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Fishing Festivals in Gambia
 
Introduction:
The Upper and Lower Saloum Districts also called Pakala are well watered by the Nianija Bolong and countless other creeks with ponds fed by the rains. There is hardly a village or settlement in the district that is more than a kilometre away from a water body. Fishing is therefore and important occupation for people in these areas with many settlements having sizeable fisher communities called chubala who are itinerant fisher folk who fish for pastime as well as to supplement the family feeding.

Fishing Festivals:
Every year in the midst of the high season around April, Gambian villages hold fishing festivals which attract many young people from neighbouring villages. It is not a festival of merriment. What simply happens is usually a gathering of village young men at a water point to catch fish using different types of fishing tools.

Professor David Gamble writes in his book 'The Wollof of the Senegambia' (1957) that such festivals marked the end of the rest period between the harvest time and the onset of the rain when work on the new crop would start. The English explorer Richard Jobson describes this festival in his journal on his visit to the River Gambia in 1623 showing that it has a strong past.


The fishing soon starts with baskets, spears, harpoons, nets called Jola, while some use their bare hands. The latter method is called noho noho. It is done under the undergrowth of the pond, where lazy fish such as catfish or kono kono hide.

At Panchang in the Upper Saloum, these fishing meetings take place every Wednesday at the numerous ponds such as Daybantang and Wehweh. The fishermen from the village and other nearby settlements would start to gather after the midday prayer in the village square. When there were enough people the group would then move together to the pond. Supplicants were offered to invoke protection from mishaps such as snake bites and other injuries before the young people enter the ponds.

As dusk approaches, the fishermen start retreating to the banks. Then small fires are lit to roast some of the catch, such as the crabs. The fleshier fish catches of shallow water fish such as tilapia and catfish are taken home for the family pot.

Nowadays, the festival is generally no longer observed in Gambia as the young men have migrated to the city.

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