Maurice Omondi, a fisherman at Dunga beach in Lake Victoria.[Collins Oduor, Standard]

Even before the sun sets and the warmth of the lake fades away, Maurice Omondi is at his workstation at Dunga Beach in Kisumu preparing his fishing net.

Dressed in worn out shirt and rugged pair of trousers, he inspects his net, checking for holes and torn corners, then checks the boat for cracks that could let in water.

“Cresting the waves at the crack of dawn and early in the morning to get the best catch is what the life of a fisherman is all about,” said Omondi.

Depending on the type of catch they want, they set out in the middle of the night or very early in the morning.

“In one boat, we are four fishermen, taking turns to row. The journey takes two hours per trip since the boat is not motorised,” he said.

To catch fish with metal hooks suspended by nylon threads is what takes the longest, and this sees them sometimes travelling deep into the lake.

But to catch fish using their nets they do not need to travel far. A ride in their boats before sunrise will do.

Once they are back in the morning, the boat is hauled to shore by the fishermen. The catch is removed from the nets and sorted according to the type- Nile Perch, Dagaa, Bluegills, Cat Fish, Tilapia and more.

Once sorted, the fishermen’s wives sell the fish in the market. Fishermen also sell to vendors depending on the best price offered and the vendors in turn sell them at the market.

“I have been fishing for the past 20 years since I sat Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination in 1999. With no fees to pay for my secondary education, I relocated to Kisumu and started fishing,” said Omondi who was born in Muhoroni sub-County.

In the early 2000s, life was cheap and Omondi could come to shore with good catch that generated good income for him and his partners.

But 20 years down the line, Omondi says the situation has greatly changed with no income compared to the years back.

He says their lifestyle is not changing as they are working to stay alive.

This has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic which has affected fishing activities since March 2020.

Omondi would make between Sh1,000 and Sh2,000 per day, but nowadays, he says he goes home with between Sh400 and Sh600.

“There is no money in the fish market,” says the 36-year-old.

“The prices are also bad and keep on fluctuating due to the economy and Covid-19. At the end of the day, you find that we have either made a loss or no profit at all.”

Since the government enforced curfews and county lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19 in March last year, thousands of businesses and jobs have been lost, and Omondi says that has affected them.

Even though Omondi has managed to educate his four children and take care of his wife, he says depending only on a day’s catch has proven very hard this year.

“I do not want my children to struggle as I do and I want a better life for them,” Omondi said.