Fishing Techniques in History

Brian McPeek Fly Fishing

Feeding humans for over 50,000 years, the fish of the waterways and seas have kept whole communities alive for eons. And with the advances in technology over millennia have come some fascinating changes in techniques!

Here Brian McPeek lists just a few ways in which humans have fished over the ages.


It’s a tried-and-tested method that worked in early, primitive cultures and continues today in present-day communities all over the world. It’s a low-impact method that is both challenging and rewarding.

Fishing with spears, bows and arrows, harpoons, and even modern spear guns is an effective fishing technique. Even Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, is never pictured without his trusty trident.

Net Fishing

As populations grew, more fish needed to be caught at once, and nets provided the answer. Fishing nets and mesh caste from the land and from boats meant that fisherman could set their nets at night and sleep well, knowing they’d be full in the morning.

Today, huge nets drag along the ocean floor from trawlers and are then winched up onto the deck, burgeoning with fresh fish.


Like spearfishing, angling is a low-impact method that uses a fishing line attached to a reel or rod at one end, and with a hook at the other. There’s a weight to pull the hook down, and usually a form of bait to lure the fish in.

It’s where we get the phrase ‘hook, line and sinker’, and over the years this method of fishing has taken on a myriad of forms and alterations.

Fishermen all over the world still use a simple dropline technique of a thin line dropped into the water, equipped with weight and hook, often with a piece of fish or even corn on the end to attract a catch. Once the line jiggles, it’s reeled back in.

In the sporting world, fishing with a rod is a billion-dollar pastime as people fish from the banks of streams or wade into rivers to fly-fish, where artificial lures shaped like flies attract river fish.

Most of the time in these cases, though, the fish are thrown back into the river and are only rarely ever taken home to eat.

Brian McPeek river fishing

Other Techniques

  • Fishing with animals – from cormorants to dolphins, dogs and even other fish, animals have long assisted humans in their fishing.
  • Electrofishing – with the use of electricity, fish particularly in freshwater patches can be stunned and then removed from the water.
  • Trapping – whether it’s guiding fish into constructed channels for easy catches, or luring king crab into the deep, icy waters of Alaskan seas, trapping is an effective method of catching fish and seafood.
  • Blast fishing – this method is rather self-explanatory: dynamite and other explosives are thrown into the water and the spoils gathered up. It’s a dangerous method, and illegal in many countries.

Fish is Still on the Menu

A staple of many a diet, humans catch more than 95 million tons of fish every year. We’ve briefly looked into just a few techniques, but unless we take more care with modern fishing methods, we risk depleting the fish population beyond repair.

By Brian McPeek

Brian McPeek official blog

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