Many fishes are attracted towards light just as moths and flying ants are—a behavior that fishermen around the world exploit to bring them together and keep them in one place until they could be caught. Most fishes that are caught using light are pelagic fish, such as herring, mackerel, sprat, anchovy, and sardine. These fishes spend most of their time swimming near the surface of the water, making them easy to prey upon.
In earlier times, fishermen used oil lamps or flaming torches. Modern fishermen use electric lights run by diesel generators. But in Taiwan, a small number of fishermen are keeping the ancient tradition alive by using fires lighted at the end of bamboo sticks with the help of chemicals—sulphur mostly— to drive thousands of sardines to the surface in a mad rush.
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Fishermen use a fire to attract fish on a traditional “sulfuric fire fishing" boat in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Photo credit: Tyrone Siu