Stilt fishing is a popular and traditional fishing technique along the south coast Sri Lanka. It is very popular in areas like Koggala and Weligama as well as Galle, Galle, Dikwella and Tangalle. Stilt fishing is also known in Sinhala as “Ritipanna” but its origins are unknown. Many believe it was introduced to the market by merchants after they saw traders arriving from the sea carrying mesh bags filled full of fish. This hereditary practice was passed from generation to generation.
This method is used by stilt fishermen when they don’t have the financial means to purchase advanced fishing equipment. The stilt is made of two wooden poles. One is a long, thin, 3-4 metre-long pole that is tied to a stick made of wood. The other is a crossbar made of two poles. These poles are used as seats for fishermen who sit on the crossbars for hours, waiting for their bamboo or kithul fishing rods to catch fish. The catch is then stored in a bag attached to the pole or around their waist.
Although this skillful practice appears effortless, it takes a lot of patience and perseverance. The stilt fishermen must balance by holding onto the stilt with one arm and the rod with the other. They then wait for hours in silence to catch the fish. The fish will leave if they hear any disturbances or noises in the environment. Stilt fishing is best done in the morning, usually from 9 to 9. In the afternoon, around 4 to 5 pm. This is because the fish will come to shore at sunrise and return to the deep sea at sunset. They then sell the catch of the day and return to the shore in the evening. They often catch small fish like mackerel and spotted herring.
Visitors are drawn to the stunning spectacle of fishermen silhouettes against the sunset or sunrise, with gentle waves. The stilt fishermen are active in the evenings right before sunset. This is done for tourists who want to experience this unique activity, and to take perfect photographs.
The best time to go stilt fishing is between May and September, when the south west monsoon occurs.
Chamila Tours – Private Driver Sri Lanka offers this excursion as part of their “Top Things to Do in Sri Lanka” and many other tours.
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