Fish and rice are the mainstays of the Inle Lake diet, and of its economy. Fishermen spend three or four days at a time on the lake on their canoes. They work, eat and sleep on the boats. Every morning, wholesale fish merchants travel the lake on their larger boats to purchase the previous day’s (and night’s) catch.

Inle Lake is shallow – no more than 4 meters (13 feet) at its deepest. The shallower parts of the lake lend themselves especially well to cage fishing, which combines elements of net fishing and spear fishing.

The typical cage is taller than the average Myanmar fisherman, and its use requires a good eye for fish, and a keen sense of balance. The usual target for the cage fisherman is carp.

The carp hunter finds his prey by rowing slowly while looking for tell-tale trails of air bubbles rising from the lake bottom

One he spots the bubbles, the carp hunter carefully maneuvers his cage into position

Then he lowers the cage directly over the trail of bubbles and traps his prey

Once he has trapped his prey inside the cage, the carp hunter plunges his spear through a hole in the top of the cage and kills his catch. He then lifts both the cage and the speared carp into his boat and starts his hunt again.

Other parts of Inle Lake lend themselves to fishing with drag nets. Often, several fishermen work together.

This man is casting his net

Herding a school of fish into their nets by hitting the water with their oars

Success! Hauling a net filled with fish into the canoe