Fishing Harpoons; c1960s; CH7 & CH8


Camden Haven Historical Society


Fishing Harpoons

About this object

These two stainless steel harpoons, one commercially made, the other custom made to order, were used by Laurieton offshore commercial trap fisherman Bill Poole from the 1960s to the 1980s. The harpoons were used to catch large fish and mammals, such as sharks and dolphins, which were then cut into bait and placed into the traps.

Harpoons, such as these, were mounted on timber shafts and thrown from the bow or sides of a fishing boat. Ropes were attached between the timber shafts and the shafts on the harpoons so that the harpoons and their ‘catch’ could be readily retrieved.

Large aquatic animals were only used for bait when smaller species such as mullet and salmon were not available, and only enough bait was caught for immediate use, as the local fishing industry at that time had no facilities for long term cold storage. The only cooling available was chip ice which meant that most fishing took place in the late afternoon and overnight in order to keep the fish in good condition until they were brought ashore. Usually none of the harpooned bait made it to shore as it was used immediately in the fish traps.

Fish traps were made from timber slats and chicken wire and trap fishermen along the Mid North Coast of New South Wales targeted snapper, bream, kingfish, leatherjackets, blue swimmer crabs and lobster on a seasonal rotation basis. The fishing fleet from Laurieton worked out to the 100 metre depth line, which is about 12 nautical miles offshore.

Whilst various sizes and styles of harpoons have been used to catch fish for thousands of years, and are still made and used by fishermen all over the world, these two harpoons are rare objects associated with the offshore commercial fishing industry in the Laurieton area. They are from a period in time when marine creatures such as dolphins were not considered to be protected species.

Phillip Bowman and Leanne Reid
30 October 2014

Date Made


Object number

CH7 & CH8

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