I was doing my weekly shop recently (in Asda, of course!) and picked up a leaflet produced by the Marine Conservation Society. It’s a guide on how to choose sustainable seafood, showing which species are well managed, well caught and so on. This set me thinking about fish and fishermen around the world. We buy our fish from the supermarket or wherever but do we ever think of the way it’s caught, landed and prepared? I seldom did until I read this leaflet. So, from now on I shall never eat shark or ray!!
But seriously, fishing has been an important part of life for thousands of years. It’s one of those things that we, the consumer, takes for granted.
Fishing was also a part of my young life, but none of my “catches” were ever eaten.
We lived, as I’ve said before, in the industrial Midlands and the sea was something we visited, perhaps, once every couple of years – it was a big adventure! Nearby where we lived was one of many branches of the canal network that ran through the area.
This is where we would often go fishing , boys and girls together.
Unlike many of today’s children, we wouldn’t just pop down to the shops and buy all the gear – ours was made from scratch. Dad was very adept at making “something from nothing” and so it was with my fishing gear. He took a piece of wire and formed it into a circle, twisting the ends together to form a point which he would place securely inside one of his tomato canes. He then “borrowed“ one of Mum‘s old stockings, cut off the upper part and used the foot part for a “net“. This was carefully folded over the wire circle and secured with a few stitches. Voila, a fishing net!!
Next he found an old jam jar, tied string around the neck and formed a carrying handle.
Then, off we’d go down to the canal (known locally as the “cut”). We’d find a good clear space, fill our jars with water, lie down on our tummies and dip the net into the water. Whatever was in the net we’d tip into the jar, hoping for tadpoles or even a tiddler (our name for a stickleback).
I loved it when I caught something because I knew that Dad would be so proud of me when I got home. We’d watch the little tadpoles grow legs and marvel at their metamorphosis into frogs. (If they survived that long!)
Sometimes we’d take them into school to put on the nature table in the classroom. Our teacher would write our names on them so that all the class would know who had brought them in. This kind of recognition was very important to me at that age, being the middle one of three who usually took all the flak for the other two!! (I love you both really!)
My Dad had his own fishing rod at some stage and he always maintained that sitting on the canal bank with his rod and line often helped him to sort out problems; but my kind of fishing will always be a very happy memory.
Fishing occurs quite a lot in the Bible and Jesus often uses it to illustrate His stories and teaching.
He tells the disciples that He will make them “fishers of men” (Matthew 4 verse 19)
And He uses loaves and fishes to feed the people who gathered around Him.
In Matthew 14 we see that the disciples were afraid that there would be too many people to feed so they suggested that the crowd be sent away to buy food.
Verse 18 says:
“Bring them here to me,” He (Jesus) said.
19 And He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.
20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Did you know that in the years following the ascension of the resurrected Jesus to heaven, the Christian church grew rapidly. Christians soon found themselves to be the subjects of persecution by both the Romans and the Jews. In many places it became dangerous to be known as a Christian, thus, when two strangers met and thought maybe they were fellow believers, one of them would draw, on the ground, the upper half of the fish symbol. Recognizing the symbol, the stranger would add a second curved line and complete the drawing of a fish.
It is a very simple shape to draw – just two curved strokes. It could be drawn quickly, and erased just as quickly if there was no sign of recognition on the part of the stranger.
So next time you see a fish on the back of the vehicle in front of you, you now know what it means – the vehicle in front of you belongs to a Christian – it might even by me!!