Stilt Fisherman Koggala

Stilt Fisherman Koggala – One of the Most Iconic Scenes in Any Sri Lankan Tourism Brochure

Perhaps one of the most iconic scenes in any Sri Lankan tourism brochure is the sight of local stilt fishermen. These veterans who seem to defy gravity with their balancing skills are humble souls trying to eke out a living through traditional means. Stilt fishermen are popularly seen in areas such as Koggala, Ahangama, Welipenna, and Thalarambe.  To understand the beginnings of this traditional fishing technique read our short brief below.

Stilt Fisherman Koggala – The History

Began After World War II

Identified by locals as ‘Ritipanna’ – stilt fishing is a technique that is reported to have had its origins after the Second World War. It was during this time that when food shortages were common and local fishing spots became overcrowded, that fishing in shallow water became an option. A narrow pole is fastened to a shallow seabed and a horizontal one is fastened to the upright pole which makes the seat for the stilt fishermen. The fishermen climb onto the fastened pole and having acquired a natural balance can be seen fishing for hours in low tide.

Science and History Behind Stilt Fishing

While the sight of stilt fishermen might give the impression of a comfortable activity, in reality, stilt fishing is quite physically demanding. The crossbar on the stilt allows the fishermen to sit a few meters above the water casting the least amount of shadows. When stilt fishermen began fishing rusted wreckages of abandoned ships and thereafter graduated to experimenting with erecting stilts in coral reefs.  Not only do the fishermen have to balance themselves, but they also have to pay attention to the fishing rod and remain calm and silent for the duration of the catch. A small bag is tied around their waist or to the side of the pole and the days catch of small mackerel fish is collected. Two generations of fisherfolk have survived through this traditional means of fishing. Stilt fishermen usually fish at dawn and at dusk and are seen mostly along the coast from Weligama to Unawatuna.

Effects of the 2004 Tsunami

The Tsunami in 2004 completely altered the country’s shoreline hampering the fishermen’s ability to fish through this traditional means. Fishing stops during the monsoon period and in order to earn a living some rent their poles to tourists to do a bit of fishing for a fee.

Experience the famous Kogalla stilt fisherman while staying with us at Sea Heart House on Koggala Lake.

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