Sunday, April 14, 2024

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: The art of pot fishing

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THIS MONTH, the NATION will be bringing a number of articles in celebration of Black History Month, written by students from the Visual And Performing Arts Division of the Barbados Community College. They will appear every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday in February.

POT FISHING is mostly done around the period July to October when pelagics are scarce, but reef fish are captured year round at many different places.

These species are mostly caught using traps of different sizes and shapes. The traps are often baited with macerated fish or black sea urchins and are hauled every two to three days. Reef fish are also taken by fishing lines at various depths down to about 50m; though this type of fishing is very rare, some people tend to collect by this method.

Before setting out to get pot fish you must know the names of these fish, and where to find them. The parrotfish or chubs, grunts and surgeons are found in the shallow parts of the reef. The snappers, groupers, and jacks are found in the deeper parts of the reef. It is rare to catch a barracuda in a pot, but reports have shown it has happened.

Fish traps (pots) have been used in Barbados for many years. These pots are set close to reefs along the calmer south and west coasts, mainly between July and October.

Deep pots

 “Shallow” pots are usually set in water depths of between three and 20 metres, while “deep” pots may be set in deeper water.

Shallow pots capture a large number of fish and other creatures, such as lobsters, which are associated with coral reefs. The deep pots are often used to target snappers that live on the deeper reef slopes.

Fish pots range from about 2-3 cubic metres in volume and are constructed of chicken wire mesh or even bird cage wire, attached to a light wooden frame. The wooden frame is usually constructed of poles taken from the River Tamarind (Leucaena), a plant which grows wild in several areas of the island. Another plant used in making these wonderful fish catching mechanisms is bamboo. This is used when there are stronger ocean currents.

The fish enters the pots through an entry funnel located at the central front of the trap. The funnel goes from a large opening on the outside, to a narrow, small aperture on the inside. The funnel also curves downward. Fish easily swim through the funnel and into the trap but find it difficult to navigate through the funnel in the opposite direction because of the wire, and therefore they become trapped inside the pot.

Although the basic design of the fish trapping mechanism is the same in all local pots, there is variation in the size and shape of fish pots. Four basic shapes of fish pots commonly used in Barbados are: the “Z” pot, which are most commonly used along the south coast, and the “A” pot, used on the west coast of our Island. The two other pots, known as the “S” pot and the “rectangular” pot, are both used on the South and West Coast.

The parrotfish or chub, is slimy, so to clean, wash the fish off with salt until there is no slime. Scale the fish and skin it, then cut the fillets away from the backbone. Debone and marinate before cooking. With the grunts, rinse whole fish thoroughly in water. Place grunt on side, and start cutting from tail.

When cleaning the surgeonfish, snapper and grouper, scale with the blunt edge of your filleting knife or fish scaler, to remove all scales. It is prepared just as for grunts. These can be cooked whole, or filleted.

Jacks are rinsed and blotted dry. Lay it on the cutting board with the tail on the same side as your knife hand. Grab the jackfish by the mouth and, with the other hand, slide the blade of the boning knife below the gill. Slide the knife along the fish’s side along the length of the fish. When you get to the tail, slant the blade upward. Leave the skin on the fillet. Repeat the process for the other side.

The Oistins Fish Festival started in 1977 to commemorate the signing of the Charter of Barbados, was also held in honour of the fisherfolk in Oistins and persons who have contributed to the Barbados fishing industry in general. The Fish Festival, starts on the Saturday before Easter and continues throughout the weekend, ending on the Monday bank holiday.

One of the major goals of the festival was to improve the economic fortunes of the fisherfolk, enhance their social status in the community, raise the entrepreneurial skills of the fisher folks, and highlight Oistins as a major fishing community.

Now more than ever, this festival has become a major event for tourists and there has been a significant increase in their numbers.

Even pot fish are a major hit due to their soft flesh and sweet taste.

The main event of the festival is the Fish-Boning Competition which is very competitive and an essential art form to the fishing industry.

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