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Updated by Joanna James on Dec 12, 2019
Headline for Fishing methods in Sri Lanka – The upkeep of traditional fishing methods
Joanna James Joanna James
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Fishing methods in Sri Lanka – The upkeep of traditional fishing methods

Being a nation surrounded by the ocean, fishery is an essential part of Sri Lankan culture. A trip to Sri Lanka invariably includes a fishing tour, and you'll see following methods in action.


Lift nets

Also termed lever nets, lift nets are a traditional method of fishing still used by fishermen in Sri Lanka. When using lift nets, the net is submerged in the water where it reaches a certain depth. After a while, the fisherman would lift the net out of the water. These nets can be hand-operated, shore-operated or boat-operated. Fishermen use fish bait to lure fish into the net. There are various shapes of lift nets; they can be shaped like a bag, a cone, a rectangle or a pyramid. These are also called dip nets, but that term mostly refers to hand nets.


Hand nets

You also hear the terms dip net and scoop net; all referring to hand nets. A mesh bag with a hoop is attached to a handle; it could be a long handle or a short handle. Hand nets have been used for fishing in Sri Lanka as far back as history goes. They perform a simple job, and that is to scoop the fish out of the water. The bag is made of nylon mesh or wire. Hand nets are used for subsistence fishing, not for industry-level fishing.


Stilt fishing

One of the most traditional fishing methods in Sri Lanka, stilt fishing is used to catch mackerels and spotted herrings from shallow waters. Though it looks effortless, stilt fishing requires skill and balance: a pole with a crossbar is embedded into the seabed, fishers perch themselves on the crossbar positioning themselves about two meters above the water, then they would catch their pelagic bounty using a rod. If you want to learn more about stilt fishing or partake in it, you should visit Sri Lanka; tour companies like Tangerine Tours offer customised tours that include fishing.


Seine fishing

This is another fishing method used by fishermen in Sri Lanka. In seine fishing, the fisherman would use a net which is deposited in the water with the help of weights, and the top edge of the net is buoyed by floats. You will see seine fishing practised at Sri Lanka west coast beaches: when it is done at the beaches, the more accurate term for the net would be beach seine. These can be deployed from boats as well: boats employed for seine fishing are called seiners. Through seine fishing, fishers are able to catch surface fish species like anchovies, mackerels, herring, sardines, tuna and salmon.


Purse seine

A variation of seine fishing, the purse seine works like a purse with a drawstring. This method is used for open sea fishing to catch pelagic fish species. The net is deployed around a large area and sunk into the water with weights or chains, the top part of the net is kept buoyed using floats. The net encircles the fish school and is closed around them by hauling the purse-string: this act is called pursing. The volume of the net becomes confined gradually which makes the fish more concentrated; then the net is scooped out of the water: this method of fishing results in high levels of bycatch too.


Spotlight fishing

Fishermen who fancy fishing in the cover of darkness use the method of spotlight fishing. Fish are lured towards the spotlight; they gravitate towards the light in order to feed. Once the fish are congregated, the angler would lower the bait into the water and catch the fish.

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