At this point of your life, I’m sure you have already seen on WEB some amazing photos of the Sri Lankan stilt fishermen. The stilt fishing in Sri Lanka is in fact one of the most emblematic symbols of the country. In the days of picture postcards, these scenes were largely represented and sold everywhere in the country and now that the internet has taken over, a Google image search won’t fail to show some to you.
Now, let’s see what is behind the scenes of the Sri Lankan stilt fishermen.
Stilt fishing in Sri Lanka was traditional until 2004 on the west coast of the country, along the slice of road which goes from Galle to Mirissa. After that something changed.
What is stilt fishing in Sri Lanka?
Stilt fishing is one of the most ancient fishing methods used in Sri Lanka. It consists of a single pole and crossbar planted out in the sea close to the seashore, on which fishermen balanced for hours and hours in order to fish their daily needs.
What happened to the stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka?
Stilt fishing was widely practiced in Koggala and generally in the area between Unawatuna and Weligama until the Tsunami in 2004 which damaged the marine ecosystems and devastated the coastline of Sri Lanka. After that, most of the “original” stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka who lost everything moved inland. In addition to that, for security reasons it seems the Sri Lankan government has forbidden the use of this method. Now in the coastal areas, only a few original stilt fishermen are left.
Where to see stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka?
Best place to see stilt fishermen sri lanka? The section of west coast between Unawatuna and Weligama was once the place to witness the Sri Lankan stick fishermen at work. This method has become mainly a tourist attraction now and so it is now possible to witness it all along the west coast; I mean the coast of road which goes from Galle to Mirissa.
What’s now beyond the stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka?
Stilt fishing in Sri Lanka is now mainly a tourist attraction. To my disappointment it’s my understanding that the current stilt fishermen in Sri Lankan don’t really need to fish because the number of people visiting Sri Lanka is growing exponentially day by day and the Sri Lankans can earn more posing as fishermen for tourists than sitting for hours and hours in order to fish their daily needs. Because of this fact, the number of posers who plant their stick waiting for the tourists to come is now increasing.
For this reason, even those few original ones who returned to live in the coastal areas don’t really need to hand down this craft from father to son as they used to once do.
What is happening now is really disappointing: stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka mainly wait in their beachfront huts until the tourists come to pay them in order to get a perfect shot for their camera.
They ask from 100 to 500 Rupees (from 1 to 3 dollars) for each camera. If you happen to find them already posing for someone else and try to click a snapshot from afar, they will come running after you until you pay.
Unless I’m mistaken, it is my understanding that in some areas they have even formed a kind of association. And, you should also know that they even tie a fake fish to the fishing rod…
Suggestion for taking a good picture of the stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka.
If you are interested in photography you should know that sunset is the best time of the day. But this comes with a higher cost. The price can reach up to 1000 Rupees which means around 8 Dollars. But of course, it is the most instagrammable shot you can ever take in Sri Lanka.
My conclusion about the stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka.
This beautiful scenery is very picturesque and interesting since you learn an old way of fishing but knowing that it is done only as a tourist attraction is sad.