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Sea of Galilee: Fish and fishing nets

Bible overview
Background information on fish and fishing in the Sea of Galilee in the time of the Gospels.
Contributed by LUMO project
There are believed to be between eighteen and twenty-four different species of indigenous fish in the Lake Galilee. – Slide 1
Musht fish was one of the most popular fish to be consumed. Musht means ‘comb’ in Arabic which describes the spiny dorsal fin. Its flat shape makes them ideal for the frying pan. They also have few small bones and an easily removable spine. – Slide 2
The most famous of this group is the Tilapia Galilea, also know as the St. Peter’s Fish. As the water cools for the winter the Musht are the only large fish that move in shoals to the shallow water. – Slide 3
It may have been such fish that were caught when the disciples were told by Jesus to throw their nets on the other side of the boat. – Slide 4
Another important type of fish are known as Biny fish. These fish are easily identified by the ‘barbels’ or whisker type flesh that hangs from around the mouth. These fish were popular for the Sabbath feasts. – Slide 5
The third type of important fish is the sardine or ‘small fish’ that tends to group together in large shoals. – Slide 6
It is likely that it was sardines that Jesus used in the feeding of the 5,000. – Slide 7
Jewish law prohibited them eating any fish without scales (Leviticus 11:9-12). This included shellfish, catfish, eels, rays and lamprays. Some ‘unclean fish’ looked like snakes and this may have been what Jesus was referring to when he said. ‘Which of you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake?’(Matthew 7:9,10). – Slide 8
Some fishing was done with hooks and lines, either on poles when fishing from shore, or on trawls in deep-sea fishing. This picture shows two bronze fishhooks from the first century AD found in Galilee. – Slide 9
Jesus once told Peter to cast a fishhook into the Sea of Galilee. You can imagine Peter’s astonishment on catching a fish and finding a silver coin in its mouth —exactly what was needed to pay the temple tax (Matthew 17:27). – Slide 10
There were two main methods of fishing using nets – cast nets and drag nets. There were two types of Cast-Nets, one of a smaller mesh for sardines, and one of a larger mesh for larger fish. – Slide 11
The cast net is a circular net about 15ft in diameter with weights around the edge and a long line attached to the centre of the net.<br/>The net is released with a broad sweep of the arm over shallow water near the shore where the shoals of fish can be seen. A cast net or hand net was probably used by the disciples when asked by Jesus to cast their net over on the other side of the boat (Mark 1:16-17). – Slide 12
It is thrown in such a manner that the leaded edge forms the base of a cone, the apex being formed by the fisherman holding the centre of the net in his hand. The cone thus formed encloses the fish. As the centre cord is pulled up the weights come together trapping the fish. – Slide 13
Sometimes fishermen jump into the sea to adjust the net for drawing in. Peter had probably just climbed back into the boat after adjusting the net for drawing. When he learned that it was Jesus who stood on the shore, he put on his tunic and swam ashore (John 21:7). – Slide 14
The second method of using a net to catch fish was to use a drag net or seine. The long net could be drawn out between the shore and a boat or in deeper water between two boats. – Slide 15
The drag net could be 1,000 feet (300m) long, hanging vertically up to 25 feet (8m) deep, with towing lines attached to each end. This is a modern drag net being used on Lake Galilee today. – Slide 16
Corks were attached to the top of the net to make it float, while weights were attached to the base of the net to make it sink. The net can be three nets in one. There are two outside nets which have a larger opening that fish can freely swim through, but in between the two there is a finer meshed net to snare them. – Slide 17
Most likely, Simon Peter and Andrew in one boat worked with James and John in another to suspend a long drag net between the boats. The boats would then be rowed to enclose a circular space and when the boats met the nets were hauled in. – Slide 18
Sometimes the net with the fish enclosed is towed into shallow water before drawing. This method may have been used by the disciples in some Bible narratives (Matthew 4:18 Mark 1:16 Luke 5:2-10 John 21:3-11). – Slide 19
Drag nets could also be used by a team on shore while others used a boat to row the net out to sea. The boat was then rowed in a circular direction back to shore, trapping any fish caught in the loop. The nets were then hauled in from the shore. – Slide 20
Fishermen constantly had to spend time mending their nets. It was while Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John were mending their nets on the shore that Jesus found them and called them to be His disciples. – Slide 21
Fishing often was done at night where a blazing torch was sometimes used to attract fish towards the boats. Fishermen also pounded their feet and splashed their oars to make as much noise as possible. Why? They arranged their nets in the water in such a way that the fish, frightened by the noise, headed straight into the trap. – Slide 22
Roasting fish by an open fire was a common way to cook fish and used by Jesus after His resurrection to cook breakfast for the disciples (John 21:9). – Slide 23
Slide 24