The simplest way to catch minnows is with a drop net. Take an iron ring or hoop such as children use and sew to it a bag of cotton mosquito netting, half as deep as the diameter of the ring. Sew a weight in the bottom of the net to make it sink readily and fasten it to a pole. When we reach the place which the minnows frequent, such as the cove of a lake, we must proceed very cautiously, lowering the net into the water and then baiting it with bits of bread or meat, a very little at a time, until we see a school of bait darting here and there over the net. We must then give a quick lift without any hesitation and try to catch as many as possible from escaping over the sides. The minnow bucket should be close at hand to transfer them to and care must be used not to injure them or allow them to scale themselves in their efforts to escape.
A landing net should be a part of every fishing outfit. More fish are lost just as they are about to be lifted from the water than at any other time. A gaff is used for this same purpose with fish too large to go into a landing net. A gaff is a large hook without a barb fastened into a short pole. If you have no net or gaff and have succeeded in bringing a large fish up alongside the boat, try to reach under him and get a firm grip in his gills before you lift him on board. If it is a pickerel, look out for his needle-like teeth.
A heavy net is useful to capture aquarium specimens
It will be seen that the whale has been killed, and the successful adventurers are “cutting out” the blubber very much after the modern fashion.
The Leu-tzé, or fishing cormorant of China, is the pelicanus sinensis, and resembles very much the common cormorant of England, which, we are told by naturalists, was once trained up to catch fish, pretty much in the same manner as those of China are. They are exceedingly expert in taking fish, and pursue them under water with great eagerness. They are taken out, on the rivers and lakes, in boats or bamboo rafts; and though sent on the chace after long fasting, they are so well trained that they rarely swallow any of the fish they take until they are permitted to do so by their masters. Many thousand families in China earn their subsistence by means of these birds.
Fishing provided food as well as recreation for the colonists. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
When the first settlers planted their small colony at Jamestown, the tidewater rivers and bays and the Atlantic Ocean bordering the Virginia coast teemed with many kinds of fish and shellfish which were both edible and palatable. Varieties which the colonists soon learned to eat included sheepshead, shad, sturgeon, herring, sole, white salmon, bass, flounder, pike, bream, perch, rock, and drum, as well as oysters, crabs, and mussels. Seafood was an important source of food for the colonists, and at times, especially during the early years of the settlement, it was the main source.
Those in England who planned to go to Virginia were always advised to provide themselves (among other items) with nets, fishhooks, and lines.
During archeological explorations, fishhooks, lead net weights, fish-gigs, and small anchors were uncovered. These are reminders of a day when fish and shellfish were abundant in every tidewater Virginia creek, river, and bay.
Whale-Fishing. Fac-simile of a Woodcut in the "Cosmographie Universelle" of Thevet, in folio: Paris, 1574.