Fishing-Traditional Fishing Methods and Gear

Traditional fishing techniques of the Sinixt people varied depending on the fishing area. Methods used at a waterfall, for example, would differ from those used on a lake. At places like Kettle Falls, baskets were made and hung from a pole that extended over the falls. According to Lawney Reyes, "when salmon failed to clear the falls, they fell into the basket." Large baskets could catch up to 300 or 400 fish each day.  Spearing fish was another method used at waterfalls, but was much more active and dangerous compared to the use of basketry traps.

Reyes (2002) wrote the following about spearing fish at Kettle Falls:

I remember that fisherman had to balance on a simple narrow platform consisting of two poles tied together. The poles were anchored in the rocks and suspended over the falls. Salmon were speared as they struggled to clear the falls. They were heavy and strong and fought vigorously. The spear point was secured to the shaft with strong cord and was designed to disconnect from the shaft when it entered a salmon. The fishermen were then able to pull in the fish using the cord, which involved less risk. It was not uncommon for salmon to weigh 100 pounds in those days. Fishermen often lost their balance while they were struggling with the salmon and fell into the churning water. Some men did not survive the day.

Fishing methods for streams involved the use of weirs to trap fish. Long stakes (young trees) were hammered into the riverbed across a narrow section of water and once the fish were trapped, men could spear the fish from a canoe (or by wading in the water if it wasn't too dangerous). Another type of fish weir was made with stones to create a fence.

Smaller traps were also used and in essence are much like minnow traps used today in fisheries research. With a small funnel-shaped cone sitting inside a larger cone, fish were trapped once they swam inside the small funnel. Other times, when the salmon were at the end of the run and tiring, Sinixt would harpoon fish along the rivers. Stone tools were traditionally used by Sinixt for fishing, such as fish clubs and fish line weights. Dip nets, set nets, gill nets, and seines were all made from Indian hemp and were strong enough to handle white sturgeon (easily hundreds of pounds).