If you love to fish, you might have wondered how the indigenous people of the Americas managed to fish without all that expensive equipment so many people seem to use today.
When you think about it, many native tribes relied on fish as one of their main food sources, but without metal hooks, reels, rods or sonar devices, how did they manage to catch enough fish to not only survive, but to thrive?
My father was an avid fisherman, and although he liked his expensive reels, when he took my brothers and me camping, we rarely used any type of equipment other than the occasional net, which we actually brought for frogs. (I will tell you about my father’s favorite fishing method, the one he learned from his grandfather, later on.)
Let’s take a look at some of the forgotten or little-known ways that native people caught fish and other aquatic foods.
Spears and Other Obvious Methods
Most people think of spears as a means of catching fish — like Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway. While native people certainly did use this method, it isn’t always as easy as old Tom Hanks made it look like in the middle of the movie. If one was lucky, rocks provided a good platform from which to stand and wait for a fish, or a school of fish to pass. Canoes also were used, with one person navigating the canoe and holding it steady when they needed to, while two or more other persons would spear fish.
In a pinch, even the old bow and arrow could be used in shallow water. If the water was too deep, you could easily lose the fish, and your arrow, in the depths. A few tribes, such as the Powhatan, did make a type of line, called a “pemmenaw,” which was attached to arrows so they could be retrieved, along with the fish.
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