Pot Fish by Nicolai Ifill

Published Thursday, 04 February 2016
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Pot Fishing is mostly done around the period July to October when pelagics are scarce, but reef fish are captured year round at many different places. These species are mostly caught using traps of different sizes and shapes. The traps are often baited with macerated fish or black sea urchins and are hauled every 2 to 3 days. Reef fish are also taken by fishing lines at various depths down to about 50m though this type of fishing is very rare, some persons tend to collect by this method.


Before setting out to get pot fish you must know the names of these fish, and where to find them. The Parrotfish or Chubs, grunts and surgeons are found in the shallow parts of the reef. The Snappers, groupers, and jacks are found in the deeper parts of the reef. It is rare to catch a Barracuda in a pot, but some reports have said it has happened.


Fish traps (pots) have been used in Barbados for many years. These pots are set close to reefs along the calmer south and west coasts, mainly between July and October. "Shallow" pots are usually set in water depths of between 3 and 20 metres, while "Deep" pots may be set in deeper water. Shallow pots capture a large number of fish and other creatures, such as lobsters, which are associated with coral reefs. The deep pots are often used to target snappers that live on the deeper reef slopes.


Fish pots range from about 2-3 cubic metres in volume and are constructed of chicken wire mesh or even bird cage wire, attached to a light wooden frame. The wooden frame is usually constructed of poles taken from the River Tamarind (Leucaena), a plant which grows wild in several areas of the island. Another plant used in making these wonderful fish catching mechanisms is Bamboo. This is used when there are stronger ocean currents.


The fish enters the pots through an entry funnel located at the central front of the trap. The funnel goes from a large opening on the outside, to a narrow small aperture on the inside. The funnel also curves downward. Fish easily swim through the funnel and into the trap but find it difficult to navigate through the funnel in the opposite direction because of the wire, and therefore they become trapped inside the pot. Although the basic design of the fish trapping mechanism is the same in all local pots, there is variation in the size and shape of fish pots. Four basic shapes of fish pots commonly used in Barbados are: the “Z” pot, which are most commonly used along the south coast, and the “A” pot, used on the west coast of our Island. The two other pots, known as the “S” pot and the “rectangular” pot, are both used on the south and west coast.


The Parrot fish or chub, is slimy, so to clean, wash the fish off with salt until there is no slime. Scale the fish and skin it, then cut the fillets away from the backbone. Debone and marinate before cooking.  With the grunts, rinse whole fish thoroughly in water. Place grunt on side, and start cutting from tail. Continue moving knife through fish along the bones, either cutting directly through ribs or above them. Slice away at head. If ribs are intact, be careful to remove fillet without rupturing stomach cavity. Turn fish over and Repeat the process to remove fillet on other side. When cleaning the surgeonfish, Snapper and Grouper, scale with the blunt edge of your filleting knife or fish scaler, to remove all scales. It is prepared just as for grunts. These can be cooked whole, or filleted. Jacks are rinsed and blotted dry. Lay it on the cutting board with the tail on the same side as your knife hand. Grab the jackfish by the mouth and, with the other hand, slide the blade of the boning knife below the gill. Slide the knife along the fish's side along the length of the fish. When you get to the tail, slant the blade upward. Leave the skin on the fillet. Repeat the process for the other side of the fish and discard the carcass or save it to use for bait.


The Oistins Fish Festival started in 1977 to commemorate the signing of the Charter of Barbados, was also held in honour of the fisher folks in Oistins and persons who have contributed to the Barbados Fishing industry in general. The Fish Festival, starts on the Saturday before Easter and continues throughout the weekend, ending on the Monday bank holiday. One of the major goals of the festival was to improve the economic fortunes of the fisher folks, enhance their social status in the community, raise the entrepreneurial skills of the fisher folks, and highlight Oistins as a major fishing community. Now more than ever, this festival has become a major event for tourists and there has been a significant increase in their numbers. Even pot fish are a major hit due to their soft flesh and sweet taste. The upgraded facilities at Oistins has become a popular spot for relaxation and leisure at night. Over the years this festival has attracted many people, both from Barbados and the region. The main event of the festival is the Fish Boning Competition, which is very competitive and an essential art form to the fishing industry.


While gathering information for this paper I thoroughly enjoyed myself, as it became obvious that the hard work of these persons have made the fishing industry become what it is today. After actually fishing and doing the cleaning and cooking, it showed me the standard of fishing in Barbados today. I also wish that the fishing industry could have a major boost so that we could start exporting, dried and canned fish. With these improvements, more tourists would come to Barbados and learn about pot fish.

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