11.1   Hand Lines

          As the name implies, it is operated by hand of the fishermen themselves. Although it looks simple in structure, the handline has many designs and modes of construction to effectively catch the target species. In general, a handline consists of a primary mainline, secondary mainline, hook and sinker. Other accessories include the wooden/bamboo/plastic spool for coiling the line, the swivel to prevent the line from twisting, and the stainless wire used to protect the hook from loss due to fish bites.

           A simple handline has only one hook but to increase the chance of catch, several hooks are now common, especially for catching schools of sardines, mackerel, scad, sea bream, grouper and snappers. Hand lines can be used either for pelagic, mid-water or demersal species. Natural baits such as fish, squid and artificial baits such as plastic/silk materials which resemble a shrimp, squid or octopus are now used. In other areas, individual hook and lines are provided with plastic or bamboo floats and allow to drift with the current. The fishermen follow them for several hours and haul the floating hook and line with a catch.

             The different behavior of target species has resulted in many modifications. In the tuna hand line, an iron rod measuring 50 to 90 cm. with 3 mm. diameter is embedded in a lead sinker of 1.5 mm diameter with a length of 15 mm. is used to increase the sinking speed of the line. Live baits such as frigate tuna and squid are used to increase gear efficiency.

               The material of the hand line is mostly nylon monofilament with the mainline of 1.5 to 2.0 mm. diameter and the secondary mainline from 0.5 to 1.5 mm. Sinkers are lead while the hooks are manufactured by Mustad either using the J-hooks or ciecle hooks.

              Fishermen also use single and multiple hooks for demersal fish. Nylon monofilament of 1.2 to 2.00 mm. are the primary and secondary mainlines. In the case for multiple hooks, branchlines of 0.45 mm. to 1.0 mm. are connected to the swivels of the mainline to prevent line twisting. Hook size and shape vary depending on the target species. The swivels of different sizes and shapes are made of brass. One peculiar innovation in the bottom handline is the provision of a bait bag where small fish or grounded fish are placed. Upon reaching the desired depth, the line is suddenly jerked to release the bait. Bait attracts the fish school into one area thus increasing the efficiency of the fishermen.

             In Palawan , where coral reefs are abundant, commercial hook and line boats carry six to eight small non-motorized bancas (3-4 m) and take them to the fishing ground. Selected coral reef areas are assigned to each banca. Handlining is done the whole day and before sundown, the small banca are again gathered together while catches are weighed and stored in the fish hold. Crushed ice is used in preserving the fish catch. The mother boat stays on the fishing ground until the fish hold is full, or until provisions such as food, fuel and water are becoming limited. Target species are groupers, snappers and other coral reef fish.

              Stainless steel clips are also used as connectors between the primary and secondary mainlines to eliminate kinks during hauling and entanglement of the lines due to catch. Likewise, swivels are added in the mainline to prevent twisting of the lines. Triangular stainless wire is also placed along the primary mainline to provide attachment for other branchlines. This innovation increases the number of hooks and finally the catch per unit effort. The use of silk cloth with varied colors as artificial bait has proven very effective for catching schooling fish. These are tied at the eye of the hook to cover the shank and the barb.

              In General Santos City, tuna handlinning is very common as it is the major source of tuna "sashimi" for export. Several thousand handline boats (19 m) go out to the Celebes Sea , look for payaw and catch big-sized yellowfin and bigeye tunas. One trip usually lasts for seven (7) to ten (10) days including four (4) travel days. A major innovation introduced by the local fishermen is the coiling together of the baited hook and a stone weighing 0.5 to 1 kg. using 2-meters secondary mainline. This is then dropped near payaws until it reaches the swimming layer of tuna and the line is suddenly pulled to release the stone. At this depth, fishermen jerk their lines frequently to attract tuna bites. Squid and frigate tuna are the preferred baits. The best bait should have a length of 15.24 cm. to 17 cm. for fish and 10 cm. to 17 cm. for squids. At present, the latest bait type which show increasing catch efficiency is the squid ink which is placed in small plastic and tied near the barb tip of the hook. When jerking, the tip of the hook make a hole of the plastic bag thus releasing a cloud of ink and tuna are attracted by the smell and intensify their feeding activity. The swimming layer of tuna under payaw ranges from 90 m. to 200 m. depth and fishermen must adjust their lines to this depth.

             In some forms of handline, shrimp-like attractors with several hooks embedded in the body are used to catch big-fin reef squid. This operation is limited as the distribution of the reef squid is not very wide. Fishermen use bamboo pots instead to catch this squid.

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