When our ancestors began to hunt for food, the most readily available source was fish. And thus began the art of fishing.
The first tool to catch fish was hand. People caught fish with their bare hands without any equipment! Then slowly, they started using pieces of bone as hooks (or gorge) and lengths of vine as line. With the advent of metals, metal hook was one of the first tools made. It was attached to a handline of animal or vegetable material, which was in turn attached to a rod (at first probably a stick or tree branch). For thousands of years, this fishing rod remained short, not more than a few feet in length. Fishing slowly came to be known as Angling. Many of these techniques still remain in use (even hand fishing!). Let us catch a glimpse of some of these...
Catching fish with most minimal equipment: the hands.
Spear and bow fishing
Spear fishing is an ancient method of fishing using either ordinary spears or its specialised variants such as an Eel spear or the trident. Bow fishers use bow and arrow to kill fish in shallow water from above. Traditionally, it was limited to shallow waters, but the development of the Speargun has made it more efficient.
All fishing nets are meshes made by knotting a relatively thin thread. Modern nets are usually made of artificial polyamides like nylon, and nets of organic polyamides such as wool or silk thread exist in certain areas. There are various ways of using fishing nets.
Dredges are used to collect scallops or oysters from the seabed. They have the form of a scoop made of chain mesh called dredges that are towed by a fishing boat.
Fishing lines catch fish by luring it to bite upon a fishhook or a gorge. Gaff, Trolling, Long-line fishing, Snagging, Kite fishing, and Ice fishing (used by Inuits) are techniques of using fishing lines.
Fish traps/Trap Nets
There are essentially two types of trap: permanent or semi-permanent structure placed in a river or tidal area, and pot-traps that are baited to attract prey and periodically lifted. Dam fishing involves the construction of a temporary dam to reduce the water levels downstream – allowing fish to be easily collected. In ancient times, large fishing weirs, constructed from wood posts and wattle fences, directed fish towards fish traps or nets. Basket weirs were also used then. Pot traps are typically used to catch crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters and crayfish. These are boxes have convoluted entrance that makes the entry of the catch easy, and exit difficult.
Animals have long been trained and used to help in fishing. Many people still use them.
Toxins and explosives
This is one of the most harmful ways of fishing.
Recreational fishing or sport fishing describe fishing for pleasure or competition. But, it is not that simple. It has conventions, rules, licensing restrictions and laws that limit the way in which fish may be caught. For example, these prohibit the use of nets and catching fish with hooks not in the mouth.
Commercial fishing provides a large quantity of food to many countries around the world. Those who practice it as an industry pursue fish far into the ocean, and harvest almost all aquatic species. Fishing methods vary according to the region, the species being fished for, and the technology available to the fishermen. A commercial fishing enterprise may range from one fisherman with a small boat with hand-casting nets, to a huge fleet of trawlers processing tonnes of fish every day. ‘Pay to fish’ enterprises provide anglers with controlled access to stocked lakes, ponds or canals, which allows fishing outside the permitted seasons and quotas applied to public waters. Yes, there are ‘permitted seasons’ and quotas for fishing. These laws, rules and regulations monitor, control, and restrict commercial fishing. Many of these are combined with fishing allocation schemes (such as individual fishing quotas), and international treaties to limit the fishing effort and, sometimes, the capture efficiency.
The traditional fisherfolk in India used small and sparsely-equipped boats that could not traverse the deep, and hence the productivity was low. But, their professional capacity is to be admired. May it be the shark fishing of Poonthura in Kerela, or hook and line fishing by catamaran fisherfolk in Kanyakumari.
Slowly, the Arab influenced the construction of dugout canoes, catamarans came from Polynesia, and boat seine from Spain, and Portuguese introduced the shore seine. Finally, the government supported the move towards mechanisation: mechanised fishing vessels or trawlers.
Now, India is the third largest fish producer in the world. Nearly 5.38 million people depend on fishing as their primary source of livelihood and another 0.8 (United Nations figure) million depend on it to supplement their incomes from agriculture.