WHAT IS TRAPPING?
Fishing is one of the oldest ways by which people have fed themselves and their families. Except for gathering shellfish by hand and spearing fish (Figure 1), primitive trapping is probably the oldest form of fishing.
In early times, flowing water caused by tidal movement and changes in river and lake levels were probably used to trap fish behind rudimentary barriers, often made from sticks and stones. It is likely that early humans found that fish catches could be improved by driving fish into these barriers. They would have found that catches from these barriers decreased over time, as fish became accustomed to them, and would have had to move the traps to fresh areas where more fish could be caught. It would have been hard work to construct new traps, either by moving stones from the old trap or finding new ones. Primitive fishers probably tried making barriers from lighter, more readily available material such as tree branches, brush and vines (Figure 2). This led to the fishers inventing lighter, movable traps made from brush and nets made from vines which they could carry with them when they moved to new areas. They may even have tried bigger, more complicated corral-type fishing traps in lakes, rivers and coastal waters.
Either by accident or by inspiration, fishers then found that:
fish were caught in traps as the tide fell, were forced into them by the current or could be chased into them by the fisher;
fish entered the trap for protection or simply followed other fish seeking shelter;
objects in the traps such as white stones attracted the fish;
bits of fish or meat would attract more fish.
It is from such beginnings that modern traps and pots have developed.
Traps and pots do not seem to have developed in only one part of the world. As fish became an important food source, many types of traps and pots were developed. We will look at some of this variety later in the manual, concentrating on portable traps and fishing net and pots and giving less detail about corrals and other herding devices.
WHAT ARE TRAPS?
Traps are simple, passive fishing gear that allow fish to enter and then make it hard for them to escape. This is often achieved by:
putting chambers in the trap or pot that can be closed once the fish enters;
having a funnel that makes it difficult for the fish to escape (Figure 17, p. 20).
Smaller traps are generally fully covered except for the entrance or entrances, while larger traps that extend above the water level are often left open at the top.