Heritage Fishing: Fishing in the Past for the Future
Heritage fisheries are carefully maintained aquatic preserves in various parts of the world where a tradition or habitat surrounding fishing has been protected from today’s modern hazards. A heritage fishery may be a lake, river or part of the ocean; its locale having less to do with its heritage designation than preservation of a certain style or era. Heritage fishing's purpose is twofold: to experience fishing as it was in the past and to preserve fishing for the future.
Glendalough State Park is the newest member of the Minnesota State Parks family. Its land was given to the state by a private donor in the 1990s and the lakes on the park acreage were fished privately for nearly a hundred years. No one other than members of the donor’s family or their guests was allowed to utilize the lakes at Glendalough State Park. As a result, fish sizes and populations in the Glendalough lakes are more representative of historic times than of modern times.
Annie Battle Lake, the largest of the Glendalough Lakes, allows the angler to experience fishing as it was in Minnesota during the 1800s. Motors of any kind are not allowed on the lake. Canoes and rowboats are available for rental at the park office and shore fishing is a pleasure from any location here. Gas powered vehicles are prohibited, as are any type of electronic fish-finding device.
Large bass, panfish, walleye and northern pike abound under the crystal clear waters of Annie Battle Lake because the waters are unpolluted by gas or oil. Catch-and-release regulations and fishing limits are strictly enforced here, maintaining the size and count of the population for generations to come. A small brook connecting Annie Battle Lake to another of the park lakes is waist deep with a sandy bottom, providing excellent wading areas for bass fishing.
The Lave Net Fishery at Blackrock on the Severn Estuary in Wales is the last of its kind in Wales and has also been designated as a heritage fishery. Treacherous tidal waters averaging speeds of 7-8 knots have witnessed generations of fishermen pass along this fishing technique. Less than a dozen lave net fishing licenses are issued by the Welsh government each year, with all belonging to a local association dedicated to preserving this unique method of salmon fishing. The only noticeable difference between modern and historic lave netters are that they now sport waders as opposed to animal skins.
The lave net itself, a Y-shaped structure constructed of wood and a hand-made net, remains unchanged. Anglers wade into the river and either “cower”, waiting for the salmon to approach him, or watch for the telltale salmon splashes announcing their location. The fisherman can then net the fish before they head to deeper water. This kind of fishing is restricted by law and by the tides. Anglers have about 1.5 hours before low tide to practice their craft when conditions are calm. Their knowledge of the tides and of the area, received from the generation before, serves as their guide.
Kjaerra Laxefiske on the Kjaerrafossen River near Helgeland, Norway dates back to 1388. Ownership of the two heritage fisheries here is marked by the “markebol”, a medieval unit of measurement. Salmon are caught via the use of ancient fishing tools, while the buildings surrounding the fisheries were restored to medieval timber and stone during the 1950s. Visitors are welcomed to the weekly opening of salmon pots every Thursday where the catch of the week is revealed.
Wherever they are located, heritage fisheries are an important part of the environment and the community. In addition to offering the simple thrill of fishing itself, they provide an opportunity to learn from the past, as well as preserving the present heritage of fishing for future anglers.