“Let Down Your Nets”

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In this article Sea of Galilee fishing expert, Mendel Nun, discusses the different types of fishing nets that were used in the first century by fishermen. Nun's knowledge of ancient fishing techniques illuminates the stories of Jesus and his followers, many of whom were fishermen.

The trammel net is the only net from ancient times that is still used commercially on the Sea of Galilee. Unlike seine fishing, trammel-net fishing is done at night. Also unlike the seine, the trammel is a compound net consisting of three layers held together by one corked head-rope and one leaded foot-rope. The two external layers are approximately 1.8 meters high with large mesh measuring 125 mm. from knot to knot. The middle layer is of normal mesh, about 35 to 45 mm. from knot to knot, but has more material than the outer layers and hangs loosely between them. A trammel net is always composed of at least five sections, each section being some thirty-five meters long.

In Jesus’ time fishing nets were made of linen thread, and such a net from the time of the Bar-Kochva Revolt (132-135 C.E.) was found in a cave near Ein-Gedi in 1961. By the fifth century C.E. cotton, imported from India and cultivated somewhat in the land of Israel, replaced linen and was used in these nets until it was replaced by synthetic fibers in the middle of the twentieth century.

Using the Trammel Net

Trammel-net fishermen generally meet on the shore in the early evening, mending their nets and arranging them in the stern of the boat. Sailing or rowing to the fishing grounds, they quietly lower the net into the water so that it forms a wide curve, with the open side facing the shore. The leaded foot-rope pulls the net to the floor of the lake and the corks along the head-rope keep the net upright like a wall. Gourds, and later tin cans, were tied to the two ends of the net and served as signs in the dark, marking the position of the net.

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