Native Americans’ Traditional Fishing Techniques

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Aside from hunting and farming, fishing is another essential life skill that every adult Native American had to learn. But unlike the fishing that we now know (complete with spinning reels, a fishing rod and a bait), ancient fishing methods of the Native Americans were completely different.

Native Americans lacked conventional tools so they devised ingenious ways of catching fish. Had there been modern spinning reels, like the ones found at, things would have been much different.

The first settlers from the New World were impressed at how skillful at fishing the natives were. Their fishing techniques relied on indigenous materials and were especially designed for shallow waters. Since they had no metals, the natives used net-like obstructions (weirs) made of woven or tied weeds to catch or impound fish. They carefully placed weirs across channels or streams where fish most likely pass through. The weirs were made of tied or woven reeds, and are anchored to the sand using poles. The top of these crude fish nets extended above the water and appeared like fences. The patterns are carefully designed and weirs are arranged to ensure fish are impounded.

Besides using weirs, the natives, particularly men, were good at spear fishing. Spear fishing was a skill reserved for men, meanwhile women employed simple string with a hook for catching fish. Spring and winter proved to be the perfect time for spear fishing. Once the lakes froze, the natives cut a hole through the ice where they let down their hand crafted lures made of bones or woods. They peek through the hole in the ice, thereby covering the incoming light and providing them better view of the fish beneath.

Natives used different implements for spear fishing depending on the size of the fish they were catching. Before they started using metal and copper, the tips were made of sharpened wood or stick. The shafts were also made from wood. For small fishes, three-pronged spears were used.

During spring, the Native Americans rode canoes as they went spear fishing. The natives went spear fishing at night and used fire torches to light up the water’s surface. They traversed shallow waters. Usually, they stood for long periods of time while waiting for the perfect moment to let out the spear.

Nowadays, the traditional fishing techniques of Native Americans are not commonly used because of the much easier and more versatile fishing reel and rod. You can choose from the different saltwater spinning reel by visiting this site. Aside from fishing rod and reel, there are also modern methods of spear fishing. There are spear guns used for spear fishing, usually done with scuba diving. Due to environmental concerns, fishing may also be restricted to designated fishing areas.


America Before Europeans