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Un peuple de pêcheurs
Fishing has always been part of the everyday life of Les Saintes. Formerly, it was practiced by oars or sailing. The ancients have not forgotten that time they nostalgically tell.
We usually say that the Saintois are the best fishermen in Guadeloupe. It is true that the fishing practiced since always ensured the subsistence of the inhabitants of the small archipelago.
In Les Saintes, all men fish: trolling, purse seine, longline, hawk ... Fish has long been the main food resource of the population and its main income. «Fish was the staple food», recalls Roger-Christian Dabriou, a carpenter-fisherman born in 1919. «We ate it with rice or breadfruit. Almost all men sinned». The lorains -.
If today, the activity is practiced with comfortable boats equipped with ultra-powerful engines, it was not always the same. In the past, fishing was practiced by rowing and sailing. "We had to see every day the departure of the boats, remembers Alain Foy, 71 years old, now retired marine carpenter. We made regattas to arrive first on the fishing grounds. So we removed the sails and put the oars. There were three or four sailors on board. One day, when I was little, we caught 80 wahoo at a time".
Roger Christian Dabriou shares the same memories. "We woke up at 3am. We went sailing on the dry Coche, 8 km from here, to search the lockers. In July August, there was no wind. So, we left with three rowers. We worked with the moon, it was calm. Then we went down to Trois-Rivières by train to 20 km from our fishing place to sell the fish. Sometimes, we had to go up to the village of Trois-Rivières on foot, with our 30 to 40 kg of fish hanging on a train to hope to sell our fishing. At the time, there was fish in quantity, tench, cardinal, old. We fished 30 to 50 kg each time we went out. Then we waited for the sunset to return to the oars to Saintes. All this for a few cents. When we did not resell, we gave our fish to the poor wretches. From November to February, the breeze was rising. It was the season of hollow fishing (snapper fishing) at 300 m depth. Beginning in February, we were fishing with the sail. The next day, we went sailing in Basse-Terre. At noon, the fish was worthless, it was misery at that time. In 1950, I built my own boat myself. The first engine arrived on the Island in 1960 ".

Fishing with the hawk

Make no mistake. Fishing for the hawk is not practiced like hunting the hawk, with a raptor that spotted the fish and like a pelican melt on him. The hawk is a net used to catch fliers, small fish used as bait or prepared in frying for the accras. They are hardly a handful today to the Saintes to practice this kind of fishing and even less to make this famous round net made of nylon thread that one launches following the wind.
Yves Joyeux, professional fisherman, is one of those who best master this technique; Two years ago, he won the competition to cast the sparrowhawk. "I started my apprenticeship at the age of 15," he says. The secret of the hawk throwing? The balance! Joining the gesture to the word, the fisherman grasps in his mouth one of the many sinkers that weight the 7 kg net, then he distributes the mesh of the net on each side of the lead. When the equilibrium seems to be reached, the net launched in the air unfolds before falling into the water, trapping the wriggling fish. A net can bring back 20 to 30 kg of fish at once.

The traditional pots

Saturday morning, beach of the village. The teams of fishermen who take part in the competition of mounting of the nets are activated. Agile fingers cut with dexterity, wring, fold, small pieces of barbed wire promptly attached to the bamboos that constitute the frame of the lockers. Roger-Christian Dabriou him, did not forget the technique, so much he made some traps! But at the time, he was going to get the bamboo in the mangrove of Jarry and cut the wild cherry of Saintes. The nets were braided with lianas.