The Friday Fish

Last weekend I was in Washington, D.C. and of course had to stop by the Natural History Museum.  I have always been a big fan of skeletons and these demonstrate that fish are just as cool on the “inside.”  Enjoy!


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The Friday Fish

This is a fish that I somehow caught by the dorsal fin.  Props to Guy Mitrano for the sweet picture!

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The Friday Fish

I came across this cool chair in Positano, Italy last October.  It wouldn’t fit in the overhead compartment or else…

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Prehistoric Deep-Sea Fishermen

This article has been making the rounds on twitter, including a few re-tweets by yours truly, and it’s pretty much perfect for this site.  The combination of archaeology and angling is fairly rare, and when that combination makes it in the popular media it bears emphasis.

To briefly summarize, archaeologists discovered a large quantity of fishbones in an East Timor cave.  What made this find particularly interesting is that the bones were from fish typically found in the deep ocean, like tuna, and hard to catch by today’s standards. Scientists are still unsure how these fish were caught, but it is fairly clear that our ancestors 42,000 years ago were using sophisticated fishing technology and watercraft to catch fish.

Also found in the same cave were stone artifacts, bone points and, most significantly, fish hooks.  Researchers found a partial fish hook made from shell, which they estimate dates to between 23,000-16,000 years ago.  This is an incredible find as ancient fish hooks rarely stand the test of time.

This article demonstrates just how much we still have to learn about the ancient anglers, their techniques and secrets.  The cave in East Timor has revealed some of those secrets – lets see what else we can discover!

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Fishing the Parker – kind of

I needed to be out there, I needed to stand in the water and I needed to catch a fish…

Due to a hectic work schedule and other commitments I was becoming an armchair angler and that had to stop.  Finally, I got a couple free hours and started to plan.  A few great blog articles and some amazing pictures convinced me that this outing had to be on a small, pristine uncrowded trout stream, and I had just the stream in mind – the Parker.

I hadn’t fished the Parker before but Trout Fishing in Massachusetts promised a nice wadable stream that was often overlooked by fishermen who preferred the more ‘famous’ rivers.  Perfect.  No crowds, no need for a boat and most of all a chance to catch fish.  I also decided that this would be the perfect trip to meet up with twitter pal Dean.  He hadn’t fished the Parker either but we both agreed that it looked like easy access and would be a chill outing.

We met up at a parking area that seemed reasonably close, threw on the waders and set out through the woods.  It started fairly benign.

Then it got a little worse

And worse….

I’ll spare you the details and just say that after two hours of bushwacking in waist deep swamp and fallen timber we hadn’t made a single cast.  I think at one point we actually got within 50 yards of the river but the black, chest deep swamp water acted as an effective moat.

After this experience I think I know why most of the Parker remains a “hidden gem” but hey, Thanksgiving is tomorrow and it’s a time to give thanks, right.  So here we go: I am thankful no one broke a rod (that was a miracle); I am thankful no one ripped their waders (another miracle) and I am thankful to have met another obsessed angler in Massachusetts.

And to the Parker – we shall meet again soon…

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Fishing and the Eastern Cherokee

A while back I picked up a book titled, “Eastern Cherokee Fishing” written by Heidi Altman.  As the title suggests, the book focuses on the Cherokee Indians and the role fishing played in their society – past and present.  The book discusses fishing and its connection to the environment, tourism and the gender roles within the Eastern Cherokee.  All cool stuff, however, the chapter dedicated to fishing techniques was the primary reason I bought the book.  The fishing techniques and tools discussed include: stone weirs; basket traps; fish poisoning; harpooning/spearing fish; shooting fish; hand nets; seining and hook and line.  The book describes each method nicely and contains some pictures; however, specific illustrations of each technique/tool would have been a fantastic touch in my opinion.

The section on fish poisoning was particularly interesting and answered a couple of questions I had regarding that method – namely, does the poison affect the quality of the meat and is it truly safe to consume?  According to Ms. Altman, and the Cherokee Indians she interviewed, the poison they used did not affect the quality of the meat and the fish were safe to eat.  Ms. Altman states, “the fish are not in any way damaged by the substances used to stun them and can be gathered and eaten or gathered and revived for use as bait or other purposes later.”  I would love to see this method used in person and give it a try myself, but I am pretty sure the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would not appreciate any experiments in “poisoning” fish…

Overall, Cherokee Fishing is a nice read, and I am glad I bought the book.

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Fish Weirs – The basics

The use of a fish weir, or fishing weir, was a technique used to catch fish in large quantity with relatively minimal effort. Fish weirs appear to have been used widely around the world with examples being found in North America, Europe and New Zealand.  At its most basic, the fish weir was an artificial structure normally made out of wood or stone which was built in a river, stream or estuary to catch and retain fish.  The structure typically consisted of two straight fences or walls, which converged together at a point forming a large V.  The point of convergence, or the tip of the V, is often called the apex or eye.  At this apex there would have been some type of trapping mechanism such as a basket, net or an enclosure of wooden posts to catch the fish.

The construction of the fish weir enabled water to pass through the structure while trapping the larger fish.  The fish would typically move along the structure with the flow of water and be funneled into the trapping mechanism at the apex.  This fish weir technology worked particularly well with fish that either migrated upstream to breed or those that regularly followed the tides to feed.  Although the “V” style of weir was common, fish weirs varied considerably in form, size and trapping mechanism, all of which depended on the type of fish sought and the location and practices of the fishermen.

Regrettably, fish weirs do not usually stand the test of time and many disintegrate or are destroyed.  That said, scientists have found enough remnants of fish weirs across the globe to confirm their widespread use, and, in rare cases, almost complete fish weir complexes have been found.  In the next couple of days I will post some pictures of various weirs – it was truly awesome technique for catching fish.

Sources:  Archaeology of Prehistoric Native America: An Encyclopedia, Ed., Guy Gibbon, Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998; O’Sullivan, Aidan.  Place, Memory and Identity among Estuarine Fishing Communities: Interpreting the Archaeology of Early Medieval Fish Weirs.  World Archaeology, Vol. 35, pp. 449-468

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Hello and welcome to Ancient Angler.  I felt like there had to be some sort of introductory post before I jumped right into the “serious” content, so this is it.  My plan for this site is to combine my love for fishing with my interests in archeology, anthropology and adventure.    So, the posts will probably jump between the ancient and modern worlds with no real reason behind the chaos, but hopefully you will find the combination of fishing and archaeology as interesting as I do.

Thanks for stopping by and all comments are welcome!


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