Photos of cormorant fishermen were one of the reasons we visited this area of China. Unfortunately, no guidebooks told us that cormorant fishing isn’t practiced in its traditional form very frequently these days. Most of the fishermen have motors and electric lights. This is a far cry from the traditional images of the Li River.
It wasn’t until after I came back that I noticed how one cormorant fisherman is in tons of images if you search for “cormorant fishermen” in search engines. We saw him in Yangshuo, but we didn’t pay to see him fish with his birds. It was too odd to see him posing for money all day with tourists. He’s not a fisherman so much as a tourist trap with animals.
Regardless, a few people still use cormorants to fish. The fisherman in the photo above is one of them.
Basically, cormorant fisherman use the cormorant (a large black bird) to help them fish. They tie ropes around cormorants’ throats, and then use lights to bring fish to the surface. The birds dive in to catch the fish, but because they have ropes around their necks they can’ swallow them. Instead, they bring them back to the fisherman, who collects the fish and gives the least favorable catches (or other snacks) back to the cormorants as food.