Fishing was done several ways in ancient times. We know that traps, trot lines and net were all used, and each required a different tactic, and different tools to reach the same end result - dinner. Whether or not ancient man sat along the rivers and streams relaxing with a pole in hand may never be known, but it would not suprise me if occasionally when time allowed, he enjoyed the same enjoyment in fishing as we do today.
All three of the above mentioned approaches to fishing are still being used to this day to seperate fish from water, and I have tried all three at different points in my life. When I was a kid, my father had a small bait shack at the end of our driveway which sat along a main route that lead to Lake Erie. We would head to the local creeks a few times a month with our nets in hand to glean minnows and chubs from the creeks. My brother and I would hold the net across the stream while Dad started up-river a ways walking towards us , driving all the fish in front of him into the net. When we went camping & canoeing, which was a favorite summer pastime for us, we would set trot lines out at night before crawling into the tent and going to bed. Trot lines are simply a string attached to a branch or sapling leaning ove the river with a hook and bait on the end. The fish would eat the bait, hook themselves, and the branch the line was attached to would act as a spring to keep the line from breaking under too much stress as the fish tried to get away. In the morning, we would retrieve the fish, fillet them, and breakfast was served. On more than one occasion we had the pleasure of attempting to free a snapping turtle from the trot line which caused some memorable moments and more than one sore finger. Another type of trot line is a long cord or rope with multiple hooks placed at intervals. One end is tied to a stationary object on shore such as a rock or tree, and the other end is tied to a weight, similar to the one pictured here. Lastly, fish traps have been found that were made in ancient times that were woven into shape using a variety of the natural materials that were available and were anywhere from small to very large and worked well in lakes, rivers, streams or tidal ocean inlets. A simple design that allows fish to enter, but not exit. I have tried fish traps on several occasions, but never with much success prefering trot lines myself when camping.
The artifact pictured above is a grooved net weight/fishing weight from the west coast. Net weights or fishing weights can be found in all areas along the rivers, streams and lakes and vary in style, but all have similar traits. Most are simple river rocks with either a man-made groove, perforated hole or notches in its sides. The most common type here in Ohio is a flat river rock with two notches crudely removed from its sides to allow a cord to be tied around it securely. Being a utilitarian tool form, there was no need to spend alot of time making the surface attractive - its job was simply to hold a net or line in place.
This west coast example here is a commonly found grooved type, which has been hammered and pecked into a basic shape to allow it to do its task.
One interesting trait occasionally seen on west coast grooved weights is a divot placed inside the groove. A simple yet ingenious was to keep the cord from slipping out of the groove. The divot allowed a place for the knot in the cord to sit, allowing it to remain securely in place.