After The Deluge… Part8: Fish Traps

An odd subject I know that has an odd fascination for me: fish traps. These labour saving devices have been independently invented by cultures all over the world and have a very ancient pedigree.

At their most basic they are baskets that a set in a strong current to catch fish that seek to head downstream. More sophisticated efforts, such as the traditional eel trap, are bottle shaped basket work with a narrow neck that has a ‘non-return valve’ of long flexible stems that allow the prey access to bait within the basket but prevent its escape.

The baskets themselves, as with anything whose function is expressed clearly in its form, can be very beautiful. They represent an efficient, passive, form of fishing which can, depending on the type, also allow the unwanted catch to be returned unharmed.

The traps are traditionally made of willow osiers in England. These fast growing slender stems arise from a type of coppicing. The willow itself needs running water close by. It is a hugely versatile crop and used to be a valuable one grown by rivers across southern England for millennia. The sequel to Renaissance is set, in part, in the marshlands that would rapidly re-establish themselves once the artificial drainage schemes were not maintained. People would rapidly learn to exploit these marshes as they have since the dawn of the human age.

thumbnail Renaissance cover

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