In the United States, all we have to do to get our dinner is head to the grocery store or sit down at our favorite restaurant. It’s pretty easy to get our food, but in Sri Lanka, some fisherman go to a lot more trouble to feed their families.
About Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a small island off the coast of India in the Indian Ocean. It is about 25,000 square miles with a population of about 20 million. It has been the longtime home of many different religious and ethnic groups. There are the Islamic Moors, the native Vedda tribes, the people who have moved over from nearby India or Bangladesh, and the Europeans who have lived on the islands for generations, called the Burghurs. All these different groups have their own unique customs, but perhaps one of the most interesting, is stilt fishing.
How Does Stilt Fishing Work?
Stilt fishing is a method of hunting where a fisherman places one or two sticks deep into the sand a few meters offshore, he then builds a thin bench to sit on, forming a triangle. The triangle is the best shape for this bench because it is the most stable polygon. These seats are no more than a thin piece of bamboo that may be less than 6 inches wide! Can you imagine sitting on something that skinny? It can’t be comfortable.
Next, the fisherman casts his line, and waits until a fish comes along to be caught. Sometimes, they stay out for up to 12 hours! However, these fish are not barracudas, they are barely even the size of a sardine and probably weigh less than 1 pound. Natives call them bollu or koramboruwo, and they live on the reefs around the Sri Lankan coast.
Nobody can say exactly when stilt fishing began. Locals say that the skill is passed down through generations. A father will give his son the family pole when he is old enough to try it for himself. Traditionally, many people used this method to feed their families. Those with the best sticks and locations had a certain pride and status.
Nowadays, the custom is fading, with only a few hundred families practicing it now. This is not a lucrative business to support a family on, and many fishermen have needed to search for new jobs. Still, this is an amazing custom that requires patience, skill, and strategy — sounds a little like learning math!
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