• Post category:Kerala Backwaters
  • Post last modified:July 5, 2024
  • Reading time:10 mins read

This specialized technique involved a modified bow equipped with a reel, connected to an arrow by a sturdy line. Fishermen armed with bows and specially crafted arrows patiently stalk their prey, releasing their projectiles with lightning speed to secure a catch. The attached line wound around the reel would allow the fisherman to swiftly retrieve the arrow and their catch. Bow and arrow fishing is an ancient technique that requires unwavering focus and expert marksmanship. It’s still practiced in some parts of Kerala’s backwaters.

Kerala’s backwaters are not just a scenic wonderland; they’re also a treasure trove of unique fishing practices shaped by centuries of tradition and ingenuity. Let’s dive into some of the most fascinating methods employed by local fishermen to harvest the bounty of these waterways.

Art of Angling: Fishing Rod and Line

Angling In Kerala

While modern rods and reels have found their way into the backwaters, the essence of angling remains the same. Fishermen patiently cast their lines, baiting hooks with local knowledge and a touch of intuition. The thrill of the tug, the fight to reel in the catch, and the satisfaction of a successful haul are timeless experiences shared by anglers across generations.

Fishing with Veeshuvala (Casting Net)

In the shallows of Kerala’s backwaters, resourceful fishermen have devised a clever strategy to attract and catch fish. They create artificial reefs or submerged brush piles on the muddy lakebed and canal floors. These structures serve as enticing havens for fish, offering both shelter and sustenance.

Fishermen strategically place fish food, such as flour or tapioca balls, on these underwater havens. As fish gather to feed, the subtle vibrations of their nibbles cause the submerged foliage to tremble. This visual cue alerts the observant fisherman, who then expertly casts a net to encircle and capture the unsuspecting fish.

Fishing With Koruvala(Trawl Net)

Trawl Nets, Pulled through the water by boats, capture a wider variety of species, including larger fish and crustaceans. Trawling has restrictions in Kerala during the breeding season of fish to preserve the ecological balance, so you can’t find it year-round.

The Majestic Chinese Fishing Net

Fort Kochi Chinese Fishing Net

A symbol of Fort Kochi’s skyline, the Chinese fishing net is a sight to behold. Introduced by Chinese traders centuries ago, this massive cantilevered contraption uses a system of weights and pulleys to lower and raise a sprawling net. Fishermen work in unison, hauling in their catch with rhythmic movements, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.

Crossbow Fishing

This specialized technique involved a modified bow equipped with a reel, connected to an arrow by a sturdy line. Fishermen armed with bows and specially crafted arrows patiently stalk their prey, releasing their projectiles with lightning speed to secure a catch. The attached line wound around the reel would allow the fisherman to swiftly retrieve the arrow and their catch.

Bow and arrow fishing is an ancient technique that requires unwavering focus and expert marksmanship. It’s still practiced in some parts of Kerala’s backwaters.

Koodu Fishing(Bamboo Traps)

Kerala Bamboo trap fishing equipment

In the narrow canals and flooded paddy fields of Kerala, a traditional fishing method known as “koodu” fishing thrives. Koodu is a bamboo basket shaped like a cone with a wide opening at one end and a closed end at the other.

Fishermen strategically position these koodu traps in the narrowest points of flowing water, such as canals. They then obstruct the water flow behind the trap using twigs or mud, creating a natural funnel that guides fish towards the wide opening. The fish, lured by the promise of an easy passage, swim into the trap but find themselves unable to escape due to the closed end. In paddy fields, a slightly different approach is employed. Fishermen scatter fish food to attract schools of fish to a specific area. Once the fish have gathered, the koodu trap is swiftly lowered to cover them, ensuring a plentiful catch.

This simple yet ingenious method demonstrates the deep understanding and resourcefulness of Kerala’s fishermen.

Vellavali

Vellavali takes center stage in the pursuit of the prized Karimeen (Pearl Spot) fish. The Vellavali process begins with a kilometer-long coir rope meticulously fashioned into an inverted U shape. Tender palm leaves are then carefully attached to the rope, creating a shimmering curtain of foliage. Two skilled fishermen, each securing an end of the rope to their waist, wade into the shallow waters under the blazing sun.

As the fishermen move through the water, aided by poles, the palm leaves dance and shimmer, reflecting sunlight into the depths. This dazzling display startles the Karimeen, driving them to seek refuge in the muddy bottom.

Meanwhile, a team of expert swimmers, shadowing the fishermen in traditional country boats, eagerly await their cue. Once the Karimeen is in hiding, these divers plunge into the murky water, skillfully navigating the muddy terrain with their bare hands to catch the prized fish.

These are just a few examples of the diverse and ingenious fishing methods employed in Kerala’s backwaters. Each technique reflects a profound respect for nature, a reliance on local resources, and a commitment to preserving time-honored traditions. A journey through these backwaters is not just a feast for the eyes but also a captivating glimpse into the heart of a unique fishing heritage.

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