Why on earth are people of all ages so attracted to the sea? Most likely the best explanation is hidden in our human psyche – and especially, in the psyche of the Greeks, who, as a traditionally coastal people seem to particularly enjoy the charms of the sea in all its myriad forms. One of these alluring aspects of the sea which calls out to the Greeks – and others who visit Greece – is fishing.
A cooing sound slowly blankets the seaside. The scent of brine mixes together with the sea breeze, which brings together stray seals, plankton, and the seawater that slowly rubs away at the rocks and scatters sand about. The air is strangely electrified, and an invisible veil floats over scents, sounds, and the place itself, charmingly tieing together every living thing in the coastal ecosystem, transforming it all into a watery vision.
The silhouettes of the lonely fishermen slide between the rocks in slow but methodical motions, while dusk slips imperceptibly into dark. Next, little seals begin to creep up in random patterns, some of them actually managing to stay in one place while swaying, as if they could fly through the air like fireflies; while others slip off and climb back up again. Little lamps, torches, and dozens of phosphorescent lures make the presence of the fisherman felt on the shore, where they climb up on the boulders, at some spot over the beach or a convenient corner of the mole, searching in their own way for the fruit of the sea.
The fisherman’s tool: Patience
The call of the sea is considered (and rightly so) a magical and irresistible pull on the emotions of those of us who have felt ourselves given over without hesitation to the lure and ritual of fishing. Fishing is a unique adventure which sometimes seems simple and straightforward, and other times requires the deployment of the entirety of human cunning and its various tricks to discover the secrets of the sea.
Usually it seems a simple procedure for the fishermen who perch on the shore, who seem to play with the fishing line and rod, with only a few simple lures and various kinds of tackle. In reality though no one of those fishermen can entrust his work to luck, and most importantly, without special preparation (which has its own secrets) he would get nowhere. Now, due to over-fishing and the commercialization of the industry, which means that large stretches of the sea, even at the shore, are taken over by industrial nets, the amateur fishmerman has to work hard to get a small or medium catch. Special fishing lines, fancy hooks and rods, various types of tackle, weights, and even more special patented lures, are employed in an attempt to secure a good catch. Among all this, the most important role is played by the particular lure and the bait itself, with its secret recipe, which will draw the biggest and best fish. It is no longer enough to throw little pieces of fresh squid, local fish, or a worm from the nearest rock on a hook, in order to get fish to jump into your bucket. Now divers search for the best types of bait, because Greek fish have gotten spoiled on such fancy stuff and won’t bite just anything anymore.
Where to fish in Greece
You have your bait and your tools, but don’t worry – there’s more to worry about if you want to go fishing on the shore. You have to take part in yet one more procedure: finding a good spot, that perfect fishing spot that won’t leave you disappointed. The most important qualification for a fisherman – something that can never be abandoned at any point – is great, unending patience. Without patience, pretty much everything else will be shown up sooner or later in vain. A fisherman on the shore – as unlikely as it might seem – is forced to equip himself with quite a few useful lures and tools in order to fish properly and to enjoy the emotions that come with staring into the face of the mysterious azure deep.
Rod-fishing and Angling
There are fishermen who love to go after small fish (of which there are many types in Greece, like safridi, gopa, melanouri, kokali, and zargana). For this type of fishing the traditional (although no longer simple) fishing rod with a float, along with the appropriate bait and lure are considered all that’s necessary as far as equipment is concerned. Fishing is usually done at shores where the water is 3-10 meters deep. The distance below the surface that we try to throw the baited lure to attract fish depends on the float that moves along the length of the central fishing line. Furthermore many fish, because of currents, the weather conditions at sea, winds, the moon, and even their own nutritional needs sometimes swim near the surface and at other times swim in the medial or deep sections of the water. In the sea, rules don’t stay the same, so one should always be ready for surprises. There are floats of various types, which, based on their design, can provide the desired indication of the sensitivity of the fish’s bite, depending of course on the state of the surface of the water. Modern rods are made out of special synthetic materials, which will hold up to a lot of pressure, and are made in sections. There is a wide variety of sizes and types, in all lengths depending on one’s personal preference.
Angling used to be a few meters of fishing line wrapped around a piece of a float or later, around a plastic spool. According to the sinker and the throwing technique, the baited lure is projected deep into the water. The fisherman using this technique simply takes up the slack. Experience, sensitivity of the fingers to the biting of fish, and the mastery of the fisherman in jerking the line at the exact moment to hook the fish are what make this type of fishing work. Today however, even the technique itself has evolved. Special flexible fishing rods with a small motor at their base have overtaken the traditional method.
The amateur who uses this method will need a fair amount of practice in order to control his movements and to get the lure to go deep into the water. Releasing the motor, holding the line against the rod with one finger and with a special shaking forward (releasing the line), we let the flexibility of the rod and the motor to do the rest.
Don’t even ask if tradition has a chance against technology. For a man of the sea, every technique that he uses is identified with the ultimate prize, and his sense of adventure alone is the most important thing.
For those who fish from the shore, a little tackle box with sinkers, pegs, floats, hooks, ready-made lures, and a pen-knife, etc., is necessary. Especially if the water is rocky, we’ll have to constantly replace our lures when they get cut off on the rocks and sink to the bottom. So we should be ready, relaxed, and methodical: realize that fishing is never an easy task, and has always needed experience, knowledge, and great patience. Anyway, it ought to be obvious that there’s nothing magical and alluring about ease and abundance. In life, however you look at it, good things take on additional charm when they are difficult to get. So just worry about asserting – with passion of course –the pleasure and pride that you feel when you manage to achieve some of these things.
A great – perhaps the greatest – headache in fishing is trying to figure out which bait to use. Some people follow the herd in this regard, and others are more experimental. All bait “works,” but it depends on the season and the location. Prawns are considered the best bait, and rightly so. After that are worms found in the sand, mussels of various types, squid and cuttlefish, and so on. There are so many varieties on the market today that the fish are spoiled for choice. Once upon a time they used to say “use fresh bait for a good catch,” and we should bear that in mind.