Wire pronged fishing spear.


Ludwig Leichhardt
Sep 13, 2011
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Ironbark, SEQ
This is my version of a wire pronged fishing spear that I observed and used when I lived and worked in an Aboriginal community
in North Queensland.
Although Aboriginal people made multi pronged fishing spears before colonisation they were complex, probably took a long time to make
and were rather fragile (and minor works of art). ... an example here http://australianmuseum.net.au/Prongs-of-an-Indigenous-fishing-spear-pre-1884
With the wide availability of wire it was readily used for an improved version of the spear for exploitation of marine resources.

Basic materials I have used are 2m of bamboo about 16mm thick. Jute and sisal string. 5x 300mm used fencing wire. Bitumen based paint and putty.
Approx 120mm copper wire. A 2.5m length of bamboo would have been better but this is what I had.

I first cut the node off the end of the bamboo splitting the run to the next node into four and trimming the exposed end to make it a bit

I then cut some old fencing wire into 300mm lengths using the edge of a flat file and a little metal fatigue.

These were straightened with a hammer on piece of timber. I found that 5 pieces fitted nicely into the bamboo with a bit of room to spare.

I sharpened the end with a grinder and tidied the butt ends too. Wire can be sharpened by hammering the tip flat and filing to a point.

These were bundled and tied tightly with a couple of bits of copper wire and wrapped in jute string.

I removed the copper wire, soaked the jute string in the bitumen paint and rammed it into the end of the bamboo.
I also gave the outside of the bamboo a coat of the paint as well.

The outside of the spear was tightly wrapped with sisal string.

This was soaked in the bitumen paint and copper wire wound around the base of the exposed wires to stop them spreading there and
damaging the bindings. The wires are then spread. No barbs are needed as when a fish is struck the wires tend to spread holding firmly
but allowing the fish to be removed without tearing the flesh.

A little bitumen based putty was used to tidy where the wires entered the bamboo to make it a bit more streamlined and protect the string bindings.


Traditionally grass tree resin was used as a binder, then hot melt tar based pitch but even this seems hard to get these days.
I have heard of epoxy bond being quite good and even heat shrink.
Handle materials can be bamboo, Rangoon cane, citrus wood, macaranga and native guava . Solid woods are drilled out.

Depending on what size prey you're chasing the spear can be scaled from bicycle spokes to thicker wires and rods to 'single bars' 1/4" thick.
The single bars tend to have a bit of a barb as they don't have the spring holding characteristics of the multi pronged spear.

Here's another variation for mounting the wires. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=S7RP90DQTAQ

The above spear would be considered a bit on the light side and would be good for fish like whiting, bait collection sand and mud crabs
and squid.
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Russell Coight
Aug 14, 2013
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Very interesting work there, Hairyman.

The traditional designs embracing modern materials is always fascinating.


Never Alone In The Bush
Staff member
Jun 16, 2011
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Melbourne, Victoria
A friend has visited some of the islands around New Guinea, they uses a lot of (thin) concrete reinforcing rod for prongs on fishing spears.

The villagers didn’t have files, so they used an axe (modern steel axe) to cut the rod and create a point. Of course this ruined the axe, but they explained that a fishing spear was much more important and useful than the axe.

Think about it, on a small island there is not much to chop, so they rely on fishing as a major source of food.

I don’t know how or why they had an axe rather than a file, which probably would have been more useful, but that’s what they had !

Ol Grumpy

Les Stroud
Sep 15, 2013
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This reminds me of when I lived/worked in the bush around Harrietville, at the base of Mt Hotham. I was on a crew working an underground and alluvial Gold mine on the Ovens River for 18 months or so. I was a shotfirer (powder monkey) and yes, whilst we certainly tried fishing with Geli. in the old Tronoh Dredge ponds... Much better results were obtained with hand fishing spears we made by straightening out (as best we could) 6O fishing hooks and then binding them onto straight saplings. We would snorkel down into the dredge ponds. Also many decent sized trout were speared in the washouts under the bank. There were places where you could easily jump the surface of the Ovens River, but on the bends under the River bank we were sometimes 4-10 metres back under the bank where the River scours out in flood times. I can tell you that even with a spear, the fish had the advantage, by a long shot. We only ever took what we immediately consumed.

When it comes to Bushcraft, I have literally lived for months at a time, out in the bush.
I tend to be very pragmatic and not at all idealistic. I had to get a task done and I did whatever was needed to get the task done as efficiently as possible, using whatever was at hand. I had an axe in the car and a bow saw, but if I came across a tree fallen in my path... I would pull the seat forward and get out the chainsaw.... I'm the same way today, although I certainly appreciate and admire the tenacity and skills of our pioneers. I'm a tradie and builder and have worked with my hands all my life, it's what I do.
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