Commercial fishing has long been a prominent maritime industry in Florida. The “beach seining” method for commercial fishing has declined in recent years owing to evolving net regulations, but for generations it was an honored tradition in fishing communities across the state. To catch fish using this method, a team of fishermen would let out a special seine net in a semicircle around a small section of coastline. Seine nets were fitted with weights and floats to create a wall of netting that reached from the surface of the water to the bottom, so as to capture as many fish as possible as the net was dragged along. Once in place, vehicles or in some cases teams of people would pull on the nets to bring them back toward shore, along with any fish caught inside. Depending on the size of the net and the number of times the fishermen set and dragged it, a day’s catch could yield hundreds of pounds of fish.
More photos depicting seine fishing in Florida may be found in the Florida Photographic Collection. Teachers, you may also be interested in Florida Memory’s learning unit entitled Netmaking and Net Fishing in Florida. It includes photographs, audio, and transcripts taken from folklorist Peggy Bulger’s interview with net maker Billy Burbanks, III in 1980.
The Museum of Florida History is holding an exhibit through August 26, 2014 entitled “The Lure of Florida Fishing,” which explores the history of sport fishing in Florida from the 19th century to the present. For more information on this exhibit, check out the museum’s exhibit page.