Fishing and fishing gear
Fish formed an important part of the diet of the people who lived along the coast in the Sydney region in pre-colonial times.
Both men and women caught fish but each used different equipment: men used multi-pronged fishing spears, called fizz-gigs by British colonists, while women used a hook and line. The men fished from rock platforms and canoes while the women fished only from canoes.
Shell fishhooks were first used along the New South Wales central and south coasts around 900 years ago. Their introduction would have led to substantial changes in the food-gathering patterns of both men and women during this period.
Fishing equipment was designed to be portable - it was lightweight and most objects were small in size. The principal fishing kit consisted of spears for the men and hooks, lines and sinkers for the women. Both men and women used net bags or bark baskets to carry equipment and the fish caught. Both fished from canoes, although the men also fished from rock platforms and in shallow waters.
'While fishing, the women generally sing; and I have often seen them in their canoes chewing muscles or cockles, or boiled fish, which they spit into the water as a bait.' Collins, 1798 [1975:461]
Dr Val Attenbrow , Principal Research Scientist