be a favourite fun sport amongst the tourists. The streams and the hilly rivulets are the stockpiles of a great range of fishes,which never makes the anglers disheartened. Angling in the mountainous rivers is all the time an unusual experience. Spending time and soothing in the sun of Jammu make this sport more thrilling. Angling in hilly region is always a topic of excitement and an everlasting experience. The administration can take many steps to make sure that an angler cannot catch more than six fishes, after catching the fishes, they will have to let go the fishes back into the water, so that the environmental balance is preserved. If the tourists are not prepared with their equipments for Angling then the near by shops are the excellent places for buying or hiring fishing rods.
Currently there are two adventure sports institutes in the valley (Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering (IISM)), which are working for the development and promotion of adventure tourism only in valley in collaboration with Government of India, one is at Gulmarg and second at Pahalgam. These institutes are providing different adventure sports courses and have all modern equipments to train the groups (domestic/foreigner. The Ministry of Tourism release substantial amount to IISM for activities related to adventure tourism, but what about Jammu Division. Patnitop, Bhaderwah, Doda, Kishtwar, Rajouri, Poonch all have picturesque valleys, snow clad mountains, gushing rivers and springs and even lakes. Plains of Jammu have their own beauty and charm; lush green fields spread in kilometres with irrigating canals/ditches running along paddy fields. It’s really a visual treat and experience to sit in lush green fields and enjoy fishing. This aspect of Jammu Tourism is totally unexplored and even Flood and Irrigation Department has done nothing to clean these ditches, ponds. Banks of Chenab can be an experience for fishing and angling. Right now like illegal mining, fishing is going on unchecked with the concerned departments as mute spectators. Banks of River Tawi at many points provide an excellent place for fishing but are not developed at all. Similarly Bani, Basohli remain unexplored and untapped from fishing point of view. Right now only focusing on Kashmir Adventure Tourism is just like running behind a mirage, you achieve nothing except wasting your energy.Offbeat holidays are getting increasingly popular in India with more people opting for leisure that offer fun and thrill, nature and an overall immersive experience.This thrill of reeling in a fish is luring people to fishing holidays.
Whether it is for sport, catch and release or simply for fun, fishing is not new to India. Only recently, however, it has caught on as a holiday activity. Jammu Division can be a good spot for angling buffs to reel in Brown Trout, Masheer, Goonch catfish and local species. Eco-tourism, lake and river tourism, snow, hiking/ camps tourism, agro-organic tourism, adventure tourism, pilgrimage tourism all have to work hand in tandem to lure tourists, generate revenue and employment opportunities. The eco-camps working on popularizing of adventure sports among the rural youth and create awareness on conservation of fish.
The camps should focus on organizing angling, camping, rafting, trekking, bird watching, heritage and culture. The camps can also promote a breeding and seed production unit with the technical guidance from ICAR-DCFR, Bhimtal- Uttarakhand. Catch and release angling competitions should be organized on regular basis with a major objective to promote conservative angling with rod and reel and to spread awareness for protection of the river system along with its natural habitat specially the local species to counter illegal poaching, chemical poisoning, electrocution and dynamiting process which has caused much damage in the recent era. Develop associations around natural lakes, large sized ponds and reservoirs belonging to local communities and individuals of the area and entrust them to organize such occasions.
Fishing Sanctuary is latest trend, termed as a place of safety, a nature reserve where endangered and threatened species are cared for and fishing prohibited. Fish sanctuaries are already under implementation in Meghalaya under Meghalaya State Aquaculture Mission (MSAM) with an objective to conserve and enhance the aquatic bio-diversity and to promote untapped and underprivileged places as tourist spots to benefit the local rural people. Why not to have one in Jammu Region which has ample forest cover.Fish watching platforms have also gained much momentum in the recent times as this practice is considered to have multiple positive benefits to human health.Home stays are a common site these days in the hilly states of the country. Such home stays are also integrated with fisheries for recreation in some parts of India. Cottages are being constructed over the ponds and tanks preferably of bamboo and tourists are provided with rods and lines to fish in the ponds and tanks. The catch is harvested at a price and is served on the plates for the tourists. This integration of home stays with fishing provides an additional income for the local residents through fisheries.Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) that would like to develop tourism activities in their areas are the key. It is not an overnight job but one has to start from somewhere and with UT status time has come for Tourism and Fisheries Departments to look beyond Kashmir and explore Jammu from this aspect.