Fishermen always leave for work early in the morning before sunrise as they plan to reach the fishing ground in time to ensure sustained fishing for as long as possible.
A normal boat carries a crew of five, but when fishermen plan to use the banned pair seine and purse seine fishing nets, which haul in a huge catch, the crew size goes up to 20 men.
The boat moves to the planned fishing ground, where the nets are cast and the boat rides the waves, till the net is hauled in after some time. The fish are separated and the net is cast again. A one-day trip to the sea results in the crew having a brunch with one person being the cook while the helmsman – called the driver in local lingo – ensures that the boat does not drift unnecessarily.
The caught fish, once removed from the net, are packed in ice in plastic trays (called tubs) and set aside. Fishermen rarely bathe – though surrounded by water – and use a separate section of the boat to answer the call of nature. The crew have practically no rest as they fish throughout the day and night and eat at the most two meals before returning at about the same time, on the morning of the next day. Fishing boats follow different fishing patterns, based on their location.
While Rameswaram fishermen start early in the morning and return the next day, those in Thoothukudi and Kanniyakumari districts spend nearly a week at sea. Therefore, the provisions they carry also differ. The staples are vegetables, milk powder, rice and a kerosene stove and ice. An overnight fishing trip uses up nearly five ice bars, each weighing 75 kilos, while larger boats use up to 15 bars.