The consumption of fish was an important part of life in the early
medieval period and therefore the catching, preparation, storage <ref>Details of storage and preparation can be found in Ann Hagen, A Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Food: Processing and Consumption, Anglo-Saxon Books.</ref> and cooking <ref>For authentic recipes please see BR & SM Levick, Wulfwyn's World-wide Cauldron, Regia Anglorum (Medwaeg).</ref> played an equally significant role in everyday life. Although in AD 730, according to Bede, Bishop Winfrid of Colchester apparently:
::'...found so much misery from hunger, he taught the people to get food by fishing. For, although there was plenty of fish in the seas and rivers, the people had no idea about fishing, and caught only eels. So the Bishop's men got together eel nets from all sides. and threw them into the sea. By God's help they caught three hundred fish, of all different kinds.'
===Hook and Line===
The use of hook and line to catch great quantity of fish is an unproductive method to use. However, this is a method that was used in pre-conquest times for many of the same reasons as it is used today: it is less demanding upon materials. Today the use of rod, reel, line and hook is mainly employed by the sporting fraternity whilst the early
medieval period the use of hook and line was part of ones' livelihood. Although there is some evidence to suggest that reels were employed in China c. 3000BC they were not in common use in this country until late 13th-early 14th century.
To angle is to fish with rod and hook and, in fact, the use of a pole or rod was not introduced into this county until the 13th century. The first recorded account of an angler was of an abbess fishing for carp and by 1496 the art of angling had produced its first book written in English; Treatise of Fysshynge with an Angle by Dame Juliana Berners. There is, however, a Byzantium illustration depicting what appears to be a fishing rod or pole. It is, of course, possible that the use of lengths of wood to aid in the practice of fishing actually took place, but this has not been documented as being a common exercise.
The fences - laid out in a series of V-shapes - were used to funnel the outgoing tide, and its fish, into nets at the apexes. They would have yielded several hundred thousand fish per year: far too many to supply a single community, suggesting that the trapping was carried out for commercial purposes. The fish would have been salted, dried and, presumably, sold to communities in south-east England. It is not known who maintained these traps but, just seven miles away is Bradwell-on-Sea, where one of Englands earliest monasteries stands, founded in 654 AD. Across the Thames estuary from the Blackwater lies the estuary of the River Medway with similar terrain features. Along the Medway estuary, although no extensive finds such has been found on the Blackwater, references to 'fish factories' are included in the Domesday Book. One wonders!<ref>David Keys - Archaeology Correspondent.</ref>
It is likely that the trap was flat bottomed to allow it to lie on the river or sea bed without rolling with the current or tide. For eels it would need to be baited with a dead fish, this would attract the carnivorous eel into the funnel and once inside, they would find it difficult to escape. Single chambered traps may also have been used by the early
medieval fisherman; these would have been something akin to the salmon putchers used earlier this century in Scotland and on the Severn River. The main advantage of these traps was that smaller fish could be caught, there was little danger of the fish swimming away from them as in the case with a net and they were relatively easy to maintain.
The traps themselves would be made from willow 'withies' that had been cultivated for at least three years. Today there are withy beds in the Southwest that produce willow withies in white, buff and brown. White withies are produced by stripping the bark away, the buff has been boiled with its bark on and then the bark then removed and the browns are the withies complete with bark. In the early
medieval period the majority of the basket work was functional and there was no need to add extra work to the making of fish traps and baskets: brown withies would have been the most common. To weave the withies they would need to be soaked so as to make them pliable, they would need to be left to soak overnight to enable the surface water to penetrate to the pith of each withy.