Fire fishing is unlike anything you’ve seen before. One minute, it’s just you and your boat on the ocean with a freshly lit torch; seconds later, thousands of sardines are flying out of the water, trying their best to reach the flame.
It’s unlikely you’ve experienced fire fishing before – since the number of boats using the traditional Taiwanese fishing method has dropped to just three from an initial 300, according to the local fishermen’s association in Jinshan District, north of Taipei – but if you have the chance, it’s truly a magical experience you aren’t likely to find replicated anywhere else.
The practice dates back hundreds of years off the northeast coast of Taiwan and involves the use of chemicals to light the end of a bamboo stick.
Once the flame is lit and the sardines are swimming toward the light, fisherman on with their nets at the ready haul in the catch.
The practice is very hands-on, which takes a toll on the fishermen – who are 60 years old on average – physically.
Fishermen using this technique have a three-month window from mMay to July where they can catch sardines with this technique. They are able to earn over $4,500 on a good night.
“My daily earnings are unstable, but for a living I need to sail,” Jian Kun, a 60-year-old boat owner, told Reuters.
Luckily, fishermen who still practice the technique receive a subsidy from the government to help and encourage them to continue the practice. The technique has been filed for registration as a cultural asset to the Department of Cultural Affairs and the annual Jinshan Sulphuric Fire Fishing festival was created in 2013 to create awareness on the method.