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The Custom of Stilt Fishing in Sri Lanka

  • 20
  • 07
  • 2016

Fishing is a difficult skill to master even with the best equipment. Not fazed by their lack of gear or the additional challenge that this lack presents, some fishermen from the island nation of Sri Lanka have taken to a form of fishing that appears unique to their part of the world. This is, in simple terms, stilt fishing.

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In this type of fishing, fishermen sit on a cross bar attached to tall sticks that are planted into the sea-floor. They cast their lines and wait for their unsuspecting prey to swim by underneath them. From their position, they have clear views into the water and can manipulate their targets through rod and spear.

Rather than being some sort of ancient tradition, this method appears to have started somewhere around World War II, when food shortages and cramped fishing spots on the country’s coast led some of the more ingenious residents to find the simplest property out on the ocean from which to stake their claim. They started fishing from shipwrecks but eventually began to construct their own structures to fish from.

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Since then, this skill has passed down the generations and has even ended up being adopted by some due to the effect it has on tourism. In fact, the number of actual stilt fishermen has been decreasing, replaced by those who pretend to fish and then sell their ‘prizes’ to these interested foreign tourists

Whatever the eventual fate of stilt fishing in Sri Lanka, you can’t deny the beautiful images it has produced, nor the simplistic beauty that illustrates successful hunting, stripped down to the bare essentials.

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Photo Credits: Paul Prescott & Jelena Ivanovic/Shutterstock

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