23 Nov 2010
Beach Net Fishing
This boat is about to set a beach net that will be used to haul in a couple of hundred pounds of tiny fish.
Sometimes small fish shoal so heavily close to shore that it looks like a dark cloud is passing overhead. That’s when the men go down to the beach which is a quarter mile away right at the end our village lane. They load a large, nylon mesh catch-net and long side nets made from coconut coir onto a boat and row out just past the fish (maybe 3 or 4 hundred yards out). Then the best swimmer will take a line and swim back through the surf where others are waiting to take it. They then row parallel to the beach for several hundred yards before heading back, all the while dropping the rest of the net.
The regular fishing crew is made up of 8 men on the boat and eight that took the first line further up the beach. But by the time the boat is beached there a few dozen others pulling in the nets. Passersby, as well, stop and jump into the hauling effort.
When the mesh net is finally hauled up on the beach there is a shimmering, silver clump about the size of a refrigerator shipping carton. I have no idea of how many fish are in there because they only range in size from the tip of your little finger to the size of your thumb.
There will be 13 photos in this series when I can get a faster upload speed tonight. They are at: http://robertsjohnj.smugmug.com/Portfolios/Sri-Lanka-Beach-Net-Fishing/
The fish belong to the boat crew and are sold to those who helped and to others on the side of the road. A dollar will get you enough to fill a gallon milk carton. Everyone thinks these are the best thing since white rice. The larger ones get a cursory cleaning but the little ones go in the cooker whole. They’re fried crisp with salt and pepper and eaten like French fries or potato chips. Bhante Piyananda fried 2 platefuls for dinner at the temple tonight.